Opinion: Unending puzzles about rising insecurity – By AYO OLUKOTUN
Friday Musings with Ayo Olukotun
“History will have a harsh verdict for us as a government if we fail to live up to this responsibility (of stopping the killings in the Middle Belt) and it won’t matter if we succeed in other areas.…Our citizens are fast losing confidence in our security system”
House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara. July 3, 2018.
Ordinarily, during election seasons, politicians spend time and resources mobilising the electorate to buy in to their programmes and to remind the people of their achievements. Strangely, however, as the countdown to nationwide elections begins, Nigeria is witnessing a different sort of mobilisation, namely, one targeted at stopping unending massacres of innocent civilians by suspected Fulani herdsmen across the Middle Belt region.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, quoted in the opening statement, captured the raw, apprehensive mood of the nation, when he spoke about the loss of confidence in a security system that has spectacularly failed to arrest what the House openly described on Tuesday as genocide. All of a sudden, legislators who had repeatedly stonewalled on the creation of a state police, reached unanimously the verdict, that the salvation of the country is best sought in a state police.
The churches, following the continuing captivity of the Christian girl, Leah Sharibu by Boko Haram, while releasing other captives, the murder of two Catholic priests and scores of parishioners in Benue, the recent so called reprisal mass murder of indigenes in Plateau, have resorted to violent, prayers, vigils and petitions to God. Even the characteristically taciturn General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, has hinted darkly that elections may not hold, if the serial killings in Benue, Taraba and Plateau states, and elsewhere, do not stop.
Obviously, in a multi-ethnic and multi religious state like Nigeria, where religious conflict is a tinderbox, it is unlikely that the series of stunning mayhem and atrocious murders would not have provoked a vigorous counter-mobilisation. Some of the questions being asked include: if these are herdsmen-farmers’ clashes, were the slaughtered Catholic priests also farmers or cattle rustlers? To be sure, the same kind of questions would be asked if Imams and mosques were being selectively targeted by people claiming to protest economic grievances. Beyond murders in hundreds of civilian populations and the occupation of sacked villages by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue and Plateau states, insecurity is galloping on other fronts. For example, the killing by unknown gunmen of seven policemen in Abuja on Tuesday underlines both the feebleness of law enforcement and the prevalence of roving gangs and bandits possibly armed to the teeth. That tendency and trend were reinforced a few days ago when police men in Borno State demonstrated and shot into the air as they protested the non-payment of their allowances.
Theories are afloat about the growing anarchy and distemper that have suddenly overtaken the land on the eve of an election. Some have gone so far as to suggest that there is an official ploy to ensure that the elections do not hold by creating an overwhelming state of insecurity, which will then provide the excuse for postponing the elections. It is uncertain how much credibility can be attached to this hypothesis, despite the fact that the postponement of elections or annulment for various pretexts is not unknown in our history.
Another ‘trending’, if uncharitable speculation is that the national security infrastructure has become so incoherent that it is now a den of competing agenda. One of the stratagems, it is conjectured, maybe coming from fifth columnists who will like to put the prospects of Buhari’s second term in jeopardy by fostering an atmosphere of rife insecurity. There is also a school of thought alleging Fulani hegemony, which will be carried out by force where warranted, and the occupation of grazing land seized from conquered populations. In this light, it is argued that the regionally and religiously skewed architecture of security institutions is a calculated prelude to carrying out these designs. Whatever the degree of truth in these speculations, it remains a puzzle why an incumbent president seeking re-election would tolerate or fail to act decisively on an issue which could well be the reason why he will not be elected. At this juncture, however, this writer digresses to bring in a short take.
Complaints are rife from medical authorities, including the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria and the Nigeria Medical Association, concerning the poor quality of overseas trained doctors. For instance, the high rate of failure, 447 out of 686 doctors, who sat last November’s accreditation examination, has brought the issue into sharp focus. The doctors, who trained in countries such as Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, China, the United Kingdom and the United States, are increasingly unable to pass exams which would have qualified them for the licences to practise in Nigeria. If the situation persists, one or both things will happen, the medical council could be forced to lower their standards in order to accommodate these foreign-trained doctors, especially as the doctors have taken their case to the Senate, or the doctors will be forced to join the exodus of medical professionals. Considering that the upsurge of Nigerian students studying abroad is a consequence of persistent crises of underfunding and erratic calendar at home, the cogent response is to upgrade the educational infrastructure at home in order to stem the exodus of Nigerian students. Even if the students were trained in the best institutions abroad, there will still be a lacuna and cultural adjustment crisis with respect to their practising back home; it makes the matter worse when most of our students train in low quality institutions, where standards are difficult to evaluate. Indeed, charity must now begin at home, with a modicum of overseas exposure programmed into our medical training for comparative purposes.
To return to the initial topic, one other hypothesis is that the President, although well-meaning, has lost control of the structures of government, including security as suggested recently by Sonala Olumhense (‘Buhari’s Loss of Control’ Sunday Punch, July 1, 2018). On the later argument, there has always been a degree of delegation by Buhari to trusted appointees in decision making and implementation. Indeed, the alleged omnipresence of a cabal within the administration may have been derived from Buhari’s own retreat, reappearing intermittently in high policy areas. Whether this is occasioned by the gravity of age or the status of his health is difficult to determine. What is known, however, is that appointed officials, such as the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, carried out instructions different from what the president expressly ordered. Obviously, something sinister, dark and dense appears to be going on in the corridors of power.
What is more important, however, is that as Prof. Niyi Akinnaso argued trenchantly recently: “Herdsmen’s killings have propelled security to outpace restructuring as a hot button issue for the 2019 election” (‘Killings everywhere and not a saviour in sight’, The Punch, July 3, 2018). As everyone now agrees, it matters more for Buhari to redeem his name and image by standing up to the killers than for him to win the 2019 elections, if current circumstances allow the elections to hold.Punch