For about a decade, Nigeria has been waging a series of muffled wars within its territory. It is up in arms against the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East; it is battling the armed bandits and cattle rustlers in the North-West while still contending with the marauding killer herdsmen in the North- Central part of the country
. As a result of these pseudo-wars, thousands of men, women and children have lost their lives while millions of others have been displaced and currently taking refuge in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps scattered across the country.
There are also thousands of Nigerians currently living in refugee camps in Cameroon, Niger and Chad following the invasion of their communities and their displacement by the terrorists.
Although these pseudo-wars began as internal conflicts, the fact that the insurgents are heavily armed and carved out territories for themselves, were enough signals that they were threats to Nigeria’s sovereignty.
Since then, the Nigeria Armed Forces deployed to these conflict zones have been stretched to its limits; budgetary allocation to defence has been on the rise and several new military bases and formations have been established to tackle these multiple security challenges. In spite of these efforts, the spate of insecurity seems to have worsened by the day. The insurgents, whose activities were initially concentrated in Borno State, in the North-East have found their way into the North-West and North-Central where they mutated into other terror brands. Recently, the United States raised the alarm that these home grown terrorist groups were working in concert with not just the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), but Al Qaeda, the world’s most dreaded terrorist organisation. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, recently raised the alarm that the current insecurity across Nigeria could be a potential threat to its corporate existence. Similarly, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) lamented that the North which used to be at peace with itself, has been gripped by a general sense of insecurity due to the numerous violent conflicts resulting in the killing of hundreds of people and destruction of property.
We cannot agree less with these observations coming from prominent citizens within and outside the corridors of power. The primary purpose of government is the security and wellbeing of the citizenry and any time a government fails to keep this social pact it loses legitimate rights to wield authority over the people. There is no doubt that millions of Nigerians have lost faith in the capacity of the government to safeguard their lives and property.
The average citizen who has been displaced from his ancestral home in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, the epicentre of the insurgency, would have lost confidence in a government that has been unable to protect him from the terrorists. The same feeling applies to those in Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina states who have fled their communities to escape from the menace of the bandits and are now taking refuge in the Republic of Niger.
The matter is made worse when many of those displaced in the North-East are left to languish in poverty and disease at the IDP camps for several years with little or no hope of returning to their ancestral homes. While going through untold hardship in the IDP camps, they have heard reports that many of their communities have been plundered and taken over by some stranger elements. In the same vein, they must have also heard of the Operation Safe Corridor, an amnesty scheme in which Boko Haram combatants are encouraged to surrender to the troops of the Nigerian Army in exchange for freedom, rehabilitation and reintegration into the society.
These ugly narratives cannot inspire confidence or patriotism in any citizen, but would rather place them in a quagmire about the essence of being a citizen of Nigeria.
Many are already agitated about the future of Nigeria and this is largely responsible for the growing clamour for referendum, restructuring, secession and self-determination. We implore the Federal Government to urgently review its security and defence policies as well as the strategy it has adopted in tackling insecurity in the last five years.
The multiple insecurity witnessed across Nigeria today did not happen just by accident; it is the product of the actions and inactions of successive governments in our country. It is also the cumulative results of our social, economic, political and cultural interactions that went sour somewhere along the line. The idea of throwing money and bullets at the problem instead of attacking its root causes is like chasing shadows or treating the symptoms of a disease rather than attacking its vector.
We urge the Federal Government to explore more creative ways of educating the people and driving away ignorance, religious bigotry and ethnic prejudices among the populace. In addition, the government of the day is aware that our borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon are so porous that the insurgents have no difficulties trafficking in small arms and light weapons across our borders. We urge the government to consider a new border control policy that will discourage the uncontrolled influx of people from these countries into Nigeria.
On the Southern flanks, the Federal Government must address the complaints of those who feel marginalised, alienated and suppressed by the lopsidedness in the structure of Nigeria. If this government fails to take strong and decisive actions against these security challenges and continues to dilly dally on the issue of restructuring of the federation for equity and balance, it will only be a matter of time before the whole system collapses.