Was it a co-incidence that, 24 hours after two former heads of state, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB), raised the alarm over growing insecurity in the country, deadly terrorists attacked Vice-President Namadi Samob’s house in Zaria, killing two police guards; and bombed Sokoto where about 10 people were killed? Maybe. I am one of those who would not ignore the two “most dangerous” retired army generals when it comes to security issues, no matter their antecedents. And the sources of the message – Obasanjo and IBB – may be questionable in the estimation of many right-thinking Nigerians. Like the great Cicero said, you do not give credit to a liar even when he says the truth. But, for once, I will give recognition to the two former military dictators for capturing the correct state of our nation today – insecurity in many parts of our country, especially in the northern parts.
Do not ask me whether they were not part of the problems we have today or not. Truth is that, since they are former heads of state who understand the operation of government and have seen it all, I take their comments or alarm over insecurity very seriously. And for those who are quick to look at the messenger and not the message, they will be ignoring Obasanjo and IBB’s alarm at their own peril.
Like one critical mind observed, they may not have said anything new but the message carries heavy weight because it came at a critical time we are having serious security challenges. So, take it or leave it, I am convinced that unfolding events in our country over the last few months are seriously threatening to disentangle the nearly a century – old labour of our founding fathers and subsequent generations in building a strong, united, peaceful nation that can house and cater for the needs and aspirations of our different communities. The loss of innocent lives day after day in the northern part of our country is simply horrendous. Otherwise, why should we live in a nation that is spellbound by a regime of panic and insecurity so much so that practically all citizens have teething troubles going about their regular business without great fear? And, like Obasanjo and IBB said in their joint statement, a profoundly disturbing drift that is up-and-coming from this dreadful state of affairs is that an invasive pessimism is beginning to set in, to the extent that millions of patriotic Nigerians are starting to query the stage upon which the unity of this country rests.
Slowly, many men and women are seeing their frustration, fear and despair they are experiencing from the current terror by some evil people to supplant their hopes for a communal providence which lies in their continued existence as a nation. And for those who once said and strongly believe that “the continued unity of this nation is not only priceless but non-negotiable”, they appear to be fast losing their gospel, and that perhaps may have informed the alarm raised by Obasanjo and IBB on Sunday in their signed joint statement.
Unfortunately, amidst this frightening situation, the issue of our national security has been politicised by some desperate politicians who now see the issue as President Goodluck Jonathan’s sole problem. Yes, the president may have failed to demonstrate the necessary political will to frontally confront the security challenges but, like some people have righty observed, there are noticeable efforts by security agencies within and outside our country to confront the escalating security challenges across the country. What we lack for now are scaled-up efforts by all tiers of government and other stakeholders so that we can be more connecting and all-encompassing in our strategy.
We all wrongly expected too much from the former National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi. We thought his office was a miracle worker; we thought he was the problem; we thought he had the magic key to switch off all the problems of Boko Haram. But now we know better. Like my friend, Dr. Fatima Akilu stated recently, the NSA is not a “superman” or supernatural human being. And no matter our perception about the new NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, as “Mr.= Fix= It”, when it comes to security matters, he may not succeed in his new assignment of fighting the deadly terrorist gang in our country unless we all rally round him; he needs our collective efforts to succeed. An attack on innocent people in Borno, Yobe, Kaduna and Kano states is an attack on innocent people in Urhonigbe, Olomu, Calabar, Benue and other parts of Nigeria. We must all collectively fight these evil men and women among us.
I share the thinking of many right-thinking people who have observed that no far-reaching development could ever take place in an ambience of violence and hatred. If we are in doubt let’s cross-check historical documents and we will discover that any nation that is erected on the structures of bloodshed and narrow-mindedness cannot do well. The Sudan, Rwanda and other crisis-ridden nations are shining examples.
In our current drive to solve these challenges, I am tempted to conclude that many state governors and other politicians, especially members of the opposition parties, have not done well in the way and manner they have politicised issues of security challenges in our country in the last few months. While it is legitimate for them to employ every necessary means to criminalise Jonathan’s government in their quest for power in 2015, they need to be reminded that they can only aspire to any political office if there is Nigeria before 2015. We must save Nigeria first and foremost before the battle to reclaim the country from Jonathan, if there is the need for it. We must put our personal interests aside for now and tackle our common enemies that want to break the country into pieces. This we must do in the general interest of our nation.
By the way, NSA Dasuki told us recently that he had the contacts of key Boko Haram leaders who he intended to dialogue with. What has happened to that move? Even though I do not subscribe to any move by the federal government to dialogue with any terrorist gang, the effort of the NSA was recently celebrated by some interest groups including a section of the media. He was quoted as saying that he planned to meet with the group on the need for it to cease fire and embrace dialogue as soon as possible.
This is what Dasuki said in Jos recently: “I was in Yobe and Borno states and I have got the telephone numbers and contacts of key Boko Haram members and I will meet with them. I saw the dangerous effect of Boko Haram in these states and what I saw was pathetic.”
The NSA also said he had the mandate to put heads together with religious and traditional leaders, as well as the state governments, to ensure an immediate ceasefire. He had expressed confidence that many aggrieved people could put their problems behind them and forge ahead with peace and reconciliation.
Nigerians and the international community expect so much from Dasuki; he must not fail.