By Linus Aleke
The contemporary axiom amongst citizens that Nigeria was safer during the 1967/70 civil war signposts the frightening security situation the country is currently confronted with.
Nigeria is notoriously insecure on all fronts. While, governments at all levels, citizens, and other critical stakeholders had been alerted of the imminent food crisis, as well as impending famine by multilateral institutions, the daily bloodletting across the length and breadth of the country is also escalating rather than abating.
What this means is that if the citizens succeed in escaping the poisonous bullet and machete of bandits; kidnappers, unknown gunmen, and Fulani Herdsmen, as well as Islamic terrorists’ improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombers, they are not likely to escape the volcanic venom of famine.
It is on the strength of the above-painted scenario that some passive, but aggressive voices, are asking doubting Thomas to visit the grave of victims of famine in the defunct Biafran Republic to grasp and understand the fact that famine is a lethal weapon of mass destruction.
It is also, on the premise of the above that there is a near consensus opinion amongst scholars, political pundits, and electorates that issues of security will determine the success or otherwise of the would-be president after the 2023 poll.
Recall, that the incumbent administration rode to power on the same premise in 2015, with a political slogan “Change,” which eventually hoodwinked the majority of eligible voters to cast their vote for the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Meanwhile, it is in line with the aforementioned reality that ThisNigeria sought the view of Nigerians on the subject under scrutiny.
Asked what he expects from the presidential candidates that the just concluded party primaries threw up, especially as it concerns the security of life and property, which of course is the primary duty of every responsible government on the surface of the earth, a clergyman, Rev. Omeje E Omeje, said that Nigerians are not ignorant of the fact that men of underworld are subterranean outwitting government forces and are daily unleashing mayhem on citizens across the federation.
He queried, “What else will determine the choice of who would be the next president if not security? What other thing is the electorate going to consider before settling for a particular candidate during the poll?”
Omeje further posited that Nigeria is not only at the crossroad, security-wise, but already badly wounded that it would take the grace of God for her to heal from such deep wounds.
“The APC-led Federal Government has failed Nigerians on all fronts. Public officers have continued to intensify efforts in looting the nation’s treasury under the watch of this government. They are also borrowing to loot and not put infrastructures in place.
“The economy has collapsed while the daily killings are frightening. Recall that the tripod upon which this government campaigned vigorously in 2015 to dismantle the PDP government was premised on the fight against corruption, tackling insecurity, and reinvigorating the nation’s economy. Regrettably, none of these promises were kept by the incumbent administration.
“But I can tell you that the only demand Nigerian electorates would make from the incoming administration is a security of life and property. Security is the bedrock for development and that is why development experts will say that development cannot take place without security.
“It is only when the environment is conducive that development can thrive. I can assure you that Nigerian electorates would not vote for candidates that will aid and abate criminalities. Once, the issue of security is settled, and weaponisation of poverty is discontinued by the elite class, then Nigeria will be ready to develop like other parts of the world.”
A senior civil servant, Mallam Isa Mohammed, bemoaned the rising security threats in the country, saying that what Nigeria needs now is a president that can solve the security challenges confronting her at the moment.
According to him, “The atmosphere is already charged as a result of continued violent crime across the federation. No region is safe, the North-East is bleeding to death due to the activities of terrorists. North West is now being overrun by bandits and other criminal elements. South-East had been taken over by unknown gunmen.
“The North-Central and South-West are under the grip of Fulani Herdsmen and bandits, while pirates and militants are making South-South unhealthy for habitation. Therefore, politicians, especially the presidential candidates should be mindful of these and moderate their speeches in such a way that calms nerves, instead of making reckless comments that will further inflame the polity.
“These they can do by strictly sticking to the issue-based campaign rather than attacking personalities, verbally or physically. There is a need for them to respect one another, deemphasise religion and ethnicity and focus on what the party can bring to the table if elected.
“Also, there is the need to make conscious efforts to control or regulate the timing of rallies, and party meetings, such that all activities are restricted to the afternoon. This is important because most of these crimes and attacks happen at night,” he said.
An educationist, Ms. Margret Apeh said that Nigeria is at a crossroads, as the rampant killings are threatening the unity of the country.
