By Nick Dazang
GENERAL T.Y. Danjuma must be saluted for his gift of prescience. Even before the insecurity in the country became pestilential and affected a large swathe of the North, the taciturn statesman had warned Nigerians to prepare to defend themselves from the onslaught of foreign marauders who were determined to take over their ancestral homelands. At the time, the General was upbraided in an uncharitable manner by President Muhammadu Buhari’s enablers. But not long after the invectives and scorn were generously poured on him by the government, the onslaught by an unholy trinity of bandits, kidnappers and terrorists intensified. And it raged with unsurpassed wickedness and derring-do.
Matters came to such a head that Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina, who superintends the state where the President hails from, was constrained to openly canvass for his people to defend themselves against the terrorists. A similar call had earlier been made by Governor Samuel Ortom of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. His call was, however, pointedly ignored by the Buhari administration which was always keen to cast him in the mould of rabble-rouser. This was followed by clarion calls by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, who was thought to have proximity to the President. El Rufai had made a case for the outright bombing of the terrorists, since, according to him, their locations were known to the government and he had outlandishly campaigned for the deployment of mercenaries to take out the terrorists since our security agencies seemed not to be up to the task.
It is thus not surprising when last week, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State entreated his citizens to arm and defend themselves against the terrorists and kidnappers who have made life a hell for the people. No doubt, the case for Nigerians to arm themselves is informed and is contingent on the near indifference of the Buhari administration. Apart from pious indignation and condemnations of the terrorists, often issued by his handlers who have since lost credibility with majority of Nigerians, no action appears to be taken by the administration to decimate the terrorists or stem the tide of their increasingly ferocious and daring assaults. The upshot of this indifference is that the terrorists have been emboldened by the administration’s pussy footing and lack of resolve. The terrorists attack in droves on motorcycles, using sophisticated weapons, thereby overwhelming their victims. Sometimes they operate in broad daylight light with chutzpah and unchallenged.
One would have thought that given the fact that their locations and co-ordinates are well known and that their modus operandi are clearly defined, the thing to do is using reliable intelligence to take them out through strafing by air, shelling by our artillery forces and subsequent mopping out through a surge of boots on the ground. It beggars belief that the government is yet to deal a decisive and mortal blow to these terrorists in spite of the intelligence at our government’s disposal and the fact that all it needs to do is to fully arm and kit members of our patriotic armed forces with modern and superior weapons, sufficiently motivate them and increase their numbers to overwhelm the terrorists in a final and outright manner. The fact that the administration has refused to hearken to the pieces of advice proffered by well-meaning and seasoned Generals who have canvassed the aforementioned position has led many Nigerians to begin, unfortunately, to speculate that government may be in cahoots with the marauders.
This allegation, wild as it seems, is being fueled by the fact that the government is led by a retired General who had seen action in the Nigerian Civil War and had held command positions in the past. The allegation, enlivening the grapevine, is also nourished by what appears to be government’s inexplicable and benign neglect of the atrocities and brutality being visited on Nigerians by these terrorists. Against the background of what appears to be indifference by government, while terrorists are having a field day and killing citizens in droves, it is inevitable that Nigerians will find recourse to self-help.
Not a few communities in the North are reported to be amassing weapons of all hues and arming their vigilantes. Reports in the media also indicate that such communities, which have armed themselves, are beginning to experience some respite from the terrorists. This is because the terrorists appreciate that their victims are now armed. And like all sadists, no one dreads death like these devils who excel in blood-letting and inflicting undeserved pain on others. Besides, their victims have raised the ante (by acquiring arms) and are ready for a Mutual Assured Destruction, MAD, scenario. Thus, as in nuclear war parlance, the consequence is deterrence.
But if recourse to self-help has moderated the excesses of the terrorists, it promises to be short-lived: By virtue of the weapons the terrorists have versus that of the vigilantes, the terrorists who possess AK-47s, AK-49s and Rocket-Propelled Grenades and Launchers command an edge. Secondly, allowing people, of all descriptions, to have access to or bear arms has harmful consequences. Since the vetting by the states and communities is not rigorous and vigorous, bad eggs are likely to access arms and use them to perpetrate crimes.
Thus, while attempting to solve a problem, we may end up birthing hydra-headed challenges. The American Second Amendment asserts: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. But we have seen the adverse consequences of this Amendment which was ratified in 1791: Rather than solve America’s gun violence, it has spawned a daily epidemic of massacres, pushing President Joe Biden to the verge of despair.
To avert this coming anarchy, even as we are compelled to take on the terrorists, the Nigerian State, rather than allow itself to fail, completely and irretrievably, under the watch of President Buhari, must be alive to its responsibilities by summoning the resolve and courage to confront and decimate these terrorists forthwith. The current heightened insecurity imperils lives. It endangers our sovereignty. It endangers our democracy. And it puts the 2023 general elections in harm’s way. This is because a credible and acceptable election can only take place in a peaceful environment as we saw recently in Ekiti State. A government whose article of faith is a legacy of peaceful and credible elections, which it inherited in 2015, must thus begin to address our insecurity in earnest and with all sense of seriousness.
Secondly, the heightened insecurity in the country speaks eloquently to the failings of the Police. This is the time for us to allow the coming into being of the State Police. In these dire circumstances, we need the State Police, which jurisdiction is limited to providing security in the states, but working in tandem with the Federal Police. The advent of the State Police will allow for a structure, rather than the amorphous and helter-shelter vigilantes. It will allow for rigorous and vigorous vetting of members/officers at the point of recruitment. It will insist on thorough training, thereby conferring professionalism,discipline and adherence to strict rules of engagement and conduct while in service.
Additionally, we shall have more professional men bearing arms covering robustly the spaces now occupied and dominated by the bandits due to paucity of numbers. Outnumbered and outgunned, the terrorists will lose out. And lose out terminally. This can be done. All we need, with due respect, is the will and the laser-beam focus.
*Dazang, a former director in INEC, wrote via: [email protected]