Talking the naked truth to the government

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When the leadership of the exited 8th National Assembly was to be constituted, President Buhari was at best, nonchalant. As a political novice then, he claimed he could work with anybody; after all, he belonged to nobody but everybody!

The exited Assembly presided by Dr. Bukola Saraki and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara taught President Buhari on how to be a real democrat through effective legislation not minding membership of the same political party or belonging to the same region. It was a focused and determined National Assembly that added beauty to the democracy and rule of law.

APC as the ruling party and the presidency, erroneously believed Saraki and Dogara were agents of destabilization in the National Assembly. There was a cold war between the presidency and the national assembly leadership that culminated in the defections of Saraki and Dogara to the opposition party. Dogara as an experienced combatant so dear to his constituents was able to return to the House of Representatives on the platform of PDP while Saraki, unfortunately, lost his bid for return.

If PDP had won majority seats in the Green Chamber, Dogara could have retained his seat as the Speaker for the 9th House of Representatives. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Having probably learned from the frosty relationship with the 8th National Assembly, Buhari and APC took more than a cursory interest in who became the Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives in the 9th National Assembly. There were oppositions, including an attempt by Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP to return as the deputy senate president.

Buhari’s choices eventually had their way after working assiduously to water the ground for a soft landing. Dr. Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila emerged Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.

Being the Buhari’s suspected ‘stooges’, Nigerians wrote them off, expecting them to rubber-stamp the president’s wishes. True to expectation, they acceded to a number of his desires with immediate alacrity. But in the last few weeks, Lawan and Gbajabiamila took a commendable stand on security particularly in the North and elsewhere that gladdened many hearts. Although Lawan was long expected to fire the first salvo being a direct victim of Boko Haram insurgency, he finally shouted out of frustration.

Lawan said: “The security situation in the country has deteriorated and the attendant loss of lives was unacceptable we must secure the lives and properties of the people as enshrined in the Constitution

“Our economy is also affected by the inclement security situation. We need to speedily seek for solutions to fix the security problem bedeviling our dear country. There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift and reform of the architecture and structure of our security systems”.

From his end, Gbajabiamila called a meeting a penultimate week with Service Chiefs. The Honorable House had intended to use the meeting to find out what the challenges were and how it could help. But instead of those ‘Untouchable’ Service Chiefs taking advantage of the parley to lay bare their challenges, they sent their boys to represent them. There was no prior call or correspondence to justify their absence. The Speaker was obviously livid but tried to control his anger and frustration. His position was however clear: Only in the Buhari style of governance that Service Chiefs could ignore the parliament and get away with it. The Speaker was courageous enough to call off the meeting to the admiration of his colleagues.

What is the essence of meeting with Armed Forces mere Accountants and when combatants’ matters were to be discussed?

If Lawan and Gbajabiamila had kept quiet, posterity would have judged them unkindly. What the ‘almighty’ Service Chiefs did to the leadership of the House of Representatives reminds me of the urgent need to retire them and engage fresh hands with fresh ideas and determination to excel. They have so far done their best and their best is not good enough as we can all judge. The results have not justified the huge spending. Instead, the insecurity is escalating with serious threats to our unity and progress.

Except we want to deceive ourselves and continue to live in misery and pity, our country is getting increasingly insecure. We all sleep with two eyes widely opened and mentally alert to any uninvited visitor. Inter-state roads are becoming too dangerous to ply. Bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and terrorists have taken over the roads. President Buhari admitted to being stunned by the turn of events but no practical solution from his end. He should consider turning away the Service Chiefs if things are to turn around. This brings to fore the need to set-in-motion a Presidential Security Committee (PSC) to be chaired by a retired member of the Armed Forces, not below the rank of a Three-star General with a proven record of unblemished service with integrity to specifically handle the issue of insecurity bedeviling the country. If that is put-in-place, the committee should be charged with the task of executing the war against Boko Haram elements, kidnappers, armed robbers, and bandits. Those presently handling the war should be disengaged from other security assignments.

Obviously, the current approach to security issues has failed and time to try other methods is now or never if we are to overcome the unfortunate situation for a prosperous country.

