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Retrogression of a society: Nigeria and Anambra state

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(A helpful guide in curbing the insecurity situation in Anambra State)

By Chukwuka Amaobi Frank

INTRODUCTION

This short note is designed and desired to reveal the reality of insecurity in Anambra state as of April 2021. It demonstrated how Anambra State, the most peaceful and secured state has turned out to become a theatre of gunmen attacks. The work intends to examine some of the factors and historical events that brought us to this level of the security crisis in the state and South East entirely. The work has been able to trace these events from independence to the End SARS protest and to the current reality.

The work also proffers recommendations through which the state can be restored and therefore can serve as a proposal for the stability of Anambra State.

BACKGROUND

On January 1, 1914, Lord Frederick Lugard, the governor of both the Northern Nigeria Protectorate and the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, signed a document consolidating the two protectorates thereby creating the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. And forty-six years later Nigeria became an independent nation-state with multiple challenges ranging from economic, political, security et al.

It will be regrettable not to mention that Lugard’s Indirect Rule administrative system chiefly contributed to the type of disjointed socio-political entity we refer to as a republic. This disjointedness precipitated our contemporary disconnectedness which has brought extreme ethnicism more visible than infrastructure, hence the agitation for secessions. It is an established fact that the greatest legacy of Lugard’s indirect Rule System in Nigeria policy is the manifestation of ethnic Nationalism, ethnic rivalry, and hatred and, just seven years after independence, the country was already prone to a civil war,

Nigerian/Biafran war as at today is no longer treated as a mere effect or product of Nigeria’s foundational artificialities and forceful contraption as some authors call it, but it has become a major source of a sustained grievance and the continued hatred because of the way issues that emanated from the war have been handled. The general citizen’s disenchantment, lack of basic social amenities, unemployment, political notoriety, constitutional problems, aversive corruption, and ethnicism at one side have posed a serious problem against Nigeria’s development.

Of more serious threat to Nigeria, survival is the growing population of Nigerian youth without jobs and any hope of a decent life, plus the country’s leadership disorder. In some societies, it is the sole duty of the government to provide security and welfare, even in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is no different.

To understand the growing frustration among the Nigerian youth, let us take more than a cursory look at this chapter of our constitution and examine Nigeria from that provision (1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chapter II, section 13 to 14).

13 “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this chapter of this constitution.

14 (1) “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice.

(2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that:

Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority.

The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government and

The participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

(3) The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.

(4) The composition of the Government of a State, a Local Government, or any of the agencies of such Governments, and the conduct of the affairs of the Governments or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the Federation.

Having seen this provision, the most sincere question here are:

Is the current Nigeria being ruled on the basis of democracy and social justice in a country where a particular ethnic group has dominated the system?

Does the sovereignty of Nigeria has anything to do with the people or the political gladiators and oil well owners?

Is the welfare of the people still the concerns of the government in a society where politicians are always thinking about the next election rather than the next generation?

A serious observer of Nigeria’s reality would not need answers to these questions as our reality is more acute than ever. It is so unfortunate that amidst these myriads of problems threatening Nigeria, the government spends so much time and resources in covering the reality instead of dealing with it. The government even goes as long as intimidating those who are ready to say the truth.

The anti-social media and fake information bill and that of hate speech are all regarded as the final attempts by the Federal government to stampede the truth. Sadly, what this government has failed to know is the fact that Nigeria youth has come of age. They failed to understand that these youths know Nigeria by their daily encounter in the street and isles of this country.

They know Nigeria by their empty stomach, poor housing, poor hospital facilities, by avoidable road accident deaths, by poor income and pains from being a Nigerian, by poor electricity supply and high electricity tariff, by the general high cost of living and inflation, by the social discrimination perpetrated by the government itself on the basis of being a Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo.

