Many Nigerians, including those in government are in full support of the security option presented by our elder statesman and former Minister of defence, General Theophilus Danjuma that our communities must arm themselves in self defence to avoid being killed by those who take pleasure in depopulating the people. There is no community in Nigeria today that has not been affected by attacks of bandits and other criminal elements causing reckless killings, maiming and displacement of people from their ancestral locations. It is out of patriotic concern and government’s inefficiency and failure to provide security that such calls were made by the former Chief of army staff. Up till today, General Danjuma has been singing the chorus without the government responding to him or making moves to amend our laws to accommodate that.Not a few Nigerians are in support of the suggestion because it is only by doing so that our communities and fellow citizens can be saved to live peaceful lives. Katsina state Governor, Bello Masari has also, out of frustration, called on his people to also bear arms to protect themselves from bandit attacks. Many other states and individuals have equally done so. The burden of doing so now lies with the national assembly, the federal law making body to legalise such suggestions so as to curtail the escalating incidents of attacks on the people.
It is not news anymore that the nation’s security situation has become so complicated and contradictory that resolving the impasse has also created complications and contradictions. This is because the alarming state of insecurity is strange and abnormal to existing national norms and therefore, its difficult to place between the rule of law, due process, legality and survival in a heavily militarised nation.
The rules of security exist side by side with the sacred need for survival and the two are expected to be circumspect of one another, at least in a developed society where the rule should prevail against impunity. But just like a common adage says,” in a state of anarchy, it is unlawful to be law abiding’. That means that where a nation does not respect its laws, or keep them aside, it becomes an offence for anyone to try to obey them. Who can even enforce the law when the content itself has melted and the rules do not serve any purpose nor have any meaning?
The precarious security situation we found ourselves today in Nigeria calls for serious retrospect and reflections. We are a nation with one of the highest number of well trained and strong security agencies in the world, each with robust objectives and mandates. Before now, each of these security organisations and their agents have been doing well and maintaining the code of conduct of their various callings. They do it with skill, tact and passion anchored on the rule of law as provided for in their constitutional allocation of obligations and responsibilities.
Before now also, anybody who speaks contrary to the law and its provisions is called to order, arrested or rebuked for seeking to create a line of impunity. The security agencies would immediately invite or arrest anyone who speaks any foul language or a language that is not understood by the mind of the law. It was such that even public commentators and analysts were careful with their dictions and the use of words to describe or explain situations.
But the whole scenario has changed to the point where we have a new normal, a highly militarised society where anybody can say or do anything and get away with it.
From Katsina, to Borno, to Benue ,to Plateau, to Taraba has been statement of woes and deep lamentations from leaders who are expected to act within the laws of the land. In his own submission, Danjuma went deeper by accusing the armed forces of colluding with criminals to kill people and therefore should not be trusted. For a top military officer of his status to say this means a lot. He is one of those who should know the security architecture of this nation and sociological behavious of the people. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has been shouting self defence for long. Recently the Plateau State House of Assembly in a strong worded resolution, asked the people to rise and defend themselves.
But what does it take to defend oneself? Against what? It means everyone getting any form of protection be it spiritual, physical etc to deter and prevent any harm directed at you and to unleash offensive capability to destroy an established threat coming your way. The only way to defend oneself is to arm oneself with ingredients of defensive capabilities such as juju, stones, knife, gun, bombs, sticks, cutlass, skills of war, etc.
It is on record that countless number of people have been killed by unknown gunmen across all the six geopolitical zones of the country with different magnitudes. The more the people are killed, the more the sophistication and resolve of the bandits to kill more. It graduated to kidnappings for ransom where not only individuals, but government and security agencies themselves give such ransoms to rescue their personnel or family relation. It is out of this concern and the inability to be protected by the security agencies that calls have emerged stoutly for self defence. What then happens to the law of security? If an individual or individuals carry prohibited weapons to defend themselves what happens to the society? It will be heavily militarised and the society will be at the mercy of those who can load it over others.
The carrying of arms is controlled by law and if our situation will warrant people moving around with them without restrictions, then we are in a serious crisis and trouble as a nation. A situation where security agencies and agents themselves are overwhelmed and cannot say a word on such situations is already a disaster that deserves the declaration of an emergency. Urgent external help is desperately needed.
On the other hand, since the security agencies cannot provide security for the people, they cannot argue against the concept of self defence because they cannot provide protection for the people. They cannot also stop people from defending themselves while allowing bandits carry the same arms to kill people.
Where then is the balance? Should government keep keeping quite because they cannot help the situation? Should arms become public items that can be bought from the shelves? Should everyone do as he or she wants? Should the law be suspended until government finds its feat of control? Which way out for the Nigerian nation?
Until something is done drastically and quickly, Nigeria may lose definition and shape and life will be nasty and brutish. Our security agencies must collectively absolve themselves by rising up to the occasion to advice the Presidency to seek external help to protect the people and ensure control over arms. There is no state or location that is safe today. The security agencies are more fearful because they have been overstretched and overwhelmed. Most of them are doing their best, but yet others are not. It’s the fervent prayers of Melting Point that the situation is brought under stable and peaceful control. God Almighty help us.