Economy and Development

Insecurity is a symptom of corruption and bad governance.

  1. The responsibility of citizens in any democracy goes beyond the ballot box, they must be
    active participants rather than just spectators and always holding their leaders accountable.
    It is with a deep sense of concern that I write this piece on the deteriorating insecurity in
    Nigeria.
  2. Some of my friends from the South frequently ask me this question: “Your son is the
    President, why can’t he stop the insecurity in the North”?. What I read on some social media
    platforms is gleeful gloating of “It serves them right” rather than empathy with the
    misfortunes of their fellow compatriots.
  3. The leadership crisis in the ruling party APC, EFCC brouhaha, NDDC fainting circus,
    Keyamo-NASS shouting match, Ngige-Falake “If you yab me, I yab you back ten times”
    drama got more media coverage than the daily carnage visited on our people. But, I know
    that this mischievous sentiment does not represent the feelings of the vast majority of
    Nigerians. History has taught us that insecurity anywhere today is a bad omen for insecurity
    everywhere tomorrow.
  4. The North has forfeited any rights or moral high ground to make any excuses or
    complaints about the current state of insecurity in the region. It was late Tip O’Neil the
    Speaker US House of Reps. that said, “All politics is local”. That is why people are asking
    the valid question as to why is Northern Nigeria bedeviled by this much insecurity when the
    President and almost all the leadership of the nation’s security agencies are from the
    region?
  5. The primary responsibility of any government is to protect the lives and properties of its
    citizens, in this regard, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has miserably
    failed to live up to its solemn responsibilities. Our people are sick and tired of repeated
    excuses and conspiracy theories as reasons for this failure.
  6. It is inexcusable that despite all the bloodshed in the region, the President has not
    thought it worth his while to address the Nation or visit the people in the affected areas. But,
    he made time to address the nation twice on COVID-19, flew out to Mali on 23-7-2020 to
    help solve their problems, and addressed Nigerians in diaspora via video conference on
    25-7-2020. This is why in my previous write up, I said that the President seems distant,
    uncaring, and out of touch with the sufferings of his largest support base.
  7. It is no secret that there is growing anger at the government for failing to protect people
    from these terrorists. People in the region have culturally been deferential to their elders
    and authority with a silence that some might mistake for docility or any government might
    take for granted at its peril.
  8. There are ominous simmers of silent rage in the region: the youths are beginning to
    protest, Traditional rulers are expressing their displeasure with very troubling deepening
    reticence, Clerics that supported this government are now speaking out in their sermons.
    The elders, elites, and intellectuals are also speaking up. The reasons for this anger are
    worsening insecurity, poverty, unemployment, despair, growing mistrust of and loss of faith
    in government.
  9. Traditional rulers who are closer to the people are literally the ones holding down the top
    valve of the potential volcanic eruptions of their people’s anger. I remember in Katsina when
    bandits killed many people in Batsari LGA, the youths of the village were so enraged that
    they loaded the corpses of the victims in trucks and headed to the Emir of Katsina’s Palace,
    a distance of 46km to register their anger at the government and security agents for not
    protecting them.
  10. The Emir listened, consoled, prayed with, and joined them in the funeral prayers
    conducted in his Palace. This fatherly act of a respected and trusted Traditional ruler
    averted a potential riot. Insecurity in the region cannot be solved without involving
    Traditional rulers and giving them adequate security protection against reprisals from these
    terrorists.
  11. In the President’s home state of Katsina, a quarter (26%, 9 out of 34 LGAs) of the State
    is under siege by these armed bandits. They invade villages on motorbikes armed with rusty
    AK47s and machetes, burning houses, raping women, killing and abducting people for
    ransom, and carting away foodstuff and livestock. People live in terror and displaced from
    their homes to IDP Camps. Widows and their children roam the streets aimlessly. Farmers
    fear being killed or kidnapped if they go to their farms.
  12. Governors in the region are frustrated, helpless, and nervous at the anger of their
    people. Some go into negotiations with these criminals from a position of weakness and end
    up paying them millions of naira as “protection money” out of the coffers of the people they
    are terrorizing. Negotiation with unrepentant terrorists is simply wrong and immoral.
  13. Insecurity in the region is directly related to corruption and bad governance by the
    Governors who spend people’s money on bogus, wasteful projects instead of investing in
    the welfare of their people. They use the state “security vote” irresponsibly for anything but
    the security of their people. Some of them even govern their states remotely from Abuja far
    from the daily sufferings of their people. They complete their eight-year tenure with nothing to show but empty treasury, a pile of debt, abandoned projects, worsening poverty, and
    insecurity. Some of them even have the audacity and heartlessness to award a fat pension
    to themselves as a parting gift with the complicity of their compliant State House of
    Assembly.
  14. There can never be peace in any society with as many inequities and injustices existing
    in the region with, excruciating poverty, unpaid salaries and pensions, high unemployment,
    millions of children out of school, millions of Almajiris on the streets begging for what to eat,
    high incidence of childhood malnutrition, millions of families going to bed hungry, poor
    health indices, mass illiteracy, crumbling schools and hospitals, drug abuse among youths,
    lack of portable drinking water even in the state capitals, political thuggery, despair,
    hopelessness and increasing mistrust of government.
  15. More people have been killed by terrorists in Northern Nigeria than the COVID-19
    pandemic has in the whole nation put together, but the pandemic is getting more attention
    and resources from the federal government. For example, in Gubio Borno state, Boko
    Haram killed (81) people in less than two hours while COVID-19 killed (29) in the whole
    state in the preceding three months. The story is the same in all the States in the region.
  16. The international community is equally concerned. In a statement on 16th June 2020,
    the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, noted that tens of thousands of civilians have
    lost their lives in recent years to violent attacks by terrorist groups or criminal gangs, in
    inter-communal violence, or due to their religious beliefs. “The United States calls on the
    Government of Nigeria to do more to strengthen ongoing efforts to address this violence,
    hold those responsible accountable, and protect civilians.”
  17. I have tremendous admiration and respect for the sacrifices of the men and women in
    our Security Services who put their lives in harm’s way to protect us and the territorial
    integrity of this nation. I was very saddened after watching the video of the bodies of officers
    and men of our Armed Forces killed in an ambush by bandits while on an operation in Jibia
    LGA of Katsina on 18th July 2020.
  18. These unfortunate losses of our soldiers are common occurrences in the Military’s fight
    against insurgents in the North East. Another equally shocking video posted on social
    media is that of the execution of five aid workers by Boko Haram. All these should be a
    reminder to all Nigerians of the dangers these gallant warriors are exposed to daily in all of
    the many theatres of conflict across the nation and the sacrifices they are making for our
    safety.
  19. The deteriorating security all across the nation should be a source of concern to all
    citizens. It is a time for an honest dialogue involving all stakeholders for a way out of this
    quagmire. Part of the conversation we must have as a nation is for our leaders to accept that the continuing carnage shows that things are not working and must be changed fast.
    We can not continue doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
  20. Nigerians were not hopeful of any meaningful change after the President met with the
    Service Chiefs on 18th June 2020 because previous such meetings made no difference in
    their sufferings. The National Security Adviser (NSA) Major General (Rtd.) Babagana Monguno in a press conference after the meeting, told Nigerians that “the President lost his
    cool, he referred to the current security situation in the nation as embarrassing and told the
    Service Chiefs that their best was not good enough for him and demanded an immediate
    reversal of the situation”.
  21. The NSA at this press conference inadvertently made an eloquent case for why it is time
    for the leadership of all the Security Agencies to be changed for these reasons:
    (1). Worsening insecurity on their watch, (2). Lack of synergy between all the Services, (3). The turf war between them which is negatively impacting the war effort, (4). Absence of fresh ideas on how to stem the bloodshed and (5). The President and Commander in Chief’s displeasure with their performances.
  22. The Military is always called in only when things get out of hand to clean up the mess
    created by the political class and get blamed if things don’t turn around quickly. That is why
    I don’t think that just changing the Service Chiefs alone without a coherent strategy
    involving all stakeholders (political, traditional, religious, civil, and military) will make any
    difference.
  23. The status quo is simply not acceptable and unless we end insecurity, it will end us all.

