Our amiable Governor, His Excellency, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Executive Governor of Lagos State, My brother, and Chairman of today’s occasion among other Chairmanships, Chief Dele Momodu, our most respectable Royal fathers and other dignitaries here present, my Lords spiritual and temporal, members of the 4th Estate of the Realm, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I greet you all.
Our topic for today is a very familiar one, especially in the last 20 years in our country. However, it does not make it any easier to deal with; otherwise it should not have become a continuous decimal in our public discourse at least in the last 20 years.
There is nothing that cannot originate crises. Even a news item on radio or television can make people to start demonstrations and destroying lives and property. The First World War was caused by the assassination of one man, the Archduke of Austria – Hungary, Prince Franz Ferdinand, by the Black Hand, a Serbian terrorist group in June 1914. 30 nations, their overseas colonies and territories went to war against each other from July 1914 to November 1918 and 20 million people were killed, 21 million people were wounded, and the world economy was devastated, because of the death of one man. This is why trouble shooting is key to averting disasters, because once there is a crisis situation, people begin to die for what they know something about and many more, for something they know nothing about.
Our founding fathers, including Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Awolowo and Dr Azikiwe were very conscious of the ethnic makeup of our Federal Republic as well as the diversity in the religious belief. Their solution was to pursue the policy of unity in diversity and they were able to avert major catastrophes until the matter was taken out of their hands by coups and counter coups from January 1966.
2. THE PLACE OF SECURITY IN THE LIFE OF PEOPLE:
On a normal day, we take the issue of security for granted. However, it was because of security that families lived together, and clans submitted to the leadership of some of their members. Anytime our security is threatened, our natural instinct is to seek safety either by running away from the danger alone or with our loved ones that we can safely carry without any thought about our food, house, clothes or other possessions. The maxim is “safety first.”
The most important reason for the evolution of the nation state was the decision of the citizens to live in safety within the confines of the borders of their nation. For this and other reasons, the people surrendered their sovereignty to a few trusted individuals that they have put forward to represent them and to guarantee their security.
The above principle has been prominently enshrined at section 14(2)(b) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which states as follows;
“(b) The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of Governance…”
As far as I am concerned, the above statement summarizes in the main, the primary purpose of all the tiers of government in our country, namely, the Federal, States and Local Governments, respectively. Before they assume their office they swear by the Holy Bible or the Holy Quran to uphold the contents of our constitution, which include the above provision.
Every day we are lectured that security is a collective responsibility. We are doing our bit; using tall fences and barbed wires to demarcate our houses, paying Trillions of Naira every year to hire security guards as well as purchasing and installing very expensive security devices to protect our businesses, residential premises and estates. We also pay our taxes to maintain our three tiers of Government, their elaborate security services and the Armed Forces. We therefore expect our Governments at all levels to play their part as well, in ensuring the security of lives and properties in our country.
I believe that one of the most important deliverables in this lecture is for us to identify the factors that are responsible for the deteriorating security situation in our country today irrespective of our very large investments these last 60 years of independence on peace and security.
3. ISSUES IN NIGERIA CONTEMPORARY SECURITY CHALLENGES:
Nigeria like any other country with a large and heterogeneous population is bound to have some social and political problems associated with a diverse and complex society with a plurality of beliefs. This is why there is a constitution and a vast array of laws and institutions to moderate the conduct of both the individuals and the State. However, sometimes the Government actors allow something to happen in the mistaken belief that they could permanently control the aftermath. Sometimes they succeed, but sometimes they fail. It is when they fail and the matter degenerates into crisis that it becomes a national security issue.
