The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, is a man not given to many words.
But his words are heavy and carefully chosen. Last week, the Sultan, who is also the religious leader of Muslims in Nigeria, ruffled some feathers with his pronouncement that bandits were fast overrunning the North.
At a meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) on Thursday in Abuja, the monarch said that criminals are carrying out their activities openly, unchecked and without any form of resistance from security operatives.
He went further to bemoan that the North has become the worst place to live in the country, as bandits now have the freewill of moving from house to house, village to village, market to market, with AK 47 guns openly as they engage in purchase of foodstuffs and other items.
He added that given the “completely collapsed security system in the North, sincere and serious solutions must immediately be sought or else, the country would lose itself in the grip of insecurity.”
He said: “People think the North is safe, but that assumption is not true. In fact, it’s the worst place to be in this country because bandits go around in the villages, households and markets with their AK 47 and nobody is challenging them.
They stop at the market, buy things, pay and collect balance, with their weapons openly displayed. These are facts I know because I am at the centre of it. “I am not only a traditional ruler; I am also a religious leader.
So, I am in a better place to tell the story. I can speak for the North in this regard because I am fully aware of the security challenges there. We have to sincerely and seriously find solutions to the problem. Otherwise, we will find ourselves soon in a situation where we would lose sleep because of insecurity.” The Sultan’s statement might sound very alarming to the public and to those who are in power, but it only put a seal to what has been an open secret for some time now.
For long, despite the propaganda of the military that the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East and bandits in the North- West have been degraded, there is no gainsaying that the picture is far from rosy.
There is no doubt that the insecurity in the North, just like in other parts of the country is grossly understated. In other words, coming from the Sultan himself, there is no question of arguing with his position. We know for a fact that no matter how hard the government tries to paper over the cracks, insecurity across the country remains one of the low points of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
That is despite being one of the three key pillars of his campaign promises alongside economy and anti-corruption. But like we have held strongly before, if Buhari is excused from the state of the economy and even to a large extent, the anti-corruption, the failure of the administration in the area of security rankles the most.
We, like other concerned Nigerians, have severally called on President Buhari to retool the security architecture of the country, especially since 2019, when he won a second term. All calls in this direction have gone unheeded, with the president maintaining the same service chiefs since 2015.
Nigerians had expected that he would at least, solve the security challenges which were only limited to the Boko Haram insurgency in the North- East and kidnapping, robbery in other parts of the country.
But no one expected that the country would sink deeper to the abyss of insecurity with no part of the country being safe.
What the Sultan spoke about is just the situation in the North. But we are aware that just like the North, several parts of the country are under siege from bandits, herdsmen, kidnappers, rustlers and all manner of criminal elements that have taken charge of the country’s highways, seaways and even bushes across the country.
We hold the firm belief that now that the Sultan has spoken, perhaps, the Buhari government would heed to the call and do what is needed by reinvigorating the security architecture early enough. We also believe that from the Army, to Air Force, Navy to Immigration, the president needs to ring changes, to bring a new vision to the fight against insecurity.
If the statements of the Sultan are not strong enough, the report of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), last week, that Nigeria remains the third most terrorized country in the world should act as an added impetus for Buhari to act.
We have no doubt that the current crop of service chiefs are battle weary. It is, therefore, in the interest of Buhari’s legacies that he wakes up and arrests what is already an ugly situation.
If not, while politicians are busy planning for 2023, the situation might not be conducive for the elections then. We believe that enough warning has been given to the Buhari administration. Nigeria is slipping into the unknown.