Saturday 17 February 2024

Ekiti: Time to silence the guns (1 & 2) By abiodun KOMOLAFE


Thank God Ekiti school children and their teachers who were kidnapped on Monday, January 29, 2024, have now been released and reunited with their families. May the ‘Land of Honour’ never witness such a horrible experience again!

Yours sincerely also join other well-meaning Nigerians to commiserate with those who lost loved ones to the two tragedies. May God repose the souls of the faithful departed and grant the bereaved families the courage to process their losses and the strength to face whatever lies ahead!

Most of all, Governor Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, aka BAO, deserves a pat on the back for taking steps that demonstrated the true essence of public service. No doubt about it, he, like any other governor in Nigeria, is under immense pressure and recent events in the country have not helped matters. But then, here’s a man who did not delegate responsibilities or send his deputy on an assessment tour of the terrible tragedies that had just rocked the state. Oyebanji did not attempt to insult God by asking Him to help put rice on fire after He had done His part of the provision. No, the governor did not resort to episodic strategies and dead laws that’d have further left the victims battered and bruised. Instead, he took charge! He led from the front!

Oyebanji took steps that clearly showed the remarkable empathy in his public persona, which mattered to the people. He gave a comforting ‘state of the state’ broadcast, visited the affected communities and representatives of the traditional rulers to reassure them of his administration’s strong resolve to deal neatly, meticulously and decisively with the scent of frustration, confusion and a piece of complex puzzle trying to overwhelm the state. He met with Nigeria‘s military chiefs and the Inspector General of Police on the security situation in the state, and this led to a promise to assist Ekiti securitywise. The governor did even more, and the results showed!

Bold steps! Encouraging results! From what Nigerians have seen in the past few days, Oyebanji is a governor any state worth its purpose will want to have! But again, how did we get to this sorry pass and what next?

The current dilemma again reminds one of a time in Nigeria’s recent history when the social media platforms were flooded with videos of young men who, in their thousands, were reportedly undergoing paramilitary training in insurgency in selected camps. Unfortunately, the principalities and powers at the time watched helplessly as some witches and wizards acted recklessly. With the _Indigenous People of Biafra_ (IPOB) and the _Eastern Security Network_ (ESN) as the culprits, Nigerians are now living with the consequences.

When Gani Adams cried out that Fulani herdsmen’s invasion of the forest reserves in Yorubaland was a taboo and an embarrassment that should not be tolerated, our leaders and elders either didn’t have the nerve to speak truth to power or made political fortunes out of the bad situation. Now, the chickens have come home to roost and here we are, crying over spilled milk!

When Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, attempted to lead a response to the criminal herdsmen who had invaded Yorubaland, some Nigerians gave him a bad name. The feeling then was that Igboho was just an impenitent irritant in the hunt for undue attention. With the help of some powerful forces, the activist was thrown out of the country and was detained in a foreign land. Safe for providence, the story would have been pathetically different. Now, here we are, licking our wounds!  

Truly, the upsurge in the killings and abductions is not new; and it’s not that the tendencies also assumed office with the Bola Tinubu-led government. However, it is no longer news that things are taking turns for the worse in Nigeria. Kidnappings for ransom are fast becoming an industry to the level of the hunter becoming the hunted. In the days of old, whenever anything was stolen, the oracle would be consulted to help catch the thieves. Now, thieves have stolen the oracle. So, who are we going to consult? Here, everything seems to be failing and falling. Abuja, Nigeria’s administrative and political capital is no longer safe while Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub is fast becoming a dangerous terrain for commerce to thrive. Even police and military formations are no longer secure, and one begins to ask if the proverbial security dogs have not begun eating up their owners’ children.

When former President Muhammadu Buhari came, Nigerians were deceived into believing that he’s got body language. Of course, that horrid legacy worked for some time, until Nigerians woke up from their slumber only to discover that body language as a pill has an expiry date. One major challenge with the present government is that it doesn’t even seem to have a body language; and that’s unfortunate.

During his time as British Prime Minister, a wall collapsed at a secondary school in Manchester while Tony Blair was attending a Tax Conference in Brussels. Even with no recorded fatality, Blair handed the affairs of the British government at the Conference over to his Foreign Secretary and flew back to Manchester to side with the victims of the wall collapse. In 2016, following multiple police shootings in Dallas, former President Barack Obama not only visited the families of the five deceased officers but also attended an interfaith memorial service in their honour. Well, I hope to come back to that later.