SOME SUGGESTIONS:
{A}. Nigerians need to hear from and see their elected President, not his surrogates, who oftentimes appear on TV to minimize the sufferings of the people.

{B}. Mobilization of the civilian population: Nigeria has been at war for the past eleven years but the nation has not been fully mobilized and the people educated about this war. No nation wins a war without the understanding and support of its people.

{C}. Involve all stakeholders: The problems and solutions to all these conflicts are local, that is why solutions from Abuja that do not involve the local communities will not work. The Military is only called in when things get out of hand to put out the fire. These terrorists are all from the communities they terrorize not from some foreign land. There needs to be involvement of all local stakeholders in finding an enduring solution.

{D}. Flush out local collaborators: No insurgency thrives without the support of informants and collaborators within the community who offer them material and intelligence support. The terrorists and their collaborators are part of the community and are well known. Efforts
must be made by the security agencies to identify and flush them out by giving protection to those in the community who help provide intelligence.

{E}. Actionable Intelligence is Crucial: These terrorists come on motorbikes, where do they buy them from, where is their source of fuel and ammunition, what do they do with the ransom money they collect, which markets do they sell the cattle they rustled, where and
who buys drugs for them. Why are they allowed to come in hundreds on motorbikes unchallenged, why are Chadian and Nigerien troops responding to our people’s distress calls but not our troops?

{F}. Establish Forest Rangers: Nigeria must control its forests which have now become operational bases for these terrorists. This will entail having boots permanently on the ground in the forests. Nigeria should establish armed forest rangers recruited from the local community to be trained and supervised by the Military. The Federal government
programme (SPWP) that plans to employ 1000 in each local government should be used to employ local youths to guard the forests in all affected areas.

{G}. Prioritize the Rescue of all kidnapped victims: There are hundreds of Nigerians
kidnapped and held captive for ransom in forests all across the nation. The government should document all persons abducted and intensify efforts to bring them safely back to their families.

{H}. Presidential Task Force on Security: The President should seriously consider
establishing a task force from the affected areas that will be giving him first-hand information on the security situation in their communities.
{I}. Governors should end negotiations and payments of ransom to these terrorists. The federal government should use its might to subdue these criminals and bring them to
justice.


Usman Yusuf is a Professor of
Haematology-Oncology and
Bone Marrow Transplantation

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