WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
The time is now to yet mount a full frontal response against the hydra-headed insecurity in Nigeria. We can not and should no longer pretend all is well with the country when obviously it is breaking down on too many fronts simultaneously. The dilapidation of the country, the mounting economic woes, the breaking fabrics of once valued interrelationships of units, growing hunger, unemployment and most worrisomely, the disdain for the country, that are more consequences of the perennial unmitigated insecurity in the country deserve more stronger response in this challenging times.
The national need to sincerely seek for solutions at this critical moment transcends governmental responsibility. The consequences of the ailment in the country as at today bites hard on all of us; beginning from created divisiveness and disunity, to the insecurity that festers on us, to the growing inflation and cost of survival across the country, and now, we have growing threats of civil wars on the back of calls for secessions. The list of the problem is endless; ethnic intolerance, religious hatred, political selfishness, corruption, large scale insecurity, increasing inflation, and the many other consequences of the aforementioned. We just cannot afford to allow these to linger further with us without organising a united response to rid the country of these problems and their consequences. And this would not just be government responsibility only; for long we have abandoned the job of making Nigeria peaceful to the government, now, it is a joint responsibility that will require all of our readiness to play a part in redeeming the sanity of our fatherland.
It is obvious that our efforts till now have been summarily ineffective as responses to the national ailments, for obvious reasons of unspoken non-commitment and corruption. The military responses have continued to appear concerted and strong on the front, but the result; the unchecked strength of the insurgents, the bandits and kidnappers constitute an indisputable failure of the nation’s armed forces to present the needed onslaught and solution to the problem.
So said, continuous huge expenditure on security and the exigent allocations to the armed forces can no longer be considered a panacea and a national priority to winning the war against insecurity in Nigeria. Not perhaps, until a critical analysis of what has gone wrong with the forces’ innate capacity to perform its constitutional role as the defender of the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
In the same manner, as the manifest incapacity of the armed forces to end the protracted national insecurity, is also the failure of several government policies, interventions, and actions since the year 2010 when Boko Haram began, to translate to desired results for Nigeria and Nigerians. Instead of getting rid of Boko Haram, we have only succeeded in emboldened other sects to take up arms against us in the form of banditry, killer herders and kidnappers, because the country’s weaknesses are too obvious.
Along this line, is also the structure and content of citizens’ responses, contributions and taking sides in the entirety of responses to the insecurity in the country. The nation suddenly qualifies for the analogy of the city divided against itself; literally, we gave up the capacity to respond on a common front to issues confronting the country and affecting all. Coming from the premises of other factors, including built hatred along ethnic rivalry, religious differences, and angers over non-development of regions and politically induced division, we have drifted to opposing poles of several divides and have been mounting internal offensives against one another, tribes against tribes, religion against religion, and political affiliations against one another.
The time is now. We must individually and collectively return to the drawing board to proffer solutions that transcend the normal and regular rhetoric of the last decades; the time to listen, decide and accept workable tools and tactics that potentially possess the capacity to positively alter the direction of the wars and other threats; and of course, the time for the government to be willing to listen and to act accordingly.
In writing this article, my intention is to advise stakeholders in the national security community and of course, all Nigerians, of the path and actions that could possibly restore some sanity and peace to the country overtime. In my desperation for a solution, I have perused the works and minds of scholars and concerned citizens who have continued to speak and write on the subject matter and proffering solutions to the national menace. Having borrowed from sources, distilling the minds of many, and hope, strongly that those whose responsibility it is to coordinate government actions, will listen, accept and act appropriately in the lines of suggested solutions pathways.
Now, that we are all beginning to accept that armed responses in its present formation is not winning the war for us, where do we search for the nation’s new response to the insecurity problem?
Silently and generally, across corners of Nigeria, and even internationally, individuals and several literary works have confirmed what is already known by many of us already; the dispositions of Nigerians to the entirety of national issues, more specifically, the perspectives of our negative dealings, sour interrelationships and destructive utterances have been major contributors to the insolvability of the nation’s insecurity challenges; and, to begin to mull a solution, we must converge a workable social infrastructure that addresses the strained interrelationship among citizens that predisposes Nigerians to become careless as regard the fate of the country.
Solving this problem will require getting the citizens together to fight the perpetrators of insecurity in the country wherever they are located. But this will not happen until the country, first, does what has to be done to bring Nigerians together across the various divides we have created overtime.
The need for a sincere national confab could not come at any other time but now. Nigerians from all corners must be brought to the table, setting aside politics and political interests for once, to discuss the fortune, present, and future security of the country. We will only be able to commence the only sincere assault on the menacing insecurity and other national ailment after we have first agreed to shelve all discords, recognise that attacks and counterattacks would no longer serve any region or individual interest in the long run.
