By Muiz Banire, SAN, PhD
My preoccupation in the past few decades has been Nigeria and its turbulent challenges which have compelled me to be originally an optimistic pessimist. Day in, day out, my optimism fades as my heart sinks into despair about the possibility of survival for my dear country. We have become a people that use the previous year to condemn the present one with the fear of what the future holds. The inverse is that we use the current year to praise the past one in continuous assessment of our welfare.
From the economy to our politics and social life, Nigerians have had it worse with destiny for quite a while. The misfortune of bad leadership decried by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and against which he tried to lay down sound policies for several governments to implement, has become our national fate as we hop from one monster to another in the name of government. Ungoverned territories in the northern parts of Nigeria where bandits and terrorists have been churned out in large numbers have become exclusive possessions of all manner of uncontrollable murderers. They have graduated from the reserves of the forests and are now competing spaces with law-abiding citizens in towns and cities. The latest achievement of these men of bloodletting is the incursion into Abuja after making road and rail travels unsafe. The attack on Kaduna train travellers has shown that we are mere victims waiting to be consumed as the government has taken no realistic step in providing necessary protection in this regard.
The terrorists have become most brazen as they attacked Kuje Correctional Centre and freed inmates who are their members serving various jail terms or awaiting trial. Till this moment, government enquiry has not produced any tangible cause for the security laxity at the centre of the nation’s heart. The chicken is coming home to roost as the President’s convoy was recently an object of attack by these terrorists who are now promising to abduct both the President and the Governor of kaduna State, Mallam El-Rufai, who has been most strident lately on the call to effectively combat the terrorists. Kaduna has been a centre of activities for the terrorists who have seized many villages and watered the land with enough blood sufficient to quench the thirsts of their murderous gods for centuries. The Nigerian Law School was to play a reluctant host to a horde of killers just as the Federal Government yielded more territories within the week by closing all Unity Schools in Abuja and its environs. How much this will secure the citizens is doubtful as we only relocate potential victims of terrorisms to other places where their hungry abductors do not fear to attack. It is certain that hours after they would have operated in a neighbourhood, abducting and killing as many as their insatiate blood-thirsty gusto desires, there will be no presence of any security agent to confront them. We have learnt that in many instances when these terrorists are to operate, security agents usually vanishes from the places of target only to surface after they have gone. This suggests plain conspiracy between the terrorists and government officials. It seems the terrorists have infiltrated the police, the army, the navy, the air force of Nigeria. This much was admitted during the Jonathan regime but still yet to be exposed.
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Their intelligence structure and super-structure are so strong that you wonder how they manage to carry out their atrocities without the government lifting a single finger. The statement credited to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, seems to be proving true that when insurgency lasts more than 24 hours, the government has a hand in it. It is clear that all the failures for which we condemned President Jonathan have been recorded with pride by the present government. The brazenness with which the terrorists are operating in Abuja and its environs these days have shown that the government is either helpless or is in connivance with them.
While the president keeps on expressing shocks, assuring us in empty promises and taking the next arranged flight to sightsee the world, the citizens continue to live in perpetual fear of what horror the next minute holds in stock for them. Those messages of condemnation and hope are already sounding like a broken record, tiring and boring. I believe the public can make do without them. Please spare us the torture as every reinstatement of it is already amounting to bad news. This is definitely not the best of times for Nigerians whose expectations have been dashed by a government they most expected would solve their insecurity and corruption problems based on credentials they crafted on the person of Mr. President. It is indisputable that use of force has failed as neither our army or police can be trusted to stage effective resistance as the terrorists are way ahead of them in intelligence gathering, acquisition and use of superior firepower.
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I have said it earlier that use of force cannot take us anywhere when I even thought we had the capacity to display meaningful use of force. Now that it is certain that we cannot rival our assailants fire-for-fire, is it not better the government starts thinking of a socio-economic solution to this problem? It is certain that prayer warriors in Nigeria are already getting tired with the tremendous spate and rapidity with which priests of the Lord are being kidnapped by terrorists and ransomed. God does not seem to be ready to continue helping those who are not ready to help themselves anymore. Is it not about time we started considering how to reduce the supply base of terrorists from the millions of uneducated, jobless and disoriented youths that populate the northern parts of the country? The army of out-of-school children continues populating the northern streets and forests. The leaders do not seem to have realized that the electoral values of these explosive humans for which they were sired in millions is now being obliterated by terrorism. Shehu Sani, former Senator representing a constituency in Kaduna State recently narrated how a member of House of Representatives abandoned his posh mansions with exotic cars and world-class swimming pool only to rent an apartment in a crowded portion of the city where he now shares a lackluster garage with many other neighbours. The man has been lucky twice to escape kidnap attempts by terrorists aka bandits. His terrors of today are the same people who made him a legislator when their voting power was more marketable and profitable. Now that guns procure more money than vote selling and rigging for a rich man, the hens have come home to roost.
The victims of misgovernance have become the albatross of their makers. Back to the attempts on and the promise to kidnap the President, the President does not seem to be bothered. Could this just be a smokescreen to present a warring façade between the terrorists and the government to gain sympathy for the government? Could the allegation of government connivance with the terrorists be real? Why is the government that is already prostrate in the war against terrorism not considering resolving the economic challenges confronting the youths to ensure that there are jobs for them? No amount or degree of force can quench insecurity even in societies where they are more serious. Force failed in Afghanistan despite America’s superiority in weaponry and intelligence gathering. The logic is simple, the more the economy deteriorates, the higher the insecurity as there would be more hands ready to handle the nefarious business of terror. No evidence of any economic improvement with the exchange rate skyrocketing with multiplier effects on other goods and services. It is bound to be the consequence that many youths in ungoverned areas which are many in the northern parts of the country will take to criminality. My only fear now is whether we have not gone beyond the stage where modest economic improvements can control terrorist recruitments anymore.
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There is the challenge that the youths have found terrorism and kidnapping more profitable as what one-off transaction ransom is bringing is more than a million-fold of what honest enterprise can fetch in a year. How do you re-orientate a man who has found that he could, at the threat of a gun, make 100 million Naira which is more than an income to be made on 100 cows after trekking from Sokoto to Lagos? Coupled with the above is the mentality of a boko haramist that has become completely warped. A professor of security training once observed that when a man looks into the barrel of a gun and all he sees is paradise, you have to re-think your strategy. Such an individual is not a partaker in our common humanity and there is no amount of violent threat that can deter him from pursuing his criminal enterprise and yielding to his base instincts. Of course, the southern part of the country enjoys its own equivalent of the scourge in terms of ‘yahoo, yahoo’ and ‘yahoo plus’. Without this, the southern part of the country would have equally known no peace. For how long are we going to live by this? This is equally not sustainable and balloon certainly will burst soon in that regard. Our leaders must call themselves to order. Those who have no solution to the problems on ground should please appeal to their greed to get itself reined in. They should please sacrifice their ego that prefers to occupy offices at the expense of the masses. They should allow society to be governed by those who have solutions to the problems and stop sacrificing us on the altar of idiocy.
Dr Muiz Banire is ex-National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress (APC)