An example here was the creation of Ife West Local Government Area in Osun State and the location of its headquarters which led to the Ife – Modakeke crises. The other was the creation of Warri South-West Local Government Area in Delta State and the location of the headquarters at Ogidiben, and later the relocation of the Local Government Headquarters to Ogbe-Ijaw, both in Warri, Delta State which also caused crises among the Urhobo, Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic groups. Both crises were raging in Osun and Delta States in 1996 and 1997 but no part of the country was not affected by them. After an extensive research on what could be done to bring peace to the two States, I approached the Government of Gen. Sani Abacha with my proposals to that effect. They went through my proposal and found that it was sensible, but then asked me what my interest was in stopping the crises in both States. I grappled with what was the meaning of that rebuff, until I overheard someone saying that the crises were a payback for NADECO activities in both States. Could that have been a statement of fact? We would never know.
4. POLITICALLY MOTIVATED INSECURITY:
One thing that is common with politically motivated insecurity is that the initial elements of the source of insecurity are mostly started by non-state actors, but somewhere along the line, some state actors would see a potential political advantage for themselves in empowering the organization or one of the belligerents with State resources and thereby helping the organization to grow faster and more powerful than they would have been able to achieve on their own. The next thing is that the state actor will then channel those new found notoriety and power of intimidation of their pet organization against their political opponents, especially during the elections in order to win an undeserved victory at the polls or simply to give to a community that is opposed to the government something to worry about without showing its hand publicly.
Similarly, it happens sometimes that the opponents of the government will precipitate something or allow something to fester in their community in order to give the government a bad name. Sooner or later, international actors will show up and complicate the problem. Then it becomes a national crisis in Nigeria or recognized as such by the Federal Government. The two most important examples are the Boko Haram and the Bandit crises.
I will in this address use Borno State and Zamfara State only for illustration purposes and not because they are the worst States, but because the two States are currently the epicentres of the Boko Haram, and the Bandits crises. Since this is a media event, I will also rely on references to the available records on the subjects in the Nigeria media to buttress my points.
5. THE BOKO HARAM CRISES:
In 2011, Gen. Jerry Useni as the new Chairman of the influential Arewa Consultative Assembly, led a delegation of leaders from the Northern States to the Aso Rock Villa to discuss the problem of Boko Haram with the then President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. After the meeting, he took questions from State House correspondents and the news was very widely published. Please find below excerpts from the interview as published in Vanguard Newspaper on July 13, 2011:
“ABUJA – THE Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Useni (rtd) yesterday gave an insight into the emergence of the deadly Islamic sect, Boko Haram, saying that the group used to function as a political thuggery cell to a former governor of Borno State.
The retired army general who spoke with State House correspondents, after separate meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo also supported the use of force by the Nigerian Army to flush out Boko Haram.
Gen. Useni disclosed that he had earlier warned the former Governor against the use of thugs during election, saying that like in Rivers State where thuggery gave birth to militancy, Boko Haram used to be a political thug group; but later metamorphosed into a terror entity.
His words: “Just like the Boko Haram issue, it started like a Borno affair but now it is becoming a national problem. I remember when I was the Deputy National Chairman of the ANPP, I went to the state (Borno) to commission some projects and when we were driving along one of the major streets, I saw young boys selling petrol in jerry cans and I asked him (the Governor), why he allowed them to be selling on a major road like that, and he said, ‘no, no, leave them they are very useful, during the general elections, we can use them to turn everywhere.’”
The ACF, Chairman attributed the emergence of Boko Haram to bad leadership and political thuggery but suggested a summit, as a way out. He said: “There are lots of things responsible for all these and the best way is for us to sit down and tell ourselves the truth”.
While blaming the Boko Haram saga on governments of the affected States who have resorted to thuggery as a means to winning elections, Gen. Useni believed that “good governance will reduce the menace. I mean good government at all levels”.
He observed that ‘no matter how good a government at the top is, some politicians at the state and local governments will abdicate their responsibilities and divert public funds meant for infrastructure development to fund their political ambition’”.
From the foregoing, we can now see how Boko Haram, a band of religious preachers by the name of Jama’atu Ahius Sunnah lid Dana’awati wal Jihad were allowed by State actors to sell petroleum products illegally in Borno State in order for them to make illicit gains in return for electoral services.
