BY KAYODE KOMOLAFE
The warning issued by the governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, on Monday to separatist agitators to stay away from his state should be put squarely in the context of the present crisis of insecurity and the mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity.
What the governor has done with the full authority of his office is to give leadership; it is a cardinal function of leadership to point to the right direction. This function is even more crucial in times of crisis. Some governors in the southeast have had cause to distance their respective governments from the separatists who are active in their zone.
Akeredolu’s statement is the type that the perceptive members of the elite should be making at this moment if anarchy is to be averted in the present unfortunate circumstance. There is no state in Nigeria where a referendum has been held giving anyone the mandate to proclaim secession.
In the statement immensely imbued with clarity of purpose, Akeredolu makes a distinction between fighting insecurity and pushing for separation from Nigeria, which is the agenda of some ethnic champions.
According to the governor, the forestry laws of Ondo state would be enforced and modernised livestock production would be encouraged in the state by participating in the National Livestock Transformation Programme. These are clearly among the governance duties that the governor was elected to perform.
Akeredolu said, however, that the state would not be a haven for those who have reduced the otherwise legitimate clamour for self-determination to “unthinking rabble rousing.”
To be sure, the wave of insecurity in the country is scarily rising. It is also a fact that insecurity bedevils all parts of the country at varying degrees.
However, the Nigerian state has failed to demonstrate competence in performing the constitutional duty of keeping the nation secure. It is even more ominous when it is being predicted that insecurity would eventually lead to the disintegration of Nigeria. The attack on the convoy of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state last week was a chilling reminder that the ungoverned spaces might be more than what has been reported. Ortom who narrowly missed assassination said yesterday after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigeria “is sitting on a keg of gun powder.”
From Katsina came the announcement by Governor Aminu Bello Masari that the northwest governors have also asked the criminals occupying the forests in the zone to quit those areas already turned into dens of banditry. This might not be unconnected with the resolve of the federal government to unleash full military assault on the bandits who have ruled the forests for years. It is better late than never, you might say, especially in the light of the opposition from Abuja to Akeredolu’s moves to clear the Ondo state forests of trespassers a few weeks ago.
In a way, the separatists are products of the acute systemic contradictions arising from the collapse of governance, social injustice and the climate of insecurity enveloping the nation.
The nation is still in search for solution.
It is, however, astonishing that a section of the elite including public intellectuals and professionals now find inspiration from emergent populists, anarchists and opportunists, who could hardly articulate their professed cause. This ideological bankruptcy is certainly part of the problem. Instead of offering ideas and workable solutions to problems, crimes are simply given ethnic labels. So rather than tackle crimes, the ethnic group of the criminal becomes the target. Yet ethnic profiling remains a highly pernicious trend. This trend is unfortunately unrestrained. One self-styled ethnic campion makes a statement claiming to have expelled some Nigerians from his “republic” which exists only in a video. He takes another dangerous step by asking members of his ethnic group living elsewhere in the country to return “home.” The following week the opposite number of this “warrior” in another region makes his own counter-order of expulsion against some other Nigerians. And the nonsense continues to the applause of some otherwise discerning elements of the elite. The public sphere is suffused with such reckless statements and irresponsible counter-statements. But the common goal of these characters is to divide the country. This tendency can only set the nation on the path of anarchy.
Besides, the tendency is hugely diversionary. Once ethnic separation is posed as the solution, the real problem which is actually poor governance is pushed to the background of discussion.
The focus at present is only on the centre. Hence other tiers – state and local governments – are not adequately held accountable.
Questions are no more asked about the sordid state of public primary schools in the states. Why ask such probing questions when you can blame the “domination” by another ethnic group? Instead of rigorous discussions about how governments could meet the basic needs of the people, the woes of a section are blamed on the other. Some members of the elite elite sow the seeds of these destructive trends, perhaps unwittingly. For instance, Monday, March 21, was the international day devoted to reflect on water. Water is a basic issue of development in every part of Nigeria. Millions of Nigeria have no ready access to potable water. An ecological factor implicated in the farmers/herders conflicts (as distinguished from pure criminality of bandits and kidnappers) is the increasing scarcity of water. However, the topic of water scarcity would hardly hit the headlines the same way ethnic profiling would do inflammatorily. Water is no hot topic for pundits!
What is called insecurity is obviously the cumulative effects of the activities of criminals – terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ritual killers, rapists etc. These criminals belong to the various ethnic groups in Nigeria. Their victims are also members of the different ethnic and religious groups that make up the country. But the crimes have no ethnicity. It is simply illogical to blame a whole ethnic group for the acts of a few criminals belonging to the group. So a solution laden with ethnic prejudice is not appropriate for the problem of insecurity given the reality of socio-economic and political existence in the country.
Policing should be redesigned as suggested in many respected quarters to check crimes. The judicial system should be strengthened to punish the criminals.
In sum, a break-up of Nigeria is never the answer to insecurity. Pressures should rather be mounted on the leadership to keep Nigeria secure.
The Buhari administration should promote national unity using the instruments of competent governance in delivering public goods, accountability and social justice. When that is done, the separatists would have no situation to exploit for their diversionary and opportunistic purposes.