By Christopher Oji
There is no gainsaying that Nigeria has, in the last one decade or more, been bewildered with diverse kinds of insecurity. From North to South, East to West, there are cries of insecurity.
It is so bad that many persons in different parts of Nigeria can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed due to the mayhem being unleashed on innocent and unsuspecting Nigerians.
In fact, bandits, terrorists, kidnappers, marauding herders and other criminal elements have held the country by the jugular, spreading tears, blood, death, sorrow and fear.
There is hardly a day that passes without instances of murder, assassination, abduction, bombing and daylight robbery. People are being abducted and ransom demanded with audacity. Abductors kill victims who do not pay ransom. Many of the victims are left with life-long psychological trauma.
But one man, governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, a presidential aspirant in the 2023 election, has vowed to take the bull by the horns and leave no stone unturned in finding a lasting solution to insecurity that has plunged the country into perpetual retrogression.
Perturbed by the ugly development, in 2021, he gathered stakeholders in the security sector, journalists reporting politics and crime, in the first annual seminar of its kind, to brainstorm on how to best secure every Nigerian, irrespective of his or her status or where he or she lives.
This year, the governor, who apparently needed to be proactive in stamping out insecurity from Nigeria, again, gathered stakeholders, including journalists covering the political and crime beats, for the Second Annual Governor Yahaya Bello Seminar.
Among the dignitaries at the seminar in Abuja were president of Nigeria Union of Journalists, Chief Chris Isiguzo, former presidential spokesman, Mr. Reuben Abati, Frank Edoho of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” and the mystery voice behind Big Brother Naija, Mr. Ejike Ibedilo, just to mention a few.
During the seminar, Bello, who wants to take over the job of President Muhammadu Buhari, come 2023, pledged that, if given the opportunity, the problems of insecurity and food insecurity would become a thing of the past.
Stakeholders at the event agreed that nowhere was safe in Nigeria anymore and cried to Buhari to declare a state of emergency in security.
In the North, terrorists have reportedly taken over some local governments, forcing people to flee their homes and farmlands. There are internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in several states in the northern part of the country. The development has also forced the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, to threaten to invite foreign mercenaries to help in flushing out the gunmen who have made life unbearable for the people of his state. Of recent, Kaduna has had more than a fair share of terrorist attacks. Recently, terrorists attacked the Kaduna Airport, and, next day, they attacked a train after bombing the tracks. The gunmen abducted many after shooting dead eight passengers.
In some parts of Niger State, terrorists keep raiding villages and farmlands with reckless abandon. Many farmers have abandoned their homes and farm produce as the gunmen kill them or demand levies before they are allowed access to their farms.
The ugly development has affected Nigeria’s economy badly and stained the country’s reputation internationally, as some countries, like the United States of America, have declared some Nigerian states as no-go areas for their citizens. Food shortage has led to inflation in the prices of foodstuff and this is an irony for a country blessed with vast arable land and human resources.
Bello said that he has been having a nagging headache over insecurity in Nigeria and has been calling on those concerned to rise to the occasion.
The governor, during the two-day seminar, tagged “Hope 2023: Bridging the Gap,” did not only X-ray the causes of insecurity but also stated that, if voted President in 2023, he would solve the problem of insecurity, normalcy would return to Nigeria and people would go back to their businesses and travel everywhere without fear of being harassed by hoodlums under any guise.
However, he exonerated Buhari from the crisis, as he said the President has been doing a lot at the centre to end the malaise. He claimed that other governors have failed to secure their respective states.
Said Bello: “Our major challenge in Nigeria is insecurity, but I have the solution. The solution is simply using Kogi State’s template to deal with the ugly monster. I have tried it in my state and it is working for us. I cannot answer the ‘Chief Security Officer’ of my state and still be blaming President Muhammadu Buhari. I have to own up to the responsibility of securing my people. One thing that is required is the willpower to tackle insecurity.
“When I took charge of Kogi State in 2015, the security situation was bad, but I took charge of the security situation without crying to the President to assist me. For crying out loud, a governor is the chief security officer of his state! So, he should take charge of security of his state. For instance, I gave my local government chairmen a standing instruction not to allow crime happen under their LGAs or they would incur my wrath, and the order still stands. I told them to work with traditional rulers, religious leaders, hunters and youths in their domain, which is what they are doing, and they are able to fish out criminals in their domains.
“Criminals are not from the moon. They are from the same villages with us and we know criminals in our areas.
“Again, who owns the bushes that the criminal elements are operating from? The bushes are owned by people. So, people are advised to watch over their lands. What are hunters doing, if they can’t give information about criminal elements who operate in the bushes? So, we make use of locals to make the villages uncomfortable for hoodlums. You can’t operate in Kogi as a criminal and succeed, because, in a few hours, you must be fished out.