In later times, they became so powerful that they demanded and were given a cabinet position in the Borno State Government. Then, they demanded to have a say on who became the next Governor of the State but were rebuffed. Outraged by the rebuff, they pitched a fight against the State Governor and his family. Then the crises started, which is now a national crisis.
6. THE BANDITS CRISES
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, is one of the Premier Universities in Nigeria. One of the Dons in that university, Dr Abubakar Siddique Mohammed had led a team to conduct research on the causes of Banditry in the North-western States zone, especially in Zamfara State. On Sunday, January 3rd, 2018 the Daily Trust Newspaper published an interview it had with him on the findings of his team. On the 26th day of February 2021, an online news media, The Inspirer News published more comprehensive details of the outcome of the research findings. Excerpts:
“Four years ago when we first did our studies, it was famers/herders conflict. What I am going to talk to you about is what is happening today in the North-west, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara, which is the epicentre of insecurity in the North. This conflict has been on for more than four years. It started as farmers/herders conflict but it degenerated into something else. Some years ago, there were armed robberies in the North-west. In the Zamfara area, some Fulani boys were alleged to be the major culprits.
In the areas we studied, there were so many ungoverned spaces: No electricity, telecommunication and local governments existed only in name. You could hardly see anybody when you go there. Over a long period of time, traditional leaders and Islamic teachers were the ones dealing with the crisis. There was no presence of the state. The roads were extremely bad and the people left to their fate. So when the armed robberies persisted, people took it upon themselves to bring about law and order, they formed vigilante groups.
The vigilante groups were quite often not trained, so they went beyond their limits whenever they went on operations. In the Dansadau area of Zamfara, they identified some boys, who also happened to be Fulani stock. They attacked some of them and killed them. They were very brutal. They wanted to stamp out armed robbery in the area. They were the police, the prosecutor and the judge. They did not stop in the towns and semi-urban centres. They pursued the Fulani deep into the forest and, in the process, killed so many innocent people. This was the immediate cause of the conflict.
The Government in Zamfara was not serious about the challenge ab initio. From fighting rural banditry by the vigilantes to the retaliation by the Fulani, the challenge morphed into generalised rural banditry. At this stage, the farmers and pastoralists became victims of a superior force. The pastoralists lost their herds because some other forces had come in and subjugated both the pastoralists and farmers.
We made it known four years ago that this thing will get out of control. We recommended that concerted efforts had to be made to stop the crisis. You cannot solve the problems in Kaduna, Katsina and Sokoto without dealing with the situation in Zamfara.
When we started our study, it was Sabuwa in Katsina that was affected; all the villages there have become bandit territories. The bandits have moved to the Kaduna – Abuja highway and Kaduna – Zaria highway is just a matter of time before the bandits move in.
Faskari in Katsina State which is not far from Shika in Zaria, all the villages there are now bandit territories. All the villagers have moved into towns around there. Many towns now exist in names because they have disappeared. People have moved. They have become ghost towns because of banditry. And because of the vacuum we have in Zamfara, many criminals have moved from other parts of Nigeria to that area. Something that started as a local dispute, improperly handled has gotten out of control.
Politicians in Zamfara are all culpable. I was surprised when the Minister of Defence pointed accusing fingers at traditional rulers. During the course of our studies, the only people that were always there to console the victims of these bandits were the traditional rulers and mallams. They have become managers of misfortunes. Until this situation got out of control, the Governor was treating the bandits with kid gloves. He was even threatening government officials. They had overwhelmed the police and so government had to initiate dialogue. The Deputy Governor was asked to negotiate with the leader of the bandits. But the bandits’ leader kept the Deputy Governor waiting for hours and then sent a message that he was not ready to meet him.