These youths especially from Southern Nigeria understand the dilapidated and sorry state of this country more than anybody. They understand it by the constant harassment and intimidation from security agencies, especially from the defunct SARS. They understand Nigeria from the constant police brutality on the southern Nigerian high ways which in most cases leads to death. Many other atrocities both recorded and unrecorded have befallen these youths and signs of the worse things were imminent before they launched the most viral social media trend with the inscription #ENDSARS. This facebook trend as expected resulted in one of the most popular mass movements of people all over the world. It attracted celebrities all over the world and brought condemnation against the Nigerian government, and yet the government of the day failed to treat it with utmost attention until it became a full-scale protest and crisis.

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The End SARS Protest

End SARS protest which takes its name from the slogan started in 2017 as a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #EndSARS to demand the disbanding of the notorious unit of Nigeria Police called the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). The protest was revitalized in October 2020 after revelations of more cases of police brutality. The End SARS protest is a decentralized social movement and series of mass protests against police brutality, especially in Southern Nigeria.

These protests majorly took place in Southern Nigeria because a greater percentage of these brutalities took place in southern Nigeria with Awkuzu SARS standing as one of the most notorious human abattoirs in the country. Supplementally, we must not also forget that the wounds and pains inflicted by the Nigeria Army during the operation python dance in the major Eastern cities of Aba, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Nnewi, Enugu, Owerri, Okigwe, Umuahia, etc were still fresh in the minds of the people.

All of these, including the growing frustration of the people and registered cases of death from depression and other related psychological issues, formed a formidable factor in reshaping the mass movement from an End SARS to End Bad Government campaign and protest. Without any iota of sentiment, it was clear at this juncture that the governments became furious and worry about the protest against becoming a full-scale revolution.

On the 20th of October, 2020 precisely around 8 pm at the Lekki Toll Gate Lagos, Nigeria, Nigerian Soldiers were sighted and were purportedly shooting at civilians who were merely sitting down, holding Nigerian flags, and singing the national anthem. This act though brought the protest to a halt, but received a worldwide condemnation against the Nigerian government and marked the regime of General Muhammad Buhari as a regime of terror according to some authors.

The aftermath of End SARS and Anambra Scenario

Anambra State government led by Chief Maduaburochukwu Willie Obiano was highly commended by the way the protest was managed in Anambra State, especially with that prompt speech and promises made to the End SARS protesters during his address on the 16th of October, 2020. The appearance of the governor was timely and a soothing rain after that scorching sun. His verbal support to the protesters was masterly and expected of a people-oriented leader.

However, the failure of the Anambra State government to hunt down the notorious CSP James Nwafor, the former OC SARS stimulated suspicion and disenchantment in the minds of people against the Anambra State government. The failure to capture James Nwafor revitalized the buried issues surrounding the appointment of the same James Nwafor who supervised a reign of extrajudicial killings in Awkuzu SARS, as a senior Special Assistant on Security to the Governor upon his (James Nwafor) retirement from Nigeria Police Force in 2018.

The resentment within the public domain is based on the people’s expectation that the Anambra state government ought to have known better, rather than displaying such a high rate of insensitivity by employing such a notorious enemy of the people in the first place, coupled with the fact that the said James Nwafor is from Ebonyi State and not from Anambra state.

The use of force in halting the End SARS protest was largely successful all over the country, but that came with an unprecedented backlash especially in the southeast region and Anambra.

A sincere observation and assessment of the End SARS protest reveal that the Nigerian youth genuinely wanted a system change from the structure and system that have masterminded the country’s underdeveloped state. And the End SARS movement was only one of many other demands by Nigerian youth. It was also clear that the government of the day was not ready to genuinely tackle all of the issues that were birthed prior to and after the protest.

The level of frustration that marred the expectation of the day within the Nigerian youth camp here in the southeast reached its apogee. One other ugly incident that belittled Anambra State and brought a fierce provocation among the youths was the discovery of the hidden palliative materials meant for the COVID-19 lockdown. The rush at Agu-Awka and the subsequent shooting into the crowd by the police operatives in a bid to disperse the storming youth who wanted to lay their hands on the palliative materials. Pictures of the victims of that shooting are still on the internet. The deads have long been buried but their loved ones have not forgotten.

