We are re-running this editorial to stress the point that the situation in the country when it was first written has not changed in any significant way. If anything, it is assuming what, in our opinion, is a delicate dimension that needs to be addressed urgently.
Some of the seemingly intractable challenges facing the federal government are the pockets of crises across the country which are more serious than the simplistic dismissal of them as threats to internal security.
Until Boko Haram became the monstrosity it developed into, the nation thought the members of the terrorist group were mere irritants that could be dispersed with a whip. Today, we know otherwise even as the Biafran agitators, gun-toting herdsmen and the Niger Delta terrorists are beginning to toe that evil line which is causing the authorities some discomfort. That the government is sending in troops to rout them is evidence that, indeed, they are real problems that must be confronted in a decisive manner.
But we are of the opinion that force should be reserved as the last option when other peaceful means have been conclusively explored and found not to be yielding a sustainable outcome. What ought to be done is to engage them constructively in the kind of deliberate policy that produced the Amnesty programme.
The government may begin to feel blackmailed by so doing. But we insist that it is an option worth finding time for. Among some highly placed government functionaries, personal disposition align with this suggestion. In their thinking, bringing down the hammer may demonstrate the government’s resolve to do what it has to do to secure life, property as well as enhance investment climate. It may also, in our view, make the resultant victory look like a crab that, in an effort to escape the trap, lost all its limbs.
However, there is no gainsaying it that finding a lasting solution to the problem of internal dissention has assumed an urgency that can no longer be played down let alone ignored. One of the ways to actualise it, in our considered opinion, is to restructure the police so as to bring their activities close to the grassroots where they will be able to nip the hiccups in the bud before they escalate. State police or community police has remained in the front burner of public discourse. What has delayed its implementation so far is the fear that taking such a desirable step will lead to abuse. Without doubt, that possibility exists.
But it is compelling to ask, is the present structure of the Force devoid of abuse? We, therefore, urge that the apprehension that is stalling the restructuring of the police must be exorcised because the institution as presently constituted is too centralised and sluggish in its operations to provide the effective check the matter at hand demands. And the Internal Affairs Ministry has a key role to play in this regard as part of its function of winning the peace for the country. Ultimately, the government must also intensify its measures to rid the nation of unauthorised firearms in the hands of those who use them for unwholesome purposes.
Another issue heating up the polity is the constant brushes between farmers and herdsmen. It is important to note that the problem has to do with dwindling resources caused by desertification in the North and erosion in the South. The scramble for the available water, land and grazing fields has often led to fatal brushes. It is our conjecture that a practical way of reversing this trend is for the government to design and put in place policies that must check desertification and control erosion so as to make those resources available for the many who desperately need them.
Above all, in our view, the most dangerous of the factors hampering internal security is youth unemployment. We are of the firm conviction that if they are put to productive use, the penchant for them to cause mischief will be drastically reduced.
In the meantime, we hope that the nation’s immigration laws will be made more effective and efficient so as to check the influx of the criminally-minded even as we recommend an upgrade of the country’s penitentiaries to make them play their assigned role in criminal justice and as a way forward to achieving internal security we all crave for.