It would appear that President Mohammadu Buhari has had enough of the impunity of terrorist activities in Nigeria; hence he gave the most recent ultimatum to the security agencies to rescue the victims of the recent train attack who are currently in the custody of terrorists and all others still being held against their will by criminals-be it of the hue of religious insurgents, bandits, violent herdsmen or known and unknown gunmen.
And, as if admitting to the numerous allegations leveled against the commander-in-chief,
The chief of the Nigerian armed forces has hitherto handled terrorism with kid gloves. He has also vowed that going forward, he will become more ruthless with the merchants of death that appear hell-bent on actualizing their devilish quest to make Nigeria ungovernable.
The resolve to take the war to the outlaws was made by President Buhari during the national security council meeting with the top brass in the security architecture held in Abuja last Thursday.
For too long, the outlaws have had the agenda of turning our country into a gangster paradise.
That is why from the original base of the bandits, which is in the Sambisa forest, which became a sanctuary for the criminals to plan and execute their devilish enterprise, terrorist enclaves have spread beyond the forests of Yobe, Zamfara, Kebbi, and Katsina to Kaduna states.
Over a decade after a religious insurgency gained notoriety in Nigeria, it is not abating. Rather, it has escalated exponentially, rendering many Nigerians dead and others either internally displaced persons (IDPs) or without a livelihood.
Its spread beyond the aforementioned states has been so rapid that it is currently threatening to add Niger state and the federal capital territory, FCT, to its sphere of putrid influence.
And it is rather embarrassing that the criminal enterprise of maiming and killing Nigerians recklessly, which was born owing to poor management of the multi-religious and multi-ethnic composition of our country, has not spared our security operatives. They too have been bearing the brunt of the violence through violent invasions of their formations, stations, and barracks to kill them and steal their weapons.
That is according to the mind-blowing set of statistics about the sociopolitical and economic activities in our society, including the number of deaths arising from violent conflicts, contained in a study conducted by Enough-is enough (E-i-E, an NGO) which has revealed that our country has been a sort of cauldron of death for a huge number of Nigerians in the first quarter of this year.
It is astonishing that in a period of three months (from January to March this year), 1,884 lives have been lost in violent crimes, just as a total of 140 men and women in uniform charged with protecting Nigerians were also killed within the same period under review. That is according to Enough-Is-Enough.
In another survey conducted by the Financial Derivatives Company, FDC, it was revealed that in the course of the past 10 years, 87,903 Nigerian souls are estimated to have been lost due to violent armed conflicts.
In the light of the acceleration of the human carnage caused by the bandits/terrorists, herdsmen militia or whatever other name they go by, there is a surfeit of reasons to assume that it is the escalating state of anomie engulfing our country and rapidly degenerating into a pandemic dimension that has apparently jolted President Buhari into taking the action that appears to be a last-ditch effort to salvage our beloved country from the clutches of the devil incarnates that take pleasure in sending children, women, and men to their early graves in the manner that locusts ravage an abandoned cotton crop plantation, recklessly.
Given the foregoing reality, in my reckoning, the threat to President Buhari’s presidency is no longer the fear of, or the possibility of, his impeachment by the National Assembly, NASS for a breach of the constitution or the risk of a vote of no confidence by his cabinet for dereliction of his constitutional duties.
But the existential threat of terrorists forming a parallel government is the real and present danger to President Buhari’s barely one-year remaining period of his tenure of office or his stewardship in Aso Rock Villa.
As such, if the type of drastic measures that he directed the security chiefs to take during the referenced security council meeting a few days ago are not urgently implemented, his plan of finishing well may be farfetched.
Allow me to quickly lay out the underlying reasons for the rather surreal and ominous prognosis that I am making.
Without equivocation, while the aforementioned danger is lurking, it is clear to all that the sole intention of our current leaders in Aso Rock Villa and in the 36 governors’ mansions across the country, as well as those waiting in the wings to take over from the present occupants, is to restrict public discussion in this season of politics to the adoption of direct, indirect, or consensus processes for producing candidates for the 2022/23 general elections.
The only other hot-button topic that some politicians are currently passionate about is the rotation of the presidency between the north and south of Nigeria, which has been in practice since 1999 but is being considered for replacement with meritocracy going forward.
While all eyes are fixated on the 2023 general elections through the selfish and narrow prisms of politicians as earlier cataloged, which is to the detriment of the welfare of Nigerians, particularly because they are not talking about how to ramp up security to save lives and find a panacea to the hunger wreaking havoc on vulnerable members of society, the unthinkable, which is a more aggressive incursion and possibly usurpation and seizure of power by the outlaws in more ungoverned spaces, is possible.
