I Will defend the right of all citizens…

by Bolaji Aregbeshola

President Jonathan seems to have hit the ground running. This is so because Nigerians unanimously gave him the mandate to be the president for the next four years. In a statement by Dr. Jonathan on the post-election crises in some parts of the country, he said: “As president, it is my solemn duty to defend the constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian wherever they choose to live. I will defend the right of all citizens to freely express their democratic choice anywhere in this country; to enjoy every freedom and opportunity that this country offers without let or hindrance. I assure all Nigerians that I will do so with all powers at my disposal as president, commander-in-chief.” I have ordered the deployment of security personnel to troubled parts of the country. I have directed the reinforcement of security in all parts of the country. I have authorized our security services to use all lawful means including justifiable force to bring immediate end to all acts of violence against fellow citizens.” He continued.

President Jonathan’s response to the incidence of violence as a result of the outcome of the presidential election shows that we have not moved away from the old ways of doing things, where security personnel are deployed and a judicial commission of inquiry is set up.

Everyone knows this is not the first time Nigeria will be experiencing pockets of violence in some parts of the country but successive leaders have failed to find a lasting solution to this problem. This same challenge is what President Jonathan is faced with. And since most Nigerian leaders of government at all levels lack the ingenuity, vision, passion and drive to address the myriad of problems in Nigeria, they employ the old approach which has not yielded any results. The president’s advisers and cabinet members would have suggested the setting up of a judicial commission of inquiry much the same way a panel was set up to investigate the Jos crises which have continued to kill innocent Nigerians.

Definitely, the immediate and remote cause of the recent post-election violence in some parts of the North which the 22-man commission of inquiry constituted by the President seeks to identify will not lead to nipping the problem in the bud. But Dr. Jonathan has decided to toe this path. And many Nigerians have applauded him for taking a bold step.

The re-elected number one citizen will defend the rights of all citizens to freely express their democratic choice anywhere in the country since the outcome of the presidential election went in his favor. The next four years will be interesting for Nigerians since the president has vowed to defend the rights of all Nigerians to enjoy every freedom and opportunity that the country can offer without let or hindrance —so the angry youths protesting in the North have a course to be joyful.

Nigerian leaders have failed to address the problem of illiteracy, unemployment, disunity and ethnicity. After the statement by President Jonathan to say that enough is enough, there were fears of reprisal attack on northerners living in the South. These northerners sought refuge in the barracks just like the southerners living in the north did when the violence broke out leaving thousands of them displaced in their own fatherland.

I was brokenhearted after watching the clip of displaced Nigerians as a result of the protest by some youths in the north, knowing fully well the environmental health effects of displaced persons and bearing in mind the poor response system we have in Nigeria. Unsurprisingly, the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) could not salvage the situation with the Director-General, Mohammed Sani Sidi promising to provide relief materials and assistance to the displaced people most of whom were living in camps.

NEMA does not have the wherewithal to address the effects of emergencies and disaster which the fallout of the presidential elections presented. After 50 years of independence, Nigeria is yet to have effective and efficient emergency response and disease prevention system. Governments do not owe it a duty to protect the citizens from threats to their health neither is efforts to mitigate the effects of diseases on the population well funded in order to protect the health of every Nigerian. As we start another 50 years in our national life, leaders of government have not shown a proper understanding of the issues at hand —especially that of security which takes the largest chunk of our national budget.

Despite setting up a panel of inquiry and issuing statements in the past, governments’ approach have not reduced the incidence of bomb blast, kidnapping, violence, riots, assassination —all of which have led to the death of innocent Nigerians and a feeling of insecurity by the populace who have given Nigerian leaders the mandate to provide security. It is clear that most Nigerian leaders do not deserve the authority to secure lives and properties; old approaches are not used to solve 21st century problems.

These problems may not be peculiar to the Nigerian state but we must evolve a new way of addressing our security challenges and move away from the old order.

Year in year out, governors who are regarded as chief security officers of the states are given security votes running to hundreds of millions of naira for the purpose of providing security to the citizens. This is one of the reasons why most non-performing governors want to perpetuate themselves in power so that they can continue to divert these monies for personal use besides nobody can question how the money is being used.

And what is the way forward? President Jonathan said he has been in touch with all state governors and relevant security agencies but in spite of this, we still continue to lose innocent lives besides bomb explosions have become the order of the day. The presidents’ approach has not solved this problem, government need to find the best way of tackling the problem of insecurity in Nigeria.

Leaders of government really need to be on top of the situation. They have to realize that their primary assignment is to ensure the security of lives and properties, welfare of the people as well as provide the basic amenities of life. This is why they were elected.

Leaders who fail in their duty to secure the lives and properties of Nigerians should be made to account for the security votes and the entire amount budgeted for security. Dr. Jonathan may have decided enough is enough but defending the right of Nigerians with all the powers at his disposal as President, commander-in-chief may not be enough. It is evident that deploying security personnel and constituting a 22-man commission of inquiry will not stop the spate of insecurity in the country besides the improvement of the nation’s security cannot be achieved with the use of force.

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