President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR
President, Chief Executive, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
Aso Rock Villa
Abuja, Federal Capital Territory
Dear Mr. President,
As citizens of what is unmistakably the most populous black nation on earth, we cannot but express our concern about recent turn of events across the country. We watch with trepidation as disparate forces, wittingly or unwittingly, come together to plot and execute the dissolution of a union with promise; a union that, if given the chance, has the potential of becoming the pride of the black race. Unfortunately, blinded by personal ambitions, greed, or sheer stupidity, some of our compatriots have turned themselves into fissile material waiting to merge and set off a massive explosion. The fissile material we have in mind include plain criminals (like Boko Haram terrorists, kidnappers, bandits, hoodlums, and armed robbers), narcissists masquerading as human right claimants (herdsmen grazing and trampling on the rights of farming communities), ethnic separatists (Oduduwa Republic advocates), agents-provocateurs (the Indigenous People of Biafra [IPOB] and politicians eyeing their 2023 chances), and fake news propagandists.
To be effective, the new strategy should take a proactive rather than a retroactive view of the war on insecurity. In plain language, we recommend that instead of waiting for distress calls from communities before “swinging into action”, the anti-anarchy forces should identify the operational bases of the criminals with a view to taking them out once and for all.
We believe that defeating the forces of disintegration warrants perfecting a counter-insurgency strategy, one that is at once holistic, proactive, and results-oriented. Above all, the strategy will need to rely on the ingenuity and active participation of critical stakeholders, including those so far ignored or excluded.
The holistic part of the proposed strategy requires that the common attributes of the various security threats be identified simultaneously with each threat’s dissimilar and unique traits. The strategy will not be truly holistic unless the law enforcement and security agencies (e.g., the judiciary, the Nigerian Police, the Customs and Immigration departments, the armed services) which had hitherto operated in silos as parallel, self-isolating, turf-protecting entities, learn to share intelligence, to plan joint operations, and to sequence and coordinate their attacks on enemy bases.
The holistic strategy will naturally rely on modern information and communication technology (including drones, and aerial surveillance equipment) and human intelligence. The human intelligence that we have in mind will come from various sources, among them, the intelligence arms of the law enforcement and security agencies; traditional rulers; the shamans, spiritual consultants, and marabouts that are locally notorious for aiding criminals; hunters and trackers; forest guards; and community leaders. The emergency we face also dictates that serious consideration be given to the establishment of state police and community police services. Implementing the devolution programme successfully requires that resources be transferred from the centre to the states, and that appropriate budget and performance tracking mechanisms be installed.
The anti-anarchy forces identified above are scattered and possibly not on speaking terms. To ensure that they pull in the same direction, we recommend that urgent consideration be given to the establishment of an omnibus Ministry of Public Security. Besides serving as a focal point for the war on insecurity, the Ministry will, like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ensure that the forces of stability work in harmony.
To be effective, the new strategy should take a proactive rather than a retroactive view of the war on insecurity. In plain language, we recommend that instead of waiting for distress calls from communities before “swinging into action”, the anti-anarchy forces should identify the operational bases of the criminals with a view to taking them out once and for all. We have tried the fire-fighting approach long enough. We now know that it does not work. The army, the air force, the police, local forest guards and trackers must move decisively, go after, and wage a relentless war on threats to Nigerian sovereignty and territorial integrity. The time is now to re-establish the authority of the Nigerian state, drive lawless elements off our land, and restore the faith of law-abiding citizens in the Nigerian union.
The kidnappers are, of course, a menace that the government should tackle in a novel way. At the very least, the payment of ransom should henceforth be discouraged or outlawed. Kidnappers and their collaborators in police net should also be publicly and expeditiously tried, and the punishment meted out to the guilty among them should be sufficiently severe to serve as a deterrent…
The results-oriented nature of the new strategy will manifest as arrowheads of crime and insecurity are either apprehended, expeditiously tried and, if found guilty, sent to jail, or, if they would rather die than surrender, be served the dish of their choice. Whatever the case, the strategy can only be pronounced successful when communities under siege can go about their lawful businesses without fear of attack, when farmers can go to farm and not fear for their lives, when women can live as decent human beings without being harassed or raped, and when law abiding Nigerians can move from one part of the country to another without let or hindrance and, certainly, without the fear of being kidnapped for ransom, traumatised, or worst of all, killed in cold blood. The proposed Ministry for Public Security must install a system for monitoring flashpoints and calm spots across the nation.
We have so far focused on the broad outline of the proposed counter-insurgency strategy. In implementing the strategy, it is also necessary to address the unique challenges posed by each type of threat. In other words, over and above the comprehensive strategy targeting plain criminals and lawless elements, we urge Mr. President to institute policy measures aimed at anticipating and responding to specific types of threat. The government needs tactics to ensure that the fissile material mentioned earlier is “enriched”, not for nuclear detonation but for the purpose of advancing the cause of peace and stability in Nigeria.
Bona fide criminals (like Boko Haram terrorists, kidnappers, bandits, and armed robbers) are fissile material in their own rights. They have declared war on Nigeria, roaming freely in nearly all the states of the federation, and, in the Hobbesian sense, making life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. If properly implemented, the strategy described earlier will suffice in containing and expelling the anarchists.
