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SECURITY : How much longer must we quibble?

By Kunle Oyatomi

A repeat performance of the Jos bestial killings, within weeks; brings to the front burner the question of security in Nigeria and our approach to state policing. Apart from what we have already said about “other factors” instrumental to the incessant eruption of violence throughout the country, a primary and critical factor that militates against our effectively containing these security breaches is our approach to National Security. We have deliberately over-centralised policing in Nigeria. In spite of many things changing about our socio-political and democratic space, we have refused to come to grasp with our peculiar circumstance as a federated union of Nationalities.

As a result of our misconception that having a strong centralised presidential system would cement national unity, we changed from the parliamentary to the presidential in 1979. Now, not only are we more divided as a country and a people than we were in 1960, the security of lives and property has not only worsen, it has dangerously deteriorated to a state of near collapse. Even when we refuse to admit it, the truth is that many Nigerians of  different ethnic nationalities have cause to be skeptical of the Nigerian security apparatus for the safety of their lives.

The Jos scenario and the security breaches in several other parts of Nigeria patently point to a  very serious fault in our approach to that all important issue. We have been quibbling for too long about this question of “regionalising” (and now, it is state specific) the policing apparatus of the security arm of governance. This subject was one of the unresolved issues we glossed over before independence. Now it haunts us with deadly consequencies.

I have said it before in this column, and I will make an emphatic repeat of this statement, that if the people of Jos had been responsible for their own policing and internal security operations, the serial massacres of Jos would have been averted. If the governor of the state had been in full control of the situation of security in his state as “Chief Security Officer” all the crises thus far would not have been as serious as they are, or they  could have been prevented in the first instance.

The power-mongers and their local colonialist collaborators have made sure that this defect in our federating polity continues so that they will have a security apparatus they can use to compel subservience of the federating units to their selfish interest and hold on to power. The most ugly side of this unpatriotic approach to policing in Nigeria is what we are now experiencing. But worst, of all the implications, is that it has become so counter-productive, it threatens to be one of the reasons Nigeria could fall over the edge.

The state of insecurity throughout Nigeria calls for a new approach to policing and intelligence gathering. Only a person or most probably a politician afflicted by the worst form of colonial mentality would still object to that idea of a State Police Command (largely indigenous to the locality) and under the control of the state governor. The more we quibble over this the more trouble we should be prepared for, and the more losses of lives and properties we will suffer.

The time for a state police command under the control of the state governor is now.

Jonathan, now, you have no excuse
Up until Wednesday evening, when the Acting President produced the master-stroke of dissolving his cabinet, many people had been uncertain if he had what it takes to ascert himself in the volatile situation Nigeria finds itself as a result of the thick cloud surrounding the health of President Yar’Adua who has practically vanished from the scene. That singular action and the format of its execution have shocked to most unrelenting pessimist into taking another look at the possibility that afterall, Goodluck Jonathan may not be as “quiet” in performance as he looks. At least those who had under-rated him in the dissolved cabinet of Yar’Adua now know better, that the Acting President knows what his powers are in the present circumstances, and he could be decisively surgical when he opts to make use of them.

To the majority of Nigerians who have clamoured for this particular action of the Acting President, the expectation increases that he moves decisively forward to effect reforms which the polity needs to turn a new leaf, and optimise this country’s human and material resources for the good of all Nigerians. Jonathan should take in the resonance of popular support for his action and proceed with single-mindedness to address problematic issues with clinical efficiency so that we can reduce areas of conflict that seem to rip the country apart gradually, with especially reference to the Niger Delta, Jos with all its ethnic and religious undertones, and the political time-bomb of a dangerously malfunctioning electoral system, along with the issue of credible Nigerians to head and run the independent National Electoral Commission.

One would like to encourage Acting President Goodluck to recognise and act on the fact that he has practically nothing to lose, and an incredibly glorious name to make for himself if he turns governance around and meets the people’s demands for change to a large extent before he leaves office.

The next generation of political leaders who should emerge from this foundation that he would set will never forget him. And with them, history will also have a noble place for his name. However, between fame and infamy is a very thin line that requires skill, focus and wisdom to manouvre through. People are all over the place ready to give him pieces of advice from which he must wisely choose. Also people are present who may wish to intimidate him; against these he needs courage to stand his grounds.

The shenanigans of Nigerian politicians and power-brokers, and mongers will scheme to neutralize the Acting President. If on their account,  governance suffers any lapse, Jonathan should be aware that he would bear full responsibility. Therefore, the Acting President, and him alone, in the final analysis will be accountable.You should seize this opportunity to etch your name in gold in the history of Nigeria’s political evolution. You have started well, but it is not over until you can deliver on the key issues. You know them.


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