There has been a very quiet revolution in the federal government security operations in the past couple of weeks, and most of these have gone unnoticed as a trend – in fact, there has been a public disconnect on this peculiar change of course. It appears that finally, after many years of fiddling while Rome burnt, Nero has finally awoken! The powers that be at Aso Rock have decided to deal with the evils of today, and abandon a policy of containment that has failed repeatedly in the past five years and deal with the volatile and unacceptable security mess of ethnic militias by taking them on with the rule of law.
In the last five weeks, the leader of the all powerful Niger Delta Defense Volunteer Force Alhaji Asari Dokubo was arrested and arranged in court on counts of treasonable felony and terrorism. In addition to this, the government has gone after the leaders of the Oodua People’s Congress both the political and military arm i.e. Dr. Fasheun and the rascally Ganiyu Adams in the now ‘popular’ Igbosere Magistrate Court (looks like this is the epicenter of all controversial cases in Nigeria). Undeniably, added to the list of the gangsters in government custody is the leader of MASSOB – the messianic Chief Uwazuruike. He is likely to be arraigned in court this coming week.
To many peace loving Nigerians around the world, this judicial actions are coming rather too late. The reign of anarchy in our father land is simply too big to ignore- one ethnic clashes after another have being flaring up between these militia group reigning in our creeks, our inner cities and our urban sprawls. Taking laws into their hands, they have fought themselves, fought the government, wasted many innocent lives and many have conveniently hidden under the flag of self determination to wrought havoc on ordinary Nigerians.
It is quite succinct to state that it saddens one to see many educated Nigerians being fooled by the activities of these thugs calling themselves freedom fighters – while they preach and rant against the government of the day, they haven’t dared to kill or even kidnap the relative of any top government functionary. Only innocent Nigerians – poor people that don’t have a say in government policy die in the clashes at Idi-Araba, Mushin, Ogba, Warri, Owo, Port-Harcourt, riverine areas of Bayelsa state, Kano, Plateau and even in those clandestine clashes in Ogun states. What they end up doing is exactly the opposite of what they want us to belief – they cozy up with Obasanjo on invitation and even wine and dine while their people suffer! Hypocrites!
A good student of history will know that when a constitutional government allows anarchy to reign supreme within her borders on the pretense of self determination the only next logical stage is civil war. In fact, even the most democratic nations of our times have single-handedly flushed out extremist groups in their borders– case in point the United States and Britain. The US raided the Indians for years until these groups were pacified, while the British war on the Irish militants is still simmering till this day. In a fight for self determination there must be a clear demarcation between free speech guaranteed under the constitution, and chaotic militancy as exemplified by these militia groups operating in Nigeria.
As a personal witness to the chaos once generated by the now gone underground Egbesu boys in Warri , and a living testimony to their callousness, lack of shame and inability to responsibly articulate a position without resorting to violence, me thinks the recent crack down is the right thing to do. Without being unnecessarily prejudicial, I think the case of terrorism and treason is a nail-in-shoe against the NDVF leader – no one threatens a constitutional government with violence, especially foreign investment which we all are fighting tooth and nail for (in competition with other better tooled nations ) and get away with it!
Violence and anarchy is antithetical to development and progress. The near investment stripped oil city of Warri is a testimony to this fact. The oil companies that once dotted the landscape of this oil city (and quite admittedly never contributed their fair share to its development – this is a topic for another day) have since packed their baggage and ran to the more convivial city of Port Harcourt and Lagos. In due time, if the leprosy of ethnic infighting that has been the hallmark of this democratic administration is not brought to a screeching halt, we might witness the flight of the limited foreign capital that has flowed into our nation for the past four years.
But judicial action is simply not enough to solve this endemic problem of this era of freedom and democracy (at least that is what the henchmen at Abuja want us to believe). Judicial action amounts to treating the symptoms rather than the disease. While it might provide temporary succor for our nation, there are certain underlining ills that will need to be properly addressed before we can say goodbye to this bloody chapter in our nation’s history.
The inequity that is present in the Nigerian nation today has demonstrably led to the rise of these militias. While it is a given, that equity can only be achieved in a utopian society, the vast gap between the haves and have-nots in Nigeria is simply unmanageable. The lack of infrastructure in the land that produce the proverbial golden egg on which the rest of the nation feed is a disgrace to every living Nigerian! Indeed, the unsolved problems of the last thirty years that has left many groups within the Nigerian nation feeling marginalized and subjugated is also a contributory factor.
To bridge this gap, government will need to engage the various sectors that have taken it on. The man at the center will need to eat the humble pie, and stop preaching – because conversation has to be a two way road. The subjugated need to feel like he/she is being heard and the leader must demonstrate that he takes the complaints
of these people very seriously. In fact, there have been persistent calls for revisiting the horrendous paper we call constitution today. Until this is done honestly and openly, we will just keep chasing shadows. Even the United States and Britain did not achieve substantial peace with Indians and Irish Nationalists respectively by just using the judicial and security instruments at their disposal. Peace was only achieved at the negotiating table! The point that needs to be made is who will be the subject of this negotiation? What the Federal Government on behalf of all Nigerians need to do is to bypass these radical elements and the crony elites they serve and talk directly to the people.
Among other familiar quick fixes to these problems that can be considered is truly localizing the Nigerian Police. It is quite a sight to see the desert/grassland bred Hausa policeman hunting the militias in the creeks of the Niger Delta; it gives any onlooker a kick to see how unfamiliar the security forces are usually of their own immediate operational environment. If 60-70% of lower level police men are transferred to their local government of origin it will solve two problems in a fall swoop – while on one hand it will reasonably ameliorate the security situation, on the other hand it will also eliminate the need for those stinky barracks that makes those “gunpowder kegs” called police men still operate under siege mentality! This might as well be the beginning of a new housing boom that will help our economy; since the newly devolved police constable will be able to afford a cheaper house in his now village-home and government can restore and sell those dung called barracks to the urbanites that need them! I can imagine the thieves will think twice now since their nemesis lives amongst us now as well.
Furthermore, government needs to do more to rein in on small and light arms proliferation usually bankrolled by corporate entities or ‘big men’. These big men of the nation hire these militias as political thugs, or agents to intimidate their competitors or enemies. Government at all level need to check this monster – a friend today can easily become an enemy tomorrow, and the rise of private armies in a free nation, is the ultimate beginning of the end. Admittedly, most of these big men are well connected and are friends of Mr. President and his party. But security agencies need to start sting operations and raids directed at bringing this unholy union between money and firearms to a screeching halt if peace will ever be achieved in our nation. Perhaps an agency modeled after the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in the United States is what Nigeria needs – may be we need another Ribadu for this important task.
Conclusively, there is need that Mr. President be refocused on the task of nation building especially since the horrendous events of last week. Chief among these tasks is having a handle on the security situation. The use of judicial means to rein in on these elements in our nation is only a partial fix to the problem – an immediate holistic strategy should be put in place to dig us out of this mess. Like Mr. President said during the visit of the NANS representatives to condole him on the loss of his wife and our first lady: “If those of us who are hold leadership positions do not make the right decision and plan for the future of young ones, then their future will be bleak”. That future will get very bleak if we do not get serious about getting our security situation right – once and for all. My sincere condolence to Mr. President, his family and to all Nigerians at this moment of grief – God is our strength.
“The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles“
Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Philosopher & Statesman 1869-1948)