The kidnappers are, of course, a menace that the government should tackle in a novel way. At the very least, the payment of ransom should henceforth be discouraged or outlawed. Kidnappers and their collaborators in police net should also be publicly and expeditiously tried, and the punishment meted out to the guilty among them should be sufficiently severe to serve as a deterrent to those contemplating following their footsteps.
How about the herdsmen using the farm produce of fellow Nigerians as fodder for their stock and destroying whatever their flocks reject? They will argue that the Constitution of Nigeria guarantees their right to “freedom of movement”. However, the same Constitution makes it clear that the rights that one citizen enjoys must not extinguish those of his fellow citizens. The right to freedom of movement is checked and balanced by the constitutionally guaranteed property rights. In any case, with rights come obligations, notable among which is the obligation to acknowledge and respect the rights of fellow citizens. To replace the present state of nature with a state of law and order, law enforcement agents must promptly intervene to preserve the constitutional checks on rights, while at the same time preserving the balance.
…another fissile material that needs to be handled with care is ethnic separatism. The raging fire in the South-West is a case in point. Fueling the fire are herders’ invasion of farmlands, the rising cases of kidnapping, and the growing perception that the Federal Government is either not aware of, or not interested in mitigating the suffering of the people.
The law enforcement agencies’ slow response to the herders-farmers’ clashes has allowed the rights balancing challenge to mutate into what it is today. Regrettably, and to our consternation, the narrative has shifted from the letter and spirit of the Constitution to ethnic profiling. Victims of the herders’ narcissistic acts pin the blame, not on their tormentors, but on the offending herders’ ethnic affiliation, in this case, the Fulani. It does not help matters when many of those fingered in cases of kidnapping and banditry identify themselves as Fulani.
Innocent Fulani naturally feel unjustly stigmatised and demonised. In the meantime, victims of the herders’ invasion trade eviction notices and ultimatums with the entire Fulani community. Defusing the delicate situation will call on good faith on everyone’s part. As a first step, we recommend that the media lead the way in separating the criminals from their ethnic communities. Newspaper editors are particularly urged to replace mischievous and ethnic-laden adjectives with clearly illustrative ones. To delink and isolate the bona fide criminals from their law-abiding community, the qualifying adjective, “Fulani”, should be dropped in references to “herdsmen”, and adjectives like “transgressing”, “unruly”, “felonious”, “criminally inclined” should be pinned on the real offenders, the arms-bearing herdsmen. Similarly, “Fulani kidnappers” should now give way to “murderous/killer/vindictive/bloodthirsty kidnappers”.
Quite apart from soiling the reputation of a nonbelligerent community, the transgressing herders pose a clear and present danger to Nigeria’s peace and stability. We therefore recommend that the government move quickly to douse a slowly burning but unnecessary fire. This will, in the short-term, require working with local authorities to regulate the movement of cattle and keep them away from farms. There is no better way to make peace between two combatants than by separating both and keeping either in his corner. As a medium- to long-term plan, Nigeria should move away from free-range grazing to the establishment of cattle ranches and kraals across the country. The accent will be on cattle breeding for export and for job creation.
Yet, another fissile material that needs to be handled with care is ethnic separatism. The raging fire in the South-West is a case in point. Fueling the fire are herders’ invasion of farmlands, the rising cases of kidnapping, and the growing perception that the Federal Government is either not aware of, or not interested in mitigating the suffering of the people. Emboldened by the hostile situation and the local public’s disillusion with government response, a hitherto unknown arrowhead of ethnic separatism, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, Alias, Sunday Igboho, became an instant celebrity. It will be a mistake to move against him. What the Federal Government needs to do is find immediate solution to the problem which aided his emergence. Specifically, the Government should redeem its image by securing the life and property of the people, by effectively caging anarchists and law breakers, and by ensuring that access to the benefits of citizenship is anchored on the principles of fairness, justice, and inclusiveness.
Already, the Oduduwa Republic agitators are being egged on by IPOB and other separatist forces. The Agitprop offensive has already started on YouTube, with Sunday Igboho holding court and receiving “messages of solidarity”. Biafran commentators regularly release video clips attacking Femi Falana’s interpretation of the Constitution, and hailing Igboho’s courage and “vision”. Again, the only effective remedy for rebellion is the assurance of the benefits of order and good government. We therefore exhort the Federal Government to change gear and ensure that the average Nigerian feels its impact. It should step up its war on corruption. It should fight poverty, create jobs, and expand access to public amenities. It should pay serious attention to the recruitment, training, welfare and motivation of the law enforcement and armed services’ personnel. The security agencies’ needs for sophisticated weapons should be addressed, along with the outstanding transport and communications challenges. Local authorities should, for their own part, enact laws against anarchic tendencies, including the erection of roadblocks on public highways by self-appointed road maintenance crews.
Murtala J. Balogun
Nonye Ike Otuonye
Muhammed Ibn Staki
Ibrahim Ogu Sadiq
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