As the Financial Derivatives Company, FDC, report earlier pointed out, our country is suffering from a youth bulge. That phenomenon could be a blessing if the opportunity is harnessed, as was the case in China when their youth population of 269 million was empowered with jobs by providing the funding for the self-employment of youths.
Conversely, the same youth bulge could become a curse if the youths are unproductively occupied and close attention is not paid to their plight.
That is apparently the case in Nigeria, where the unemployment rate is very high at 15% and the youth, who constitute about 60% of our population, are idle.
The unfortunate incident of our youths’ nationwide # EndSARS protests devolving into street riots is a veritable indicator of the potential damage that any unmanaged or mismanaged youth bulge could cost our country.
Drawing from the conventional wisdom, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. The susceptibility of our youths to being recruited by Boko Haram religious insurgents-pushing for the introduction of the sharia system in the north; and resorting to joining unknown gunmen in the southeast trying to make that region ungovernable; or getting sucked into the struggle for the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB-aiming to form the state of Biafra due to allegations of being marginalized, can not be discountenanced.
That is not ignoring the ability of herdsmen militia currently rampaging all over Nigerian forests like locust worms, leading to herder-farmer armed conflicts, which also attract the youths.
By the same token, it is easy for our youths to be equally attracted to the activities of armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom gangs in light of the handsome gratification receivable from robbing banks and receiving ransom payments that are proving to be more lucrative than engaging in mere cattle grazing or being idle and unemployed.
The truth is that in a political system operated by politicians with altruistic intentions and less cavalier motives, degrading the capacity of the identified criminal elements in order to stabilize the polity and forestall the perceived risks that the recent brazen display of bravado and disdain for constituted authorities by terrorists portends should have been at the front and center of public discussion and engaging the attention of the managers of our security, who by now should have a laser focus on preventing anything untoward in this very critical period of political transition from one regime to another.
But the highlighted ideal deliverables that could guarantee the continued existence of our dear country up to and beyond the 2023 general elections are presently in abeyance.
The folly of the current situation, whereby everything else, apart from politics, is standing still, and not even security is being given the priority attention that it deserves, poses a risk to our country security-wise. That is simply because it is the easiest moment for the outlaws to possibly strike a potentially devastatingly catastrophic blow.
As such, instead of our nation’s and citizens’ security being relegated to the back burner, our security forces should be more vigilant until the elections for the 2023 general elections have been lost and won.
Lessons from the hijacking of two passenger planes by terrorists in September 2011 that slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in the United States are instructive for our security officials to learn from.
It is therefore recommended that while politicking is going on, policy actions about the protection of the lives of Nigerians and ways and means of reducing hunger should also be occupying the minds of our political leaders.
In broad terms, governance is about organizing society for the progress and prosperity of its members in an orderly manner with law and order as underlying principles.
Given the foregoing definition of governance, if Nigeria, as it is presently constituted, were to be properly assessed, no matter how hard spin doctors try to airbrush the situation, governance in Nigeria, especially in the security space, is currently comatose or has nearly collapsed.
As such, it is safe to conclude that leadership in the security and economic spheres is currently in shambles in our country.
That is simply because of how to restructure the political system so that all members of the Nigerian union would have a sense of belonging and also the introduction of state police to enhance the protection of Nigerians from being wantonly killed by terrorists, which should be on the dashboard of our leaders as a priority, have been neglected in the past seven (7) years.
Without a scintilla of doubt, I am convinced that those in the corridors of power are fully apprised of the fact that the security and safety of lives and properties of citizens are right now on tenterhooks, while hunger is wrecking the lives of vulnerable Nigerians.
And I am dismayed that our leaders are unwilling to take drastic actions to stem the growing tide of insecurity and hunger in the land, which has seen our country race to the bottom of human existence, conjuring a Hobbesian state of nature in our country.
How worse can it get when practically everybody in Nigeria knows someone that was killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, or whose homes have been destroyed, farms burnt down, as well as being unable to eek out a livelihood either via farming or engaging in other artisanal endeavors, courtesy of the low-intensity war ravaging our country?
It is heartbreaking that, despite all of the crisis situations outlined above, politicians are butting their heads against each other in the contest of how to perpetrate another state capture via the 2023 general elections. That is even as the ungoverned spaces in Nigeria are enlarging in geometric progression while the government’s capacity to steer the ship of state safely to shore from the troubled waters is waning.
Even more stunning is that the heads of some of the arms of government charged with protecting lives and properties as well as enforcing and sustaining law and order are increasingly appearing to no longer have the capacity or ability to guarantee the protection of all Nigerians from terrorists, kidnappers, and unknown gunmen who now rule the roost, which is a clear case of abdication of duty.
