General T.Y. Danjuma was prescient. Given his wealth of experience, he could see further than the rest of us. He saw, when the rest of us did not appear to see it with him, that we were headed for a bend on the road to our nationhood when the Nigerian state would be absent from the lives of its people and abandon them to the mercy of a variety of criminals – armed robbers, bandits, kidnappers, killers who kill with neither rhyme nor reason, and the Boko Haram insurgency.
A couple of years or so ago when killers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen attacked and killed people in parts of his state, Taraba, Danjuma advised the people to prepare to defend and protect themselves because no one would defend and protect them. Their fate was in their hands, not in the assumed hands of the federal government.
His statement, as it was wont to do, made the federal government see red. The government brought the cane down on his back and hornets’ nest down on the head of the general in purple prose. Danjuma is always blunt and says it as he sees it. He does not, as the late Mallam Adamu Ciroma once told me about himself, talk rubbish. He did not raise a false alarm but he was not afraid of telling the federal government it was failing in its duty to the people and if it could help them they must help themselves. Events and critical developments in our national security have proved him right time and again.
A couple of weeks ago as of this writing, the governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Masari, told his people what Danjuma told his own people. He told them to acquire arms and defend themselves against the bandits who have made parts of the state ungovernable and unliveable. It was an honest admission that he, the chief security officer of his state so recognised by the Nigerian constitution, cannot secure the lives and the property of his people. It was an honest admission too that the Nigerian state, for which read the federal government, that has the primary responsibility for the security and the safety of all Nigerians with a slew of military, police and other security forces, is inexplicably absent in his state. A state governor who is this helpless and watches criminals make life nasty and brutal for his own people is a poster child of our collective despair and frustration.
Perhaps the ultimate evidence of how truly badly the security situation has deteriorated was the invasion of our premier military institution, the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, a week ago by kidnappers who killed two officers and abducted one and are demanding a ransom of N200 million to set him free. Nothing could be as tragic as this. The military are constitutionally empowered to protect the country and its people from external enemies and internal criminal elements. If its highest institution is open to a free and unchallenged invasion and assault by armed criminals, it weakens our trust in their capacity to make us secure and safe.
There is just no way to put this politely: our country is in dire straits. It has been turned into a swirling sea of blood and death occasioned by criminal elements that continue to dare the Nigerian state and making its military, police and other security agencies look inept, incompetent, out-foxed and out-gunned. It is the reign of criminals who are denying us the right to enjoy the fruits of our hard-won democracy. As Charles Dickens would say, it is the worst of the times for our dear country. We are sitting ducks in our homes, our offices and on the roads. We have been driven to the edge of anarchy and would sooner or later tip into that cauldron if the Nigerian state continues to exercise the choice of being absent when and where it should be visibly present.
The federal government has taken no decisive step towards improving the internal security architecture of the country. In fact, it has been pretty much mealy-mouthed about it. In its objection to the clamour for a second tier of policing otherwise known as state police, it offered two options – neighbourhood policing and special constabulary. Some of the regional governments set up the latter in the first republic to assist the regular federal and native authority police. In the end, the government did neither. Or, more correctly, it left them tossing in the wind of crass indecision.
It chooses to cling to the straw of single policing system in the country in defiance of the elementary fact that security is primarily a local matter. A single policing system is anathema to the letter and the spirit of federalism in all federated states in the world. All of them, except Nigeria, have as many internal policing systems as are necessary to fully secure and protect the people. The wisdom of the single policing system imposed on the country by the military regime has become, given the contemporary security situation, insane and even foolish.
Something has to give. What must give is the single policing system. Whatever informed the military wisdom has become anachronistic and ill serves our national security needs. The long debate over state police must now be resolved in favour of state police to provide a second tier of policing system that would give the state governors sufficient powers to become the de facto and the de jure chief security officers of their various states.
I am saying nothing new in suggesting that we must face the critical challenge of preventing the descent of our dear country into anarchy. Anarchy is the consequence of a failed central authority. It is a system of individual and group rule and, therefore, the reign of everyone and no one. The existential threat to Africa’s most populous nation is a threat that stares us in the face as citizens. If we do not get our internal security right, nothing will go right. I have said it before. I double underline it here.