As far back as June 27, 2018, Nobelist Wole Soyinka suggested that President Muhammadu Buhari should seek foreign help to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the land
In a statement entitled “On DEMAND: A Statement of Non-Capitulation, Non-Appeasement,” Soyinka said: “It is a time of far-reaching, yet immediate decisions. The nation is dying. The time for false pride is over.
“If this nation lacks the necessary technical resources, then there remains only one blameless, overdue recourse: ‘Get Help, Mr. President!’ “
Three years ago Soyinka reacted to the killings across the country in an atmosphere of helplessness. About 100 people were killed in Plateau state alone in the week the statement was made. According to Soyinka, condemnation of the killings and expression of sympathy with families of the victims were not enough; the government should take “pragmatic” steps to bolster public confidence in the capacity of the Nigerian state to secure the nation.
At the weekend, however, Soyinka was no more talking of “if” the Buhari administration lacked the resources to secure the territory of the federal republic of Nigeria. There is now a greater sense of urgency in the tone and tenor of another statement entitled ” The Endless Martyrdom of the Youth.” Soyinka said: “To this government, we repeat the public cry: seek help, stop improvising with human lives. Youth, that is, the future should not be used as a ritual offering on the altar of a failing state.”
It is, therefore, a measure of the progress made in the security sector that a call on the President to seek help from abroad had to be amplified three years after it was first made. The security situation is, indeed, worse today than it was three years ago in virtually all the states of the federation.
The latest statement was in response to the killings of some of the kidnapped students of the Greenfield University in Kaduna. The kidnappers have chosen to murder the students in bestial instalments as a way of shocking the parents of those still in captivity to pay ransom.
Now, Soyinka’s statement sums up what many other patriotic voices have been saying as the insecurity in the country worsens by the day. Similar statements have been made by other Nigerians in finding solution to the problem. Senate President Ahmed Lawan and his predecessor, Senator Bukola Saraki, in different tones, have also stressed the imperative of foreign help to Nigeria at this difficult hour.
Although the degree of insecurity is relatively higher in some parts of Nigeria than others, there is no part of the country that could be said to be completely safe. The difference is only in the magnitude of violent crimes. Although a national state of emergency has not been declared by the President, the situation in some highly troubled states is really that of emergency. In fact, the condition in some local government areas of Niger, Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Imo etc. is akin to that of emergency. The atmosphere in the numerous ungoverned spaces around the country is unimaginable with all the horrific consequences on the lives of people in rural areas.
The collective humanity of the nation has been assaulted in the last few weeks by a deluge of horrendous reports of killings and kidnaps from all the zones of the country. A spectre of kidnapping dominates the national atmosphere. The violent activities of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and other criminals have become the major news.
Niger State Governor Sani Bello said two days ago that Boko Haram elements had hoisted their group flag in Kaure village in the Shiroro local government area of the state . The village is said to be just two kilometres from Abuja, the nation’s capital! Governor Ortom also lamented that there are over a million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Benue state. Killings continue in the state in which students of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, were kidnapped. Only yesterday, seven persons were killed allegedly by bandits in an IDP camp in the state. Governor Ortom said that 70 persons including soldiers have been killed in the state in the last one month.
In Katsina state, the home state of the President, women attending a ceremony for naming a new child were kidnapped. Among the killings in the last three days alone were those of five soldiers in Rivers state and nine police officers in Kebbi state. In Imo state the apparatuses of the Nigerian state have been continuously attacked. In the last two weeks, some policemen have been killed while police stations and correctional centres were burnt in the state. The private house of Governor Hope Uzodinma was attacked and the security men on guard were killed by gunmen. This happened hours after a gun battle between the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and a security squad of soldiers, policemen and security agents. In the battle, an army officer and some soldiers were killed just as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)/ESN lost a commander and other members. The confrontation between the Nigerian state and IPOB/ESN has virtually turned Imo state into a theatre of war.
The mood of the nation was captured in the National Assembly yesterday as the two legislative chambers considered resolutions on the state of insecurity. The Senate resolved to meet the Commander-in-Chief and the service chiefs as part of the efforts to seek solutions to the problems. On its own part, the House of Representatives asked the President to declare a state of emergency in the security sector, among other suggestions.
The response of the Buhari administration to the calls by Soyinka and others for decisive action should not be the usual riposte from the presidency. The suggestions should be soberly considered along with several others coming from different quarters.