Anambra As At Today

Anambra state was unarguably the most peaceful and secured state in Nigeria before now. Part of the causes of our present predicament have been well narrated in the previous pages of this note. It is very imperative here that this note also exposes two other very significant players that have punctuated the flow of peace in Anambra state, and these are:

The rejuvenated Biafran Agitation

Activities of cult groups in the state.

The rejuvenated Biafran Agitation

The call for Biafran secession was first nursed and declared by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and this history is a very well documented art by several authors. However, at the second regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007 when he made Professor Charles Soludo the first-ever Igbo man to preside over the affairs of the apex bank (CBN), the Biafran agitation and the cry of marginalization among Igbo sympathizers seemed to be waning down.

The inclusion of many other prominent Igbo sons in prominent positions helped in subsiding the tension at which Biafra agitation was going as at that time. The tenure of president Umar Musa Yaradua and Goodluck Jonathan also maintained a balance sheet in terms of national appointment. Beyond question, it is the regime of General Muhammadu Buhari that ignited the once subsided tension about Biafran agitation.

The level of abuse of the federal character stance on national appointment and the rejuvenated Fulani hegemony and domination on Nigeria’s polity recreated fear and suspicion within the southeast and in some other quarters. The Mazi Nnamdi Kanu Radio Biafran and the IPOB’s crusade started creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and possible instability of a no distant time. Kanu’s assertive and well-articulated predictions on Fulani’s intention to dominate the country were gradually unfolding in affirmation, and Biafran actualization was winning more supports from within and outside Nigeria on the strength of this. In addition, his professional use of propaganda was more penetrative in the minds of his targeted quarters than party manifestoes can ever achieve.

However, we must admit that Biafra wouldn’t have been a reliable alternative had the Nigerian political leaders put Nigeria in a befitting place on the world map. Again, Anambra’s current security crises can also be traced to the arrest and shootings of the IPOB’s peaceful protesters in Onitsha. The Director of Amnesty International, Nigeria on June 2016 confirmed that soldiers opened fire on peaceful IPOB supporters and bystanders who clearly posed no threat to anyone.

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This was an outrageous use of unnecessary and excessive force and it resulted in multiple death and injuries. It will take only a lackadaisical and detached writer not to know that the people of Anambra state and southeast have long gradually been disconnected from this federated emotion and mainstream scheme of things.

The arrest and incarceration of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the python dance operation, and the subsequent proscription of IPOB as a terrorist group were a few of the last straw that broke the Camel’s back. The role played by the southeast governors, to say the least, was the worst of action recently recorded in our socio-political history. Leading opinions and commentators on Nigeria affairs condemned in totality, the desperation of the Federal government to proscribe IPOB, while Fulani herdsmen, bandits, and Miyetti roam free.

And the worst side of the story is getting to know that it was the southeast governors that purportedly invited the federal soldiers and the notorious operation python dance. The Biafran agitators, supporters, friends, parents, and associates from other parts of the country have placed this action by the southeast governors as the worst hostility ever recorded against the people. It is unavoidable therefore to conclude that the majority of Anambra youths and other southern youths have been in a cold war against these political leaders who for a myriad of reasons believe that are responsible for their ordeals in Nigerian prisons and police cells. In fact, the wall of disconnection between the people and their political leaders is monumentally thicker than the biblical wall of Jericho.

Activities of Cult Groups in Anambra State

Cultism in the early years of Nigeria was a problem found only within Nigeria tertiary institutions and neighboring environments. Today, the menaces of cultism have gradually shifted from campuses to the roads and streets of Nigeria. In Anambra State, cult activities in recent times have claimed more lives more than malaria parasite and HIV put together. It has hampered the progress of our business environment and social life.

In Awka environment and elsewhere, two rival cult groups have been alleged to be responsible for the bloodshed that has been witnessed in major towns of Anambra State (Awka, Ogidi, Ozubulu, Okija, Ihiala etc). It has been confirmed that the recent cult clash in Anambra are between the Vikings (baggers) and Aiyee confraternity. “War” which is a term generally used by the cultists and those conversant with their activities, to express the bloody clash between rival cults, according to intel, is part and parcel of the game. Members of the cult group are always on the edge, not knowing when a rival group will attack. In Awka environs, this war happens mostly once in a year around December/January. Sometimes twice in a year, one around December/January, the second during and after the Imo Awka festival. There can be years this war doesn’t take place at all especially when there is no clash of interest between them.

