By Eze Onyekpere
Nigeria is currently at a tipping point in its politics and security, a point from which any further descent will lead to a fatal crash, anarchy, and total collapse. We are at the tipping point in the sense that any further series of small negative occurrences, changes or incidents will become significant enough to cause more large scale and violent negative consequences. The drums of war have been brought to the public square and the sound can be heard from a long distance. Sadly, our leaders are missing in action. But can we pull back from the brink? It is possible if and only if we enthrone the rule of law and its due process, begin to seek the truth and kickstart reconciliation while denouncing the arrogance of power and its attendant above the law mindset.
This is not the Nigeria of our dreams. We had dreamt of a Nigeria of equal opportunities where citizens are engaged in a race to the top, with positive competition, the spirit of emulation that seeks to reproduce fit and good practices which lead to economic growth, prosperity and unity of purpose. Rather, what we have is a race to the bottom, an approach that throws up the worst in class, men and women without morals and integrity and the dregs as leaders. When a purported leader is asked to explain negative policies and outcomes, his spokespersons go back to what happened in a previous regime that had been voted out of power as his justification. For such a leader, two wrongs make a right; yet, we consider this as normal.
The tipping point is more felt in the security situation of the country. Nigerians are sick and tired of criminals either disguised as terrorists or bandits who kill, maim, rape, kidnap for ransom, illegally occupy territories, feed cows on cultivated farms, stop men and women from earning their legitimate livelihoods especially through farming, etc. Nigerians are also tired of a government that perpetually gives excuses for failure to perform its basic duty of securing lives and property. The ensuing clashes have assumed an ethnic dimension and the failure of reason, goodwill, and sincerity on the part of leadership at the highest level of governance has led us to this sorry state. Unfortunately, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and his key advisers are sadly not reading the handwriting on the wall, neither do they understand the sign of the times. The frustration, anger and despondency in the land can lead to actions which may result in a full blown and large-scale use of arms in defence of rights which the government has failed to protect. Unfortunately, the crisis will fall back to our traditional fault lines of ethnicity and religion.
Why would the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Muhammed, knowingly and wilfully lie and incite Nigerians who tend cows that they can live in the forests anywhere in Nigeria without the permission of anyone including the governor who is vested with trusteeship rights over all the lands in a state in line with the Land Use Act? Like I stated in a previous article, there is no land in any part of Nigeria that is not owned by individuals or a community. How then can the Bauchi State governor, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, notorious for evictions and demolitions without due process, and on the grounds that some Nigerians occupied Abuja land in violation of the masterplan, even if they had paid value to the government or any individual, be heard to proclaim such outright falsehood? He lied knowing the facts he presented to be untrue. Pray, is Muhammed inviting willing Nigerians to come and take over the forests in Bauchi, without getting his consent or that of the native families and communities? If that is the implication of his position, let him state so in black and white so that the scramble for the lands can formally commence.
The forests in the South-West and indeed other parts of Nigeria have the same legal regulation with the forests of Bauchi.
As if this is not enough, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State came out formally to defend bandits terrorising his state and the whole country. According to his new jurisprudence, not all bandits are criminals. He stated that some of them took up arms in response to injustice meted out to them by some members of society. So, Matawalle thinks it is right for bandits to take the law into their own hands because they believe that a wrong has been committed by a member of society against them?
The Matawallean stare decisis and precedent is that everyone is now free whenever he perceives he is wronged, to become his own investigator, prosecutor and judge as well as the executive to implement the judgement of his court, in an attempt to bring to justice anyone he perceives might have wronged him. How else do you define the Hobbesian state of nature if this is the new normal?
Wait a minute, who is a bandit and what is the definition of banditry? Wikipedia defines banditry as follows: “Banditry is a type of organised crime committed by outlaws typically involving the threat or use of violence. A person who engages in banditry is known as a bandit and primarily commits crimes such as extortion, robbery, and murder, either as an individual or in groups”. Therefore, for Matawalle, persons engaged in kidnapping, murder, rape, robbery in Zamfara State are not criminals.
Enter the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd.), who accused Nigerians of being cowards. He stated that: “In our younger days, we stood to fight any form of aggression. Why should people run away from minor aggression? We should stand and face them. If these people know that the people have the competence and capability to defend themselves, they will run away.” This is incredible, coming from a defence minister and asking Nigerians who are not licensed to bear arms to engage and fight armed insurgents, armed to the teeth and usually numbering in tens and hundreds when they engage in dastardly kidnapping and other criminal operations.
The pictures of a popular Islamic cleric, Sheik Gumi, holding a dialogue with bandits and insurgents are splashed on the front pages of newspaper while the Nigerian security architecture claims that they are looking for the same bandits and do not know where to find them to take them out. How do you react as a rational, educated, and reasonable citizen? Gumi has visited the forest camps of not just one set of bandits but different sets in different states. From the foregoing, only two conclusions can be made from the available facts – that the Nigerian security architecture including the police, DSS, army, navy, air force, military intelligence, etc. have not taken a decision to take on these bandits or that they are under instruction from the highest authorities, whom their leaders report to, not to engage the bandits using kinetic and non-kinetic approaches.
Leadership is about solving problems and challenges. Unfortunately, the security challenge is holding down our economy and the urgent quest to improve livelihoods as well as our political unity which will lead to a unity of purpose in all facets of nation building.
Mr. President should take positive action before it is too late.
Insecurity and honesty of purpose
By Eze Onyekpere