By Nze Akabogu
THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently rolled out its time table for the forthcoming general election scheduled for February 2019 amid ominous signs of the looming national catastrophe of unimaginable proportion.
The dark clouds are once again fast gathering momentum occasioned by the unprecedented level of general insecurity which has lately enveloped the Nigerian State. Never in the history of the entity called Nigeria have we witnessed such level of general insecurity of dangerous dimension now prevalent in the country albeit with the possible exception of the dark period of the devastating civil war that ended about fifty two years ago.
The current alarming security situation facing the nation today portends great danger of monumental proportion which might lead to total chaos and anarchy unless urgent and decisive action is taken by the political leaders to stem the dangerous slide to precipice. The present myriad of both security and political challenges facing the country could better be imagined than described and as such the Nigerian political leaders must brace up to the challenges and tackle the ubiquitous monsters head on before they finally consume the entire nation.
Just at a time when the highly dreaded Boko Haram Islamic insurgency in the North East region that had taken a huge toll on both human and material resources seem to have been effectively contained by the Nigerian Armed Forces, another extremely deadly group, the so called Fulani Herdsmen who are armed to the teeth with highly sophiscated weapons including AK47, pump action rifles and rocket launchers are currently rampaging the entire country killing, maiming, and destroying property of innocent and defenceless citizens in their homes and harmless across the country without any challenge whatsoever by the nation’s security forces whose primary responsibility is the protection of lives and property of citizens against any internal or external aggression.
The recent reported case of the most chilling and horrendous attacks in Benue State by this terrorist gang masquerading as Fulani Herdsmen in which over seventy innocent people were gruesomely murdered in cold blood and many more grievously injured as well as property worth millions of naira were either destroyed or set ablaze certainly poses a great threat to the cooperate existence of Nigeria as one united entity.
From all available empirical reports, the perennial attacks by this terrorist gang called Fulani Herdsmen have both religious and political undertones even as these mindless attacks were often directed against non Muslim communities across the Middle Belt region as well as parts of Southern Kaduna and Taraba States. The above scenario is equally commonplace in Southern States of the country where these armed gangs often carry out their heinous act of carnage, raping and maiming innocent citizens all in the name of grazing their cattle in people’s farms.
It is a matter of deep regret however that the Federal Authorities whose primary function is the protection of lives and property of her citizens had maintained rather nonchalant attitude in the face of the incessant attacks by these criminal gangs against innocent and defenceless citizens which have continued unabated across the country for many years. This rather unfortunate and embarrassing situation has emboldened the Fulani terrorist gangs to continue in their dastardly act of unleashing mayhem on innocent citizens of the country. The various political and religious leaders as well as civil society organizations across the nation have already condemned in strongest terms the mindless killings by the so called Fulani Herdsmen and further called for urgent and decisive action against the perpetrators and their sponsors of this despicable act of genocide as recently witnessed in Benue State and other flash points across the country.
It is a sad commentary however that the country is presently witnessing an upsurge in other forms of criminality such as cultism, armed robberies, kidnappings, assassinations etc particularly in volatile States like Rivers, Delta, Lagos, Ondo, Kaduna among others and it is incumbent on the Federal Authorities to quickly checkmate the ugly trend by providing adequate security for all citizens of the country without further delay.
A situation whereby certain wealthy and powerful individuals in society are usually provided with mobile policemen as their personal security as well as serving as domestic servants to these individuals is extremely embarrassing and a serious dent on the image and integrity of the country and must be stopped immediately by the Federal Authorities.
For many years now well meaning Nigerians had called for the immediate stoppage of this shameful and disgraceful practice of deploying the nations well trained and equipped police personnel as private security guards to certain wealthy individuals who constitutionally are not entitled to police security. Regrettably however, the Nigeria Police High Command has up till date bluntly refused to respect these wise and patriotic demands. It is a common knowledge that these mobile policemen usually attached to powerful individuals always accompany their “masters” (Oga) to social functions where they often recklessly fire their rifles into the air in the heat of such functions presumably under the influence of alcohol as a show of naked power. Some ugly incidents in the past could be cited when bullet fired into the air by these mobile policemen accidentally hit some unfortunate invitees during such social events. It is the height of irresponsibility and absurdity that weapons and bullets procured with tax-payers money for their protection could be so brazenly wasted just to satisfy the personal ego and aggrandizement of certain wealthy and powerful individuals in the society.
The current strength of the Nigeria Police which today stands at the ratio of one policeman to about six hundred Nigerians as against the global acceptable ratio of one policeman to about two hundred citizens is grossly inadequate and as such incapable of confronting the mounting security challenges in the country. The present Fulani Herdsmen menace as well as the unprecedented upsurge in criminal activities in the country readily attests to the incontrovertible fact that after all, all is not well in the country and therefore all available police personnel must be mobilized immediately to confront this national malaise presently ravaging the nation.
The recent directive by President Buhari to the Inspector General of Police to immediately move his operational Headquarters to Benue State is a welcome and positive development which will certainly enable the Police High command to carry out on the spot assessment of the crisis in order to appreciate the enormity of the security challenges in the country and possibly proffer immediate solution to the lingering crisis. It has become imperative therefore that the Nigerian Police as well as other security agencies must adopt certain pro-active measures to deal with the mounting security challenges in the country and not to remain complacent only to adopt the proverbial fire brigade approach after colossal damages must have taken place. The wise adage says that prevention is far better than cure.
