By Lekan Sote
Acting leader of Yoruba Afenifere, octogenarian Ayo Adebanjo, suggests that the commanding heights of state violence are (mostly) in the hands of the Fulani who seem to have captured the Nigerian state to their advantage only.
And while those of the same ethnic, regional or religious persuasion as most of the Service Chiefs act like they are pampered by the system, the others feel they are alienated and of no consequence as citizens of Nigeria.
But the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), doesn’t even behave or act as if he is aware that by skewing appointments of service chiefs in favour of Northern Nigeria may be indirectly responsible for the insecurity in the country.
He routinely compromises Section 171(5) of the Constitution, which requires that “In exercising his powers of appointment,” the President “shall have regard to the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity.”
The following are from Northern Nigeria: Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Ministers of Defence, Police Affairs, Justice and Communication and Digital Economy; National Security Adviser; Chiefs of Army and Naval Staff; Inspector General of Police, Director-General of Department of State Services, and Commandant-General of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Others are: Controllers-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, and Nigeria Correctional Service; Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; Director of Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit; Directors-General of Nigeria Intelligence Agency and National Youths Service Corps; and Corps Marshal of Federal Road Safety Corps.
Also, the three arms of the Federal Government –the executive, legislature and judiciary– are led by northerners. The crumbs left to Southern Nigerians are Minister of Internal Affairs, Chiefs of Defence Staff (that is not exactly a command appointment), Air Staff and Defence Intelligence.
He also gave the monkey work Ministries of Works and Housing, Transportation, Health, Mines and Steel Development, Trade and Investment, and the humdrum Labour and Productivity, Science and Technology, and Youth Development and Sports, to Southerners.
He retained plum Ministry of Petroleum Resources and its appendage, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to the North, (never mind the ineffectual Minister of State), and the strategic Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning in Northern hands.
Imagine a room full of security chiefs where the overwhelming majority takes a decision to favour their constituency after conferring in low tones in Hausa, whatever dissenting voice will be feeble, unsure.
So, the minority, knowing that they will always be outnumbered, will simply acquiesce and hold their (forced) peace and the decision will certainly fail to reflect the pluralism of Nigeria. “Group think,” will always limit the policy options of service chiefs with one cultural, religious and linguistic affinity.
What this does to the psyche of Nigerians from other constituencies, especially the South-East that hardly has a representation, is absolute loss of confidence in the security architecture of the nation.
There is mutual suspicion between the ethnic groups of the leaders of the security agencies and other Nigerians whose kins are not adequately represented. They will naturally live in fear of those whose kins run the security system.
That is what happens when the Attorney-General of the Federation becomes the facilitator of Miyett Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria’s intention to challenge Anti-Open Grazing laws of the South while the Commissioners of Police have incoherent positions on the matter.
While some promise to enforce the law, some say they have not seen the document, others say they will only provide security for those who will enforce the law, while yet others say it cannot be enforced without the backing of the Federal Government that controls the police.
Things get worse when individuals of the same region (and religion) with heads of the security agencies, violate other Nigerians, and opinion leaders, from the consciences of the security chiefs, plead for amnesty for the killers and argue that bandits should not be regarded as terrorists.
You then get confused when otherwise intelligent Nigerians conclude or conjecture that the killers of Dr. Chike, widower of the late Prof Dora Akunyili, former Director-General of National Foods and Drugs Administration and Control and former Minister of Information and Culture, are unknown Fulani gunmen!
The optics of sectionalism, nurtured by President Buhari are largely responsible for this (very likely) wrong conclusion. But people will entertain such thoughts especially because the identities of the killers will be shrouded in shoddy police investigations.
It gets even more complicated when one of those who kit and supply arms to bandits is a First Brother in a Northern Nigerian state, and he is merely interrogated in the comfy office of a governor, whereas those who complain about the injustice and inequity served on their people end up in the state Gulag.
Whereas insurgency, banditry and kidnapping are rife in most of Northern Nigeria, Attorney-General Abubakar Malami of the All Progressives Congress, is flying the kite of a state of emergency in Anambra State where the All Progressives Grand Alliance holds sway.
The claim by the President that middlemen are causing high cost of food through hoarding is not true. His skewed appointment of security chiefs who seem to indulge their own is responsible for the insecurity that is driving farmers away from their farms, thus causing scarcity of foodstuffs.
While the President and the Attorney-General Malami indulge armed non-state security agents, cleverly named Civilian Joint Task Forces, in Northern Nigeria, they declare Western Nigeria Security Network, known as Amotekun, illegal and unconstitutional.
The sense of siege and insecurity felt by Nigerians different from the chosen ethnic and religious groups is making many highly talented Nigerians, who feel their lives and livelihoods are not safe, flee the country.
That unfortunately provides the likes of Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Director of Publicity of Northern Elders Forum, gloating rights over Southern Nigerians (mostly of the South-West) who are abandoning Nigeria for other climes.
Those who remain at home, like South-East Nigerians, abandon their trades practically every Monday as hoodlums continue to enforce a sit-at-home order, earlier given, but now vacated by separatist Indigenous People of Biafra.
Farmers who lose their crops to herders and cattle, simply avoid going to their farms for fear of being abducted, maimed or even killed. Many schools, especially in Northern Nigeria, are shut down, to avoid kidnappers.
This leads to scarcity, and consequent rising prices of (especially) foodstuffs and other Fast Moving Consumer Goods. Now, Foreign Direct Investments and domestic capital are taking a flight out of Nigeria to other African countries.
The grandmother of them all is that funds that should be channelled into economic development projects are diverted to buy arms and ammunition to prosecute wars against insurgency, banditry, cattle rustling and other crimes.
Add to that, ransom to bandits and kidnappers, and the cost of keeping victims of insurgency in camps for Internally Displaced Persons and rehabilitating the so-called repentant insurgents and bandits.
The consequence is that businesses are losing out, unemployment is increasing, government’s tax revenue dips, and the invisible costs of just trying to maintain the system are rising. President Buhari needs to practise inclusiveness in politics.
A people who feel unprotected by the state will seek alternatives. It is either the President changes some service chiefs or gets the service chiefs to always accommodate Nigeria’s diversity when making decisions.
That should be an irreducible minimum.
Cause and cost of insecurity
By Lekan Sote