By Simon Musa Reef |
Violence imperils democracy and provides a podium that casts doubt on the workability of a system hinged on due process. It is out of the need to avoid endangering democracy and protection of governance that necessitated the desire to assemble arm bearers trained in the art of war to combat violence perpetrated by societal outlaws.
The ability of a nation to contain outlaws and other criminal elements threatening a nation is proportional to its capacity to advance and develop its goals and vision. A society enmeshed in violence and bloodshed is oftentimes not susceptible to control by legal arm bearers as symbolised by a nation’s military. Therefore, civil insurrection and other forms of criminal tendencies aimed at challenging the military’s monopoly of violence calls for deliberate strategies to extinguish such.
Nigeria’s three-year civil war remains the only approved act of hostility embarked by the nation’s military, following the declaration of the former South-eastern region to secede from the country. At the end of the bloody war, nearly three million people, including members of the military from both the Federal and Biafran side were killed.
The use of coercive power in arm forcing the government succumbs to demands from outlaw groups has a deep roots in the past. Various Niger Delta militant groups, realising that the government is more likely to cave in to pressures of threats, have always resorted to the use of force in secure juicy deals.
The use of force and the need to safeguard democracy took a frightening dimension in 2009 when the Boko Haram group unleashed bloodshed campaigns on the North-east zone with the sole aim of overthrowing legitimate political authorities. Not even the order by late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to completely destroy Boko Haram could save the nation from the claws of these insurgents. The rising smoke of insurgence had gathered momentum in 2009, with Boko Haram leaving dreadful footprints and devastations in Borno and Yobe State.
With the fire of insurgency ignited by the deadly militant group raging in various states of the North, the bombing of the Nigeria Police Force headquarters in Abuja clearly indicated that the little baby that was being treated with kid gloves had grown into an inexorable monster.
Before then, security forces had suffered casualties where policemen on duty went missing in Odi on November 22, 1999, while the corpses of 19 soldiers were discovered in Zaki Biam. The October 25, 2001 revenge onslaught on Gbeji, Vasae, Anyiin, Ugba, Sankera, among others in Zaki Biam Local Government Area.
Another instance where the military was engaged in confrontation with civilians was in the 2015 Zaria Shiite crisis where no fewer than 300 Shiite members were killed and Operation Python Dance in 2017 that culminated in the destruction of IPOB leader Daniel Kanu.
Last week, warring communities in Konshisha local Government Area of Benue state got a taste of the Zaki Biam treatment. After recovering corpses of 11 soldiers hacked to death while on routine security operations to keep the peace, tension had engulfed the area, with allegations that soldiers were engaged in killing the natives.
In a swift move to calm fray nerves, Governor Samuel Ortom had called on the army to exercise in dealing with the matter. The army has continued to reiterate that it is not involved in any form of aggression against the communities but doing everything within the rules to fish out killers of its personnel.
Without a guess, it is a fact that our fighting men and women have become the greatest victims of insurgency. Besides coming under attacks from Boko Haram fighters, the Nigerian military and other security forces have suffered fatalities from the activities of criminal groups that are committed to the decimation of the military. It is not debatable that Nigeria’s military has been overstretched, with soldiers deployed to take charge of exercises that should ordinarily be handled by the police and other paramilitary formations. While the best approaches in resolving our current security challenges should be left to the nation’s security chiefs, it is imperative to call to remembrance the need to diversify efforts in combating the rampant insecurity ripping across the country.
If we agree that inadequacy of boots on the ground, then we must recruit additional personnel and evolve other means to deal with the issue. Nigeria must never be ashamed of telling the world of the real situation on ground that the nation’s military has been overwhelmed by criminal groups whose firepower has risen considerably. There is the urgent need to seek military support from other West African sub-regional and continental platforms. The United Nations can also be approached to assist with troops to tackle this insecurity posed by these insurgents and bandits turning our country into a safe haven for criminals.
If the government accepts the grim fact that there is a shortage of boots on the ground, the need to democratize security and make the responsibility of keeping Nigeria safe must become the obligation of all citizens. That can only commence when military training is given to all citizens and equipping them with basic skills needed for self-defense. We can start by introducing military training to corps members participating in the one-year National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC). Basic training in weaponry and security tactics is necessary for our youths and can go a long way in preparing citizens to stand up to the roguery of these brigands and outlaws.
Citizens and other vulnerable groups must be empowered to confront these criminals. The idea of community policing should be commenced without much ado to allow states and local governments embrace state or local police. Creating synergies between traditional institutions and security agencies, including resuscitating the confidence reposed in policemen and women should attract immediate attention.
Soldiers and other security forces play crucial roles in providing security, and the need for their welfare is paramount. No stone should be left unturned to provide for them as they face the fangs of bandits and brigands. In line with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, the protection of citizens and right to life must never be violated. Arising from the fact that there are not enough personnel on ground to keep citizens safe, basic training and support for patriotic citizens is key to combating never-ending violence that has become an indispensable trait associated with our country. If it is a fact that over six millions weapons are in circulation, it amounts to dereliction of duties to allow peaceful communities to become soft targets of criminals.
It must be noted here that allowing bandits to continue decimating the rank and file of our military is capable of enthroning lawlessness beyond the capacity of government to manage. The earlier we tackle insecurity, the better for all of us. We must resist any attempt aimed at killing our military personnel while they walk the street to protect us.
It was Winston S. Churchill that said, “We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.” The safety of citizens is contained in the safety of those mandated to carry weapons for our protection. However, when these men and women authorized to protect us are overwhelmed by violent criminal groups, the government must engage and equip peace-loving citizens to come for the rescue.
It is absolutely necessary that the inquest being carried out by the military on the killings of its personnel be carried out transparently. Yours sincerely is completely opposed to the killing of military personnel just as killing natives by soldiers in Benue state makes no meaning. The Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru should ensure justice for the slain soldiers and the warring communities.