Obasanjo: Nigeria’s Inability to Contain Insecurity a Choice by Her Leaders
*Says current period unlike any other in country’s history
*Terrorists killed 360, abducted 1,389 in three months in Kaduna, report indicates
*What’s happening in North-west far more serious, potentially more dangerous than we’ve ever had in North-east, El-Rufai declares
*Explains insecurity high in his state because terrorists find its forests comfortable
James Sowole in Abeokuta and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, said Nigeria’s inability to meet its security challenges was a choice by the country’s leaders and not by God’s design.
Obasanjo declared that the country was going through a more difficult time than any other period in its political history. He said he had no apology for having “mad passion” for Nigeria, “because I have no other country I can call my own and I have no other country I can go to and say, yes, I have come to live here.”
The former president’s comments came as a report recently presented by the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, stated that between January and March this year, a total of 360 people were killed by terrorist groups in the state, while 1,389 others were abducted.
Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, in his own assessment, said the epicentre of insecurity in Nigeria had moved from the North-east to the North-west. El-Rufai declared that what was currently happening in his North-west geopolitical zone was far more serious and potentially more dangerous than what happened in the North-east.
The governor said Kaduna State was becoming a haven for terrorists because they saw its forests as a comfortable fortress for their activities.
Obasanjo spoke at his penthouse residence within the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, when he played host to a presidential aspirant on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mohammed Hayatu-Deen. The ex-president said Nigeria required a leader, who had passion, innovation, and vision for Nigeria, some who possessed adequate knowledge of the challenges faced the country.
The former president insisted Nigeria could overcome its security challenges within two years with the right leader willing to make tough decisions. He urged Nigerians to brace up and be ready to make sacrifices to put the country back on the right path.
Obasanjo explained, “Some people say the human memories are short, maybe they are right, because if human memories are not short, some of the mistakes that we are making, we will not be making them.
“Yes, we have a record, which some people may find a little bit not what they want to hear, but whatever people want to hear, I believe, like you (Hayatu-Deen) have rightly said, this period is not like any other period in the history of Nigeria and you used two words, decomposing and dissolving. I can’t find any better words to describe the situation we have found ourselves.
“It is an agonising situation for you, obviously, and also for me. I want to emphasise the point that the Nigerian situation, bad as it is, will only be put right by Nigerians at the forefront of our situation. So, Nigerians have to brace themselves up to do what needs to be done to put Nigeria back on the right path.
“And you are right in saying that wherever you go now, one of the things you hear is that Nigeria is not on the table, but why shouldn’t Nigeria be on the table? What does it cost Nigeria to be on the table?
“I will say four things, of which I was reminded this morning. One is knowledge. If Nigeria is not at the table, maybe the knowledge that we should have of ourselves, of our situation, of our continent, and, indeed, of the world is not that adequate. If that knowledge is adequate, we will do what is right, when it is right and how it is right.
“The second is vision, what is the vision that we have? And if you have no vision, you may have eyes, but you are blind. And I believe that is part of our situation.
“The third is passion. And when you said you are involved in this with a passion, and I was telling some people this morning that passion means madness; that you are mad about Nigeria. I am and I have no apologies for that, because I have no other country I can call my own and I have no other country I can go to and say, yes, I have come to live here.
“Passion means being mad about Nigeria, having a touch of madness and I look at you (Hayatu-Deen) and say, yes, you are mad about Nigeria, too.
“Fourth one is innovation. We cannot be doing the same thing that we have done in the past that did not pay us and continue to repeat it and expect any change. We have to move out of it, we have to innovate, we have to re-strategise.
“And you talk about security and people ask me about it and I say I know that we can put all insecurity in Nigeria behind us within a space of two years. That we have not done or that we are still in the situation we are is a choice that has been made by our leaders, not the way God wants us to be.
“Like you said, I couldn’t agree with you more, that no individual in Nigeria, no political party, no smuggled person can make a critical mass that will resolve the situation that we are on today. It has to be an all Nigerian hands on deck. No section of the Nigerian community should be left out.”
Obasanjo said he believed Hayatu-Deen had the requisite knowledge, “from what you have said, you have the vision, also you told me that you have the madness and you have innovation, but let me add, Nigeria is a complex country. And we need to understand the complexity of Nigeria and that complexity if we take care of it, Nigeria is not a difficult country to rule or to manage, but we must all be ready.”
