By Ahmadu Shehu, PhD.
The comments by the Governor of Katsina State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari encouraging local populations to rise and defend themselves have mixed reactions. Governor Masari’s comments betray the frustration of state governments in curbing the incessant killings, kidnappings and wanton terrorism that has overtaken most parts of northern Nigeria, especially the northwest. This also portrays the disgustingly shameful inability of the current administration to secure the lives and properties of its citizens.
In my opinion, Masari’s call to self-defence is the only option left for defenceless citizens who their governments leave at the mercy of terrorists. After many years of terror and horror, it is now apparent that Nigerians can no longer rely on the government for security and protection. As a result, Nigerians are in constant fear and uncertainty at home, on the road, in hotels, awake or asleep.
For one, the Nigerian police are grossly understaffed, ill-equipped and unmotivated to deal with the least of crimes in our society. Secondly, our last line of defence, the Nigerian armed forces, are overwhelmed. Despite its historical doggedness and glory, the Nigerian army has fallen victim to the Nigerian endemic corruption, nepotism and malfunction.
This, coupled with the fact that the country has been continuously militarized for decades, has oversaturated and weakened the numerical, financial and material strength of the armed forces. From Baga to Yenagoa, Seme to Mubi, Port Harcourt to Sokoto, the Nigerian military struggles with one threat or another within our borders.
Facing serious national threats such as IPOB and Oduduwa separatists, terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, Ansaru, etc., rampant and rampaging bandits and kidnappers, have disorganized, disoriented and crippled the efficiency and efficacy of the Nigerian armed forces. There is certainly a limit to strength and power.
The Nigerian judiciary, which should have been a deterrent to criminals and the last resort for the masses and the poor, has been an easy, cheap tool for the wealthy. The weak, vulnerable citizens have mostly been on their own. They have resigned to fate and forsaken the course of justice, hoping only to get justice in the hereafter.
While the above is an absolute truth, Gov. Masari’s call is misplaced, ill-timed and counterproductive. My disagreement is not in the principle of what he said but in the approach and implementation. Masari is simply calling for absolute anarchy.
Now that the nation cannot deal with a few unorganized armed zealots, how do we imagine a situation where citizens are armed to the teeth? America, the world superpower, is consumed by this law of necessity. How much more of a country which cannot prosecute the smallest of its criminals?
How would Gov. Masari deal with thousands of unemployed, illiterate, impoverished youth with arms and ammunition at their disposal? If all communities are armed as the Governor envisages, who will be the law in the state? Does Masari think that people with uncontrolled access to firepower equate to an organized police force? Does he understand that the only difference between the current bandits and yet-to-be-bandit youth is access to weapons and freedom from the law?
I do not know who is responsible for educating our political leaders about the relationship between poverty, illiteracy and poor governance with the current situation in the north. But, still, whoever it is, they must be doing an awful job.
The simple truth is that most of our youth populations are idle, uneducated and miserably poor. Another fact is that the alternatives to gainful employment, hope and prosperity is despair, criminality and social crises.
There is still Katsina government house where the Governor lives in peace because the majority have no access to lethal weaponry. That scarcity is because of the restraint ensured by the law and order that is still in place.
While I disagree with Masari’s approach to this solution, I still believe that this is our only option to ending this madness in the short term. But, to succeed in this, there must be a workable framework.
First, the federal government must decentralize our police force. Secondly, each community must be led by the officials of our security forces to establish a community-based security outfit responsible for securing the immediate and broader community. Finally, all weapons must be registered and deployed through the security personnel in each community.
All participating community members must be registered with biometrics accessible to all Nigerian security agencies. In addition, all participating individuals must be given a short training on the use of firearms. The local and state authorities must provide ammunition, and all participating individuals must be assessed and be accessible to security and local authorities.
When this collaborative network of locals and state security forms a cohesive, functional security outfit, these devils will doubtlessly be defeated in no time.
However, the essential requirement for this to happen is a national leadership capable of mobilizing the citizens to confront local and national threats. Until this is achieved, all solutions are hanging on the balance. The Fulani say “hoore nastii hooraare, Allah yidoo gite”.
Dr Ahmadu Shehu is a herdsman, a social commentator, and passionate about the Nigerian project. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.