Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999 after several years of military occupation of power stool. Today marks exactly 22 years since the transition took place.
From President Olusegun Obasanjo to the late Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and to the current President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria has recorded some appreciable achievements, particularly in the area of telecommunication, agriculture and infrastructure (for instance, there has been a lot of investment in rail transportation).
But these achievements appear to have been dwarfed by the high level of insecurity in the country and worsening disunity among the different ethnic nationalities in the country, leading to agitation for restructuring.
Ayo Adebanjo, a chieftain of the pan-Yoruba cultural association, Afenifere, said there was nothing to celebrate.
“There is nothing to celebrate for now; rather we are mourning the dream of our forefathers; all the problems bedevilling Nigeria now had been settled before independence until the military came in 1966. What is the problem now? It is the problem of creation of local government autonomy, revenue allocation, I mean true federalism?
“Even revenue and how it would be shared. These issues have been sorted before independence, before the military came and that was why we had the 1963 Constitution. It is the 1963 Constitution that takes care of all these issues caused by the British amalgamation of 1914. Except you want to fool us, these current exercises would not bring anything good,” Adebanjo said.
According to him, “When we say let’s change the 1999 Constitution we are not talking nonsense. If Buhari has no hidden agenda, let him return us to true federalism, which is the solution. If you don’t agree with Goodluck Jonathan’s constitutional conference why don’t you set up your own? The current constitution is fraudulent and it is the source of our problems. You are asking a legislature that was created by the fraudulent constitution to amend the law and expect something good. We are under a dictator regime. For some of us who fought for the independence of the country, it is sad.”
Tade Ademola, Lagos State chairman, Inter-Party Advisor Council (IPAC), said: “When there’s relative peace, development is assured; progress is constant and planning is simpler. The insecurity has taken us back many years. And this has affected Nigeria in all its ramifications. This insecurity has changed so many things, including hyping the restructuring agitations which has snowballed into ethnic groups ready to leave Nigeria. Nigeria is at the lowest ebb now.”
Lanre Oyegbola, politician, is of the view that Nigeria is not where it could be, saying, “We surely can be much better than this and we surely have what it takes to be better. I am more persuaded that with the rise in more forthright Nigerians getting involved in the affairs of Nigeria and in the politics of who governs Nigeria at different levels, we are surely going to be tilting the clock positively.”
According to him, “Insecurity, no doubt, has been with us for like forever, and it’s become more pronounced in recent days and years, but we must also accept that the hype around insecurity and the stereotyping around the whole matter are not doing the country any good.
“In all, I wish we keep Nigeria democratic by engaging our political elite to work for the interest of all and evolve a process that is competence and character-focused. This will ensure we put round pegs in round holes and avoid the trap of doing politics the same old way and expect a different result.”
From North East, considered as the epicenter of insecurity, the challenge is now across the country in different shades.
But it would be recalled that early this year, when President Buhari finally listened to Nigerians and changed the military Service Chiefs, who many insisted were incompetent, there was respite as Nigerians and the world at large hoped for improvement in the country’s security, which has worsened over the years.
In his excitement over the appointment of the new Service Chiefs, Abdulai Yeri, a retired Army Colonel, and now APC chieftain in Bauchi State, assured that he knew Ibrahim Attahiru, the then new Chief of Army Staff, as a no-nonsense man and that he and team would deliver.
Sadly, the fresh air anticipated by many, courtesy of the new appointments, did not happen as was evident in the last four months of the new Service Chiefs, with little or no feat at making Nigeria safe for the citizens to live in.
If the country had made any progress in the last four months of the new Service Chiefs, the recent death of the chief of army staff in an air crash is a big setback to the fight against insecurity as many suspected foul play in his death.
“For over five years, somebody has been shouting in Benue that they are killing his people and nothing has happened since. People die in Plateau every day, there is strategic killing now in South East, residents of Borno have since relocated, many more are leaving as those who remain are being killed. Is the bloodshed not enough, is the Federal Government waiting until some tribes are wiped off before responding?” Bem Ujah, an Abuja-based lawyer, cried out.
The forensic lawyer further lamented that the Federal Government is not helping the matter with its inaction.
“How can people keep crying out to you, who is elected and also sworn in to protect them, yet you sleep comfortably and only send a message to console them after each attack when you can flush out the killers. I think Nigeria is far from getting solutions to our insecurity challenge until presidency gets serious and accepts the reality,” Ujah said.
What worries many observers is the inability of Nigeria to seek help from foreign partners who have successfully addressed their insecurity challenges.
“Why always asking for loans to build infrastructure that bandits will destroy soon, why not ask for military and intelligence assistance. If you invite the United States of America, it will clear Sambisa forest in a minute, but why are we not getting such helps, Nigerians should protests on this, force presidency to engage foreign powers now”, Freeman Alabo, a security expert and Niger Delta politician said.
For Alabo, the Federal Government is insincere with the fight against insecurity, especially with insurgence and bandits in the north.
“If Niger Delta militants make noise now, the Federal Government will send dreaded soldiers with institution to kill at sight, why not do same in the north. You saw the killings in the East because IPOB, if the presidency continues to have soft spot for bandits and insurgence, our security will even get so much out of hand that Aso Rock will not be same. The president should act now and get the help needed,” Alabo advised.
He thinks that the Nigerian security authorities have been compromised, those ready to work are demoralized by the poor treatment meted on their dead colleagues, while others are resigning to keep their lives.
Considering the many challenges faced by Nigeria and the need to rejig the security architecture of the country, some observers advised that government should get foreign help now.
“We need a collaboration of America, Germany, France and others to fight insecurity. But we need to flush out sabotage in the security system and be honest with them in order to get results. No geopolitical zone should hide records to save its dissidents”, Alabo said.
Toeing Alabo’s line, Ojobo Ameh, a concerned parent and school principal in Niger State, called on Nigerians to protests in favour of bringing foreign help.
For now, the only solution to our problem is foreign help because our security is compromised; they are eating from the problem, hence foreign assistance. If this is going to be ‘#EndInsecurity’ protest let it be because presidency has not responded enough to people’s plights. We are dying shamefully by our brothers’ guns and machetes,” the angry principal said.