A Dangerous Politics of Security

A Dangerous Politics of Security
Nigeria’s President, Mohammadu Buhari

It might have been a mere coincidence that at last PresidentMuhammadu Buhari “accepted” yesterday the “resignations of service and theirretirement” at a time the political consequences of rising insecurity aredangerously becoming manifest.

However, not a few would draw a link between thisannouncement from Aso Rock and the gross incompetence in tackling insecurity inthe land amid the ferment generated by this failure of the state to perform aconstitutional duty.

After all, the central question today is how to secureNigeria and the service chiefs are expected to give professional leadership inthe circumstance. The seeming lack of that leadership in the crucial securitysector is the basis of the present crisis that is taking on political, ethnicor regional coloration. Come to think of it, some of the killings andkidnappings are reportedly perpetrated by elements of terrorist organisationsbased outside Nigeria. So the territorial integrity of Nigeria has been broughtinto question given the swathes of ungoverned spaces in parts of the country.

Although the spectre of insecurity haunting Nigeria variesin forms and intensity as you move from one part of the country to the other,yet no part of the country can be said to be safe in real terms.

In particular, the politics of the security of lives andproperty has taken a dangerous dimension in the southwest in the last few days.The unity of the country is increasingly being threatened by the errors ofomission and commission by the various players, with the Buhari administrationbeing the original culprit.

There were at least two triggers to the present crisis. Onewas the ultimatum issued by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State to “thoseoccupying the forest reserves… illegally to quit.” The immediate background wasthe spate of killings, kidnapping and invasion of farmlands in the state. Latelast year, a traditional ruler left the governor’s office after a meeting andwas killed on his way back to his domain. More deaths and kidnappings have beenreported this year. The Ilesha-Akure road linking Ondo and Osun states hasbecome a den of kidnappers. It is one of the most unsafe roads in Nigeria.

The other event was the “order” given by Mr. Sunday Adeyemo,better known as Sunday Igboho. He has vowed to chase out to those accused ofkillings, rape, kidnaping and destruction of farms in the northern part of Oyostate. Igboho is only giving vent to the growing discontents in his fatherland,according his supporters. Matters appeared to have come to a head with thebrutal murder of the Dr. Fatai Aborode, a chieftain of People’s DemocraticParty (PDP) in his farm on Apodun road, Igangan. Despite the valiant efforts ofthe government of Governor Seyi Makinde and Oyo State Police Commissioner NgoziOnadeko, the security situation especially in Igangan and other places in thenorthern part of the state, has been degenerating fast. A number of suspectswere reportedly arrested. This could not douse the tension. In sum, this couldroughly be described as the context for the rising populism of which Igboho hasnow become the symbol among the Yoruba nationalists at home and in the diasporaand across social classes.

This is, of course, in the pattern of non-state actorsincreasingly filling the apparent leadership vacuum created by the abysmal lackof people-oriented governance at various levels in Nigeria.

The timely intervention of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum ledby Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state may have helped, to some extent, inde-escalating the tension with the outcome of the Monday meeting in Akure.

The fundamental issues at the root of the crisis wereisolated with proposed solutions that could be applied in other states of thefederation.

In the meeting of the governors with the leadership of theMiyetti Allah Cattle Breeders association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the“misconstrued” statement of Akeredolu was clarified. According to thecommunique of the meeting, the cattle breeders agreed with the state governmentthat “night grazing should be banned henceforth” and that “occupation of thestate forest reserves illegally is condemned.”

Significantly, the meeting amplified the point to which thefederal and state governments seemed to have been paying only a policy lipservice : “free range grazing” is an obsolete mode of livestock production;ranching should be embraced as a modern method of animal husbandry.

Perhaps, the greatest achievement of the Akure parley(significantly attended by governors from the north and south) is theseparation of criminality from ethnic politics: “Criminals should beapprehended and punished, no matter the origin, class or status…

“No one has sent anyone away from any state or region, butall hands must be on deck to fight criminality.”

That’s the crux of the matter.

The ethnic or religious label does not enhance the processof dealing with criminality. No kidnapper takes the proceeds of his crime tohis ethnic or religious group. Criminals hardly distinguish between members oftheir ethnic or religious groups in targeting their victims. For instance,while falsely claiming to fight the cause of Islam, the Boko Haram murderershave killed Muslims and Christians alike. So a criminal should be treated as acriminal without being identified as Yoruba, Fulani or Kanuri. To do otherwiseis to make the process of law enforcement and, indeed the justice system ingeneral, vulnerable to diversionary politicisation.

In retrospect, therefore, in the spirit of the AkureDeclaration, Akeredolu had no business issuing a prior ultimatum beforeenforcing the relevant laws of Ondo state against anyone trespassing forestreserves. The unnecessary order has made his otherwise legitimate policy stepvulnerable to politicisation. He should just have enforced the law as theconstitution permits him to do in the situation.

