We have reached the bottom in the depth of despair in our security challenges. It is no use pretending. We knew that it would eventually get to this and force states and their communities to take desperate self-help measures to protect themselves by whatever means they can.
Here are some such measures taken or being taken before and in recent times in response to the marauding killer bandits and kidnappers who have made life hellish for all Nigerians in their potentially great country.
A week ago, as of this writing, the governor of Zamfara State, Bello Muhammad Matawalle, advised his people to buy arms and ammunitions to defend themselves against the bandits who kill with impunity and have made life hellish for them. He decided to buy arms for them too. He was, like all other state governors, driven to this desperate situation because as the chief security officer of his state, he has no means to secure his state and its people. He too is a victim of a system that imposes security responsibilities on state governors but denies them the means and the right to police their own states.
The chairman of Wase local government council in Plateau State, Ado Buba, said recently that his council had so far armed the vigilantes with 80 pump-action guns so his people do not become sitting ducks for bandits, kidnappers and other murderers.
Every state now has a security outfit doing the same thing. States in the South-West collectively formed Amotekun a few years ago for a more effective protection of their geo-political zone. Vigilantes have been set up in almost every community in the country. Local hunters have even been pressed into service too in Borno and Niger states to protect their fellow Nigerians. Thus armed with dane guns, we expect the hunters to confront the intimidatingly armed bandits who have become the scourge of our security forces, thanks to their superior fire power. It may sound laughable but when a man is drowning, he does not have the luxury of waiting for a lifebuoy. He catches at the straw.
Still, the daily bulletin on the security front makes a chilling reading. The killings go on. The banditry goes on; the kidnappings go on. Attacks on places of worship in a country that wears its religiosity on its sleeves chills the bones. Only this week, soldiers were ambushed in Niger State by daring bandits, killing 30 of them. And not for the first, second or third time. The killing of our security forces is an expose on the incapacity of the Nigerian state to make us safe and secure in our country.
There are criminals in all countries but no other African country faces this level of insecurity the giant of Africa has been contending with since Boko Haram took on the Nigerian state in 2009. It is truly pathetic. It is truly a monumental national shame for our country, its leaders and the citizenry.
We have been repeatedly told that security is not the business of government alone. We know that. We also know that as citizens our duty in securing our country is a supporting role. The primary responsibilities lie squarely on the shoulders of our political leaders. We expect them to lead and invite the people to follow. But they have defined their role and responsibilities strictly in line with their philosophy of power without responsibilities.
They live in protected and secure environments paid for and maintained by the people’s tax money. Still, the security of the citizens quaking and trembling in hovels in dread of the various bands of criminals freely roaming the land is the best guarantee for their own security.
No government can afford to be absent from the lives of its citizens. They institute governments of their choice through the instrumentality of the ballot boxes and the ballot papers, warts and all, to serve them. The lords of the flies on the stage of our national politics are in power because the people put them. We must never make a virtue of ingratitude.
Governments do not exist for the pleasure of the few men and women in privileged elective and appointive offices. Governments are judged by how well and fairly they treat their own citizens. It is difficult, impossible even, for a government that arrogantly abandons its own citizens to the murderous and criminal devices of sundry criminals to win plaudits from the people; no matter what the spin doctors make of their propaganda tools.
Self-help security measures mentioned here are desperate measures of necessity but there is a downside to them. More weapons freely in circulation in the country is not a guarantee for our security. We are putting weapons in the hands of untrained elements informed by the cynical wisdom that half bread trumps no bread. Weapons in the hands of such elements is a recipe for an equally dangerous situation. The possibility of our moving from the frying pan into the fire is neither alarmist nor far-fetched. Our post-civil war experience is not too remote for us not to remember that weapons in idle hands after the war birthed armed robbers, still a scourge in the land.
This week, Canada gave a voice to the picture in the heads of most foreign countries, to wit, Nigeria is a dangerous place to travel to, let alone live. In a travel advisory note, often issued by foreign countries to their citizens in countries they regard as unstable, the Canadian government told its citizens that Nigeria was experiencing “all forms of criminalities and atrocities” in all the states of the federation.” Nigeria, it said, is “a fraud and crime-infested nation.” It detailed the various crimes committed in every state of the federation and warned its citizens to “avoid non-essential travel to Nigeria due to the unpredictable security situation throughout the country and the significant risk of terrorism, crime, inter-communal clashes, armed attacks and kidnappings.”
It is a disturbing but not a false picture of our security situation. It makes the challenge of containing the criminal activities and making our country safe and secure all the more urgent because no investors with their heads properly screwed on, will accept Nigeria as a safe destination for their investments. The absence of foreign investments adds more stress to an economy struggling with its own health.
We, the people, must now plead with our political leaders strutting the national stage wearing power on their expensive traditional clothes, to take a collective decision to save the country. A country comes before power and democracy. World history has no record of a nation where the dead voted for those seeking elective offices. Our constitution imposes on our governments, at national and sub-national levels, the first duty in every country, to wit, the protection and security of lives and property of all citizens. Let us beg them to remember their duty to the land and its people. Nigeria on crutches is not the country of our hopes and dreams.