With all due respect to members of the security and safety community in Nigeria, the title of this article is without prejudice to them as l have no interest in ridiculing or making light of the critical role that they play and must continue to play in securing lives and properties in our society.
As a matter of fact, my dad was a soldier, so I admire men and women in uniform. However, it is an open secret that people in security and safety are currently facing a storm of criticism owing to their apparent inability to stem the tide of unprecedented loss of civilian lives due to herdsmen attacks especially in the north east and middle belt parts of our country in the past three years.
The astronomical rate of violence in our country and the recent siege on the principal officers of the Senate are justifications for the outrage by Nigerian public and foreigners alike who are holding our men and women in uniform in contempt on account of their apparent dereliction of duty.
That’s not surprising because while the security agencies are failing in their constitutional duty of protecting lives and properties of every Nigerian, as evidenced by the rising tide of the precious lives lost to violence, they seem to be very effective in being pawns in the hands of politicians who are using them to execute their selfish political agendas as opposed to the duty of protecting and securing all Nigerians.
Arising from the above, the notion of our men and women in the security community as “useful idiots” which is derived from the priority being accorded political elites over their primary duties of securing the lives and properties of all Nigerians as evidenced by the overwhelming presence of the security agencies during the Ekiti State Governorship elections on July 14, and the blockage of the residences of the senate president and his deputy on July 24, appears to ring true.
Put succinctly, while security agencies are abdicating from their primary duty of providing security for all Nigerians irrespective of their location within Nigerian territory, they tend to be doing the bidding of the high and mighty in the political circuit.
As such they seem to be lending themselves to the “notion of useful idiots” as the patrons that they are currently serving zealously would sooner than later dump them in the manner that a used toilet paper is discarded when the elections are over.
Before proceeding further, allow me explain the term ‘useful idiot’ which is used as a pejorative jargon to describe anyone who is seen to be unwittingly supporting a malignant cause through their ‘naive’ attempts to be a force for good.
According to reliable historical reference sources, the term ‘useful idiots’ was first used in the Western world in 1948 in an article published in the Social-Democrat media in Italy.
Subsequently, the term has been used to refer to Soviet sympathizers in Western countries. The implication was that, although the people in question naïvely thought of themselves as an ally of the Soviet Union, they were actually held in contempt and were being cynically used.
The Nigerians who hold the view that Nigerian security forces are acting in ways that tend to portray them in a manner described above, reference the 30,000 strong security forces deployed to Ekiti State for the purpose of conducting the governorship election and the blockade of the residences of the senate president and his deputy to prevent them from engaging in their lawful duty of presiding over plenary sessions simply because the ruling party senators were scheduled to defect to the opposition party.
They wonder why winning Ekiti election for the ruling party and preventing principal officers of parliament from engaging in their lawful duties were considered more of a priority than the safety of hundreds of people in vulnerable villages in Sokoto, Taraba, Benue and Plateau states that were being slaughtered by herdsmen terrorists due to the absence of security agencies in those communities.
Unsurprisingly, the condemnation of our security agencies and accusation that they are complicit in the unprecedented killing of Nigerians has been gathering momentum. Apart from the fact that it has become a subject of serious concern in the UK House of Lords, a former chief of army staff and ex minister of defence, TY Danjuma has also castigated the military and accused the security forces of being complicit in the dastardly killing of unarmed civilians by herdsmen in their farms and homes. He then urged the victims to resort to self protection otherwise they would perish without consequence.
A former head of state, Yakubu Gowon, who led Nigeria during the civil war, has also been lending his voice to the call for a halt to the horrendous mass murders being carried out in the middle belt by herdsmen under the auspices of Miyeti Allah, the umbrella body of herdsmen.
The former military head of state even went further to call for the arrest of Miyetti Allah leadership since they have taken responsibility for the killings which they have been justifying as reprisal action against their victims who they claim stole their cows.
That’s not all.
Balarabe Musa, a second republic governor of kaduna state, and a vocal critic of various regimes has also weighed in by lamenting this: “The insecurity has reached a level that it has overwhelmed this administration. The overwhelming nature is proved by President Muhammadu Buhari when he said he did not know what next to do, asking for prayers and requesting that Nigerians be patient with his government.”
