By Gabriel Amalu
The Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, is right in his recent assertion that Nigeria is at war, and for this column the nation no longer has the luxury of time for platitudes. As he posited: “This nation is at war, yet we continue to pretend that these are mere birth-pangs of a glorious entity”. He asserts unequivocally: “They are death throes. Vultures and undertakers hover patiently but with full confidence”.
This column doubts if the vultures and undertakers are merely waiting patiently. Rather, they are protagonists doing all they can to precipitate a breakout of wars across several parts of the country, as they can’t wait anymore. Whether by subterfuge or direct inducement, there are signs that unless a miracle happens, these vultures and undertakers are already baying for the blood of a Nigeria at the throes of death, as asserted by the erudite professor. Of course, this column had written on national insecurity last week, but every new week brings us closer to the precipice.
Seeing the governors of the northern states cluster to President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Rock, last week, like weather-bitten chickens, seeking the protection of the mother hen, it appeared as if the governors went to mourn their vulnerability. What this writer does not appreciate, is the predilection of the governors to think that it is by paying extended courtesies that their challenges would be addressed. As if to confirm that vulnerability, the country home of the governor of Imo State, was fire-bombed, last weekend.
In a coordinated attack on Governor Hope Uzodinma’s country home, hooded hoodlums tried to set the house ablaze. According to the report, few hours earlier, a special security squad had attacked and killed one alleged leader of Eastern Security Network (ESN), Mr Ikonsi, and some of his accomplices. Could it be that the attack on the governor’s home is in retaliation for the killing of the alleged IPOB commander? If it is, both attacks are unhelpful to the brewing crisis in Imo State.
The penultimate week, this column had written on the unluckiness of Imo State, because of the quality of leadership the state has had over the years, and we had appealed to the present governor to stem the tide, in the interest of the innocent people of the state. With the state governor and his immediate predecessor trading blames, over the crisis in the state, we also derided the culture of young men and women hanging on government, and hoping to become rich without work.
Of course, underpinning the security challenge in Imo State and the other states in the southeast, is the activity of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), who have gone ahead to set up the so-called regional security outfit, known as ESN. That is why it is speculated that while Mr Ikonsi was killed by security agents, for being the alleged mastermind of the recent attacks on the state police headquarters and correctional centre, IPOB members immediately retaliated by setting the country home of the state governor on fire.
Both strategies, no doubt, are condemnable. If the security agencies have information that the late Mr Ikonsi was the mastermind of the attacks, what they should have done was to arrest him, and put him on trial. Indeed, if he had been arrested and interrogated, perhaps, the security agencies could have deciphered information that could be more valuable to the security agencies in the state than a sting operation to kill him, without the resort to rule of law.
As we argued, it is the ordinary people who suffer the consequence of the grave insecurity which years of poor leadership and the presumptuous activities of IPOB have degenerated into. But as I have argued elsewhere, it is the insecurity foisted on the states by a debilitating national security architecture that has given non-state actors the impetus to fill in the yawning gap. The so-called ESN is attractive to some indigenes of the southeast because of the activities of the trained armed herdsmen, who make the country-side dangerous.
And it is the failure of the federal government to address the murderous activities of these trained armed herdsmen that has precipitated the mutations of all manner of security outfit across the northern and southern parts of the country. Whether in the southwest or southeast, these non-state actors are pointing at the activities of these dangerous herdsmen as the justification for their emergence. Also in the north-central, particularly in the Benue-Plateau axis, the youths of the area are also up in arms against these terrorists.
Further up in the north-west, the insecurity challenges revolves around the activities of the armed herdsmen, whether as victims of cattle rustling or as avengers of the cattle that have been rustled. As correctly posited by a governor in the northern part of the country, the herdsmen caring for cows in the forests are not the owners of the cattle, neither are they responsible for hiring the trained armed herdsmen who strike in the rural areas to put fear amongst indigenous people.
Of course, knowing that they have masters who can protect them, the local herdsmen also engage in sundry atrocities like kidnapping and rape, as a side-kick. It is these orchestrated activities of the herdsmen and their patrons that feed the conspiracy theory about a Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda across the country. While such agenda may be far-fetched, the challenge of civil authorities across the states is made more incapacitating by the failure of the federal government to ensure that security agencies bring the murderous activities of the armed herdsmen to a stop.
This column is apprehensive that the counter fire-fighting strategy of both the security agencies and the ESN in Imo State may trigger another round of insurgency, even when the war in the north-east has already sapped our national security resources. While this writer unequivocally condemns violence by IPOB and other non-state actors, he urges the federal government to stave the descent into anarchy by halting the murderous activity of the trained armed herdsmen. To treat their menace as an economic crisis, while treating the counter reaction as terrorism, is counter-productive.
Up the northern front, the governors of the region should insist that the federal government implement the recommendations of Governor El-Rufai’s committee. Since the Kaduna State governor connects culturally to President Muhammadu Buhari, he should use that advantage to convince the president to change tactics. If the pilgrimages to Aso Rock is not working, they might as well change their own strategy, unless their allegiance to the culture of obsequiousness is higher than the clear provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended), which they hey swore to uphold.