Going back in time, previous governments would have tamed the insecurity monster if only they had the sincerity of purpose and the will to go to its root causes as most professionally and honestly as possible. But that never happened, due to what only the handlers of Nigeria could explain. In terms of security, no one knows where Nigeria is presently headed. In our very eyes, kidnapping has become a major business in the country but unfortunately, the system has failed in the most elementary detective form to follow the money paid as ransom.

The fear and the authority of a policeman command social order. The fear and the command of a soldier brings more powerful social control on the society, simply because he represents not just the government but also confirms the authoritative use of force being exclusive to the state. Nevertheless, insecurity has a way of getting a life of its own. For instance, nobody can have a pattern at Budapest in Hungary and Bukkuyum in Zamfara State. So, we need to do a study of an environment vis-à-vis its historical environmental antecedents in order to initiate security measures.

Why have successive governments’ investments in security not justified by tangible results and reduction in the violent criminal waves? Yes, previous governments shied away from going the full hog because of political, humanitarian and regional considerations but where has that left us as a country and people? Why do Nigerians seem to have lost confidence in almost all the institutions: police, army, academics, banking, judiciary, tradition, religion, just name it? Why have they been clamouring for restructuring or a return to the 1963 Constitution which gave room for each region to stand alone and develop at its own pace but bring something to the centre?

Why are those in charge at the top not making use of intelligence adequately and why are the masses running the race by being forgotten? Why are security agencies failing in infiltration tactics, intelligence gathering, proactive sting operations and covert operational planning which could help in destroying terrorist camps from within? Sincerely, doesn’t the present situation call for a revisit to the widely anticipated re-organization of the first responder law enforcement agency in Nigeria – the Nigeria Police?

Well, much as causation has been attributed to poverty, religious and ethnic extremism and others, it’s time the Federal Government revisited its security architecture and remodeled countermeasure strategies to yield fruitful results. The faithful choice of a good businessman is to recoil his strategies if output isn’t justified by investments and governments across board must get the message right. That the price is rising and that the cost is becoming incalculable is like trying to find the words, especially in a celebratory culture of violence. Therefore, governments at the national and subnational levels must interrogate assumptions on how to build a fertile environment necessary for a kind of serious rethink to stem the incessant increase in this violent crime typology.

Topmost on this is the dismantling of the over-centralized police management system in favour of state or regional units. Predicated upon direct and reliable intelligence apparatus to detect and deter crimes before commission, this will encourage improved policing in the community. There’s also a need for each state or regional government’s collaboration to fashion a results-driven _Standard Operating Procedure_ (SOP) in line with expectations, decide its security needs and priorities and act accordingly without relying on some uncomfortable exchanges with an excessively centralized system in Abuja. State security votes from the Federal Government must be augmented to enhance operational efficiency and budgetary allocations and expenditures must be closely monitored to deter misplacement of priorities, inefficiency and corruption. Standards of recruitment into the Force must also be determined by the state or region, not some counterproductive conditions or considerations hiding behind the rubbles of a flawed and obsolete Federal Character Commission. Above all, continuous on-the-job training must be made mandatory to improve performance in line with modern law enforcement agencies’ practices obtainable elsewhere in the world.

In the opinion of Femi Afolabi-Peters, _“practical and committed-to-results steps can contrast political considerations and gains but therein lies the solution if only Tinubu possesses the willpower to bell the cat for the national good.”_ Afolabi-Peters, a United Kingdom-trained international security and intelligence consultant and specialist in clandestine security operations, suggested _“the establishment of a special court to fast track – and conclude promptly – cases of apprehended suspects without the customary delays which embolden other would-be kidnappers to engage in the ‘trade’, safe in the knowledge that, while their trial is protracted, justice can be unduly influenced by money and other considerations.”_ I also share his views. To this end, the National Assembly owes it a duty to as a matter of necessity introduce and fast-track a bill to create and empower a special court to handle and dispense with kidnapping and banditry trials. The Modus Operandi of the court, including but not limited to financial autonomy, sentencing and other statutory powers must be unambiguously stated in the proposed law.

