At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am back again on the issue of security, particularly in the South East. Yes, I know that security is a national issue but charity, they say, begins at home, ba? And the South East is rapidly deteriorating. In under 24 hours, I got sent two WhatsApp videos. The first was of policemen allegedly killed by ‘Unknown Gun Men’ (UGM) in New Haven, Enugu, and the more recent one was of an alleged attack on Senator Andy Ubah’s convoy in Enugwu-Ukwu (Anambra State) that left three dead. Weeks back, my dad and my uncle had to cut short a trip to the village because UGM came into town and killed three people. By the way, like I’ve said before: these UGM are not ghosts. They must be known to people, so why are we letting them operate with such impunity? O di kwa egwu. Someone in Anambra tweeted that they were scared to go out. Another friend suggested that a state of emergency should be declared in the SE, the ‘UGM’ given a period of grace to surrender and then the others hunted down and be dealt with. The situation, as is, isn’t sustainable. It’s like living in a war zone. The attacks have become so normalised that when Ebuka Uchendu tweeted about the Enugwu-Ukwu video and how gut wrenching it was, almost all of the comments under his tweet were from folks complaining about his handling of some Big Brother Nigeria issue. Na wah! May the souls of the departed Rest in Peace. I don’t know what to say that I haven’t already said, and yet silence is not an option when things are this dire.
If you didn’t know, Nigeria was apparently, the 3rd most dangerous place to live in 2019. Worse, The Human Freedom Index report released in 2021 ranked Nigeria the 2nd most dangerous country to live in, better only than Iraq. In the words of Robert I. Rotberg, the founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Programme on Intrastate Conflict and president emeritus of the World Peace Foundation, and John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former US Ambassador to Nigeria in foreignpolicy.com (May 27, 2021), “Nigeria has long teetered on the precipice of failure. But now, unable to keep its citizens safe and secure, Nigeria has become a fully failed state …” We can argue about whether or not Naija ticks all the boxes to qualify as a failed state, but what we cannot deny is that it is failing, and our security challenges, from north to south contribute to that status. Nigeria needs to do something urgently to solve the security challenges facing our dead nation.
And this matters because we cannot have economic progress without security. We cannot have a prosperous nation if we do not have our security in order. Nobody wants to invest in a country or a state where they have to worry about their security and the security of their workers.
Recently, my niece went on vacation with a friend to Honduras, and told me how much fun they had riding horses and visiting the beach. I told her she could do that in Nigeria, and maybe she should plan vacation in Naija with her friend in the future. She was quiet for a moment and out of politeness, said “sure.” I understand her hesitation. She hears about the kidnappings and the killings and all the other wahala. Imagine if we had our act together, how much revenue tourism would potentially bring in? Nigeria’s patchwork of distinct and unique regions makes it an ideal tourist country. What don’t we have? Swamps. Beaches. Waterfalls. Mountains. Sunshine. Warmth. Yet, we cannot exploit our natural gifts because you cannot attract tourists if the tourists have to worry about their safety. How can you relax on holiday if every other news broadcast includes news of attacks or abductions? Even Nigerians barely vacation inside Nigeria sef. If we do not have economic growth, the people who live in poverty will continue to find ways to get out of it, and that includes banditry and other nefarious businesses. And no, this is not making excuses for criminals but our economy needs a reboot, otherwise the cycle continues, something we cannot afford. And we cannot have that reboot if we have massive security concerns. Vicious, vicious cycle.
And this is why we need to get it right in 2023. We know the candidates, we have heard them speak in many instances, we’ve seen their handiwork. All that is left now is for civic-minded Nigerians to ensure that from 2023 onwards, we have someone in power who is dedicated to sorting out Naija’s security wahala. I know who that is. You probably do too.