As the Commander-in-Chief of a nation that is gravely insecure, Buhari needs help from other countries.
The President sought the help of the United States yesterday in a virtual meeting with the American Secretary of State Anthony Bilken. Buhari also proposed to the United States the relocation of US – Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Stuttgart, Germany nearer the Theatre of Operation on the continent.
Buhari makes it clear that Nigeria and the region would need the help of America to tackle insecurity.
His premise: “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.”
However, a reservoir of human, moral and political resources that could be of help seem to be ignored by Buhari and his strategists.
Not a few Nigerians are saying that their nation “is at war.” The war may not be a conventional one, but in tackling the present insecurity some of the resources used in prosecuting conventional wars might be useful.
To start with, the leadership of a nation at war should summon the national spirit so that a sense of belonging and solidarity would be felt in every part. Apart from the physical weapons and equipment to arm the soldiers, policemen and security agencies, the leadership should also deploy the intangible weapons of honestly promoting unity and being accountable to the people. Policies should be informed by social justice, equity and scrupulous compliance with the rule of law. For instance, the morale of the armed forces, police and other security agencies would be raised when recruitments, promotions and appointments are based on merit, constitutional provisions, transparency and fairness. The welfare of those serving the nation in the security sector should be prioritised It will be easier to tackle criminality when the criminals are unable to exploit opportunistically the fault lines. Policies of inclusion amid diversity would make it easier to convince the separatists about the richness and beauty of unity. The mismanagement of the Nigeria’s diversity by the President is in a way fuelling insecurity.
Besides, Buhari should tap on the collective experience of the former managers of the various apparatuses of the Nigerian state. In retirement they remain a significant part of the nation’s security establishment in the broad sense of the term. A lot could be learnt from their successes and failures while they were in charge of security in the various departments. There is no point for their successors to be repeating their mistakes Some of these professionals were trained at the huge of expense of Nigeria. Others have had vast international exposures. They represent various interests and groups in the country. They have varied orientations and perspectives. But they all speak the language of the establishment.
Here we are talking of retired service chiefs and other generals, inspectors-general and other retired senior police office, national security advisers, directors-general and senior retired officers of security agencies, retired diplomats, civil servants and other defence-related categories. What is being suggested here is not a jamboree in the name of a “security summit.” What is essential is a patriotic and professional engagement between a listening administration on the one hand and an honest and frank group of selected retired officers in the security sector on the other hand. The engagement doesn’t have to be formalised or even advertised. Other nations go beyond partisanship in optimising the use of their human resources when the situation demands such an approach. President George W. Bush appointed Robert Gates as defence secretary at a time America was still deploying troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. President Barack Obama retained Gates because of the purpose his appointment was serving in the defence sector.
Furthermore, at the broader political level Buhari should pay more attention to forging the necessary elite consensus for resolving the present crisis in Nigeria. It is in the collective interest of the elite to have such a consensus. Some elements of this elite as politicians, religious leaders and ethnic champions manipulate the people by peddling prejudice and sowing seeds of division. Buhari should, in good faith, engage other partisan forces within the ambit of law on the security question. In some highly troubled states, the governors have alleged that some “political forces” are behind the wave of insecurity. Others have claimed they know the “sponsors” of criminality. Beyond political tirades, the government should give leadership in depoliticising insecurity and the criminality that fuels it.
This is no time for arrogance of power. The greatest legacy that Buhari should aspire to have is to leave power with Nigeria more secure and united than it was on May 29, 2015 when he became President. There may be no agreement on the political theory of a failed state. It is, however, not debatable that the Nigerian state under the leadership of Buhari has failed to ensure the security of the people as specified in the constitution. The state has failed to keep farmlands safe for farmers and schools secure for children. The roads are dangerous.
Worse still, the security sector is bereft of moral accountability. This is beyond auditing of books. The point here is more about having a sense responsibility for the security of the people. If there was a sense of accountability, a retired chief of army staff, after six years in command, would not declare that Nigeria would be fighting terrorism for the next 20 years.
While condolences go the bereaved, pressures should be mounted by the people and their organisations on the security establishment to free all those in captivity. The President should seek foreign help. He should also tap on the internal reservoir of moral, political and professional resources in tackling insecurity.
“The President should seek foreign help. He should also tap on the internal reservoir of moral, political and professional resources in tackling insecurity”