By Kayode Komolafe
0805 500 1974
In fewer than 24 hours that Governor Aminu Bello Masari justified his call on the people of Katsina state to take up arms in self-defence, some “unknown gunmen” attacked the Nigerian Defence Academy in the neighbouring Kaduna state yesterday, killing two officers and abducting another in the tragic event.
It was as if the attackers were responding to the Masari proposition which had generated mixed reactions. In fact, a controversy of sorts was already brewing over Masari’s statement before the attack. But while the reactions to Masari had been in words, the seeming response embodied in the attack on the Defence aca (NDA) was in action. In some respects, the attack is akin to what theorists of terrorism call “propaganda by deed.” The elements in the process of terror, of course, include horror, shock and awe. Security experts say propaganda oils the machine of terror.
It has been so since the Italian Federation of Anarchists International first described this terror method in 1876. The attack on NDA was such a loud statement that no amount of non-violent publicity could have ever achieved. It was also a deep message to the public that no one is immune to terror, armed or unarmed. The “unknown gunmen” who struck at NDA might not be conscious of any coherent ideological mission as some security experts have argued; but the practical consequences of the attack are similar to the objectives of terror.
What the NDA statement described merely as “compromised” security arrangement of the institution was actually a categorical challenge to the Nigerian state. Those who attacked the NDA should not just be dismissed as “unknown gunmen.” They are terrorists. After all, no terrorist ever calls himself a terrorist. It is those suffer the pains of the action of terrorists that call them so based, of course, on expert analysis. So, there is no point being euphemistic about the terrible situation in Nigeria.
When schools, highways and farmlands are terrorised, experts posit that the vulnerability of those places are due to the fact that they are “soft targets.” Implicit in that categorisation is that the students, travellers and farmers in those respective “soft targets” are not armed. However, the NDA cannot be described by any stretch of imagination as a “soft target.” The military elements in the NDA are not expected to be as hapless as the unarmed and untrained students, travellers and farmers.
Come to think of it, the other day kidnappers struck at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Afaka area of Kaduna. Some analysts said that it was a daring act because the NDA was located in Afaka. In other words, the proximity of the school of forestry to NDA, a military zone, ought to make it relative safer. As a matter of fact, in the face of a threat of insecurity residents of areas close to NDA would instinctively seek refuge in the military institution if possible. What would security pundits say now that NDA itself is attacked in such a tragic circumstance?
It is in this sense that the attack on NDA would appear to be an indirect response to Masari’s call to arms. Will the democratisation of the use of weapons of all sorts by everybody be the antidote to insecurity? As we commiserate with the families of those killed, it is important to ponder the link between Masari’s call and the attack on the eminent military academy. The reflection is not the job of only the defence authorities, who deserve public sympathy and support as they face this embarrassment.
Well, Masari’s call should be put in the context of the very difficult situation in which he operates. To be fair to the Katsina governor, he spoke as a thoroughly helpless man in the saddle. Before now, this governor has expressed this utter helplessness in tears before television camera. His photograph with a so-called repentant bandit (displaying his weapons) has been widely published. This posture of the governor generated a lot of criticisms as some members of the public felt the bandits should treated as criminals. The governor defended his approach of making peace with the killers and kidnappers as a way of winning them over to the society. It turned out that this non-kinetic approach (as some security experts describe it) has turned to be an embrace of hyena. Killings and kidnappings continue to take place in Katsina state. It has even been alleged that criminality in Katsina is grossly under-reported especially in the remote areas. Some Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state are virtually under the reign of terror.
Farmers have reportedly paid “taxes” to the criminals for permission to plant in their farms as well as to harvest crops in places where the possibilities exist. There have been horrific reports of killings and rapes from the ungoverned spaces in the state. Some villages have been virtually abandoned following the siege by the terrorists.
The logic of Masari’s argument seems to be that instead of the people paying ransom to kidnappers, the money should be spent in arming themselves to confront the criminals. After all, a former Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Danjuma, made a similar call some years ago in response to the insecurity in his home state of Taraba.
Hence the governor’s call to arms could be said to be largely borne out of frustration with the system of security in the country. Here is how Masari put it on Monday : “It (the agreement with the bandits) failed because we discovered that the bandit groups lack a central leader. There is no single leader to caution them, because they are not fighting for a particular ideological cause other than to steal…
“We also know that there are not enough security personnel. How many soldiers are there in Katsina? This is because the insecurity issue as affected virtually all states of the federation.
“This compounded the problem and the people can’t fold their hands and watch as they are being killed. If they abandon their villages where will they go and when will the killings end?”