One believes that there is a link between the sad state of things and an account given by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Babagana Munguno who said an estimated seven (7) million illegal weapons are in the hands of non-state actors and criminals. This represents 70 percent of the eight to 10 million illegal arms in West Africa. These illegal arms are used for violent conflicts, armed banditry, kidnapping, cattle-rustling, militancy and the insurgency/terrorism on the increase in Nigeria.

With our severely undermanned borders, we are in harm’s way. Our inadequately policed land and maritime borders have supported illegal border crossings and irregular migrants with its attendant trans-national crimes. And with the regular security agents being unable to stem the tide, it is to your tent oh Israel!

The activities of bandits forced the Western region to inaugurate a pure community policing network code-named Amotekun, only for the Nigeria Police leadership, which has glaringly failed to protect the people, to doublespeak on the laudable initiative.

The North may be forced to be a copy cat of the South-west initiative to have its own version of the security network. The Abuja-Kaduna train is receiving more patronage because many are running away from the threats of ‘Masters of the Road’, bandits. All thanks to the Abuja-Kaduna highway which is a good road to ply if one intends to meet an untimely death in the nick of time.

The other day still fresh in our memory was the day Boko Haram murdered Rev. Lawan Andimi, a revered cleric from Adamawa state despite sincere negotiations for his release from their captivity.

Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the North-eastern part of Nigeria are still in the grip of Boko Haram. Funny enough, the sub-region has the present National Security Adviser (NSA), Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Staff to the president, Senate President, Comptroller-General of Customs and several other positions of authority in the government, yet the sub-region is the most insecure. Something must be wrong somewhere! It is either those dignitaries who have lost interest in the viability of the sub-region or are the most unqualified to hold the positions they occupy. They are probably retained for a certain hidden agenda, if not, why the escalation of insecurity in the sub-region?

Nigerians are praying that may the country not return to the 2013/14 and early 2015 era when Boko Haram was almost forming a parallel government and had hoisted their flag in many a ‘captured’ territory. At that time, there was hardly any Friday of the week without a mosque bombed in the North. It was during that era that the Chibok girls were abducted. Rev. Andimi’s gruesome murder ruffled feathers that led to peaceful protests/prayer walk by several Churches on the directive of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

As support to his directive, CAN president, Samson Ayokunle said the prayer walk was aimed at using prayers to curb the activities of terrorists and criminals. With due respect, I beg to disagree with that statement because it is one of those situations that go beyond prayers and I’m not underrating the capacity of our creator in answering sincere prayers. The government must wake up from slumber, shun away from deceitful reports of success, accept good opinions from the people irrespective of class status and do the needful. There is no way to achieve the desirable if the government remains adamant to good ideas proffered. Let the government dusty the Tanimu Turaki Presidential Committee Report on Boko Haram for implementation of the whole. There are several reports laying waste in the ONSA and the DSS. Let those reports see the light than embarking on endless prayer sessions that may end up as conduit pipes of draining public resources.

Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase (Deputy Speaker House of Representatives) then as a floor member, Senator Istifanus Gyang, Hon. Mary Lar and few other national legislators had spoken on several insecurity challenges in their respective constituencies. For instance, a few weeks ago, Senator Gyang recalled how 27 innocent souls were posted to the great beyond by suspected insurgents in Kawatas, Ruboi, and Marish in Plateau State. Six other persons were abducted after the gruesome murder.

Former Plateau State PDP chairman, Damishi Sango said: “The insecurity in the land is alarming and can no longer be painted in beautiful colors no matter the expertise of the painter. The government should start implementing 2019 reviewed National Security Strategy (NSS). The review of the strategy document was caused by the spiraling crime wave across the country. Terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, transnational crimes, crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, and small arms proliferation are on the rise”.

As a commentator on issues, Nigerians must commend the Buhari administration for the initial success recorded against insurgency, but the successes have practically been rubbished by the current exploits of Boko Haram, kidnappers and bandits. Like it is in my profession of journalism, you are as good as your last byline so we shall judge the president by how he handles the current descent and not by his earlier victories against criminality. Let there be a Presidential National Security Committee to take charge of the insecurity situation independent of the present security structures.

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues.

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