In recent times, the growth of cultism in Awka and Anambra with its attendant rivalry has been allegedly attributed to the government’s allocation of markets and parks to some individuals in the state which some of them are said to be members and sponsors of notorious cult groups in the state. What happens is that each of these individuals allocated with parks select individuals from the same confraternity to work for them and these boys begin to assume some underserved powers and prestige, and then begin to use their opportunity to intimidate rival cult members.

This situation has made every opportunity for clash so easy and possible almost on a weekly basis as long as the park’s revenue remains a daily routine. These rivalry and hostilities are mostly carried out within bus, shuttle, Keke, and Okada riders inside the state. These cult killings, no doubt has aggravated the security challenges we have in the state.

In fact, it is very difficult to tell when the suspected IPOB members are responsible for an attack. This is because, both IPOB (ESN) and cult group are believed to be looking for weapons to fortify themselves and to carry out attacks. Other criminal groups who are neither here nor there are also taking advantage of our porous security system at this time to destabilize our already collapsed security apparatus. And the most worrying scenario here is that the ordinary citizens of the state are happy when security operatives are attacked and killed. This is so because the masses believe that harm inflicted on any security operative is inflicted on the government. In fact, we are already at a crossroads and only a sincere approach can turn these things around.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The federal government of Nigeria has shown little or no concern in changing its approach in handling our security situation. The federal government’s mishandling of herdsmen issues who have persisted and increased their attacks on southeast communities was the chief reason of Nnamdi Kanu for setting up the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a militia organ of the IPOB. My solicitation here is that southeast governors must shun pretense, political differences and come together to confront the federal government because this is no longer a matter to be settled by the usual means.

It is time to meet with Nnamdi Kanu for dialogue. As it stands now, we can only be ignoring Nnamdi Kanu at our own peril. The granting of asylum to the Biafran agitation by the British government on 19th of April, 2021, is a harbinger to suggest that even Britain is coming to terms with the reality that Biafran can no longer be ignored. The Southeast governors should not rely on the denial that ESN is not responsible for the attacks on security formations and snatching of rifles from security operatives.

We must, first of all, treat every suspicion with utmost seriousness before an expertise investigation proves otherwise. Whatever we have a plan to eradicate this menace must be done very quickly because research and predictions have suggested that the killing of security officers in South East is not primarily intended. Rather, the idea is to weaken security operatives so as to be able to attack the various seats of power in all southeast states.

We must admit that Nigeria is already a failed state. This is no longer a subject of debate among scholars, except politicians who continue to make assertions based on political sentiment and loyalty. According to the political theories of Max Weber, a state is defined as maintaining a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders. When this is broken (e.g., through the dominant presence of warlords, paramilitary groups, corrupt policing, armed gangs, or terrorism), the very existence of the state becomes dubious, and the state becomes a failed state.

Going by this theory, with a sincere observation of Nigeria’s political space, we have more than ample evidence to suggest that we are in a failed state era. So it is not time to be sustaining lies. It is a time to engage our problem pragmatically. To have failed, it is obvious that our current system is not working, hence the urgent need to try new things. The issue of state police is long overdue.

Our leaders know this too but because of political interest and ambition, the southeast Governors have failed to lend their loud voice to the growing cry for state police. We do not need a Machiavelli to tell us that issues of Fulani Herdsmen attack on South East communities cannot stop under a government that has succeeded in creating a Fulani dynasty in Aso Rock. A state governor cannot fully function as a chief security officer of a state where his so-called security operatives are being recruited and paid by a higher level of government.

This case has made the issue of restructuring unavoidably indispensable. But first, our southeast Governors need to be sincere. They need to be bold in calling Federal Government to order when necessary and not acting like their respective states are merely a department of the presidency.