That apparent lack of confidence being exhibited by our leaders in the security space, which Nigerians can discern, is not only evidenced by the frightening socioeconomic indices which we had earlier highlighted but it is reinforced by the statement credited to the minister of defense, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), who reportedly stated that ending insecurity in the lives and properties of Nigerians requires divine intervention.
If that statement attributed to the defense minister is true, then I would like to plead with readers to allow me to indulge in a bit of cynicism by stating (in a tongue-in-cheek manner) that Nigeria does not need an army general as her minister of defense, if divine intervention is the main identified panacea to insecurity in our country.
Instead of a retired senior army officer, our defense ministry requires the leadership of a man like Dr. Daniel Olukoya, general overseer of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, MFM, who is a renowned prayer warrior that can confidently lead Nigeria in prayers for rapid divine intervention, if that is all that is required.
Even the very daring sheik Ahmad Gumi, a Muslim cleric in the north who was once reaching out to the terrorists in their forest abodes, could also be a perfect fit for the job of our defense minister, as he too has demonstrated confidence by venturing into the forests to dialogue with Boko Haram insurgents, and as a cleric, he has the ability to invoke divine intervention to extricate our country from the clutches of the nefarious ambassadors holding us in the jugular.
That fantastic recommendation is in response to the ridiculous excuse by those at the helm of affairs in the security space who have decreed that divine intervention is what it would take to restore peace in our nation.
While we are still under the predilection of the defense minister, who has reportedly abdicated the constitutionally assigned responsibilities of protecting Nigerian citizens from harm and, instead, outsourcing the duty of protecting Nigerians, for example, he is shifting the task to “divine intervention,” it should not be forgotten that wartime head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, has in the last decade or so, been backing up the work of our men and women with prayers.
That means that a combination of prayers and bravery is required to emancipate our country from the stranglehold of the marauding gangsters.
And when the hopelessness of the presumed utterance of the minister of defense is taken beyond its comical relief value, the most incorrigible optimists amongst us will realize that we have been hoping against hope that an early redemption of our country from the chaos that currently defines it is on the horizon.
So, it is such a shame that in the territories under siege by the terrorists, stretching from Zamfara, Yobe, Kebbi, Gombe and Bauchi states in the northern region, to Benue and Plateau states in the middle belt, as well as Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo, Edo and Delta states in southern Nigeria, our security and law enforcement agencies are armed with some of the most sophisticated weapons in the world, formerly not available to Nigeria due to US policies that made it impossible to sell such armaments to us (based on the Leahy laws) that are now in our arsenal, yet our military has been unable to root out the animals in human skin (apologies to Obasanjo) that have been putting our country in a perpetual mourning mood.
Concerning the unknown gunmen saga in the southeast, where Anambra, Ebonyi, and LMO states are ground zero for the human carnage, as government institutions and security personnel are being burned down and killed, as the case may be, what other than military force would it take to stabilize the region? It is no comfort that efforts to restore peace in that region by the newly minted governor of Anambra state, Chukwuma Soludo, have been rebuffed with more violence.
And owing to the horrifying level of violence being unleashed nationwide in our country, it currently ranks second only to Afghanistan in the survey of the countries in the world where innocent civilians are being killed wantonly by the devil incarnates that rule the underworld.
An intriguing phenomenon that I have observed is that the more the government tries to assure Nigerians that it is in control of the security situation, the more brazen the outlaws become in invading military and police formations in order to kidnap military and law enforcement officers who are supposed to be protecting the law-abiding people of Nigeria.
Against the backdrop of the latest marching order from the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, President Buhari, to the military service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, IGP, my fingers are crossed as to whether or not the terrorists will do something extra-ordinary in the coming days to counteract the C-in-C’s latest order.
Having totally overwhelmed the hinterland by crippling farming in most parts of the country, particularly in the northern region, and after converting expressways across the country into highways to the early graves of commuters as scores of innocent Nigerian travelers are killed on a daily basis in cold blood; and with the enforcement of stay-at-home orders by unknown gunmen in the eastern parts of our country, the outlaws that are acting as a de-facto government, have now extended their violent attacks to railway passengers. Since they have twice struck the Abuja-Kaduna lines with success in their evil enterprise that is further exacerbating the state of insecurity in our beloved nation, they are now more emboldened.
Buoyed by their recent success in inflicting severe damage on the railway system, coupled with their increasing acts of terrorism around airports (Kaduna and other airports were recently breached), is that not a situation that should be worrying our security operatives?