Initially, the government of Zamfara was not ready to deal with the bandits the way they should be dealt with because they intended using them for political purposes. During election, parties that won in areas where the bandits were in control were parties that were in contact with the leaders of the bandits. The bandits would direct the villagers on what to do and they will obey because they are armed. They came to villages in about fifty to one hundred motorcycles. On each motorcycle, there will be three of them each armed with AK-47 rifle. They even attacked a town on a Sallah day.
The bandits no longer hide. They come to the market. Sometimes they take your things and pay. Sometimes they don’t pay. Nobody can challenge them. We tend to observe things in isolation. We tend to see what is happening in Zamfara as a Zamfara issue. That is wrong. You may not care if you are living in Agenebode but your brother may be working in that town as a police officer or in another capacity. We were treating this conflict as a Zamfara conflict. Now it has engulfed Kaduna, it has engulfed Sokoto and Katsina. When they took over Kaduna road, it’s not only Kaduna people that are affected. Everybody on the road is a victim.”
We have now seen how a communal crisis in Zamfara State between herdsmen and their host community took a new dimension upon the emergence of a third force. In the words of Dr Abubakar Siddique Mohammed above,
“At this stage, the farmers and pastoralists became victims of a superior force. The pastoralists lost their herds because some other forces had come in and subjugated both the pastoralists and the farmers.”
We have seen how this new group became so influential that the Senior Civil Servants in the State protested against their presence and were shouted down by their own boss. After some time, they became so powerful that they could not even condescend themselves to holding a meeting with His Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, who was sent by the State Governor to have a meeting with them in their own residence. At that time they had developed into a gang of outlaws, otherwise known as bandits.
7. LAWLESSNESS AND YOUTH ACTIVISM:
From time to time, one or more charismatic youth leaders emerge and show frustration with the way that things are being done in the country. They may stir up protests or form an organization that is aimed at sustaining the protests. The good examples here are the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) of the 1990s to the early 2000, the MASSOB and its mutant, the IPOB. However, because none of the above named organizations and their likes had the support of State actors or any international interlopers, their activities could not threaten the peace of the country to the extent of their full potentials.
When the Federal Government was tired of the problem of OPC, it arrested and sent its leaders to the Kirikiri prison and from there the leaders evolved as eminent Statesmen. Same thing happened with MASSOB. When IPOB emerged and were behaving like there was no government in Nigeria, the Federal Government showed them the limits of what was acceptable, and they got it, and relocated abroad.
None of these would have been possible if any of the governments in the affected States had a contrary interest in those organizations than that of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
8. THE NIGER DELTA CRISES:
The Niger Delta crises at all material times were not only foreseeable but were foreseen by the Government of President Ibrahim Babangida. This was why the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) was established by the Federal Government in 1992 to address the issues arising from underdevelopment and environmental degradation of Communities in the Niger Delta, among others. The Commission started work in 1993. Mr Albert Horsefall was appointed the first Chairman of the Commission.
However, because of the politics of June 12, 1993 presidential election of that year, and the aftermath, President Babangida who established the OMPADEC had to step aside in August of the same year, at a time that OMPADEC was only a fledgling institution. Chief Ernest Shonekan who succeeded Gen. Babangida as Chairman of the Interim Government had his work cut out for him. He spent his entire time in office trying to establish his legitimacy and to bring stability back to the country before he was removed from office. It is too much to expect from him that OMPADEC should have been on his top priority list during the few months that he was allowed to stay as Chairman of the Interim National Government.
Gen. Sani Abacha who succeeded him had his own programmes that he wanted to implement, and OMPADEC did not appear to have been one of them. At some point the euphoria and expectations of how OMPADEC would change the lives of the Niger Deltans turned into gloom, and frustrations set in.
Sooner or later, Dr Ken Saro-Wiwa, an accomplished educationist and playwright started his environmental activism by taking on the Royal Dutch Shell over environmental degradation of Ogoni Land by the activities of the company. The style adopted by Dr Saro-Wiwa in his confrontation with Shell divided the Ogoni Land leadership between those who were in support and those who were opposed, but when the internal differences led to bloodshed, the Federal Government led by Gen. Abacha stepped in and dealt with the matter in their own way, without minding whose ox was gored.