She averred that if a competent President that can halt the insecurity in the land and move the nation’s economy out of the woods did not emerge, then the dismembering of Nigeria becomes imminent.
Nigeria, she said, cannot survive another four years if these reckless killings by non-state actors continue.
She asked, “What have we done to deserve this kind of daily killing by criminals. Don’t we have government? What is the responsibility of the government, if it cannot guarantee security to the people? Have we gone back to the state of nature, which Thomas Hobbes spoke about in his famous book, “Leviathan”?
According to her, “Government cannot continue to pretend that all is well. We all know that all is not well, non-state actors cannot continue to move freely with sophisticated weapons and government will shamelessly continue to say that they are on top of the situation. The situation is now on top of the government and its security agencies.
“The government claims to be on top of the situation, yet every day you open the pages of newspapers or listen to the broadcast medium, it is the story of daily killings by terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, unknown gunmen, ritualists, etc. The state cannot allow criminals this kind of freedom to operate the way they do in Nigeria.”
She further posited that what the country needs now is a president that can change this ugly trend where criminals operate unchallenged and in the end, they also go unpunished.
On his part, Mr. Jackson Eno, a businessman, said that electorate must vote wisely this time around to save the country from collapse.
His words, “Frightening as the security situation in Nigeria may seem. Nigerians must choose a man that can resurrect the Nigerian economy from death. Even the security we talk about, is the government going to fight insecurity with spittle and empty hands.
“When the economy is back to life, the government can then procure the needed modern military and security soft and hardware, to deny these non-state actors freedom of action. Let us not be too simplistic about these things.
“Nigeria’s problem is complex, ethnicity and religion have also not helped matters in Nigeria. The victims of Owo killings have just been buried and the perpetrators of such heinous crime are still at large.”
While, querying the rationale behind linking of National Identity Number (NIM), with individual mobile numbers if it cannot help the country solve security problems, Eno said, “How can criminal elements attack a moving train between Abuja and Kaduna, killing many passengers and abduct others, kept them hostage in Nigerian soil, make videos of the captives and use it to negotiate the release of their fellow criminals in detention.
“For more than one month, these abductors are still holding these passengers captive. It can only happen here. Also, kidnappers negotiate ransom with mobile phones, they deposit their ill-gotten money in banks after collection of ransom security operatives is unable to trace the kidnapers. It can only happen here. Nigeria has become a country of the more you look the less you see”.
Others, with what is considered extreme views, alleged that Nigerian politicians are not trustworthy and therefore, don’t deserve the vote of any Nigerians.
Like others who spoke before this category of speakers, Mr. Akpan Joseph asked, “Which of them had ever kept campaign promises? Out of the seven-point agenda of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration, how many were kept?
“Buhari promised to fight corruption, and insecurity, as well as reinvigorate the ailing economy. Did he keep even one of the three promises? He will exit the presidency next year without keeping one of his campaign promises to citizens. It is a shame if you ask me. I don’t need to tell you how much naira is exchanged for dollars in the forex market.
“Business is closing down and prices of stable items are skyrocketing in the market. Unemployment is on the increase as every sector of the nation’s economy is retrenching its workers instead of employing more. More people are sliding into abject poverty. It is no longer news that Nigeria is the capital of poor people on earth. That is just economy, what of security? Was he able to solve the security challenges, no is the answer. I don’t need to bug you with the ugly and gory stories emanating from the defence and security sector. Is it corruption? We had corruption before the coming of this administration, but what we have now is grand corruption.
“The reporter who wrote the story of a state governor who collects bribes from contractors in dollars is on the run because his life is under threat and the perpetrators are working free with security cover. Crime seems to be more lucrative than honesty in Nigeria today. What of the latest corruption case involving Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris?
What of the former EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu? Can we comfortably say that this government is fighting corruption with this fact before us?”
Another respondent with this kind of extreme view, Mr. David Olayinka said that Nigerians of good conscience have lost hope in Nigerian political actors.
He said, “Which of these presidential candidates had not been invited by EFCC or even currently undergoing prosecution by the anti-graft agencies? Are they the only qualified Nigerians? Can’t the political parties present clean candidates for Nigerians to choose from? I am already tired of Nigerian’s kind of electioneering?”