This note (work) among other things strongly recommends a southeast security summit, where our survival shall be discussed. Enough of the pretense and this cowardice. If the federal governments of Nigeria think we do not count, let us make ourselves count if we still need Nigeria. Our leaders must take steps that the followers should be proud of. We cannot afford to be losing lives and properties to the Fulani herdsmen East and then hoping to run to their uncles and brothers in Aso Rock to be mocked. This is the twenty-first century and our governors must show capacity that they have what it takes to provide protection to the lives and properties of the defenseless citizens who gave them their mandate.

It is very important that Anambra State is restored as the most peaceful state in Nigeria. To do this, something very different from the old need to be done. I do not think that this is the time to rely only on engaging these unknown gunmen on firepower whenever they attack. Waiting for them to come before acting would always produce a disastrous result. Security is best served when it takes a preventive model approach.

By that, damages would be minimized. I think the Department of State Security (DSS) should be called upon to deliver on their mandate in providing needed intelligence. DSS are known and trained as information gathering experts in the field of security. By now, they supposed to have infiltrated the society and these criminal groups to secure intelligent information needed for an arrest.

The DSS must be fully integrated into this problem-solving initiative. The Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Army, and the local vigilante must be encouraged to put in their best at this trying time. I also suggest that whatever financial motivation the state government have for these security operatives should be made to go into their individual accounts. It has been revealed that most times, these officers are not getting what exactly was provided for them because of middlemen corruption. It is not only in the election period that our security operatives deserve allowances. A time like this is even more suitable for them to be re-energized.

On the issue of cult clash around Awka and another part of Anambra State, there are very few steps I think the state government should take.

One of these steps is to get the state House of Assembly to enact a law that would ban cultism and all its activities in the state. Prescribe cultism and treat the members as the real terrors of the state. The state must build and equip a very viable anti-cult security outfit that would ensure that the act of the parliament banning cultism is fully implemented. The same punishment deserving of a kidnapper under Anambra law should also be given to a cultist.

Anambra state government should also look into the crises emanating from the allocation of parks to some selected individuals and the role of cultism in exacerbating it. If Anambra State insists on allowing parks to be handled by individuals instead of using government ministries and local government, then the state must ensure that the entire staff of that contract must be recruited by the state government pending when the contract elapses.

This is because employees or agents tend to work to the tone and instructions of their employers. Enquires have revealed that some of these selected individuals who were given parks have a particular cult group they sympathize and associate with. The implication is that these park contractors eventually recruit these cult boys to the envy and intimidation of their rival cult group. This situation has been identified as being one of the major reasons we are witnessing constant cult clashes in the state recently. This note/work, therefore, suggests that the recruitment of those who work with these contractors shall be presided and be paid by the state government.

While the state keeps working on using every conventional means to eradicate cultism, attention must be paid to every possible awareness programme to demarket cultism and deter our children from nursing the idea of becoming cultists. We must re-enforce campaigns that would outlaw cultism the same way and in the same energy invested in HIV/AIDS eradication campaigns.

Lastly, Anambra must ensure that criminals and every bad element must leave the state. And when we talk about criminality we must be holistic. Criminality among security agencies should be given serious attendance too. Police officers posted to Anambra State for the protection of lives and properties must not be seen extorting from motorists neither would they be seen brutalizing citizens.

Citizens should be encouraged to work with police and also report the bad eggs among them to the Anambra State government with evidence of misconduct. It shall be the responsibilitY of the state to summon the security formation under which such rascality was carried out. Police officers in Anambra state must be meant to understand that they are here for us and not otherwise.

The growing desire by police officers all over the federation to seek transfer to Anambra state on the notion that the chances for extortions from civilians are bigger must be corrected. Anambra government should make available an emergency WhatsApp number that will take care of citizens’ complaints against security officers in the state.

We should not leave the issues of disciplining police officers to the police alone, because a judge cannot prosecute herself. There’s also evidence to suggest that police have antecedents of shielding their own from prosecution. So Anambra must step up in ensuring that Anambra citizens are enchanted in the way and manner they are being policed.

All of these recommendations mention shall take a standing governor and not a sitting governor to get them actualized. And together we shall rebuild a great Anambra state that shines steadily.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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