Security is everything, nobody can dispute that. You have to be alive to enjoy every other thing government is providing; roads, rail, bridges, airports, food security, in fact, everything.
That is why whenever you hear President Muhammadu Buhari talk of the priorities of his administration for the country, he starts with security, stressing that before you can efficiently manage an organization, town, city, or country, you first have to secure it. He then proceeds to talk about reviving the economy and fighting corruption. But security is always number one.
Does Nigeria have security challenges? Severe ones. I’ve always said it while adding that the government was taking up the gauntlet.
Two weeks ago, after the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train by terrorists, I wrote that Nigeria was actually at war. It was, however, silly and idiotic to see a newspaper twist that piece in a news story, writing; ‘Femi Adesina finally admits that Nigeria is at war.’ Otiose. Witless. Illiterate. Who does not know that our country had been at war against insurgency since 2009 when Boko Haram manifested in the Northeast?
But we leave those who twist every word to continue to contort themselves, till they completely get out of shape, tying themselves up in a labyrinth. It will serve them right.
The point of interest today is the hackneyed calls on President Buhari to resign over the country’s security challenges, the latest coming from a so-called Northern Elders Forum (NEF), a group I’d once described as “generals without troops.”
The Forum is largely made of angry, bitter, self-seeking individuals, who had thought they would be leading President Buhari by the nose when he emerged in 2015. In fact, key personalities in the group made strenuous efforts to be part of the administration. When they didn’t succeed, they became adversaries.
It is on record that NEF had always opposed the Buhari administration since its gambit failed, and before the 2019 presidential election, it openly endorsed Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the next President. And that completely vitiates whatever position the Forum adopts today. It is partisan, bilious, by no means neutral. It is from a self-serving standpoint.
Between 2009 and 2022, there were at least 271 mass shootings in the United States of America, resulting in 1,518 people killed, and 980 wounded. Just this week, there has been the Brooklyn Subway Shooting, in which at least 23 people were critically injured. In all these, did you hear calls for the resignation of any American President? It is on record that last year was the deadliest in a decade, in terms of mass shootings. Have you heard of calls for the resignation of President Joe Biden by a caterwauling band? No.
Every life is important. No single life should be taken wantonly. Not in America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and definitely not in Nigeria. And when challenges occur, as we currently have, it should not be turned into a leaky political umbrella, from under which you hide to express hatred and malice. That is what is happening in Nigeria today. Individuals, groups, organizations, and political parties, who had been against President Muhammadu Buhari, and who had been given bloody noses at the polls, are now using the smokescreen of insecurity to vent their spleen. We failed to oust him through the ballot box, let’s run him out of town by another means. Let’s instigate the country against him. But the majority of Nigerians know better.
There was a story that made the rounds over the weekend. A former military leader, who also became a democratically elected President for two terms, has been reportedly mobilizing all living former leaders to pass a vote of no confidence in President Buhari, due to the county’s security challenges. It was reported that only Gen Yakubu Gowon baulked at the idea, and opted out.
I have been waiting for the story to be debunked, but it hasn’t happened. Let’s then assume that it is true. The agent provocateur has been known as an antagonist of Buhari for a number of years. In fact, he publicly wrote a letter in 2018, commanding the President to “dismount from the horse,” and allow another rider to mount. The incumbent demurred. Is it not a democracy? Let’s test our strength at the polls.
The former leader mobilized against Buhari, publicly endorsing his former deputy in office, whom he had earlier destroyed and treated like something the cat dragged in. The election came, and they were all beaten black and blue. How does he then think Nigerians will accept his constant haranguing of government as something actuated by positive motives? It is sour grapes, pure and simple.
Do we have security problems? We do, just like many other countries of the world. How then do we solve the problems? That is what we expect to hear, and not playing of petty politics under the umbrella of insecurity.
Some of the issues are historical, transcending almost every administration we have had. They are almost as old as the country. Some others are relatively new; insurgency, banditry, kidnappings for ransom, and have the imprint of foreign backing, particularly in some parts of the North. What is the way out?
For the internecine ones, it is crystal clear that no government can legislate peace. The people themselves must resolve to live together and accommodate one another. No group can wish the other away under indigene versus settler sentiments. We must resolve for peace. They must not only seek peace but also pursue it.
As for insurgency, banditry and kidnappings, the government is rising to the challenges. Yes, there are successes and reversals at times, but there’s no doubt that the necessary efforts are being made. It is, therefore, unconscionable to make it appear as if nothing is being done. It is a power struggle. A class struggle. An economic struggle. But at last, Nigeria shall win.
It is the sacred duty of the government to provide security of lives and property. Our Constitution says it in black and white. No leader will be happy to see his citizens killed. That is why more than any government before it, the Buhari administration has funded our security agencies, trained, equipped and motivated them. They are out there, fighting to keep us safe. The least we can do is pray for them, encourage them, and not engage in a petty power play, which amounts to dancing on the graves of the dead.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity