President Muhammadu Buhari, last Thursday, gave a damning verdict on the nation’s security and intelligence chiefs when he told them that their best was not good enough for the nation and that he would no longer take any excuse from them for the rising insecurity in the land. According to the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd.), who addressed journalists after a meeting between the president and the security chiefs, Buhari, who was visibly dissatisfied with the performance of the service chiefs, asked them to justify their continued stay in office.
While the president’s directive is heartwarming, it is coming rather late. For as long as Buhari has been in the saddle, Nigeria has experienced serious security challenges but the president has handled the matter with kid gloves, pampering the service chiefs, who he appointed shortly after his assumption of office in 2015 and has retained contrary to the constitutional stipulation of civil servants not exceeding 35 years in service, thus giving them the impression that their extended stay in office is a favour to the country.
Good as it is that the president has found the courage to speak against the security chiefs’ seeming lackadaisical attitude to their duties, the new development may not bear any worthwhile fruit unless the president is seriously determined to put an end to insecurity in the country. If care is not taken, the warning handed down to the security chiefs and the joy it elicited in not a few Nigerians, may end up not being better than the president’s January 2018 directive to former Inspector General of the Police, Ibrahim Idris, to relocate to Benue State and restore law and order in the state when herders held the state hostage. In his response, the IGP said he would move to the state with additional five units of the Mobile Police Force. However, the IGP was in Benue for just one day and moved to Nasarawa before returning to Abuja, despite the presidential directive. The IGP’s disregard for the president’s instruction was not known to him until two months later when he was on a visit to the state. But even after getting to know, nothing happened. The infraction did not attract any sanction.
So, unless the president is seriously convinced that the time to end insecurity has come, last Thursday’s outburst will be nothing more than motion without movement or an attempt to play to the gallery as a consequence of the protests against the nation’s deplorable security situation held in his homestead of Katsina State last week.
To change the nation’s security trajectory, four things must happen. Unless those things are in place, the country will just continue roiling in insecurity.
The first is that the president must see himself as the Commander-in-Chief indeed. He was elected to secure the nation. If he delegates the functions of the C-in-C to his aides, he cannot delegate the responsibility. Buhari’s most important duty is not fixing the power problem or fixing our roads, as important as those are. His most important duty is securing every Nigerian. According to human rights groups, more than 50, 000 Nigerians were killed between June 2015 and April 2020 by insurgents, bandits or herders. If the president does not realize it, the killings are an indictment on him first and foremost before being a failing on the part of the security chiefs.
The second thing is collaboration among the security agencies. The president spoke to this in his address to the security and intelligence chiefs but if the agencies do not collaborate, it is because directly or indirectly the president does not encourage collaboration among them. Any leader worth his salt knows that it is what he encourages that thrives in his system. If the people appointed by President Buhari to help him deliver on his security mandate work at cross-purposes, it is because he encourages this. The best way to change the narrative is to ensure compliance with his directive. If the services exchange and compare notes, they all would be on the same page concerning security issues in the country and working as a team rather than rivals becomes feasible.
Then, Nigeria is too large a country to have a centralized security system. If Abuja has to give instructions on what happens in Opobo in Rivers State, or Zungeru in Niger State or Atakobo in Ogun State, not only would there be perplexing delays, there would also be frustrating leakages. So, the need to decentralize the security procedures in the country is great. The current administration has spoken on a few occasions about community policing but nothing has come of that. No force can secure a community without the involvement of the community people.
Finally, the government’s policy of opening the country to all Africans has to be reviewed. Last year, President Buhari enunciated the “free movement of all Africans within Africa policy” and promised that the country would give visas on arrival to all Africans. This policy appears counter-productive to a country that is battling insurgency and serious banditry within its borders. Many Nigerians suspect that quite a number of those involved in criminal activities shaking the country to its foundations are non-Nigerians. Therefore, opening the borders to all comers is tantamount to increasing the nation’s security challenges.
So, in the final analysis, securing the nation is Buhari’s call, not Tukur Buratai’s or Sadique Abubakar’s or Ibok Ibas’. Nigeria will be as secure as Buhari wants it to be, no more, no less.
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