States should be stopped from introducing State Police through the back door
FG should take charge of all security apparati in the country
Buhari’s military background affects his performance in democracy
One-time chairman of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, Chief A.K Horsfall, in this Democracy Day Edition, takes on the challenge of security in the change administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, lamenting the security problems in the country and urging security agencies to cooperate in solving the security issues in Nigeria, even as he expresses concern over the effect on common people.
By Chioma Gabriel, Editor, Special Features
HOW would you assess the change mantra of the current government? Many think this ‘change’ administration has not done well
The press is an essential element of democracy. One thing about the media in Nigeria is that they run into conclusions too soon. Everything is praise-singing and when I said that, it starts with the press. I would rather we have a critical press to critique issues especially at the initial stages of any new dispensation rather than carrying banners and clapping all over the place which is what happens to us in this country from time to time. From time to time, we find that administrations have come into this country with a great promise but because of this unusual, inappropriate praise-singing that is given to any new administration, things start going wrong and we’d never know until the press turns around to start criticising the regime.
Here is the media which was praising only a few hours ago and now, it has started criticising vehemently and then, what do you find? You find people accusing one another and then the media becomes the opposition. So, they are no longer objective. I think the press is part of the problem. Wait, watch, observe before you give your verdicts on the way things are going. I didn’t belong to any political party in any dispensation but I have been very active in the public affairs of this country and I’ve played my own part of being an instrument also to deal with a number of things and when things start going wrong, it distresses me as if we are not going forward, but backward.
Political civilian dispensation
We must not forget that the current president of this country is a soldier, a statesman and politician. But essentially, he is a soldier. That is his training and therefore, at his level in the military, he is used to giving orders. And when it is a political civilian dispensation, he probably withholds some of the time, given these frequent orders make things work in a normal military dispensation such as he is used to. So, when he cannot give those sharp orders to get things going, he becomes slow in getting things done. When he begins to give such orders, people say no, he’s turning dictatorial. So, it is between these two that he is caught. And what do you expect under the circumstances? I’m afraid that things really cannot be better than they are now under the current dispensation.
Does that mean we have the wrong person on the seat of power?
I’m not saying so, because in many countries in the world, now or before now, you had military politicians who were presidents, heads of state, but we in this country have emerged from a military administration to a civilian, political dispensation in 1999. We have chosen at this time to get a military man to run our democracy and what I’m saying in effect is that a military man, trained in a military style of administration and politics cannot be expected to have a sudden turn-around to be a partisan, political conciliatory person. So, we got what we paid for.
But in other countries like you said where leaders had military background, they were not as hard. Obasanjo was there but this time, it was like we are going back to the old oligarchy where it seemed if one is not Hausa/Fulani, he’s not a human being. The people we read about in History are still the same people in government. There are still military politicians in some administrations all over the world. So, it is a matter of time and I repeat myself by saying that President Buhari is doing the best he can under the circumstances but his background must be considered in judging him.
You are a security person; why are we in the position we are now security-wise: herdsmen, Boko Haram, all kinds of things? They are now telling us that people trained by Gaddafi are the ones perpetrating the mayhem.
It is worse for us to say these herders may not be Nigerians. If terrorists are invading us from outside this country, the first thing I will do as a leader is to sack my security chiefs. If somebody gets into our country through our borders and is perpetrating this evil regime of killing innocent citizens in Benue State and other places, moving into farms and destroying farms with herds of cattle and the security cannot stop them, then, the heads of security will have to go because they are not doing their job. Infact, I don’t want to believe that is the case, especially if these people are non-Nigerians and they are carrying arms and coming into this country through our porous borders. So, the simple thing is to task the various security elements concerned.
In the case of our porous borders, it is the work of immigration. It is when immigration is incapable of doing their job that you involve the military and that’s at a later stage and you can now tell the immigration, get out, get back so that the military can take over. That is the arrangement of security. But immigration is still functioning at the border, meaning that we have a routine type of security measure. Immigration should be able to do their job by stopping these people at the border from getting into the country. And where they have gotten in, it becomes a matter for the Police Force.
That is the element in the Police that is called the force and uptill tomorrow, some people are still debating whether they should be called the police department or the police force. If they are the police force and the matter has gone beyond immigration, then, in the civilian connotation, the police should now take over and sort that situation out. It is when the police feel unable to do so that they call in the military. It’s like when you are doing a combined operation of the military, the police and other security forces. The police deals with the civilian in a day-to-day event but when the situation goes beyond them, they hand over to the military.
Once a soldier gets to the bridge and a river is at the other side, he calls a naval person that, look, I see a river, I see water, I see ocean. So, it is no longer the soldier’s problem but that of the naval man. It’s a chain action, unless that chain has broken down and I don’t want to believe it has. These matters can be solved. People coming into the border illegally should be arrested by immigration. If they are already in the country, then the police should nab them and bring them to book. And if the police think that they are so well armed, or perhaps organised and constitute a force, then it becomes a military problem. I don’t think we have had it like this scenario.