In the aftermath, Nigeria went into a near comprehensive international sanctions, starting with the Common Wealth and most of the Western world. With the sanctions came dwindled resources for the Federation, less funding for the OMPADEC and more misery for the Niger Delta. This was the situation that gave rise to the agitations before the fuel of Resource Control was added to it and the issues became more complicated leading to the Kaima declaration in 1998.
This was the state of affairs until 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo came into office in 1999 and established NDDC to replace OMPADEC in June 2000. At the peak of the crises in 1998, the Federal Government, led by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar had made a contingent plan for postponing the election in some of the Niger Delta States until the situation became normalized.
Sometime in January 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo asked me to accompany him to Benin City to attend a Thanksgiving Service by his friend Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin. When I informed my friends in Benin City about our impending visit, what they told me was that they believed that the Thanksgiving Service would be a veritable forum for the Esama to introduce his son Lucky to his powerful friends for his gubernatorial ambition, but that in their own opinion, it would be a waste of time since there would in any case not be any election in Edo State due to the prevailing security situation at that time. I relayed this information to General Obasanjo, and he said, “Well, we have four days until the thanksgiving service. Since you have found out the problems, then you should look for the solutions”. By the grace of God and the help of my friends with contacts in the right places, we were able to achieve truce with the militants, sufficient for them to send a contingent to the thanksgiving ceremony, for talks with some leaders. At that time, the militants didn’t answer such exotic names like MEND, and their leaders were not described as Generals, like the popular Gen. Shoot at Sight. We were dealing at that time with the dreaded hard core Egbesu cult.
On the day of the thanksgiving, the militants came in 13 buses. Luckily, the Igbinedion Family Estate was large enough to contain them without disrupting the event. Because their hocus-pocus forbids that they should bath, they came out of the creeks without haven bathed for some weeks, and their body stench bore testimony to that. They had their bath in style with high pressure car wash jets. More cows were slaughtered and cooks and stewards deployed to serve them. When the moment was auspicious, they were asked to choose 10 of their leaders to represent them at the meeting, but they came with far much more than that.
Upon sighting Gen. Obasanjo, they accused him of every possible thing you can think of. In his characteristic self, he gave it back to them on a double dose. In the end, truce was established and the Egbesu cult agreed that Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar could hold his elections in the Niger Delta. The Head of State sent his appreciations to Gen. Obasanjo the next day for the success of the peace meeting. Even the USA Government expressed their happiness with the success of the meeting and the inclusion of Niger Delta in the 1999 general election. The news was repeatedly broadcast on CNN and BBC among other international and local networks.
Following on that success, a few weeks later, Gen. Obasanjo once again informed me that he was travelling to Port Harcourt to see his friend, Dr Umbo Isokrari and that I should come along. On getting to Port Harcourt, we found out that Rivers State had got to a crisis point, but this time because of the internal fight in PDP as to who should emerge as their gubernatorial flag bearer in the State. The Party had held about 4 primaries, but none of the results was upheld. We had to stay over in Port Harcourt for nearly one week until the next scheduled gubernatorial primary for PDP.
Luckily, all the aspirants for the office of Governor were my friends. So, while the big men were busy holding their stakeholders’ meetings, I went into town to see the candidates, my friends. Luckily again, I succeeded in persuading one of the most influential candidates, Chief Sergeant Awuse, not to go to the venue on the day of the primaries. In the end, the primaries were held and one of them, Dr Peter Odili, was successful, and the results were upheld.
