By Adekunle Adekoya
My best regards, fellow citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, whatever time of day you’re reading this. I find it necessary at this point to salute you, for the great job you’re all doing (those with transparent hustles, that is) to keep body and soul together.
To those whose children have been kidnapped in school, I join in praying for their safe return. If your dad, mom, sister, brother, or any relation have been gruesomely killed by “unknown gunmen”, may The Almighty comfort you.
For the majority of us who can barely afford more than one poor meal daily, keep hope alive as tough times don’t last, but tough people do. We must all remain strong as the pestilence of banditry, kidnapping, cult killings and other forms of violence rage across our land. We must continue to hold fort as food gets costlier and it gets harder to buy. Truly, the days are full of evil, and there seems no respite.
It remains inexplicable how the South-Eastern states, hitherto relatively peaceful, got sucked into the vortex of insecurity. The land and peoples East of the River Niger have been mostly like a placid lake, with undercurrents geared towards realisation of Biafra swirling below the surface, and occasionally erupting when there were clashes with agents of the state.
Lately, developments are so worrisome as to give even the most unconcerned high blood pressure. The phenomenon of “unknown gunmen”, strange as it is, took the area by storm, accompanied by arson, with wanton killing as its emblem. The situation has worsened. The killers now don’t just kill, they decapitate their victims and display the heads. People are deathly afraid of venturing outside their homesteads as nobody knows who’ll be next. Who sent us back to the stone age?
The condition in Kaduna State, as it concerns security, or lack of it, is cause for worry. A state like this, with the highest number of security institutions in the country ought to be the safest, but the reverse seems the case, given the unending spate of killings and kidnappings. As we speak, Bethel schoolchildren, abducted several weeks ago, not long after the Greenfield university abductions, are still in captivity.
In Niger State, homes are being attacked in many villages and in the confusion ensuing from the attack, children are being abducted. Benue is faring no better, while Kogi is also gasping for breath. Zamfara and Katsina are becoming brands of insecurity, making Governor Aminu Bello Masari lament that the insecurity situation in his state has denied him of any pleasure the governorship might have brought. Is the situation in Borno normal?
If the issue of insecurity is not enough to confound us, we now have more to contend with as some diseases we thought we’d seen the last of had begun to rage again. People in the health arena call them Neglected Tropical Diseases, NTDs. One of them is cholera. I was in secondary school when an epidemic of cholera broke out. By the time we came for holidays, many friends and relations had been killed as cholera raged; I never saw them again. Now, nearly 50 years after, cholera is killing us again.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, a total of 27,186 suspected cases including 653 deaths have been reported from 22 states and FCT (Benue, Delta, Zamfara, Gombe, Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Kebbi, Cross River, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Yobe, Kwara, Enugu, Adamawa, Katsina), as at July 25, 2001.
When you add this to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, you can see where humanity is headed in this country.
Back to security, or lack of it. Now it’s official: Special Police Services are here, and will have to be paid for. About two weeks ago, after a Federal Executive Council meeting, Nigerians were told that on the heels of a memo by the Police Affairs Minister, a new system “that will formalise what has existed with us all the time” is being put in place. Let me quote Mallam Garba shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity.
“You know police provide escort and guard for big corporations, banks, and so on. Now, in the interest of transparency and accountability, the government is formalizing this relationship.
”And there will be an introduction of tariffs and billing schemes. This will be using PPP (Public-Private Partnership arrangement). The police projected the use of consultants that will help them to manage this. Part of the revenue will go to the Federal Government. Part of it will go to the police. Part of it will go into police allowances. And part will go to consultants as their own fees.”
Those who mill around the corridors of power, and men of means know what it is to have security. Some samplers: When they are on the move, the main indicator is a convoy of state-of-the-art SUVs, all with that type of siren and horn whose report you know too well, unless you live in Burkina Faso, or Outer Mongolia. The SUVs and Hilux vans are in turn filled with uniformed men armed to the teeth.
If you needed to visit one of them, you were pre-cleared at the meeting venue, and your phones “arrested” at the point of ingress. All the while, you may not know you’re being monitored on CCTV. Meanwhile, since the EndSARS protests of last year, there is palpable reason to suspect large-scale abdication of security obligations to tax payers.
It was bad that we lost so many police vehicles and stations to arsonists that took advantage of the protests, but between October last year and now, in my reckoning, is enough time for things to get back to normal. It is impossible for the state to abandon the public space to all manner of actors, while agents of the state merely react after heinous acts have been committed.
So, there you are, fellow countrymen and women. There will now be security, provided you can pay. For those of us that can’t pay, who will protect us?