The self appointed public defender concluded by asking the rhetorical question “How can we be patient when lives are lost everywhere in the country almost on daily basis?”
Ibn Chambers, the United Nations, UN special representative in sub Saharan Africa has also raised an alarm that the killings in Nigeria is assuming hideous dimensions and as such Nigeria may need special intervention by the UN.
With the Executive arm of government outrightly trying to bully the Legislative arm as evidenced by the siege on NASS and its principal officers to forestall the defection of Senators from the ruling to the opposition party, chaos and anarchy seem to be looming large in the political space.
Despite all the interventions by concerned public spirited individuals and institutions in the effort to stem the palpable political crisis, the authorities are yet to offer any robust response in a manner that would give confidence to Nigerians about their safety or justify the shenanigans that took place in NASS and in the homes of some of the leaders of the red chamber.
To be fair, Mr president has in the past directed that the Inspector General of Police, IGP relocates to Benue State to tackle the herdsmen killings head on.
And the chief of army staff has also reportedly moved his operation base to the war theaters in the north east.
But such initiatives have not in any remarkable way made positive impact by reversing the trend of killing.
After the perpetrators of the shameful art of snatching the Mace during a plenary session of the senate a couple of months ago were not punished as no action seem to have been taken by the security forces to bring the culprits to book, the security forces became emboldened to mount a blockade on the residences of principal officers of the NASS – an equal partner with the Executive arm in a functional democracy.
Disappointingly, Mr President’s weak response to herdsmen killings by way of stating that the security agencies are racking (cracking) their brains for solutions to herdsmen killing and the taciturn response to the brigandage in the hallowed chambers of the senate have been to say the least dispiriting.
Even more demotivating and demoralizing is the fact that shortly after expressing what seemed like frustration, he advised mourners of the victims of herdsmen killings in Benue State to resort to praying to God for the cessation of the killings.
I know President Buhari is an ex soldier and soldiers don’t show emotion, but under the present circumstance whereby fellow Nigerians are burying their dead almost every week, he must show compassion by empathizing with the bereaved more than he is currently doing.
As a father, he was visibly shaken when his son was recently involved in a near fatal motorbike accident.
Practically every Nigerian stood with him in prayers for the young man’s speedy recovery.
By the same token he must grieve and be seen the be grieving with those families who have lost loved ones in Sokoto, Taraba, Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
He must offer them soothing words not throw his arm up in despair as he reportedly did when he visited the mourners in Benue state.
Mr President should remember his quotable quote in his inaugural speech in 2015 “I belong to no one, l belong to everyone” and show compassion to all.
His deference to the herdsmen killers and appearance of condoning the resort to sheer brute force by security agencies in order to control the legislative arm of govt is not portraying him as the statesman that he is meant to be.
That’s more so because his dithering with respect to herdsmen killing is quite the opposite of the Macho approach adopted in quenching the fire of secession by Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB movement in the south-east through operation Python dance and stymieing of the militancy driven by the struggle for environmental rights/resource control activists in the Niger delta via operation Crocodile Smile.
It may be recalled that when Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped over 200 Chibok school girls under the watch of the previous regime, the current ruling party which was in opposition that time, declared the ruling party as weak and made a song and dance of the inadequacy of the agencies to rein in the terrorists.
They did not stop there, as they even boosted that Boko Haram terrorism and other forms of violence would be eliminated once they are elected into office.
Three years after power changed hands in Aso Rock villa seat of power, violence has assumed more dangerous dimensions and killings have reached horrendous proportions.
While the alleged diversion of $2.1b meant for arming the military was blamed for the sustenance of Boko Haram atrocities by the outgone regime, one billion dollars has since been voted for the same purpose under the current regime which has even acquired attack helicopters, gunships and other military hardware that the previous regime had no access to owing to international protocols, yet the killing has escalated.
The Minister of justice, Abubakar Malami reportedly stated in an interview with Voice of America, Hausa language that the reason the federal government has failed to obey several court orders to release Ahmed Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser, NSA is because he mismanaged $2.1b meant for the procurement of arms to prosecute the war against Boko Haram terrorists.
From my little understanding of law, holding Dasuki responsible for discharging an official duty that he was directed to perform by his boss is referred to in law as vicarious liability.
So holding Dasuki guilty and detaining him for an offense yet to be proven in a court of law, is perversion of justice or plain politics.
