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Service chiefs and sacrificial lambs

It is ironic that after he was decorated by Vice President Kashim Shettima, the new Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun...

It is ironic that after he was decorated by Vice President Kashim Shettima, the new Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, would compare himself both to a tiger and a lion. He said he felt like a lion ready to pounce on criminal elements in the country and rid Nigeria of crime, to the extent possible.

Even though Nigeria has no lions in the wild, and hasn’t for many years, I think it is a commendable spirit for the IGP and the other security chiefs to adopt because God knows that this country is in need of lions to devour the criminals that have plagued it for long.

When President Bola Tinubu took over and started putting together his team, there were grumblings by Nigerians that security should be his priority and that making the right appointments in the security sector will be crucial for the success of his presidency. I agree. The president did not take long to make sweeping changes to the security architecture of the country, sacking the previous service chiefs who have largely flattered to deceive and replacing them with a new team.

If the new appointees needed any reminder of the enormity of the task that lay before them, even before they finished celebrating their appointments, yet another massacre occurred in Plateau State where 22 people were killed in several attacks. The newspapers reported these as “fresh attacks,” as if we were talking about tomatoes and freshly harvested carrots. It only demonstrates how frequent these attacks have become and how numb we have become to their reportage. The police in the state said they acted quickly to curtail the situation and the new governor, Caleb Muftwang, expressed sadness over the killings.

While sadness and outrage are due over such barbarity, more than that, action is needed to address it. As the new service chiefs are celebrating their appointments, and they should for reaching the pinnacles of their careers, they must remember that they will be judged by the results they deliver.

Already, this country is full of people who are hard to please, disillusioned even and brow-beaten into crisis fatigue by events of the recent past where non-performing officials and security chiefs luxuriated in office while Nigerians bled out, our soldiers were routed in their barracks and police officers where targeted by both criminals and outraged Nigerians.

These are the same Nigerians who when the new service chiefs were announced, immediately reacted with shouts of nepotism because, somehow, they sounded as if they had Yoruba names. A knee-jerk reaction we have since cultivated as a people. Our first inclination was not to check their antecedents, record and competencies but their states of origin. Well, it turns out there is a reasonable spread. They come from Kaduna, Kano, Ogun, Osun and Enugu states and the NSA is from Adamawa.

I understand the need to feel represented in Nigeria but if we have learnt anything from the last eight years, it is that representation in political appointments does not necessarily translate to improvement in the well-being of the people being so represented. At the time when most of the security appointments were from the North, it was the North that suffered the greater ravages of insecurity in the country.

It is sad to see how deeply-entrenched tribalism colours everything in the country, from judging the merits of political appointments to the choice of which record-chasing chef to support. Of course, I refer here to the Ekiti Chef Dammy, who zealously tried to steal the thunder from Chef Hilda Bassey over her Guinness World Record Cook-a-thon.

The debate that followed Dammy’s attempts was coloured with ethnic slurs and pontifications, as it did the recent elections and perhaps not until Dammy posted a video of herself doing wannabe-celebrity babiya Allah asking Nigerians to foot the bill of her security. It didn’t make sense of course, and it caused her the ire of some of the people who have championed her course. But again, it should remind us to consider things not based on tribe, religion or ethnicity, but on merit and common sense.

Dammy aside, since I don’t think the new security chiefs will be troubled to supply her private security, it is imperative for the president to throw the gauntlet to them. After all, he has promised to tackle insecurity and we hope these promises will not go the way of previous promises made by previous occupants of his office. 

He, therefore, must remind them that, as the new IG said, they should indeed feel like lions and work like lions to protect their territories, which is Nigeria and the people in it. As every watcher of wildlife shows knows, dominant lions don’t have a long life span at the top. They either do the job or are shunted out onto the express exit ramp. And their legacies—their offspring—are eviscerated by the new dominant lion in town. It is the nature of the jungle and it should apply to rescuing Nigeria from the edge of the abyss it is precariously balanced on.

The president will do well to remind them that they are his right hand in this fight, the vehicle to deliver better security to Nigerians and that failure is not an option. It is something we simply cannot afford. 

Of these appointees, perhaps Nuhu Ribadu bears the biggest brunt. He is one of only a few former police officers to occupy the office of the National Security Adviser and some analysts and security experts have wondered if he has not only the competence but the clout to pull off this role. It is after all a role that requires not just investigating, which his stint at EFCC demonstrates that he has, but also intelligence gathering, analysis and processing.

Of course, his EFCC days stand as a record—if one overlooks the political hounding he was made to do for his principal at the time—yet he must work hard to prove his competence in this role and justify his appointment with results.

Massacres such as the ones we just witnessed in Plateau and the ones we have witnessed in Benue, Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and other places, as well as the massive kidnap-for-ransom business, terrorism, secessionist shenanigans and other criminalities must not be accepted as normal.

If they fail, and I sincerely pray they don’t, the president must remind them that they are not too big to be the sacrificial lambs for a greater Nigeria.

Speaking of sacrificial lambs, it is that time of the year. The Eid festival, which requires lambs and sacrifices, is around the corner. The subsidy removal has driven up the price of everything, including rams for the sacrifice and the feast. Prices have skyrocketed and Nigerians can no longer afford them. For many, these are untenable realities, but they are the realities we face.

It is just ironic that all these events and happenstances, seem to be converging at once. At a time the president is unleashing lions, lambs are out of the reach of the average Nigerian.


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