Meanwhile, in the heat of the debate of Akeredolu’sstatement the point that seems to be missing is that permitting the destructionof a forest reserve in a place in which one luckily still exists in the age ofclimate change is a recipe for environmental disaster. This scientific facttranscends ethnic politics. It’s also ultimately a security issue.

The matter was worsened by the most inappropriate responsefrom Aso Rock. Leadership demands that the federal government should haveengaged the state government on such sensitive issues in a different way. Thestatement issued in Buhari’s name gave the impression of an instinctive defenceof the “ Fulani herdsmen” who were the targets of Akeredolu’s order.

When some state governors decided to evict hapless Almajirisfrom their states during the lockdown last year, there was no rebuke from AsoRock against the violation of the rights of the poor boys. The respective stategovernments should have made provision for their security and welfare asdemanded by the constitution. Neither did the police arrest some northernelements who issued quit orders to Igbo residents in northern Nigeria some timeago.

The present crisis is, therefore, another ringing reminderthat for the remaining 28 months or so of his tenure, Buhari should focus ontackling insecurity decisively and promoting national unity concretely.

In words and actions, the President should take steps todispel the widespread perception that he is a sectional leader. Policy conceptionand implementation should be directed at cementing the unity of the country asan important task henceforth.

It is not too late to correct the political errors that mayultimately define his administration.

To begin with, the President should stop ignoring the callsfor restructuring which is embodied in the manifesto of his party, the AllProgressives Congress (APC).

Buhari needs to act fast because he doesn’t have eternity tomake a difference.

This should be coupled with a rethink of the security strategyespecially with the new appointments and the other changes that could be madein the security sector in the near future.

The point cannot be over-emphasised that the failure ofBuhari to fulfil his electoral promise to secure Nigeria is giving rise tofrustration among the citizens. As a result, there is desperation almosteverywhere. Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno once said publicly that the “armyhas failed.” This true leader of his people has narrowly escaped being killedin attacks by Boko Haram on more than one occasion. The same frustration wasevident in Benue when 70 coffins of those killed were displayed in Markurdi.While Governor Samuel Ortom wept publicly, the response from the federalgovernment was that Benue people should live in peace with those they accusedof killings. It is the marked difference in responses to problems of insecurityin various parts of the country that has reinforced the accusation that Buharifavours a group over the other in security matters.

A rigorous survey of the security landscape would show thatnationally insecurity is worse today than it was in 2015 when Buhari madesecurity one of the cardinal items on his agenda. The verdict from even thosewho are part of the government is that insecurity is worsening in the land.Roads are unsafe. Farmlands are insecure. Classrooms are endangered. There ishardly a day that killings are not reported in one part of Nigeria or theother.

To be charitable to the Commander-in-Chief, who happens tobe a retired general, these certainly cannot be comforting indices of security.

Examining the New Populism

The recourse of some elements in the southwest appears to bethe “liberation force” led by Igboho. This is borne out of the frustration withthe constitutionally established security system – the police, armed forces,intelligence agencies, para-military organisation etc. Even if you call what ishappening opportunism, it is the failure of the Nigerian state that hasprovided the basis for it to blossom. The Amotekun security outfits werelegally established in the southwest last year as the solution to the hugedeficits in policing in the region. By the way, no one seems to be asking thequestion now: whatever happened to Amotekun in Oyo state with the emergence ofthe “liberation force” of Igboho? Can’t Amotekun simply protect the Ondo stateforest reserves without making political statements?

This is the time to reason.

Issuing orders to any group of people identified on ethnicor religious basis to quit anywhere in Nigeria is not the way to approachinsecurity problems. The matter is made more dangerous when non-state actors,who also clamour for secession, decide to chase members of other ethnic groupsfrom their areas on the basis of insecurity. No person or group should bepermitted to foist anarchy on this country.

It’s intriguing that a segment of the Yoruba elite hasembraced the upsurge of the new populism and the emergence of a new leader ofthe movement. Those members of the elite are advised to scrutinise the newpopulism burgeoning in the land. For those who hunger for this new instrumentof “liberation,” it may be in order to caution: beware of a mission not clearlydefined.

For instance, the Yoruba elements who want the Fulaniexpelled from the land of Oduduwa should pause and think of what would happenif the Kano opposite number to Igboho also decides to chase out the Yoruba inKano for whatever reason. That could be the beginning of a series of events theend of which only the clairvoyants can even attempt to predict now. This is thedanger of politicisation of insecurity.

It makes no sense to walk blindly into a war for which youare not prepared; it is worse when you are not clear about the true purpose. Itis never bravery to attempt to do so.

As the Yoruba would say, “ti a ba nsokun, a ma riran” (itdoesn’t mean you are blind when in tears).

Culled from ThisDAY

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