Unmistakably, there is an existential threat to Nigeria at this time. Alas, the government at the centre is not at all responding with the clearheaded strategy and the sense of urgency required.
But under the extant structure of this aberrant federation, it is the Federal Government first that has the primary duty to protect the country and the people. To this end, it controls the bulk of the resources so required. It is strange, therefore, that, for reasons best known to the federal authorities, it fails to marshal these resources to act decisively, and seek help where and when it needs to.
A week or thereabouts after President Muhammadu Buhari assured Nigerians that his government would act decisively to stop banditry and other acts of criminality across the country, 42 persons, including 27 students, staff and their relatives of Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State were kidnapped. This is coming closely behind the incident in Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State in December last year when armed persons invaded and took away more than 200 students and other persons. Many of the victims were later released.
The presidency, at last, spoke up as tempers flared in Shasha, Oyo State between two ethnic groups, which showed no signs of abating until the Inspector-General of Police deployed Intervention and Stabilization Forces to restore peace in the affected areas.
However, the government certainly does not show beyond a reasonable doubt that it is on top of the clear and present danger that afflicts the polity. Its actions are no more than knee-jerk reactions to crimes already committed by persons and groups that seem to think and act faster than the constituted authority in the land. Similar incidents of abduction of 276 school pupils in Chibok, Borno State (April 2014 ), and 110 school girls seized from the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi in Yobe State, spoke volumes of government’s failure, so inexplicably, to put in place measures to protect the schools?
And unless governments at federal, state, and local levels wake up to their responsibility, this shameful cycle may continue. Needless to say, the duty of any government worthy to be so-called, includes being forward-thinking and proactive.
No one is safe anywhere, on the road, on the farm, or at home. Kings and subjects, government officials and Nigerians of all classes have been kidnapped from their homes, and places of business; travelers are easy targets.
Besides hapless citizens who must raise the huge ransom for the release of their loved ones seized violently, even governments have been brought to their knees to ‘negotiate’ with bandits (through middlemen who seem to be well connected to, and well informed on, and have easy access to the outlaws) and to pay a huge ransom for the release of victims, or to pacify so-called aggrieved bandits who, Nigerians were informed, had a genuine reason to be aggrieved and therefore to kidnap, rape and kill law-abiding persons.
There is reason to worry about the motive of the spreading acts of criminality. Meanwhile, in the unbelievably strange way these negotiations go, bandits are paid a huge amount of money to release their captives and with the proceeds, they are in a position to buy better and more arms to continue their criminal activities. This translates to Nigeria funding criminals to harm its citizens. This approach to a serious threat to this country is so curious it challenges reason.
The Federal Government abdicates its responsibility to the states in a manner that is both improper and unacceptable. With the unfettered control of the security agencies, it should be taking full charge, with supportive collaboration from the affected states authorities, in respect of the illegal activities of herdsmen, bandits, and other criminals on every inch of Nigerian soil. It is not living up to this.
On the other hand, in obvious violation of the letter and spirit of federalism, the government at the centre pointedly disallows the creation of state police or well-equipped security bodies capable of securing their respective jurisdictions. The relatively organized Amotekun state organizations in the Southwest part of the country cannot bear arms to match well-armed Fulani bandits. This position is completely a betrayal of the promise that Buhari’s administration made to the electorate. The APC voluntarily committed itself in writing to ‘initiate action to amend the Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit’; it promised to ‘begin widespread consultations to amend the Constitution to enable States and Local Government to employ State and Community Police to address the peculiar needs of each community’. The party’s El-Rufai committee on restructuring is reported to also recommend, besides other stabilising measures, that state police be created. But President Buhari ignored it all.
These problems are both indications and consequences of governance failure. The Buhari government must therefore do two things quickly: first, as the sole possessor of the instruments of coercion, support the states, and be seen to do so in a transparent manner, to enforce the extant laws and edicts on use of land, and general security within their respective jurisdictions. Second, seven years after, this government must honour its promise to the Nigerian people. Few things can be as terrible as a political party of presumably honourable men that having been entrusted with power, refuses to honour its freely given commitment to the people. This is a clear dereliction of responsibility.