“Before I took over as the governor, Kogi used to be something else. Armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, communal clashes and herders/farmers’ clashes were the order of the day, but, today, all those vices are things of the past. That is why I am clamouring about willpower. I formed a joint security network, where the army, police and local vigilantes, including hunters, work hand in hand. I put in money, bought vehicles and I paid stipends to the security agencies, which has gone a long way in the security architecture of the state.
“If I sail through as the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria, Nigeria will experience peace and people will begin to sleep with two eyes closed. So, I will replicate what I am doing in my state at the federal level. I will put governors on their toes. I will let the governors know that they are the chief security officers of their states and it is their constitutional duty to protect their citizens. It is their duty to make sure that properties, including farms, are secured. Security requires intelligence gathering. I will not tolerate buck-passing.”
Taking a look at food security and the economy, the Kogi helmsman stated that there were other dimensions to the matter: “When we talk of insecurity, remember that there is also food insecurity. During the COVID-19 pandemic era, while other states were locked down, I refused to lock down Kogi and there was food and business was moving on well. My people were richly blessed. So, when you are thinking of security, you should think of food security too.”
On ethnic and religious diversity in Nigeria, he said: “I mobilized my people and, together, we are working through our differences. Is it any wonder that the brutal personality cults, tribal clashes, farmer/herders’ conflicts and religious upheavals we inherited have ceased?
“A Yahaya Bello presidency, like his governorship, will be tough on crime. I believe that crime is crime and all crimes are inexcusable, and I have demonstrated strong capacity to neutralize crimes and criminals in Kogi State.
“We went from being the state where violent crime was most endemic in 2015 to one of the safest states in Nigeria from 2017 till date. Our crime rate has been one of the lowest in the country for years now.”
Meanwhile, the chief security officer to Bello, Commander Jerry Omodara (retd.), who delivered a paper titled “Succeeding in the Fight Against Insecurity, Terrorism: The Kogi Example,” traced the problems of insecurity to several factors. They include Kogi State’s geographical location at the heart of Nigeria, the general security situation in the country, the established strategy of using the youths as tools for political actualisation (thuggery), unemployment, low-level collaboration and synergy among security agencies, lack of structured intelligence-gathering systems, failure to involve the people in intelligence-gathering and participation (community policing) and lack of the willpower on the part of those at the helm of affairs.
Omodara noted that, in the fight against insecurity, states had peculiarities in the application of techniques and security deployment, “No two states in Nigeria are the same as it relates to people, typography, geographical location, access roads, infrastructures, religion and ethnic diversity.”
He highlighted several security challenges and incidents in the state, including, “Acts of terrorism as a result of activities of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and some elements of Boko Haram, the attack on a correctional centre on September 12, 2021, a bank robbery at Egbe on December 21, 2021, isolated kidnapping cases, Itobe-Alu, Ofagolo-Ayingba, Ofu-Dekina LGA, Aduge, Ogale, in Ijumu LGA, the influx of bandits from Nasarawa State through Sardauna Village and Fulani/herdsmen and host community clashes.”
Former spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, Abati, in his contribution, urged journalists to live up to expectations by applying the ethics of the profession as the watchdogs of the nation, adding that it was the primary responsibility and constitutional right of journalists to hold government accountable.
He said: “Journalists should interrogate all that political office holders tell. Journalists should be able to ask questions on what the political office holders have done before or whether they are doing what they promised to do. We should be truthful at all times. We should be able to query political actors who say one thing and do another. We should be able to set agenda for politicians and not allow them set agenda for us.
“We need transparency in government and that is why I am emphasizing on interrogating political office seekers. Look at the person’s antecedents. It is an opportunity to ask clear questions. Journalist, as watchdogs, should not allow politicians to mess up this country. If the country burns tomorrow, all of us will burn. As watchdogs, we should not allow the country to burn. I have listened to the governor and other speakers. I am convinced that the governor has performed excellently well in Kogi State.”
In conclusion, Prof. Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia, coordinator of the Yahaya Bello Campaign Organisation, said: “The organisation is committed to making real the promises of democracy, which must translate simply into better life for the masses. ‘Hope 2023’ holds great promise for a nation in dire need of new values and tendencies in governance. It is about youth inclusiveness, gender parity and improved national security and brotherhood. It is also about improved infrastructure, health care, job creation and improved energy. Hope 2023 is about the overhaul and the reworking of our educational sector and curriculum; creating the enabling environment for a 21st century-compliant agricultural sector and ballot-based, people’s revolution for the good of our dear nation, Nigeria.
“Hope 2023 is a clarion call to our nation to wake up and work with Bello as we birth and berth the country of our dreams. It is a commitment to new thinking in leadership and passion for a new, prosperous and successful Nigeria.”
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