The Osun Economic and Investment Summit was reportedly put on hold recently. Earlier scheduled to take place between June 25 and 27, reports had it that its postponement was not unconnected with the security situation across the country from which Osun State is not isolated. If this is the true position, then the decision was a good one. The South-West as a bloc is in need of programmes and policies that can help it to recalibrate its socio-economic consciousness. But can there be economic prosperity in the face of diverse development challenges on the sociopolitical and economic fronts? The just-concluded South-West Security Summit, organised to sustain the status of the region as the safest to live, invest and recreate, was timely. In their separate addresses on the occasion, Governors Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State advocated state police, while urging their counterparts to invest heavily in technology to be ahead and win the war, because “security wars are fought and won on the altars of intelligence gathering, planning and implementation.”
Well, it is no longer news that security is an issue that has become prominent globally. The presence of security brings about prosperity while its absence leads to general social instability. Even in its narrowest sense, investments are secure only when the people feel secure. For us in the South-West, insecurity has for some time become the greatest geopolitical threat and it is as if the powers that be have been caught napping. Basically, growing population amidst the haemorrhaging economy, high rate of unemployment, poor, or decaying infrastructure, and poor budgeting and implementation are some of the hindrances to security in this part of the country. Besides, bad governance, influx of light arms from neighbouring countries, porous borders, coupled with our politicians’ embrace of violence, are also responsible for the pervasive climate of fear and insecurity. Others are unprofessional actions capable of tampering with intelligence, lack of 21st century-compliant equipment, poor selection process and training, poor salary and motivation, and lack of intra- and inter-agency collaborations among those that are statutorily saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives and properties in the region.
Indeed, Nigerians expect President Muhammadu Buhari to address the security challenges currently troubling our Israel before he returns to Daura in 2023. But then, history has shown without fail that the South-West is one region whose rich heritage cannot be contaminated with illegitimate steps. The Owu war (1820-1827), Ijaye revolt (1860-1865), Kiriji conflict (1877-1893), Ogun Adubi (1918), Operation Wetie (1962), Agbekoya uprising (1968-1969) and even the violent protests which attended the outcomes of the 1983 elections presented the region as a no-nonsense zone when it comes to the protection of lives and properties of its people. The geographical spread of the South-West is not one where hoodlums cannot be fingered and flushed out because there are no abandoned or uninhabited lands in the whole region. Even the hills belong to somebody. It is therefore time the president woke up from slumber and did something before this crisis snowballs into war. If there is peace in the South-West, there will be peace in Nigeria as a whole. The ‘DAWN Strategy Roadmap’ urges the Southwest people to “use the current national situation … as an opportunity to raise awareness and enlarge surveillance capacity” based on “local knowledge and community ownership.” While I have no problems with state or community policing as a way out of this crisis, can this prescription be a ‘cure-all’, indigenous strategy and how do we define its selection process and rules of engagement, especially in a clime that recklessly places personal benefits above communal togetherness? Above all, how far can the creation of vigilance groups go as a remedy for insecurity in our region?
As Fayemi remarked, “all criminal activities are heavy but they are not insurmountable.” To get out of this security mess therefore, the welfare of the officers and men who are putting their lives on the line to secure the lives and properties of Nigerians must be prioritised while legislations which prescribe stiffer penalties for perpetrators of, and willing collaborators in crime must be put in place and seen to be effectively operational. While not sparing social media users with bad intentions, the government should also look into the activities of fifth columnists and disgruntled politicians who are bent on rubbishing the government should also be looked into. The possibility of the so-called bandits being active members of the Boko Haram on a mission to source funds from the South-West for its activities in the North-East is another angle that must be interrogated. If resources permit, investments in technology as well as the establishment of security or traffic radio to give information on the security situation in the region will go a long way in curbing the menace of insecurity. Lastly, the benefits of installation of massive hidden security cameras (CCTVs) in strategic places across the South-West are also enormous. May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world grant us peace in the South-West.
- Komolafe writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.