Take it or leave it, without a strong and purposeful political buy-in of the government, the above suggestions would only end up as a pipe dream; and that’s the danger of the moment. In the national interest therefore, Tinubu must be ready to kick some ass and damn the consequences for the collective good. He must be ready to provide a safe and secure Nigerian environment for the citizens to cohabit without fear or trepidation. Inevitably, a secure society will attract foreign direct investments to stimulate the country’s economy which, presently, is in very dire straits! The government must be sincere in this approach to earn the trust of the populace, which is already battered by the shape and size of the economic downturn on everyday living.

For Ekiti, Oyebanji needs to up his game and beef up _Amotekun_ in terms of funding, training and equipment for optimal performance. To achieve this, funding for _Amotekun_ has to be structured and increased, even if it involves putting together a supplementary budget. It may also be done like a Police Security Trust Fund and crowd-funding among the civil and political structures, cooperative societies, Labour and Student Unions. Even farmers should be encouraged to partake of it because it is now in the interest of everybody. Interestingly, the compelling logic of _Amotekun_ is clearer today than it was yesterday. Even the North which once stood vehemently against the idea has now come to terms with the fact that multilevel policing is the only way out.

As things stand, even the blind can see and applaud Oyebanji’s transformation agenda in Ekiti. Personally, I see him as a fresh and credibly courageous voice who has touched every facet of existence and needs in the state. But then, more still needs to be done! For instance, but for former Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, _Amotekun_ wouldn’t have become a reality in the Southwest. The question therefore is: will this dream die with Aketi’s demise? So, the onus lies on Oyebanji to push the parameters of the regional necessity to save lives and property, especially in the two neighbouring states. His security architecture must be based on result-oriented policies and processes enabled by the collaboration between the state-created neighbourhood security outfit and the primary law enforcement responders.

Now that our fate is no longer in the mouth of the oracle but in our hands, the need to invest heavily in intelligence gathering, Information Technology solutions and other covert operations cannot be overstressed. They are the new, 21st-century oracles, and they have been adjudged to work wonders. Undeniably, a country is as secure as the intelligence at her disposal for no national security can grow beyond the intelligence that drives the process. As long as intelligence is left on the shelf, national security will never be achieved. In this wise, let there be professional threat mitigation strategies that can promptly catch terrorists and bandits cold, flat-footed and mostly unexpected, for it is only when Ekiti is turned into a whole territory of peace that Chibok can be prevented from relocating to the state.

I have argued elsewhere that preparations for the next election would always start the day the last election was won and lost. Who knows? The observed insecurity upsurge in Ekiti could be one of the new games by some stubborn pursuers, secret enemies and mountain demons to take trophy photos. After all, anything is possible in politics! What’s more? In every system, like every home, saboteurs abound. It only depends on how the head of household strives to rise above obstacles. For BAO, he needs to act promptly; and, decisively, too! That he is in control of the state’s political formations is not in doubt. So far, so commendable! He has demystified the office of the governor by bringing it down to the people who voted him into power. He also has good intentions for Ekitis and all eyes can see it. But, as 2026 draws nearer, the governor shouldn’t let the security formations of the state slip off his grip and he shouldn’t develop even the slightest enthusiasm for complacency.

In governments and governance, the dynamics of the street counts and the spiritual symbolism of the reach of the real guys also matters. Beyond the sensationalism in the face, the interests of the inner core, aka core of the core, always go a long way in determining the scope of the responsibilities inherent in governance. So, if Oyebanji can unwaveringly be in love with the street, not just in the local but also in the national and international contexts, the roads will respect him, Ekiti State will dance to his sound and Nigeria will obey him!

By the way, who says that Ekiti cannot happen to Nigeria again? Who says that Nigeria can’t be a fertile ground for some “senseless” and “soulless murderers” to trouble the destiny of our sacred institutions again? In all, how critical are the ingredients of peace in the Sahel to the broth of a perfect and lasting peace in Nigeria?

 _●To be concluded._ 

Ekiti: Time to silence the guns (2)


abiodun KOMOLAFE

 _●[email protected];_ 

 _●08098614418 - SMS only_

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