According to the minister, breaching Dasuki’s right to freedom,(having clamped him in detention for about three years) is inconsequential based on the premise that it is his mismanagement of the $2.1b set aside for arms procurement that resulted in the killing of over 100,000 Nigerians by Boko Haram religious insurgents.
In his judgement, the human rights of Dasuki can’t be placed above that of the 100,000 Nigerians who died owing to the NSA’s irresponsibility in discharging his duty.
That strange justification by the Justice minister for government’s disregard for several court orders for the admission of Dasuki on bail elicits the following pertinent three questions:
(1)Does the fact that the allegation against Dasuki has not been proven in court not matter?
(2)Does Malami’s approach of adopting the mindset of what appears to be the rule-of-the-mob , over and above the rule of law not suggest that Nigeria is descending into a state of autocracy?
(3) Going by Malami’s narrative and logic, does the fact that more people have been killed by herdsmen in the past three years of this regime than the number that died in the hands of Boko Haram during the last regime also not make the current national security adviser responsible for the death of the thousands killed under his watch since the regime has also received funds ($1b in addition to defense budgets in 2015,16 and 17) to prosecute the fight against terrorists, yet the situation has remained unabated and even gotten worse?
In a nutshell, based on the principle of vicarious liability applied to Dasuki’s case , it seems to me that the current NSA and indeed the entire Nigerian security architecture would also be as culpable as Dasuki for the death of much higher number of Nigerians killed by herdsmen terrorists who appear to be on a killing spree without any restraint or hindrance from security agencies.
Co-incidentally , there is a parallel between Dasuki’s continued detention and the harrowing ordeal that Al Mustapha, the former Aide-De-Camp, ADC of late former head of state, Sani Abacha went through during the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ who succeeded Abacha.
Having completed his two terms of four years each, OBJ has in the past ten years relinquished the reins of power. But the injustice done to Al Mustapha by allegedly superintending over the abrogation of his freedom for over ten years remains a blithe on him and the security agencies that aided and abetted in the injustice.
The military lingo “soldiers go, soldiers come, barracks remain the same” is instructive in this instance.
Going by the foregoing wisecrack, several regimes and ruling parties will ascend and descend from the throne of power , but Aso Rock villa will remain as constant as the rock of Gibraltar.
Before Al Mustapha eventually regained freedom after he was charged to court for being the mastermind of the murder of Kudirat, wife of MKO Abiola who was recently officially recognized as the winner of June 12 1996 election annulled by the military, he was on a death roll.
But today by the grace of God he escaped the hangman’s noose.
Again, it appears to me as a case of vicarious liability as Mustapha was alleged to have given the infamous sergeant Rogers(the marksman) the directive to pull the trigger that killed the amazing Mrs Kudirat Abiola who led the campaign against those who robbed her husband of his victory in the presidential polls.
Fortunately, the case against Mustapha for allegedly having both the intention and engaging in the act of murder could not be proven in court hence he was discharged.
Clearly, as a country we don’t learn from history hence we seem to be making same mistakes over and over again. Our security agencies ought to have by now learnt that their duty is to Nigerians not just to the govt in power and as such they have to be more objective and fair in the dispatch of their duty.
That’s the oath that they swore to and must uphold.
What members of the security agencies seem to have been taking fore granted is that most of the heinous crimes against humanity and atrocities being perpetrated without well defined counter actions would in the future hunt those responsible for guarantying the security and safety of Nigerians, but failed to do so.
If in doubt they should search the archives for what befell the men and women in the security community who supervised the Nazi holocaust against the Jews in Germany ; the enforcers of apartheid in South Africa and the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Baltic region.
How about the consequences that Charles Taylor, ex president of Liberia suffered after he left office for brutalizing his people?
It should not surprise members of our security agencies that the international court of justice at the Hague has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.
And quite a good number of victim communities in Nigeria and relevant human/civil rights agencies have been reporting the systematic killings in Nigeria to the UN agencies.
I stand to be corrected, but I’m of the conviction that if President Buhari were to be properly guided by his team of advisers against some of the breaches of the rule of law now endemic in this administration, he would not reject the advice.
My optimistic assessment is derived from the fact that president Buhari is known to have listened to superior arguments against some campaign promises like reducing the pump price of petrol, removing fuel subsidy and outright devaluation of the naira amongst many others.
