A Nation is held by shared beliefs and shared attitudes. That is what enables them rise above the conflicts that plague any society. That is what gives a nation its tone, its fibre, its integrity, its moral style, and its capacity to endure.—John Gardner. If there is any event in recent weeks in the country that aptly demonstrates the nation’s deteriorating security situation, exposes present administration’s failure since assuming office in May 2015, to live up to its promise to ensure respect and protect human rights, and other constitutionally and internationally guaranteed human rights instruments, it is the recent brutal massacre of over 67 farmworkers in Zabarmari village, Jere Local Government area of Borno State, North East Nigeria by Boko Haram sect. Expectedly, this development which its pains was deepened by the awareness that it was avoidable, elicited an array of reactions; heated debate, rising tempers, innumerable complaints, a deluge of ‘testimonies’ and voices regaling tales of mourning and woes.
While it brought about a renewed call by well meaning Nigerians for immediate sack of the Service Chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on the other hand called on Mr President to resign for failure to combat increasing insecurity in the country. The response to the distressing case did not end there as the Members of the National Assembly also joined to close ranks against the thoughtless killing. While the Upper Chamber declared that the Federal Government had breached Section 14 (1), which made security and welfare the sole purpose of its existence. Similar fury and outrage that reverberated in the House of Representatives propelled members to summon President Muhammadu Buhari to appear in the House over the killing. Indeed, as the rage, conflict and turmoil continues unabated with the country refusing to recover its equilibrium, it is important to add that for reasons, these reactions did not come as a surprise to this piece.
First and foremost, separate from the fact that Professor Ango Abdullahi led Northern Elders Forum (NEF), and other well meaning Nigerians had earlier in the year warned that the current circumstances in the North clearly demonstrates that President Muhammadu Buhari has lost the capacity to end insecurity, Mr. President in the opinion of this piece, has in the past 6years of his administration allowed himself become the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality. To explain, by retaining without any evidence of improvement, the Service Chiefs that he earlier believed that their effort was not good enough, and against public outcries, this administration has shown a recipe for mediocrity or worse. This has further raised the believe among Nigerians with critical minds that there is something deeply troubling about the present government’s relationship with reason, its disdain for facts, and their lack of curiosity about any new information that might produce a deeper understanding of the security problems and other challenges that they are supposed to wrestle with on behalf of the country.
Another problem is that going by reports; the Nigerian security sector in the past six years has remained in a dire state. The situation has continued to deteriorate in the areas of poor funding, poor staffing, poor equipment and poor training. It cuts across all spectra of the security sector and has persisted despite Nigeria’s ratification of several treaties that advocates for the rights to adequate security of life and property and impose obligation on the Federal Government to respect, protect and fulfil these responsibilities. Consequently, while the rights to life of Nigerians at the moment are overtly inscribed in the nation’s 1999 constitution (as amended), the present security temperature in the country coupled with Mr President’s absence of political will to rewrite the narrative as lavishly promised in 2015, has covertly characterized these rights as a circle of chaos or worse still, an equation without meaning. Life in Nigeria has not only lost its value under the present administration but quoting Thomas Hobbs, becomes nasty, brutish and short as the country has become a hotbed for all manners of violence.
Take as example, it is almost impossible to say anything that can console members of the bereaved families at this difficult hour to erase the degree of disappointments currently domiciled in their minds. Yes! They were disappointed by the same Federal Government that on August 20th, 2019, while announcing the partial closure of Nigeria’s land borders with neighbouring nations reeled out how smuggling of rice and other communities from the neighbouring countries threatens the nation’s domestic rice production and frustrates the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme. While encouraging Nigerians to go into local rice production to help the nation achieve the targeted self sufficiency in rice production. A call these innocent Nigerians responded to with vigour and patriotism. Now the emphasis has shifted as the President spokesperson recently ‘thundered’ that murdered farmers did not seek permission/clearance from the military before going to the farm.
What a response? Also strange but expected is the argument by some commentators that instead of the military being vilified, and call for the sack of Service Chiefs, they ought to be appreciated and celebrated, and then encouraged to do much more in serving the country as the Nigerian Army has been an important stakeholder and critical institution that has played a very significant and fundamental role in the continued sustenance of democracy in our country. Well considered but then, the truth must be told to the fact that while there is no doubt that the Nigerian Army has truly played significant roles, signs exist that in recent times, they appear to be more managed but under led. Such example is signposted in their recent visit to the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, on Tuesday 20th October, 2020. Also as mentioned in a similar intervention recently, a few years ago, they were in South Eastern Nigeria where the people in tears watched the python dance. At the South-South where the peace loving Niger Deltans witnessed the ugly crocodile smile.
But this ever available military were unfortunately unavailable when the innocent poor farmers in Zabarmari village needed their protection. Against this backdrop, the questions may be asked; what is the wisdom behind keeping a security leadership that has successfully failed to provide safety/protection to the people that voted Mr. President? Or keep a formation that whenever it pays a visit, it leaves in its trails sorrows, tears and blood? While the answers to the above questions remain in the womb of time, it must be added that in the present circumstance, Nigerians are concerned about, and particularly not happy with the military style of responding to present security challenges in the country. Also rings apprehension is the believe by some reports that the federally controlled Nigeria Police Force (NPF) with about 371,800 officers, is endemically corrupt and outpaced by the manifold internal security challenges of a country with an estimated population of more than 200 million Nigerians are indeed calling for security architecture that is rejigged, well led and effectively managed in ways that respect rights of Nigerians and render future thoughtless killings impossible.
They can no longer settle for claims without substance that Boko Haram has been technically defeated or the ‘traditional closed door meeting of Mr. President with Security Chiefs. Nigerians are indeed hungry for results. Succeeding on this job will require President Buhari acknowledge the present security challenge and growing mistrust between citizens and the government and get acquainted with those shared beliefs and shared attitudes that keep a nation together. Above all, this administration must learn that globally, ‘a country’s defense capability has to continually upgrade as new technology, especially information technology, is incorporated into weapon systems. This requires a sound economy that can afford to pay for new weaponry and a highly educated and trained people who can integrate the various arms into one system and operate them efficiently and effectively’.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social And Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.