Earlier at the PDP secretariat in Ogun State, Hayatu-Deen, a former Managing Director of FSB International Bank, declared that Nigeria was “decomposing and dissolving very fast”. But he said he had the capacity, experience, and knowledge to turn things around for the country.
The aspirant, who said he had been to several parts of Nigeria, including South-west, described himself as a passionate and complete Nigerian.
According to Hayatu-Deen, “My blood is a Nigerian blood. I had seen Nigeria with the eyes of a Nigerian and not from the perspective of a tribal man. I am prepared to govern Nigeria from the first day of inauguration on May 29, 2023.
“We are suffering from self-inflicted wounds. As an economist, I know how to fix the economy. I will provide social security, I will provide energy security, I will deal with the issue of national insecurity.”
Terrorists Killed 360, Abducted 1,389 in Three Months in Kaduna
El-Rufai expressed concern about the existence of Boko Haram and Ansaru terrorist enclaves, particularly, in Birnin-Gwari and Chikun local government areas of Kaduna State. He stated this while receiving the first quarter 2022 security report at the Government House, Kaduna.
The governor appealed to the military and other security agencies to take note of the situation before it got out of control.
“It is unfortunate that in spite of our investment in human, material and other resources to stem the tide of criminality in the state, the levels are still a source of concern,” El-Rufai stated.
He said the security report “has brought out new emerging concerns that I will want the security council to take note of and discuss and, maybe, to proffer some suggestions.
“The first great concern is the emergence of Boko Haram terrorist enclave as well as activities of Ansaru, particularly, in Birnin-Gwari and Chikun local governments.
“Among those kidnapped from the train was a roommate and classmate of mine, who was released upon payment of a ransom and throughout the period that he was in captivity, it was very clear that the terrorists were making comments like the forests in Kaduna are even better than Sambisa, so, they should all relocate here.
“I think this is an area we should all be concerned about. And that is why we have been making the point that the problem of insecurity now has moved from the North-east to the North-west.
“What is happening in North-west is far more serious and, potentially, more dangerous than we have ever had in the North-east and we will like the military and other security agencies to take notice of this before it gets out of control.
“The second, which is related to the first, is the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and mines in the state. We have been lucky; thanks to the police, we have been able to defuse most of them without causing major loss of lives.”
The governor said the IEDs issue was a major concern because “it shows very clearly the movement from banditry to terrorism with expertise in making explosive devices”.
El-Rufai lamented the high rate of drug abuse in the state and called for urgent action to curb the trend, saying, “I think we should give KASUPDA (Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency) a clear directive that any building housing any patent medicine selling these drugs should be acquired by the government and demolished.
“This will be a deterrent to those that give these people the wherewithal to poison our young people. We have to take this action, because it is related to banditry and all forms of criminalities drugs play a major role. We must cut the supply chain of drugs to the bandits.”
The governor said action should be taken against communities constantly mentioned in criminal acts along the Abuja-Kaduna road.
He said, “What I noticed in the report is continuous mention of Rijana, Kateri and Akilibu axis (along Kaduna-Abuja highway) in all these crimes, particularly, as regards the safety or lack of it.
“We have been exploring what to do about these three communities, whether to relocate them to near Kagarko, whether to clear the three communities. I will like the security council to deliberate on it and look at the options, because it is very clear that there are higher levels of informants and criminals in these locations, because why is it that anytime there is attack or any form of kidnapping on the road, it happens around this axis and nothing ever happens on the Kagarko axis?
“There is something wrong with the Rijana, Katari axis and government should not refuse to do anything. We have to look at the options, including the clearance of the settlements completely and relocation of the people to where other more honest people can watch them.”
El-Rufai observed that the security agencies were overstretched and recruitment of vigilantes needed to be ramped up.
“I think the 1,000 (vigilantes) we trained have been very useful in assisting the army, the police and other security agencies and, perhaps, this is the time to get another 1,000 and send them to Police College for training,” he said.
The governor added, “We have already bought weapons that are with the Commissioner of Police, but we need more men and women.”
He stressed that he would like to see resumption of flights at the Kaduna International Airport.
Flight operations at the airport was suspended following terrorists’ attacks in March.
El-Rufai said, “We are grateful to the Defence Headquarters for enabling the establishment of the NDA Demonstration Battalion. I will like to appeal to the Air Force, whose Area of Responsibility includes the Kaduna airport, to also have some kind of permanent deployment at the airport to secure it so that flights can resume.”