I have recounted some of my long time peace building engagement activities across the country because those who have only recently known me knew me as the National Co-ordinator of the Police Equipment Foundation. Of course I am very proud of our achievement with running that Organization. Purchasing hundreds of vehicles and donating them to the Police and other security and military services free of charge to help them to improve their operational capacities. Purchasing 56 houses in Abuja and donating all of them to the Police for the accommodation of the officers and their families. However, after President Yar’Adua praised our work during his presentation of his 2008 Budget Speech at the National Assembly in 2007 and proposed that, in future, the security vehicles should be sourced through our Organization on account of how cheap our purchase prices were, he unwittingly set our Organization up for a tough and prolonged harassment because those whose interests would have been adversely affected by the implementation of that proposal had to do what they had to do to forestall the proposal. Unfortunately, I cannot dwell any further on the matter for obvious reasons, as there are still a couple of pending litigations on the subject.
9. THE IMPLICATIONS OF INSECURITY ON NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Insecurity has a number of consequences for national development, namely;
I. Loss of Lives and Properties
The first implication is the huge loss of lives and properties that we suffer as a country on a yearly basis due to insecurity. No person, no matter how highly placed, is immune to the impact of insecurity.
II. Negative Effect on the Economy
The second impact is on the economy. Many of the farmers from the crises ridden States are today refugees or living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps with little or no privacies for themselves and their families. They now depend on charities for their survival and the men are no longer the men they used to be. With less and less persons working in the farms because of crises, food production becomes lower and lower. Food inflation gets higher and the overall inflation rate also goes northwards.
The industrial sector also suffers as well, as raw materials from the farms become smaller and more expensive. The ability to sell the finished products becomes harder as the purchasing power of a large proportion of the population had been damaged and the higher costs of the goods make them out of the reach of the previous purchasers.
III. Rural – Urban Migration
Those that have been displaced from their towns and villages as a result of the crises tend to migrate to the urban centres without any prior preparations and thereby compounding the problem of unemployment and over population in our urban centres. They also contribute to the problems of urban sanitation as they live in filthy environments.
IV. Rise in Crime Rate
With the migration to the urban centres without work or place to stay, the young ones among the pack try to hustle to earn a living and in the process sometimes fall into bad hands and join criminal gangs, to commit violent crimes.
V. Wasted Years
As children who should be in school are forced out into the IDP camps or streets to make a living, their education and future wellbeing become of secondary consideration. The nation thereby loses their God-given talents that could have been deployed better for national development.
VI. Loss of Foreign Investors
Crisis deprives a nation of valuable foreign investments. Every country requires foreign investments to develop and maintain its institutions but no foreign investor would be happy to invest large sums of money on a nation in crises because of the risk of loss of both capital and profit.
VII. Destruction of National Institutions
Whenever there is national crisis, many institutions like hospitals, schools, banks and religious worship centres are often targeted and it takes lots of resources to rehabilitate such institutions after the crisis, if they were not burnt down altogether.
VIII. Large Allocations for Purchase of Security and War Equipment
In times of crises, large sums are allocated by the country for the purchase of very sophisticated security and war equipment like; arms, fighter jets and helicopters to the detriment of more investments in social institutions and the economy to create and sustain jobs.
In fact the disadvantages that flow from crises are endless and cannot all be exhaustively articulated.
While we cannot completely avert all crises, especially those that arise from natural events like flooding or the crises that are imported into Nigeria from foreign countries, we should as a matter of policy do our best to avoid some of the activities that lead to crises.
An organization such as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) should be empowered and trained to take over the management of the big crises situations in much the same way as the National Guard in the United States, to relieve the Police and the Armed Forces of managing the large internal crises situations that we now have, which is not their core duties. The Military should concentrate on defending the country against external aggression while the Police should be allowed to concentrate on the prevention, detection and prosecution of crimes and minor fracas.
It is not enough to borrow the American Presidential System of Government, we should go further to replicate some of the institutions that they use to sustain their democracy, and the National Guard, the State Police and the Coast Guard, are all part of the paraphernalia that we should borrow to maintain our own democracy, as are practised in other developed democracies.
Crisis is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The earlier we get that, the better for everyone.
Thank you all and God bless.