Another seemingly intractable problem bedeviling the nation today is the issue of perennial fuel scarcity which many Nigerians thought had become a thing of the past since the removal of the so-called fuel subsidy by the present Buhari administration on his assumption of office in May 2015. The terrible and harrowing experience by Nigerians during the last Christmas and new year festivities when petroleum product or PMS suddenly became a scarce commodity and beyond the reach of average Nigerians is obviously a serious dent on the image and credibility of the Buhari administration who rode on the back of popular appeal to power. Rather than promptly tackling the unfortunate and embarrassing situation that had inflicted untold hardship on the poor masses, the Minister of State for petroleum Ibe Kachikwu and his NNPC GMD counterpart Maikanti Baru were busy playing the blame game to the utter consternation and frustration of the helpless masses. Up till date the price of PMS has remained above the official pump price of 145 naira per liter despite the ridiculous orchestration by the officials of DPR or monitoring team who are busy sealing off petrol stations run by private petroleum marketers who currently procure their products at highly exorbitant prices and hence they were bound to sell at higher prices to the public. As the blame game continued however, the Federal Government found it expedient to make the private petroleum marketers whom it accused of hoarding petroleum products the scapegoat for the lingering fuel crisis in the country. Nothing could be farther from the truth and the records must be put right. The unending fuel crisis in the country was caused largely by serious shortfall in the importation of petroleum products just before the last Christmas and New year festivities and thereby resulted in the scarcity of the products across the nation. Since the available supply of the products could not meet with the huge demands of the public, the situation became unbearable for the motoring public who spent many hours on queue at the filling stations just to purchase the scarce commodity.
To further compound the already messy situation in the country is the thorny issue of the epileptic or erratic power supply which has taken a dangerous turn for the worse since the assumption of office of the “all powerful”, “all knowing” and “superman” Fashola as Minister of Power, Works and Housing and who could rightly be described as “jack of all trades and master of none”. Only recently Minister Fashola told astonished and totally disappointed Nigerians that the extra two thousand megawatts of electricity already generated could not be absorbed into the national grid due to lack of adequate facilities for distribution by the DISCOS to the consuming public. Indeed this is Nigeria the so called giant of Africa in the 21st Century.
As the 2019 general election is fast approaching, political watchers are of the opinion that political leaders across the political spectrum must urgently as a matter of national priority meet in a national confab to address the current widespread agitations for the restructuring of the Nigerian State in line with the collective wishes of the Nigerian people as a necessary condition for any future election in the country. The current quest for restructuring of the polity has become so loud that it could no longer be ignored and as such inevitable if the continued peaceful co-existence of the diverse ethnic cum religious nationalities must be guaranteed.
The political atmosphere in the country today is highly charged almost at the breaking point and most Nigerians are already disillusioned and uncomfortable with the present state of affairs hence the need for urgent and decisive action to rescue the nation from total collapse. The lack of social justice, equity and fairness in running the affairs of the country has recently compelled the alienated and marginalized sections of the country to call for a re-negotiated Nigeria or restructure the terribly unwieldy Nigerian State which will be able to serve the collective interests of the diverse ethnic nationalities that make up the entity called Nigeria based on the principle of true federalism as was bequeathed to us by our founding fathers. The present military imposed anti-people and unworkable constitution must be jettisoned in order to allow the people of Nigeria to freely fashion out a truly people’s constitution that will satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people.
It is needless to emphasize the point that Nigerians have never had it so bad in terms of the unacceptable lopsided appointments by the present Buhari administration which came into office three years ago with the populist slogan or mantra of change. Many key and high profile appointments were made by the present administration without due regard to the cherished principle of federal character as enshrined in the constitution. It is incomprehensible and most regrettable that despite the strong protests by well meaning and concerned Nigerians against the lopsided appointments, the administration has remained adamant and displayed the height of insensitivity to the people’s feelings and has continued with the rather unjust policy.
It is instructive to observe in this piece also that since the creation of Abuja Capital territory over three decades ago when the seat of power was permanently moved from Lagos to Abuja by the erstwhile military regime, all the substantive Ministers of the Federal Capital Territory have always come from the Northern section of the country till date. It must be noted however that the original idea or concept of carving out a virgin land as Abuja Federal Capital Territory with the appropriate appellation as “the center of unity” was envisioned to give all sections of the country a sense of belonging in the affairs of the country. It is inconceivable and an affront to the collective psyche of the Nigerian people that no Southerner has ever been considered fit enough and qualified to hold the position of substantive Minister of Abuja Federal Capital Territory in the history of Abuja as the modern capital city of Nigeria. The Southerners have always been considered only fit enough to hold the position of junior or Minister of state for Abuja Federal Capital Territory.
This unfortunate state of affairs is obviously one of the factors that is responsible for the present deep rooted distrust, suspicion, animosity, envy, and divisive tendencies among the various ethnic nationalities and which invariably has given rise to the widespread agitations across the country for the urgent restructuring of the Nigeria State as well as the extreme calls for the total disintegration of the country as one political entity.