Mr Kelvin Godswill Musa is a development analyst, human resource specialist and a citizen engagement advocate who has visited many states of the federation to gain first-hand experience of the impact of killer- herdsmen attacks on unfortunate victims, particularly on the dangers the menace portends for the peace, unity and stability of the country. In this interview, he opines that the military and other security agencies should treat the perpetrators as criminals.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has again expressed federal government’s determination to tackle head-on, farmers/herdmen clashes across the country. He gave the pledge at the just-concluded National Security Summit in Abuja which was organised by Inspector-General of Police in conjunction with the LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group and the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria. Do you think this pledge is worth believing considering that these clashes have almost become hydra-headed?
It is absolutely worth believing because it is coming from the highest level of authority and government in the country. I do not believe that there is any malaise that can withstand the full weight of a government that moves in a direction with all its authority, resources and good will. As a matter of fact, no government worth its authority can afford to trifle with the security of its people not minding that it is expressly stated in our Constitution that the primary responsibility of the government is the protection of lives and property of the people. No legitimate and citizen-centred government can afford to abdicate such an important responsibility. This is why we attended the security summit. I commend the LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group for collaborating with the Nigerian Police and the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria. It is important to note here that the pillars upon which the summit stood. First is the media, the second is the police, and third is the monarchy. These three planks are very crucial and germane to guaranteeing security in the polity. The media remains the platform where the progress of the society is measured. The police remain the institution empowered by the Constitution to guarantee internal security while the monarchy is the institution that is closest to the people otherwise regarded as the embodiment of the collective values, virtues and well being of the people. The military only come by an order of the President and Commander-in-Chief, in aid of the regular police whenever threats to internal security overwhelm the police. This is the arrangement. The summit was timely, with the theme: ‘Forging Partnerships for Effective Strategies To Curb The Menace of Recurring Farmers Herders Clashes, Kidnapping And Criminality in Nigeria’, which was quite apt. Attendance at the summit was excellent. We commend the organisers for the success of the programme which provided an added platform for all the critical stakeholders to advance their patriotic positions. Our earnest expectation is that all the promises made at the summit should be implemented for the collective survival of our nation.
You have done extensive work on this farmers/herders palaver, do you think the summit addressed the critical issues at stake?
To a very large extent, I will say yes. The summit was an opportunity for frank and honest talk. Most of the remarks and comments made at the summit are in tandem with our analysis of the menace. It was a forum that confirmed and validated some of the positions we have taken on this matter all this while. Take for example, the remarks of the Sultan of Sokoto, AlhajiMuhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III whose frankness and bluntness was unmistaken at the summit. According to him, whoever picks up arms to kill his fellow human being is a criminal and must be treated as such, no matter where he hails from. He attributed the incessant security challenges in the country to poor leadership, moral decadence and human frustration on the part of the people. The Sultan’s position also confirmed our sustained stance implementation is the bane of the nation’s growth and development being that we have never been short of recommendations and solutions to our several problems. He also spoke our minds when he maintained that all Nigerians must collaborate and join hands to fish out the criminals that live in our midst and perpetrate evil under our watch. The Sultan stressed the need for Nigerians to support and synergise with security agencies in the country to fight crime and criminality, adding that it will also be necessary to engage those involved in criminality as a means of knowing their grievances with a view to prevailing on them to drop their arms and join in the process of nation-building.
Your group has been at the forefront of citizen engagement as a means of bringing everybody to the table to contribute to the development of the country. Was that position canvassed at the summit?
Yes, the consensus at the summit was that the promotion of security in any given society flows from the people. It has to be citizen-driven. This was the position of the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Stuart Symintonwho observed that security anywhere in the world is in everybody’s interest everywhere. He maintained and we totally agree with him that there is no force that can keep a country safe and secure than the force of its people working with their leaders. In fact, the envoy’s remarks became the high point of the summit when he asked the gathering to rise and observe a standing ovation for all the gallant service men for successfully fighting and bringing BokoHaram to its knees in the North Eastern part of the country. He restated the call for all Nigerians to join hands at all times against enemies of the state to tackle insecurity and other threats to national security and stability. The envoy praised the nation’s military high command for adopting synergy, intelligence and information sharing as a counter-terrorism strategy to defeat Boko Haram.
To what extent, in your opinion, based on your extensive work on the subject, can adequate policing bring down insecurity particularly the farmers/herdsmen clashes in the country? Sincerely, is there any hope in sight?
There is hope in sight if we all agree to work together with unwavering determination and commitment. There is hope in sight if we all agree that security is everybody’s business. This was the view expressed at the summit by the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Zhou Pingjian who said that such collective policing should include everybody to benefit members of the Diplomatic Corps, expatriates and members of the larger international community. He described China as Nigeria’s strategic partner willing and determined to deepen cooperation in all areas including peace and security and, after donating N10 million to the summit, disclosed that his home country has officially extended an invitation to the Inspector General of Police to visit China in furtherance of the pledge to boost the capacity of the Nigerian Police to provide adequate internal security in the country.
Some statistics are being bandied about as the number of people that have died as a result of the clashes. What is your take?
Let me answer your question without offending the sensibilities of relations of victims of these clashes. The humanity in all of os should rise up in outrage over one soul that is lost as a result of these clshes. We should not carry on as if precious lives don’t matter anymore. Whatever figure that comes up should touch us to the marrow. This is the attitude in more decent and sane climes. In this regard, we plead with our media to exercise restraint to de-escalate the crises by de-emphasizing the figure in the interest of national stability. It is very important. Let us condemn the criminal acts with every fibre in us. Our media should avoid biased and glamorous reportage of such clashes because they could do more harm than good for the country.
Ranching has been variously canvassed in some states as panacea to the problem. Do you think it is workable?
It is workable when the necessary variables are factored. We need adequate funding for our police. What is the citizen-police ratio approved by the United Nations? We understand that a bill on Nigeria Police Reform Trust Fund (Establishment) is on the way. That is good news. The IGP, Ibrahim Idris has said that the Nigeria Police Force needs an additional 155,000 personnel to bridge the gap and attain the United Nations ratio requirement of one police officer to 400 citizens. But let me ask, can this arrangement effectively tackle insecurity in the country? I cannot say precisely.
What do you think should be done?
We should all be engaged in spreading the message of peace in the country. A lot of the upheavals can be reduced when adequate measures are taken to spread the message of peace, harmony and mutual trust in the country. Our political leaders have a crucial role to play here. Undue politicisation, religionisation and regionisation should be avoided. Let me also express agreement with the position made by Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, chairman of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group and the Kakaki Nupe that all hands must be on deck to tackle the menace with the precision and decisiveness which the military brought down Boko Haram in the North East. We fully endorse the military strategies anchored on synergy, intelligence and information-sharing which the Gen Abayomi Olonisakin-led competent leadership of the Defence Headquarters effectively tackled Boko Haram. You do not change a winning strategy. If they could deploy the strategy to defeat Boko Haram, I don’t see why it can’t work in the onslaught against farmers/herders clashes. Has it not started working in Southern Kaduna where the Army created two divisions which have significantly dislodged insecurity in the area such that the Kaduna State Government has lifted the curfew imposed in Jema’a and Kaura LGAs. It is feasible and attainable because our troops are gallant and courageous.