That is especially if, peradventure, the nihilistic minds of terrorists are being fertilized by the thought of bringing down a passenger airliner to validate their impunity.
Would it not be regrettable if we were caught napping like the unfortunate Kaduna-bound train tragedy?
In light of the projectiles or rockets that they recently fired into the Gujba local government area office in Yobe state, setting ablaze a column of vehicles in the complex, the obnoxious act of trying to bring down an airliner is not beyond the terrorists whose deranged minds appear to be nothing but the devil’s workshop.
The pernicious state of insecurity is so scary that the aphorism, “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” is fast being replaced by the faint-hearted with new conventional wisdom: “the fear of terrorists is the beginning of personal safety.”
Evidently, it is not even debatable whether Nigerians fear terrorists more than their government.
That is an indisputable reality.
And Nigerians also do not doubt the reality that the outlaws tormenting them do not fear God.
They rationalize that belief with the notion that if the criminal elements were God-fearing, they would not engage in the orgy of killing harmless children, defenseless women, and even ripping open the bowels of pregnant ones, as we have been witnessing.
It is in the context of the foregoing chilling and horrific narrative about the dastardly activities of terrorists and members of the underworld, including religious insurgents, bandits, herdsmen militia, unknown gunmen, etc., that it can be concluded that they have succeeded in the imposition of a parallel government on Nigerians.
I will dwell further on that reality later.
But in the meantime, I would like to emphasize that the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, which has been wantonly attacked twice, resulting in the loss of about 8 lives, with legions still in captivity, even as ransom is being demanded and paid, should be a serious cause of concern to our leaders.
Due to my precarious nature, I am led to wonder if the ransom money being collected would not be invested in anti-aircraft armaments sooner rather than later. And if that becomes the case, would air travel, which is currently the safest mode of transportation in our dear country (so far not disrupted by terrorists), not also be in jeopardy?
Given the sheer number of casualties that an attack on a passenger airplane could result in, are those charged with securing our country thinking ahead of the terrorists, and are they demonstrating that they are equal to the task?
Yes, President Buhari has given a marching order to the security agencies to rescue the innocent Nigerians kidnapped during the train attack. Is that enough?
It may be recalled that a similar order was issued by the same commander-in-chief of the armed forces to the same security agencies to rescue the Chibok schoolgirls stolen over seven years ago by terrorists from their dormitories. As if in defiance of Nigerian authorities, and as if even mocking our government, the Chibok girls have not only remained in captivity, more schoolboys and girls have been seized by the same members of the underworld.
What does that tell us?
And governance is not only in shambles in the security space; a similar scenario has taken hold in the economic environment, which is also in a state of disarray.
Check out the economic indices:
Inflation is hovering around 33%.
The unemployment rate is about 15% and the naira exchange rate to the US dollar is in the region of N590-N600-$1.
On top of all of this, economists are warning the government about the danger of spending about 92% of the entire income generated annually on servicing debts.
Yet, our current leaders are adamantly budgeting four (4) trillion naira for petrol subsidies in budget 2022 and a mere two trillion naira more than the amount set aside for fuel subsidies is provided for capital projects in budget 2023.
The irony of it all is that petrol, which is being subsidized to the tune of N4 trillion in the current budget circle, is a commodity that we import into Nigeria with hard currency. And it is being smuggled across our borders to practically all the countries in West Africa. Does that not imply that Nigeria is subsidizing the cost of petrol for the entire West African sub-region? What could be the reasoning behind this apparent economic suicide? Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, under the influence of Fidel Castro of Cuba, engaged in subsidizing petrol for some socialist countries in South America and Caribbean countries, and the policy proved to be a disaster as it crashed the Venezuelan economy.
While one is still trying to wrap his head around the incomprehensible policies and programs highlighted above, our production and export of crude oil, which is responsible for about 80% of our foreign exchange income and which could have been our saving grace, is also facing headwinds.
That is a result of our country’s inability to meet its OPEC allocated quota of crude oil production of 1.7 million barrels per day. So we are losing the opportunity to earn more foreign exchange income to patch up our budget deficit.
Although we are able to produce more crude oil, we are unable to export it.
And that is because of the absurdity that even gets worse with the knowledge that over 80% of the crude oil produced in our country is stolen along the pipelines before it gets to the tanks where it is supposed to be stored for refining or export.
Although finance minister Mrs. Zainab Aliyu has assured the world via a Bloomberg television interview on the sidelines of the ongoing IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington, DC, USA, that Nigeria would meet its OPEC quota in the coming days or weeks, the path to such a sea change is not immediately clear to industry watchers, even as security agencies are claiming to have made progress in reining in crude oil thieves.
