Defence minister’s strange counsel

Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, astounded Nigerians last week.  While addressing journalists at the National Assembly complex, he offered a panacea for the banditry ravaging the country, counselling Nigerians to defend themselves. The minister said: “It is the responsibility of everybody to keep alert and to find safety when necessary. But we shouldn’t be cowards. At times, the bandits will only come with about three rounds of ammunition. When they fire shots, everybody runs. In our younger days, we stood to fight any aggression coming for us (sic). I don’t know why people are running from minor things like that. “Speaking further, the minister urged Nigerians to shelve cowardice, resist attacks from criminals, and prove that they did not have sole access to violence. He then enthused:” Even the villagers have the competency and capability to defend themselves.

Since that publication, there has been no rebuttal or clarification from either the office of the minister or the Federal Government as a whole, and so it is safe to assume that the minister meant every word. Although his statement aligns with a school of thought which believes that private access to guns would curb the violence in the country,  it signals governmental acceptance of defeat, coming from a person whose sole responsibility is to defend Nigerians from internal and external aggression. Crucially, the minister did not specify the modus operandi of the defence mechanism that he advocated. Was he saying that Nigerians should begin to acquire guns illegally and en-masse, in order to be able to defend themselves? Or was he suggesting that they should deploy their bare hands in self-defence? Either way, it is obvious that Minister Magashi either aimed to make light of the present charged atmosphere of insecurity in the land or got caught in a reckless moment. His advocacy was clearly suicidal. To confront bandits and terrorists wielding scary weaponry with bare hands is simply to commit suicide. Of course, Magashi would be heavily protected by arms and ammunition while Nigerians take on bandits with clenched fists!

To be sure, the practicability of the minister’s panacea is suspect. Just how could defenceless Nigerians confront AK-47-wielding criminals? What chances of survival do they have in that scenario? The minister’s recommendation sounds very hollow and unfortunate. It shows the tragic condition in which the country has found itself. This is nothing but the country’s highest level of defence raising its hands up in surrender to criminals. It bears similarity to the submission that emanated from the Presidency recently, namely that the security of Nigerians was in the hands of God. What this signifies is that government, in whose hands lies the wherewithal to defend the people, has outsourced its responsibilities to God. If those who are constitutionally mandated to defend the citizens are now passing the responsibility to them, then anyone hoping for a change in the current dastardly security situation is only waiting for the proverbial Godot.

Counselling the people to defend themselves amounts to saying that the government cannot defend them any longer. The greatest responsibility of the state is to defend its citizens,  and this is the same responsibility that Magashi is invariably offloading on the people’s back. That being the case, we counsel him to resign from his post and allow for the appointment of a competent hand that can do the job of defending the people. What makes his statement so infamous is that even if there were a situation where the people could carry arms to defend themselves, that still would not have divested the government of the responsibility to ensure their safety and security in any way. With the violence and insecurity in the country and the nasty, short and brutish life that Nigerians are being subjected to, what is expected from the government is proactiveness in tackling the menace. Transferring that responsibility to the people is irresponsible, condemnable and unacceptable.

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