With the agitations for secessions permeating the corners of the country, and the increasing manifestation of disdain for the country on all available media, discussing solutions will tantamount to fetching water with a basket; a wasted effort. The suggested national confab is the only action that can kick start a genuine process that will resuscitate many dying systems in the country and transform every Nigerian into a dependable actor in the struggle for a better, safe and prosperous Nigeria. The current state of the country, in the sense of the pervading distrust would make the composition and the capability of the confab to assume an easy compromise, an uphill task, yet it is a task that must be achieved in the interest of the country. We must come together, fight ourselves in a locked-up hall, until we come to a fruitful compromise and agree Nigeria needs us all and we are ready to work together in the interest of the country. This is possible, but will require the utmost sincerity of those that will carry the responsibility of conveying the national meeting. The norm of playing politics with national issues regardless of severity must be jettisoned at this point. The presidency is hereby advised to set up first a high delegation committee of thirty members selected evenly from the six geopolitical zones. From each zone, a representative each of regional groups such as the Afenifere, Arewa etc; a representative of the traditional rulers, a representative of the governor’s forum, a representative of youths and a representative of women.
This committee is to design the blueprint for the confab; decide the issues and topic to bring to the table, the individuals who make it to the confab across the country and the overall structure and activities of the confab. The government must try as much as possible to stay neutral at all times through the confab procedures and be ready to implement to the letter, the outcome of the meeting in the interest of the country, because it is then that a new Nigeria where the citizens trust their leaders to work for them and in turn work for both the leaders and the country would be born.
The confab, for clarity, is not an attempt to alter the national constitution, but to agree on sacrosanct issues and formulate basis for a united front for citizens to work together. While the need to eventually alter the constitution to factor in specific issues that may be unanimously agreed by the confab, the confab’s proceedings will be tilted more in the direction of projecting solutions to national problems.
The end of the confab and the expected outcomes will open up a stream of secondary tools and tactics for securing an everlasting solution to the national insecurity and other menacing issues. These other tools, though have been prescribed by quite a number of individuals, will only become effective in the atmosphere of a Nigeria where the citizens are active players – the Nigeria that is expected to emerge after the confab.
With the nation’s huge population figure and projected growth rate, the need to engage electronic security apparatus as tools for responding to and fighting insecurity in the country, become more necessary. In most developed societies of the world, the use of CCTVs, body cams on security personnel, and specific structures and individuals, and similar gadgets have been instrumental to reduction in crime rate and increasing apprehension of perpetrators of crimes. In the past, the President Jonathan administration made the attempt to equip major cities with such devices, though the government’s intention fell prey to innate corruption that defined the period in the history of the country, as resources meant for the project were diverted into unaccountable personal purses. Notwithstanding, we must seriously take the train in that direction in the immediate future as part of the country’s serious measure to fight insecurity.
Coming to the realisation of what effect the global unchecked use of the social media poses on national stability, it become more important for the nation, as it builds up efforts to resolve its internal issues that serve as contributing factors to insecurity, to conscientiously reorient its citizens on the use of the media; emphasising the damage that accrued with every passing day as the citizens engage the media to disseminate anger prone rhetoric, lay foundation for and induce crimes, of which ignorantly, they thought they are having fun, but are weaponising the street with lies, propaganda, sentimental reporting and non-constructive criticism. This, though nearly taken for granted, is fast becoming the bane of many nations. The United State of America over the last five years almost lost its unity and till today struggles to restore both political non-partisanship and citizens’ agreements to national issues, as the social media engagement in the country took an ugly divisive form and is allowed to be used unchecked by some individuals to create huge divisions among the over three hundred million citizens of the once united country. So, it has also been with Nigeria: the freedom of use of the media for all purposes has become the greater threat to the nation.
The nation’s investment in the electronic media to fight insecurity will go beyond acquisition of gadgets, to include the remodeling of the usage of social media by Nigerians who use it as a tool for propagating hatred and insecurity to a peace preaching and insecurity fighting platforms. This will require the restructuring of the nation’s National Orientation Agency, NOA. Till now, this critical agency has been one of the most underperforming government agencies of all time in the country. We will need a total overhauling of the agency that will see it effectively taking over the entirety of the nation’s airspace, including social media space and all communication channels, to reshape citizens understanding of the country, of national loyalty, of obligations of love to the country and their dispositions to issues that affect the country.
When these are done, it would naturally become easy to recognise our national problems for what they are; we will see altogether the need to mount an onslaught against corruption as a national priority; we will all become willing to discuss the plight of the herder and farmers and the incessant clashes we have witnessed from the interactions between the two, without imputing political biases, religion and trial sentiments to the issue. At that point, we would all agree on what must be done and together get it done.
Then, we will realise the federating units of Nigeria are sewn together to succeed together. The root causes of the agitations for secession, for regional considerations will naturally be settled and living together will become as easy as it comes for us as Nigerians. It is only then that real development in the capacity of the endowment of the country will materialise.
Finally, the provision of security; the freedom from danger, fear, deprivations and depredations, is key to the existence of a state. States like Nigeria endowed with enormous human and natural resources are expected to be capable of providing security within their territory and acting as bulwarks for sub-regional, regional and international security. Unfortunately, since independence, we have continued to struggle to suppress internal wars and uprising within our territory in order to achieve sustainable peace and security. This must end, and the time is now. We have got so much to benefit from a peaceful, secured Nigeria to pay the price for the peace and security we all yearn for.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!