The fallout of all of these grim statistics and the dismal socioeconomic outlook is that Nigerians are hungry and desperate. With the growing inability of the government to introduce effective policies and enforce rules and regulations to ensure that law and order prevail to guide members of the public in their daily activities of pursuing their objectives of earning their livelihood in a stable atmosphere (which are conditions that are currently absent in some parts of our beloved nation), how can we honestly say that we have a government in the hinterland?
That is a question that I have been pondering.
Perhaps we have two governments. One is led by those we elected and are in the cities, and the other is driven by men of the underworld imposing their will on hapless citizens in the hinterland through brute force.
And the assertion above is validated by the brutish state of life that has been foisted on our compatriots in the hinterland, especially the northern end of our dear country, where the victims of terrorism are not feeling the deserved impact of a government that should have protected them from the mayhem that they are faced with on a daily basis at the hands of terror mongers.
It is common knowledge that the reign of terror, which has been disrupting life and decimating lives mainly in the rural areas, is slowly but surely encircling cities like Maiduguri, Katsina, and Kaduna in the north, and in the south-east cities like Awka, Nnewi, Owerri, Aba, etc.
It could have been less worrisome if I was talking about the threat posed by the formation of the proscribed Republic of Biafra or Oduduwa Republic, promoted respectively by Nnamdi Kanu, currently in incarceration for allegedly committing a treasonable felony, and Sunday lgboho, also recently released from the custody of Benin Republic prison authorities at the behest of the Nigerian government for an alleged offense similar to that of Kanu.
These discontented and outspoken Nigerians are well known to the authorities and, therefore, are less evil.
But the alternative government that I am referring to is the government of terrorists being operated by members of the underworld in the manner that black market operators in foreign exchange trade control the naira/dollar exchange rate, which prompted the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, to proscribe the ubiquitous Aboki.com, (an online forex trading platform) that he accused of arbitrarily fixing the naira/dollar foreign exchange rate.
It is also in this manner that the activities of smugglers of rice, petroleum products, and other essential commodities in and out of our porous borders with neighboring countries are distorting local prices and triggering the rise of inflation in our country, until the CBN governor, Emefiele, once again influenced the closure of Nigerian borders to enable farmers and producers of the items being smuggled to develop competitive advantages locally.
The border closure, which is also aimed at preventing the influx of small arms and ammunition aiding the reign of violence in our country, has also inflicted collateral damage on the economy and, by extension, exacerbated the poverty situation of Nigerians as it has inhibited intra-African trade.
Nevertheless, those drastic measures instituted to tame the monster of destruction that had been unhinged have had a mixture of good and bad outcomes.
With all of the above activities happening outside the control of the incumbent government, it is not out of place to imagine that there may be another government in our country riding roughshod over Nigerians.
That is the optics with which the government in power must view the terrorists of all shades and colors intent on destroying our country. The whole idea is to galvanize our legitimate government into dealing with insecurity with more vigor and the dexterity that it deserves.
For instance, if you consider the zeal with which the ruling party at the center, APC, is fighting to return to power in 2023, and imagine what might have been won by now if similar energy were to be invested in the war against insecurity, perhaps it might have been won by now. This underscores the push that new thinking and execution of plans must be invested in our collective security by all the stakeholders in our country (not just the military) in the effort to restore law and order in our beloved country.
Of course, there are other reasons for the assertion or presumption that there may be a parallel government by terrorists different from the one that we voted into office in 2015 and 2019 respectively.
For example, in a situation where terrorists, bandits, and unknown gunmen, all gangsters, are collecting taxes from Nigerians, like the federal inland revenue service, FIRS, and they are holding thousands in captivity until ransom money is paid, like the Nigerian Prison (Correctional) Service, NPS, and they are also determining the dates that Nigerians can stay at home or go to work, like the ministry of eternal affairs, wh
Against the backdrop of the aforementioned circumstances, it is stomach-churning to think that all these are fallouts or the consequences of our politicians’ being derelict in providing effective governance, hence our country’s descent into the current state of anomie.
While members of the political class are immersed in their plot for the next state capture in the name of elections, which come up every four years and, based on the INEC timetable, has commenced last February and will end in February next year, God forbids that the underworld, which now appears to be acting like a de-facto government, deals our country a blow that is capable of throwing the nation into national mourning.
That is a sense of trepidation that must be paramount in the minds of those in the corridors of power at Aso Rock Villa, to the extent of keeping them awake at night, while most of us fewer mortals are asleep.
In essence, this piece is a wake-up call for all Nigerians to become more vigilant in these perilous times.
Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, an alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in the Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.
To continue with this conversation, please visit www.magnum.ng