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Insecurity: Averting potential socio-political crisis in Nigeria

The Nigerian press is daily agog with stories of the daily killings by Boko Haram insurgents in the North East zone of the country and the other killings by bandits and herdsmen in different states of the country as well as the notorious activities of kidnappers nationwide.Perhaps, the killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of a prominent Yoruba leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti in Ondo State on Friday, July 12, by suspected herdsmen, must have instigated another open letter from former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, July 15, warning that the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria could lead to citizens’ revolt, violence, destruction.

“The issue I am addressing here is very serious; it is the issue of life and death for all of us and for our dear country, Nigeria, and that there can no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the carpet or treated with cuddling glove,” he said, accusing Buhari of poor management or mismanagement of the nation’s diversity.

According to him, rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome of the current security situation in Nigeria. Obasanjo, therefore called for collective thinking and dialoguing as the best way of finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem.

Obviously, Obasanjo is not alone in this campaign to rescue Nigeria from drifting into anarchy. Speaking earlier on Sunday, July 14, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, said that the Federal Government had failed and that the government was not capable of solving Nigeria’s problems.

Soyinka lamented the violence caused by herdsmen, the indiscriminate grazing of cattle and the destruction of farmlands and called for a National Conference to be convened.

 According to Soyinka, the Muhammadu Buhari-led government can only make an impact by thinking beyond partisan politics.

Playing host to some students on his 85th birthday celebration, Soyinka said: “The problems of this nation are beyond the solution that can be offered by this government, that’s the first admission; they have to stop thinking in partisan government.

“There has always been a major problem with successive governments. It’s easier on the state level to say that a particular state is definitely doing better than another state. But the central government has failed, that’s my view in the main.

“There is a minimal level which any government which has been elected to power must achieve to be considered a true representative of the people.”

He called for a national summit to address some of the socio-economic and political challenges facing the country, saying that the current challenges are beyond the capacity of the government in power.

The former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, added his voice to the clamour for the rescue mission when on Tuesday, July 16, he called on President Buhari to eschew sectional practices and focus on eliminating Nigeria’s ethnic and religious fault lines.

Speaking at a book launch in Abuja, Anyaoku said that over the past week, Buhari has faced condemnation from prominent voices like Wole Soyinka and Olusegun Obasanjo — with both warning of impending disaster should the president fail to recalibrate his responses to lingering insecurity and economic woes.

“Every diverse federal country throughout the world achieves political stability and socio-economic development through successfully managing its national diversity,” Anyaoku said.

“There are two common keys to this. The first is having an inclusive central government which gives the peoples of the component parts of the federation a sense of belonging that in turn underpins the sense of unity and patriotism in all the citizens.

“The second is having adequate delegation of powers to the federating units to enable them to handle their internal security and significant aspects of their socio-economic development,” he added.

But as kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen violence and other crimes continue to claim lives and devastate the economy, Anyaoku said he was compelled to join calls for Buhari to change course before it is too late.

“No objective observer, including those in the government, can deny that the current state of affairs in our country is extremely worrisome,” the 86-year-old diplomat said.

“We see an unprecedented diminution of national unity; we see an unprecedented level of insecurity of life and property with kidnappings and killings of human beings occurring virtually every day in many parts of the country including the seemingly unchecked violence by Fulani herdsmen which has spawned fractious controversies over the proposed Ruga policy by the federal government.”

Anyaoku asked Buhari to thoroughly analyse the legal and national security consequences of his administration’s Ruga policy before implementing it.

“For the sake of peace and integrity of the country, the Ruga policy must be handled with circumspection and strictly in accordance with our extant constitution’s provisions on the land tenure,” he said.

The policy, which would see mostly northern herders occupy swathes of land across the country, was recently suspended following widespread outrage across the south. Governors and other leaders from the southern states accused Buhari of pushing a landgrab policy for northern herders.

Anyaoku warned that the time is running out on an effective solution, and called on critical institutions to save the country from a disastrous end.

“I call on our president, the members of the National Assembly, the governors, and indeed, on all our political elites not to continue to live in denial of the seriousness of these glaring facts, if not effectively addressed, are bound to push the country over the brink of a national disaster,” he said.

Several ethnic groups in Nigeria and other prominent Nigerians have at different occasions voiced their anger on the security situation in Nigeria. For instance, Prof. Anya. O. Anya had in a recent interview said: “We can no longer say with certainty that we have a nation.”

In addition, Niger-Delta leaders, South-Eastern leaders, Middle-Belt leaders and Northern Elders Forum have not remained quiet, while different ordinary Nigerians at home and abroad are calling for different measures to address or ameliorate the situation. All the calls and cries can only continue to be ignored at the expense of Nigerian unity, if not its continued existence.

However, the Nigerian Presidency, which is the eye in the storm, has frequently claimed that it was doing its best to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians and foreigners alike in the country. It has even gone a step further to brand the critics of the worsening security situation in the country as unpatriotic Nigerians.    

No doubt, the worrisome security situation in Nigeria has caught the attention of some European, American and African countries. The Presidency and the Congress in the US had earlier signaled to Nigeria to put its house in order, while the House of Lords in the United Kingdom had debated the Nigerian security situation.

In the same vein, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom has advised her citizens against travelling to 21 states in Nigeria.

A statement on the UK government website said that all travels to Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River States and 20km of the border with Niger in Zamfara State should be cancelled by her citizens living and working in Nigeria.

The statement also warned against all but essential travel to: Bauchi, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Kogi and within 20km of the border with Niger in Sokoto and Kebbi States, non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Abia States.

The United States also followed with demonstration alert to its citizens in Nigeria. “The U.S. Mission in Nigeria advises U.S. citizens that large demonstrations by protesters affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria are expected in the coming days throughout the country, including Abuja and Lagos,” the statement said.   

The latest country is Zambia, which recently warned its citizens against travelling to Nigeria, given the perceived state of insecurity in the West African nation.

The travel advisory issued advised Zambians already in Nigeria to be wary of the marauding activities of kidnappers and terrorists, who had orchestrated hostage situations in recent times.

Although the actions of these countries are tacit confirmation of their concerns about the security situation in Nigeria. They should go beyond the usual diplomatic rhetoric and save the West African giant, with a population of about 200 million, from exploding. And if does explode, the shock will certainly be felt far beyond its borders.

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