Meanwhile, it is quite remarkable that the picture of a hopeless security situation painted above is that of the home state of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari. That is Katsina state, where helpless residents are called upon to be armed and defend themselves against terrorists. It is worthwhile making this point because more often than not the criticism of the management of security system under Buhari has been largely about the lopsided appointments of heads of security agencies and armed forces. Buhari only trusts “his own people” with security jobs, so goes the argument. The criticism is, of course, legitimate because as in other departments of national life, Buhari’s pattern of appointments can hardly pass the test of the constitutional provisions on the reflection of the federal character of the nation.
Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution states as follows : “The composition of the goverment of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to promote national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies…”
Beyond legality, the reality of socio-political life is that diversity in appointments could avail the leader the benefits of multiple perspectives in making decisions especially in a very sensitive sector such as the security system. On the contrary, lack of diversity could increase the risk of insularity which is dangerous in managing the affairs of a complex country such as Nigeria.
The problem, however, appears to be more practical in effect than the contemptuous treatment of the federal character principle in the light of Masari’s call. After all, what ultimately matters to the people is their security and not the language or faith of the security chief in charge. Regardless of the ethnic or regional origin of those appointed, the real point at issue is their output in the system. The output in this case is measured by the degree of security in parts of Nigeria. Therefore, it is the output of the security and defence chiefs that should be the primary focus of public criticisms.
Most of Buhari’s defence and security chiefs are from the northwest and northeast of Nigeria. Yet, the two far- north zones cannot be said to be more secure than any other part of Nigeria from where there are serious complaints of “marginalisation in the security architecture” of the country. Buhari’s northwest state of Katsina is certainly not more secure than any southern state from the account of Masari, who is the chief security of the state. So of what benefits are the high profile defence and security appointments to terrorised farmers in Katsina, kidnapped students in Niger or the travellers killed in Zamfara? Of what use are the high profile defence and security jobs of those from the northeast to the poor and desperate people in that zone languishing in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Borno state? According to Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno state, about 100, 000 persons have been killed since the Boko Haram began in that zone of Nigeria 12 years ago.
All told, the efficacy of Masari’s prescription for the malaise of worsening insecurity is in serious doubt. Proliferation of weapons may worsen the situation of insecurity. If military officers in a defence academy could be so cheaply attacked by terrorists, will the poorly armed and untrained villagers be capable of confronting terrorists armed with sophisticated weapons? So the complete liberalisation of the means of violence may not be the solution.
By the way, the sort of weapons needed to confront the criminals do not come cheap. There is also the legality of access to firearms. The governor’s call to arms is no substitute to the federal laws on the acquisition of firearms. There is still a logic in the principle of the state having the “monopoly of the means of violence.” The proposition to democratise the access to weapons as a response to insecurity is fraught with its own dangers. In other societies in which the use of guns has been liberalised for self-defence, the epidemics of gun violence has turned out to be the disastrous side effects of the security recipes. Already, illegal arms flow is a significant aspect of the insecurity problem. The Masari solution of giving non-state actors wider access to weapons (even for self-defence) may turn out to be another problem. A faster descent into anarchy may be the unintended consequence of the liberalisation of the use of weapons in Nigeria today. It is even more dangerous in a country where security is highly politicised and inter- ethnic antagonisms are rife. You may be preparing the stage inadvertently for the emergence of warlords by increasing the proliferation of guns in any part of the country.
Instead of the one-man-one – gun policy of Masari, Katsina state could establish a neighbourhood watch to complement the work of the police and other security agencies. The personnel of such an outfit could should be trained and they should be suitably equipped. The Nigeria Police Force could even assist in the training and orientation. Those to be given the task of confronting the criminals should be well prepared for the dangerous job. Such an outfit should be backed up by Katsina state laws. There is enough elbow room in the existing federal laws on policing that the Katsina state government could explore for a modern approach to community security in the villages. Pending a constitutional resolution of the issue of state police, a state government that finds itself in a desperate situation could consider this option. Security outfits established by state governments should be modernised and well structured. Everybody does not have to carry a gun to keep Katsina or any other state for that matter secure.
Above all, the resort to desperate solutions is a reflection of the grave situation of insecurity in the land. The constitution defines the governance responsibility of those in power as the “security and welfare” of the people. It is sheer abdication of this responsibility for a government at any level to ask the people to defend themselves. This is another sordid symptom of the crisis of governance prevalent all levels in Nigeria.
The attack on the defence academy indirectly demonstrates the limitation of the Masari solution of calling on the people to be armed in order to defend themselves. The tragic event has questioned the competence of the Nigerian state. This is the message of the new dimension to the crisis of insecurity.