Former Minister of Defence, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma (rtd), rattled the nation recently when he suggested that people should begin to defend themselves against killers masquerading as herders in the country.
Speaking at the convocation ceremony of Taraba State University recently, Danjuma said “There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in the state and of course, some rural states in Nigeria. We must resist it.
We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up. Our Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians. The Armed Forces guide their movements; they cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one.
This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State and other rural states of Nigeria otherwise Somalia will be a child’s play. I ask every one of you to be alert and defend your country, defend your territory and defend your state. Defend yourselves because you have no other place to go. God bless our country.”
Those conversant with the killings in the country, especially the middle belt and parts of the South-east by suspected herders, would perhaps understand the frustration of this elder statesman.
But the Nigeria Army has debunked the allegations accusing the Taraba state governor, Darius Ishaku, of not cooperating with its officers in ridding the state of bandits.
The former minister, who is not known for frivolous talks ignited a chain of hot debates on the issue of self-defence in the face of attacks and such has yet to abate. He also raised the issue of vexed suspicion of ethnic cleansing and possible collusion on the part of the security agencies with the deadly marauders to kill armless and defenseless people.
While many have upbraided the retired General for his public outburst instead of finding a way to engage the President privately on the matter, others have made serious sense in his suggestion.
Those who faulted his call for self-defence argued that such was tantamount to a call for anarchy just as they see it as a vote of no confidence in the armed forces. Those in this school of thought argue that the Nigeria Army remains one of the nation’s unifying institution that has yet to be bastardized and such indictment coming from someone of Danjuma’s stature was demoralizing.
But those backing Danjuma hold that bracing up for self-defence against the killers would limit, if not stop, the frequencies of attacks on the people. They believe that if people could organize themselves into vigilantes, bearing arms, those who may want to take on them would have to think twice.
This is more so when, most often than not, target communities always have a fore-knowledge of impending attacks from the marauders. Those in favour of Danjuma’s suggestion even alluded to some sections of the constitution legalizing self-defence in the face of life threatening attacks.
The involvement of the people in the onerous task of providing security for themselves is not debatable. For instance, incidences of Boko Haram attacks in Maiduguri was brought under control immediately the vigilantes, otherwise known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), were recognized and engaged.
It was to the credit of the CJTF that the dreaded insurgents were driven out of Maiduguri and other areas. Involving civilians in providing security has become imperative as it is now apparently clear that the nation’s security agencies have been overstretched. They can not just be everywhere; they don’t have that capacity.
Well, even though the elder-statesman may have been pushed to the wall before making the statement, caution should be taken so as not to throw away the baby with the bath-water.
His allegations against the military men on special operations, specifically in Taraba state, should be investigated for possible collusion with bandits and any one found culpable should be brought to book. The consequences of the Nigerian Armed Forces as an institution losing the confidence of the people at this trying times would be too much for the country to bear.
State governors, who are the chief security officer of their states, should learn to cooperate with the security agencies who are working tirelessly to ensure that their citizens sleep with both eyes closed.
They should be ready to provide all required logistics with the humongous security votes they draw monthly from the federation account.