The recent calls by Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State and his Zamfara State counterpart, Bello Matawalle for residents of their states to acquire weapons to defend themselves against murderous bandits and terrorists came to us as a rude shock, and a reversal of the nation back to the Stone Age.
Ordinarily, the calls would have been dismissed whimsically, but the fact that in February this year, the Minister of Defence, General Bashir Magashi (rtd), made a similar sorrowful call on weaponless Nigerians to defend themselves against attacks by bandits and terrorists. In that notorious appeal, Magashi also displayed poor understanding of evolution of the state and the political philosophy guiding them when he warned them against cowardice, stating that: “At times, the bandits will only come with about three rounds of ammunition, when they fire shots everybody runs.
In our younger days, we stand to fight any aggression coming for us.” Excusable as Matawalle’s cries may be, those of Magashi and Masari are regrettable and inexcusable. The reason is obvious – Magashi is a retired General and Minister of Defence and the call amounted to an abdication of his responsibility. Besides presiding over the Ministry of Defence, he also supervises the Service Chiefs, whose primary responsibility is the protection of the lives and property of citizens as lead security officials of the state.
More absurd is that Magashi disclosed that he was bewildered that Nigerians took to flight from attacks by bandits, which he described as “minor things”, urging them to stand and let these people know that even the villagers have the competency and capabilities to defend themselves.
This is ludicrous; given the fact that today thousands of Nigerians who voted for this government are taking refuge in neighbouring countries like Niger Republic and Cameroon, following their government’s inability to protect them. Similarly, the fact that Masari, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is expectedly versed in law making and in the provision of the country’s criminal/ penal and civil laws, could make such a call instead of seeking a lawful way out, is equally appalling.
If our statute books are anything to go by, unlawful possession of firearms is an offence clearly spelt out in the Firearms Act and Section 403 (b) of the Criminal Code, which stipulates at least five years’ imprisonment. Besides, the process of procuring firearms, either legally or otherwise is not only cumbersome, but the calibre of arms and ammunition capable of matching those possessed by the terrorists is beyond the reach of villagers. Videos available online indi-cate that the criminals’ arsenals are replete with Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers, rifles and carbines, submachine guns and huge arsenal of ammunition concertedly puts them miles ahead of whatever villagers may come up with to defend themselves.
It would therefore be suicidal for any individual or community to confront these same bandits and terrorists who have shot down military helicopters and fighter jets, attacked the Nigeria Defence Academy and taken on military installations and bases, especially in the North-East. More importantly, a prominent element of the social contract between the government and the governed in the evolution of the state, according to Thomas Hobbes, is the submission of enforcement of individual rights to self-defence and instrument of violence to the state. Otherwise, a life of self-defence would not only be savage but solitary, nasty, brutish and short.
By their uninformed or desperate calls, the trio had attempted to return Nigeria to a pre-historic state of nature, and exhibited a lack of confidence in the law enforcement agencies and government, in particular, to perform one of its fundamental duties. We are not oblivious of the worrisome security situation in Zamfara and Katsina states, where over 2,000 people, including women, girls and boys, have been kidnapped and subjected to degrading treatments by terrorists in the last five years. There have been heart-rending reports of capitulation of communities, imposition of taxes and rape of residents by these hoodlums.
More recently, over 350 pupils of Kankara in Katsina State were kidnapped and later released, and the abduction of the 73 students of Government Day Secondary School, Kaya, in Zamfara, is still fresh in our minds. We state without any equivocation that the calls not only amount to admission of helplessness, hopelessness and futility of all attempts by all levels of governments, but that of open resignation by government officials, and a betrayal of provision of Chapter two of the Nigerian Constitution, which identified the welfare and security of the people as government’s principal reason for existence.
Rather than continuing to whine about the exploits of these terrorists, government must display the political will to end banditry, nay terrorism, through kinetic and non-kinetic measures. It must review the security architecture and replace the Service Chiefs whose appointments were based more on ethnocentric considerations than competence. Rather than cower and make excuses in the face of an unprecedented assault on our national security, all levels of government should acknowledge that Boko Haram and ISWAP have developed a rabid disposition towards Nigeria and must be eliminated.