“A recent experience brought into sharp focus the dire times we presently live in. On Wednesday, January 28, 2019, I left my office in the Abuja central area for home at about 7.15 pm. Unfortunately, just before Shoprite on my way to Lugbe, my car lost power abruptly, forcing me to stop.
Within five minutes of my stopping, a man looking like an auto mechanic sidled up to the passenger’s side, but as the door was locked, he put his hand through the half-raised window to try to open it from the inside. When I made eye contact with him, he said, “Daddy, what’s wrong with your car?” but was still trying to open the door from the inside. My first thought was, can this person trying to enter the car uninvited be an auto mechanic? Because a mechanic would first greet you and inquire, from outside, what was wrong, and if you required his services, he would then request for you to open the bonnet or wherever he feels the fault may be.
But not this man. He was bent on getting into the car. As I questioned him, from the corner of my eye I saw a hand belonging to his partner-in-crime snaking in through my window. Apparently, their tactic was for the first intruder to divert my attention, while his accomplice used the element of surprise on me. His hand grabbed the phone in my hand that I was trying to use to call my mechanic. I held on to it and we began to struggle over it. In a split second, he brought up his other hand and I felt the sharp point of a knife against my throat.
At that moment, a lot went through my mind. First was that these guys must be on drugs and, second, they may not hesitate to kill over a phone. Furthermore, to them, anyone in a car was a privileged dude, and out of their personal frustrations, they could kill the person, just like that. So, I quickly let go of the phone, then the money on me at his demand. That’s probably how I saved my life.
Now, I know I made a serious mistake. It is now a mistake to drive about with the windows down or doors unlocked, but this also brings us to the grave issue of insecurity in Nigeria as a whole. It is as if the security system is so overwhelmed that its “legs” could buckle under the weight at any moment. What happened to me happened under street lights with other vehicles passing by. One is not safe moving about in our towns, is afraid to commute between towns and afraid to sleep at home with both eyes closed.
People with evil intentions roam freely and their nefarious activities continue to increase unchecked.
The man who stopped and gave me a lift to Lugbe to get a towing van was one Mr Olu, a Yoruba Christian, who didn’t know me from Adam. This amplifies the truism that it is a fallacy to claim that the Hausa hate the Igbo or the Igbo abhor the Yoruba or the Yoruba despise the Hausa. It is also false that the Muslim wants to harm the Christian or the Christian wants to harm the Muslim. All our fault lines are superficial wounds that can be healed by a uniting, fair and just government.
Our leaders and, of course, all men and women of goodwill must be concerned. We all need to help find a solution; Frankenstein-like monsters have been reared and peace is threatening to elude us. We live in fear of what fate awaits our children and our children’s children.
Just recently, the South West established a security outfit named ‘Amotekun’, ostensibly to protect its people. But, truth be told, Amotekun has been with us for quite some time now. People hire private security guards for protection. That is Amotekun. Streets are barricaded at both ends and the inhabitants hire private security guards to patrol them. That is also Amotekun. Soon, the private security business will be the most flourishing around, because more and more Nigerians will call for their services. It may well be that, soon, regions, states and local governments will all be setting up Amotekun because, apparently, the centre can no longer hold.
Anyone who thinks that those who birthed Amotekun had a sinister motive should know that anybody with a sinister motive should not be given the excuse to be sinister. A strong and responsive security system would give citizens confidence and with that, there would be no need for Amotekun, in whatever guise.
I believe a lot needs to be done now, for the future is pregnant with danger. Discontent abounds everywhere as a result of the acute twin diseases of illiteracy and poverty. God forbid it, but we, as a nation, are facing doom, unless something is done about them. In the next thirty years, Nigeria will be home to over 400 million people and 40 per cent of the world’s poor will be right here!
Crime will become pervasive and entrenched in our society if we fail to do something about it now. Already, there are illiterate, semi-literate and even literate but hungry people ready to kill for a phone or a few thousands of naira. In the future, if this is not checked, they will kill for an earpiece or a few hundreds of naira or a morsel of food. The law-abiding will no longer be able to sleep with even eyes closed and the rich will not find a safe haven anywhere, even with all their wealth. All shall be consumed. Wake up, we must.”
I wrote the above piece elsewhere in January this year. Six months down the line, what has changed for the better? Things are now worse than then.
In December last year, I wrote in my column the following: “The Boko Haram insurgents, once touted as ‘technically defeated’ by no other than President Muhammadu Buhari, are now technically resurging and giving our soldiers a bloody nose; killing them and civilians in droves, sacking military bases and villages in the North East and packing away weapons and prisoners of war comprising soldiers and civilians, especially women to assuage their lust.
The war against the Boko Haramites in the North East seems to be losing steam and one is concerned as to question why? Is it due to exhaustion, war-weariness or lack of ideas on how to confront them? Is it the lack of morale among our fighting force? Or lack of weapons coupled with inadequate training? Or is it a bit of all of these?
When looked at properly, the Boko Haramites do not have the formal military training our army has, even though some abducted soldiers may be teaching them some military tactics under duress – which may account for their confidence in confronting the Nigerian Army. Because when you look at the videos they release, you do not see them with weapons that are more sophisticated than those of our soldiers.
In the North West, armed bandits, perhaps Boko Haram with a different face, are threatening to take over Zamfara State. The state is almost under their control, they move freely heavily armed, collect tax from villagers for protection, ransack communities at will, kill, maim and take as many as they can with them for ransom. The bandits can come to a marriage gathering and just demand the bride and she would be handed over to them. They as well abduct women and girls, converting them into sex slaves.
The North Central has become a traveller’s nightmare, from Rijau to Birnin Gwari and Gwanin Gora to Rijana through Kaduna and down to the suburbs of the Plateau. One travels at one’s own risk, as even four-star generals are being killed at will. Herdsmen kill every moving object and sack villages, burning everything down to ashes. Kidnappers are also having a field day. Are some of them, especially the herdsmen and kidnappers, another face of Boko Haram getting the much-needed cash?
Hardly can one confidently travel from one town or village to the next once it is 7 pm. Travelling by road even in broad daylight is embarked upon with trepidation. Journeying by plane is no longer for luxury, but for safety.
Our security apparatus possibly needs a total overhaul and assistance from elsewhere. There has to be synergy between the different actors, modern policing methods and the revival of community policing”.
Has anything changed? Perhaps the change is that Katsina, the home state of the president, has joined Zamfara.
The Shiites were massacred for “forming a state within a state” and blocking the path of the Chief of Army Staff. Well, Boko Haram and the bandits have imposed taxes on communities before they can even farm. The Emir of Zamfarar-Anka, who is also the chairman of the Zamfara Council of Chiefs, who some time ago cried publicly as a result of bandits’ activities, has called on affected communities not pay but allow the bandits to kill them until they get tired, while a commissioner in the state has advised them to just “give them what they want”.
This is the condition we are now in. The problem is that the bandits have checkpoints all over their enclaves and run the affairs of the communities as a government. It is high time the Chief of Army Staff stopped them and their “government”.The North and Insecurity: What has changed?, by Hassan Gimba
Boko Haram from the East and bandits, their soul mates, from the West can hold the North in a pincer-like grip that may sound the death knell for a lot of hopes.