Minus the swashbuckling propaganda mill, Nigeria is having its worst nightmare that is causing it to fail and fall apart. Rarely since the civil war ended have Nigerians been so helpless and near hopeless on the same day. With terrorism and banditry brazenly capturing swathes of territory in daylight, Nigerians are asking – who is in charge of their affairs? An aloof president or sponsored criminal gangs? Why is the Buhari administration seemingly complacent and for what purpose? Where is the Commander-in-Chief while the country bleeds on all arteries and dying?
Presiding over a state now literally outgunned by terrorists, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State the other day threatened to invite foreign mercenaries to repel the reigning warlords. He also stated that four out of the seven North-western states – Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, and Sokoto – may join him to hire foreign mercenaries if the Federal Government does not end the ongoing spate of terror attacks in the region. Indeed, El-Rufai superficially superintends over a state whose criminal gangs have gone beyond claiming communities and highways to attacking international airport and hijacking moving trains to kill scores and kidnap over 100 that are still in captivity. Technically, the terrorists have cut-off the entire Kaduna State and the governor is just as threatened as his residents. In 2021, no fewer than 1,192 lost their lives to armed bandits and other forms of violence in the state, and a total of 3,348 persons were kidnapped in the same period.
But nasty and brutish state of nature where life is worthless is neither peculiar to Kaduna nor is it new. SBM Intelligence, a socioeconomic research firm, in its Media Reported Killings in Nigeria Report for Q4 2021, stated that at least 2,085 persons were reportedly killed in Nigeria in the fourth quarter of 2021 in violent incidents, including attacks from Boko Haram, militia herdsmen, abductions, gang clashes and terrorists, raising the tally of deaths to 10,366 in 2021. The criminal gangs have only got emboldened in 2022. Two Sundays ago, 80 Nigerians were murdered and 70 abducted when terrorists rained havoc on Kukawa, Gyambawu, Dungur, Kyaram, Yelwa, Dadda, Wanka, Shuwaka, Gwammadaji and Dadin Kowa, all in Plateau State. About 48 hours later, it was the turn of Benue where another 38 were reportedly killed in their houses. The narrative is the same in Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, Bauchi, Sokoto, Nasarawa, and Taraba states.
Amid the reign of anarchy, the invasion of Kaduna State is most symbolic. A troop of well-organised and better motivated criminals outmanoeuvring Kaduna into the epicentre of insecurity in the North-west makes a mockery of the Nigerian State and its constituted authority. It shames the president and demystifies its military might. Kaduna is not only the political capital of the old northern region; it is also the classical power base of Nigeria’s military elites. Early handlers of the country in their selfish tendencies created a ring of security institutions in Kaduna to elevate the status of the north over south.
It explains why Kaduna State is the home of the 1st Division of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Army Depot, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Nigerian Defence Industry, Nigerian Air force Training School, Nigerian Police College and the Nigerian Navy School of Armament. Other military institutions in Kaduna are: The Nigerian Army School of Legal Services, the Nigerian Defence Academy, the Nigerian Army School of Artillery, the Nigerian Army School of Military Police, Army Operation Base, and the Nigerian Army School of Infantry. Those were erstwhile fortresses that are now overrun by supposed ragtag ‘bandits’ that the northern political elites shielded from being proscribed as terrorists for years and even recycled as ‘repentant bandits’ and unleashed on the beleaguered society! Now, the chicken has come home to roost. And if the erstwhile safest state has become the most dangerous for residents and passersby, what confidence should the entire country repose on the floundering government to keep them safe?
The perilous situation notwithstanding, it is curious that El-Rufai and co-governors are considering the mutinous option of importing fresh chaos, otherwise called mercenaries, where they should be demanding accountability from themselves and President Buhari for every life not protected. The Commander-in-Chief has the primary constitutional duty of security and welfare, to which he pledged and swore to uphold on coming to power in 2015. Not to leave anyone in doubt, a sizeable chunk of the national budget has been sunk as investment into fighting insurgency since 2015 to date. In five years, approximately N5.081 trillion was awarded to security, including the appropriation of N4.669 trillion to the Federal Ministry of Defence and $1 billion (N412 billion) for the purchase of military equipment. Clearly, defence has never been starved of funding and security is the most viable sector on the appropriation priority list. Yet, the reward is the loss of about 11,000 civilians and security personnel to Boko Haram insurgency and attacks by herdsmen and bandits between Buhari’s inauguration in May 2015 and July 2021.
And that should elicit questions from the Commander-in-Chief and a General on why his security agencies are acting like they have received zero motivation. Alternatively, El-Rufai and the governors should be asking the president what exactly is going on that the country is falling apart under his watch. Why has the security agencies settled for containment and reactionary strategy, in place of taking the fight to camps of the enemies? Again, why are the terrorists so well-organised and motivated than the Nigerian Army? Why was the train attack not averted despite an intelligence report? Why are the Tucano jets not deployed to fight insurgency? Why have our gallant soldiers of ECOMOG fame of yesteryears gone so demotivated, ill-equipped and largely withdrawn where the battle is fiercest?
Beyond scheming for places in the next dispensation and making degrading comments on inviting mercenaries, the political elites should be asking themselves and the president, why are these terrorists and their sponsors warring against the Nigerian State? Why is the State so laid-back to name and prosecute them despite intelligence reports from foreign agencies? Who are their cohorts masterminding sabotage in government? Why is the Buhari government intransigent to reforms for effective Nigeria Police and other proposals on efficient governance where his aces have failed? Are they all symptomatic of predatory governance to make the state ungovernable and erode the atmosphere for the general election in 2023? Why the conspiracy against the people, country and for what purpose. Nigerians deserve to know what has happened to their dreams of a better country.
It is curious that the same set of political elites that are against Amotekun, Ebube Agu, among other interventions of State police are grandstanding on importing mercenaries to distract the narrative on accountability and responsible leadership. Clearly, what is amiss is the political will to tackle the menace of insurgency. A great deal of technology and coordinated force would have snuffed life out of the criminal gang like it is done in other troubled States in Africa and beyond. And on the long-run, a sincere restructuring policy that devolves more powers to sub-nationals will turn the country on its head and primed for its pride of place among the comity of nations. A sincere government should have achieved that in four years, not eight.