So, the key thing is that the system is broken down or is breaking down and needs to be checked and re-coordinated in such a manner that they will function effectively. We used to have what we called joint commands where we have an operation. The military will be there and other forces and when the issue goes beyond that of the police, the soldier takes over. If we still have that kind of coordination, then, we won’t have the kind of problems we are having.
But is it the first time we’re having herdsmen in the country? And they are concentrating in the Middle-Belt and this is giving reason to all manner of insinuations. Why must the Middle-Belt, that is the Benue, Plateau area be the ones to be subjected to this kind of thing? General Danjuma has given his own idea. I don’t think everybody agrees with him but if there is no collaboration, then there is no cohesion.
Cooperation, coordination and collaboration
If all these forces are not collaborating to deal with the perpetrators of these atrocities, then, there is no cohesion among the forces to get these elements out of the system. You don’t need to declare an emergency in order to to deal with a routine situation like this one. This is something that existing forces of law and order can deal with appropriately if they cooperated and collaborated as in the usual espirit de corps of force cooperation, coordination and collaboration. I don’t think the system has broken down completely. Otherwise, people should sound an alarm.
Prof. Ango Abdullahi believes the happenings in the Middle Belt was a set up by politicians to destroy the perceived monolithic north by separating the core North from the Middle-Belt.
That is his perception but what I can say as a Nigerian citizen of experience and background is that for quite a long time, almost routinely, there is crisis and violence in that part of the country. You recall the period of the Late Tarka when there were the Tiv riots. Things like that keep occurring from time to time. Politicians being what they are, like one American, General Martins said that politicians are good at starting wars but never good at ending them. So, that situation in the Middle-Belt had been going on and off for a very long time and ought to be stopped. Human beings are dying. Today, it’s Boko Haram or herdsmen that are doing the killings. Now, let’s put it this way. The Middle-Belt, the Tivs particularly, constitute in most cases the foot soldiers in Nigeria’s military. So, there will be a lot of ex-service men there. And if these ex-service men come to the conclusion that they should gang-up and fight these people back, what do we get? We get a war but God forbid. So, I expect and advise the security and defence forces to go into this situation in the Middle-Belt and calm it before it gets out of hand. And if it gets out of hand, we’ll have a more serious situation in our hands. We must not allow that situation to continue so that we don’t have a greater problem of security in that area of the country.
The problem is spreading. A few weeks ago, an explosion happened in the house of Chief Nnia Nwodo in Enugu; in villages in the South East, South South, herdsmen are perpetrating havoc; killing, maiming, raping women. I believe if government deals with herdsmen in Nigeria the way Ghana did, the problem will stop because the order in Ghana was to shoot at sight.
I don’t have this information. I really tend to think that the problem of herdsmen is a minor security breach. The herdsmen I used to know were those ones that leave their herds and they normally carry a whip to keep them in order. But that herdsmen now carry sophisticated military arms baffles me and I believe it baffles a lot of people too. I’m surprised too that their activities are so widespread. I think there exists an arrangement within the system in the courts to handle what I would call minor situations. We don’t need to invite the military to go and deal with them. What is civil defence doing and they are all over the place?
But that is what the security question has created. Many think because Buhari is the grand patron of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders, he has sympathy for herdsmen.
For me, without trying to down-play the gravity of what we are in, I think it is wrong for people to think that Buhari as the president has sympathy for herdsmen being the grand patron of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association. There are people working with Buhari. I insist this case has not gone beyond what the police can handle. There must be somebody in government that is advising the president on police affairs. That person should coordinate police reaction to this civil matter so that we don’t unwittingly run into a situation whereby, we are into a purely civilian administration and we run ourselves into a military dispensation. God forbid. I think the media should also try and focus their intervention in such a manner to awaken other civilian security forces and elements. We ought to deal with these things before getting the military into it because it is dangerous. I repeat, a soldier is trained to kill and the moment you call him in, he begins looking for the enemy to kill. That won’t suit us because we are all Nigerians. Honestly, there is need for further education on this matter and indeed, further response on this matter. It’s all over the country: insecurity, violence here and there and different states are beginning to take different actions to deal with it. That is also dangerous.
The President at a special interview session with Voice of America, Hausa service, in Washington, United States said no to state police and ordered that 6,000 policemen be recruited to enhance the police force.
Why didn’t he say that here in Nigeria? He should say these things here in Nigeria. You heard because you are a media person that monitor news but the ordinary people didn’t hear. I’m rather amazed about some of the political developments internationally and even nationally, but I guess some tough years lie ahead of us and we must pray to God and put this country in His hand and do so everyday whenever we kneel down to pray, because I think the Federal Government should assert its authority here in the light of those things you are talking about. I expect the Attorney-General to tell the states that certain laws are ultra vires.