Mr President is even known to have recently reversed himself after approving some policies such as his earlier decision not to organize proper election contests for party positions during the APC recently concluded primaries.
After he had approved extension of the tenure of the National Working Committee, NWC and was subsequently advised that it was against the party’s constitution, he demurred as opposed to hunkering down on his earlier decision.
Unfortunately, such brinksmanship was not applied to forestall the imminent collapse of the ruling party APC when it was clear to all that the bell was tolling.
In my considered opinion , given the scenario above, the issue is that the masquerade and the drummers were in the market square dancing and pretending that nobody was watching. And even when the masses who witnessed the dance of the masquerade complained, they were lied to that there was no masquerade or dance in the square.
Now the people know better as aggrieved legislators from the ruling party are reportedly cross carpeting in droves into the opposition party, PDP.
If the defection of nPDP members to the APC that gave the ruling party victory in2015 was seismic, the current defection of R-APC senators back to PDP can be likened to the shifting of the tectonic plates-the type of humongous movement of the earth that produced the continents as we know them today centuries past.
Apparently, President Buhari is not in the habit of hiring and firing which is a critical element in Human Resources, HR management in organizations. Apparently, he prefers former rather than the latter, hence despite all entreaties from Nigerians for him to thinker with the under performing security architecture, he has not deemed it right to oblige them and as such the security forces tend to be getting away with blue murder.
That’s because despite the litany if security breaches, financial improprieties,gaps in the integrity of key members of the govt in power and the calamitous consequences on society, President Buhari’s security council and cabinet members remain as rooted and permanent as Abuja tourist attractions such as the imposing Aso Rock villa buildings and the resplendent National Assembly domes.
A rejig could have pleased the electorate as it would have demonstrated to the long suffering and weary citizens that president Buhari’s govt is truly a change agent and respecter of the rule of law.
Such a gesture could have given Nigerians the hope that there are consequences for failure to deliver on a mandate by his husband men.
Frustratingly such noble expectations have been like a pie dream.
If the security apparatchik has failed to learn from past mistakes, and has continued to walk on a discredited path, it’s not too late for the establishment to learn from what happens in other climes whereby due advantage is taken of the benefits of multilateralism associated with being a global player.
By that, I mean that as Mr President has exhibited tendencies that are tending to create an impression of admission that he is overwhelmed by the state of insecurity in our country, he can seek help from other countries that have been through the valley of death that we are currently passing through in Nigeria.
Fortuitously, President Buhari who at inception enjoyed tremendous goodwill from his colleague presidents across the world could still tap into that goodwill.
Happily, most of them are still pledging their willingness to help Nigeria tackle its challenges of insecurity whenever they are called upon.
Now is the time to draw on that veritable bank of goodwill by inviting security experts in other countries to assist. Whether APC or President Buhari retains the keys to Aso Rock villa in 2019, they owe Nigerians peace and security.
At the time that the outgone regime recognized the enormity of the menace of Boko Haram, South African mercenaries were hired to flush the insurgents out of the dreaded Sambisa forest. Those soldiers of fortune had reportedly made a lot of progress by deploying their jungle warfare tactics against the dreaded terrorists before the contract was terminated following criticisms by the then opposition party, APC that Nigeria does not need external help to rein in the insurgents.
On a hindsight, we now know that the criticisms and claims were pure politics and in bad faith as insurgency and insecurity have waxed stronger in the past three years of APC holding the reins of power. Authorities should put pride aside and be humble enough to do the needful by admitting that our country needs external help to stop the killing, restore peace and security as well as respect the rule of law. Only recently, the whole world came together to save thirteen young footballers trapped in a dangerous cave in Thailand.
If the leadership of that country had been too proud to seek help and had instead relied only on the country’s navy divers, perhaps those thirteen innocent souls would have perished in the caves.
But it took two British divers to discover the location of the boys in the cave and a coalition of divers from across the world to rescue them.
That’s one positive lesson that Nigerian authorities must learn and apply to stem the wanton killings before it’s too late.
Adjunct to that, is learning to observe the rule of law and responding to the wishes of Nigerians.
Such a move could save the ruling party, APC from itself and its imminent collapse.
Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy , Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and former commissioner in Delta state government sent this piece from Abuja.