These are clearly extremely trying times for Nigeria. The nation’s current security situation can actually overwhelm any government, no matter its good intentions and level of preparedness. Just when the world is sadly getting used to identifying the north east as a theatre of insurgency, another tragic challenge is playing out in the north western part, particularly Zamfara State, in the form of armed banditry. With resources that are becoming leaner by the day, it does not require too much knowledge of economics or defence to understand that everyone should be ready to contribute, at least morally, to the efforts being made by the government and her agencies to arrest this cancerous scenario. Attempts to politicise what is going on cannot serve any other purpose than undermine the badly needed march towards resolution.
Consider what the former Governor of Ekiti State, Chief Ayodele Fayose, reportedly tweeted the other day: “I have been reliably informed that the FG is plotting to hide under the killings in Zamfara State by armed bandits to impose emergency rule on the state. This is their response to the insistence of INEC not to allow APC field candidates for the 2019 general election in the state. With the emergency rule, there will only be Presidential and National Assembly elections in Zamfara in February next year while governorship and state House of Assembly elections will be postponed till May.”Someone said that politicians would always be politicians.
How reliable is Fayose’s source of this distracting information? It is bizarre to imagine that the government would wantonly gamble away precious civilian and military lives on the altar of political power. If declaring a state of emergency can solve the kidnappings, senseless murders and lawlessness that now threaten to bring the region to its knees, so be it. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that Zamfara would not be the first state to be placed under that kind of control. Reducing the issue of restoration of peace to scheming and political calculations between the ruling party and its leading opposition counterpart is indeed unfortunate.
On this occasion, the reaction of Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, to the crisis makes more sense to me. According to him, “We are talking about the lives of our people and this needs the coming together of all, so that the crisis can end. If the provisions of my office had allowed me to carry arms against the bandits, I would have done so. But, if I am not around, there are capable hands that collaborate with the security team in the fight against the bandits. The security men are doing their best. But, it is sad to know that some of the people involved in the kidnappings are close relatives or associates of the victims, which is part of the reasons the problem is persisting.
“We must all come together and expose anyone or group that is part of these hoodlums, and we should also pray for Allah’s intervention. Before Buhari’s administration, we had few security personnel in this state, but today we have about 4,000 security personnel including Army, Police and Civil Defence. I held a meeting earlier today with traditional rulers and local government council chairmen. We are working hand in hand with all stakeholders to ensure that we end this situation. I am calling on communities to always support security agencies with information on suspicious movement in their respective areas.”
Yes, assisting soldiers and other security personnel at this point in their task of bringing sanity back is non-negotiable. This is a call to national service, nobility and patriotism. It is remarkable and commendable that not long after the Chief of Air staff, Sadiqque Abubakar, announced last month that a Quick Response Unit of the Nigerian Air Force would be established in Sokoto to boost ‘Operation Diramikiya’ across the north western states, airstrikes were successfully launched on a hideout used by the hoodlums in Tsamari in Birnin Magaji Local Government Area of Zamfara State. No doubt, such decisive actions, if sustained, will provide the answers we desperately need. In this war, just about anything that can enhance the morale and performance of our men and women on the battlefronts should be pursued vigorously. While the government must bear the lion share of that responsibility, the rest segments of the Nigerian society and even individuals should also contribute meaningfully.
A good example of positive response in this regard is the recent intervention of the Coalition of Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Nigeria (CCRHRN) that came through independent investigations into allegations of abuses and extra judicial killings by the military while quelling protests. The organisation’s report released by its Executive Director, Maxwell Gowon, reads in part thus: “Property was destroyed and some people injured by the hoodlums. They then tried to shift the blame for this destruction on the responding security agencies that were drafted to the scenes to maintain order.
“The military was deployed to contain the situation when the protests became unruly and violent beyond what the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil DefenceCorps (NSCDC) could manage. The military, with other responding security agencies, managed the protests consistent with the recognised rules of engagement. There was no evidence that the military massacred, brutalisedor indiscriminately arrested protesters. The reports carried by some online sites which reported large scale extra-judicial killings were not reflected in the mainstream and legacy organisations. The contents of such reports did not stand up to scrutiny and were totally at variance with the accounts given my respondents.” Equally noteworthy are some of the recommendations: “That the Federal Government should review existing conflict zones in the country and properly identify the ones that warrant the deployment of military personnel… That matters that are deemed as falling within the jurisdiction of the Police should be so assigned in order to minimise the distractions to military troops …”
Apart from human lives and the region’s abundant mineral resources, at stake is also national food security. Most communities in that part of the country are largely agrarian. We cannot afford to leave the fight to the already over-stretched government.
– Ebube, Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Abuja.
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