National security: Between executive protection and safety of the poor

 (By Olamide Bakare)

My heart bleeds when the Information Minister, Labaran Maku justified the President’s visit to the Kano rally, saying that the President was making a loud statement that the insurgents’ activities cannot stop the government from working. What a thoughtless statement! To compound the presidency’s insensitivity of the people’s sorrow, the President himself said the horrendous activities of the insurgency, particularly the carnage at Nyanya bomb blast are “unnecessary distractions.

VIRTUALLY every government that has presided over the affairs of this country has caused the poor masses a great psychological and emotional trauma. This is due to the various national ills that have characterised each government. The unresolved high profile corruption cases that typified the Obasanjo Administration between 1999 and 2007 has left an indelible pain in the heart of many, having witnessed the unimaginable profligacy and wastefulness of our national resources under the disguise of fighting corruption. While those woes are still fresh in my memory and in the memory of many concerned Nigerians, the absurd gruesome killings of thousands of innocent defenceless Nigerians by the Boko Haram insurgency that have marked the Jonathan Administration in recent times have caused many defenceless citizens greater pains. One of such pains came as a result of the level of callousness displayed by the presidency shortly after the Nyanya bomb blast in Abuja on Monday, April 14.

   It beats my imagination that President Goodluck Jonathan could display such level unfeeling, dancing at a political rally in Kano 24 hours after witnessing the scene of the bomb blast where the blood of helpless Nigerians littered the ground. It equally beats my thinking that the presidency could muster enough effrontery to justify its callousness for attending the Kano rally. My heart bleeds when the Information Minister, Labaran Maku justified the President’s visit to the Kano rally, saying that the President was making a loud statement that the insurgents’ activities cannot stop the government from working. What a thoughtless statement! To compound the presidency’s insensitivity of the people’s sorrow, the President himself said the horrendous activities of the insurgency, particularly the carnage at Nyanya bomb blast are “unnecessary distractions.”

  What a pitiful exhibition of irresponsibility! Would the President have tagged the Nyanya’s ugly scene as “unnecessary distraction” were his relatives to be among the people whose blood were spilled and mutilated bodies littered the ground? Would he have gotten the fortitude to dance at the rally had the children of his relations been among the over 120 abducted school girls by the insurgents? Better still, how would our President have reacted if the venue of his daughter’s wedding suddenly got blown up? That may seem impossible due to the fact that virtually every arm of our security agencies was present on the ground to provide maximum security. Still on the same thought, would Maku have gotten the courage to justify the President’s action had any of his own immediate family been callously murdered in cold blood like those killed in the bomb blast? Probably things would have changed for the better if any of our political office holders’ relatives had fallen victim of the horrific act of the insurgency. Perhaps! It is obvious that they give themselves maximum security and leave the citizens vulnerable.

   If the President called the incessant heartless killings of vulnerable citizens “unnecessary distraction”, the question to ask is: From what is he being distracted? From the helpless plight of the ordinary citizens for whom there is obviously no security? Being the Chief Security Officer of the country and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, his foremost constitutional obligation to the county is the protection of lives and property of the people. But if the President fails in his primary constitutional obligation which he has sworn to uphold, what else is he focusing on that is distracting him? Perhaps his political career! No responsible government would sacrifice the safety of the poor masses for the actualisation of its political ambition or for any other reason whatsoever. Probably the President does not realise that the blood of those who have been murdered by the insurgency since he became the President of this country is in his hands. Although he may not be directly responsible for the massacre, providence would not exonerate him of the blood of those innocent souls that were killed under his leadership. He ought to know that—that he bears responsibility for the safety of every Nigerian. He took on the task of his own volition. He went round to ask for everybody’s vote that he be given the opportunity to bear the tasks.

  It is unfortunate that Nigeria’s leaders are fond of excoriating every attack but fail to take drastic steps to put an end to the woes. Condemning every attack by the Boko Haram sect has more or less become a cliché. Terrorism is not won by mere assurance and rhetoric. Unfortunately, this has been the habitual response of Jonathan’s administration to every dastardly attack that has claimed the lives of innocent and helpless citizens. They are fond of promising Nigerians that they will bring the perpetrators to book, yet no one has been brought to book, except Kabiru Sokoto whose fate is yet to be concluded despite the life imprisonment passed on him by the Federal High Court, Abuja. President Jonathan promised Nigerians about April 2012 that the Boko Haram sect would be eliminated by June of that year. Unfortunately, it turned out that our President was just bluffing as far as the dreaded sect was concerned. Since then several lives have been lost in the various attacks that greeted the President’s boasting. There was shake-up in the Security Council alright with Sambo Dazuki taking over from General Andrew Azazi. There was a new inspector general of police. Other new officers were appointed; new assignment was given with a view to tackling the insecurity. All to no avail. When the present Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, assumed office, he, too, vowed to get rid of the Boko Haram sect by April 2014, that is last month. According to him, “The security situation in the north-east must be brought to a stop by April so that we do not have constitutional problems on our hands. If we do our work cohesively, I can tell you, we will finish that thing in no time,” he said. On the contrary, April eventually became the worst period of heavy casualties of helpless Nigerians recorded, even at the FCT, Abuja and the Defence headquarters in Maiduguri.

   When are we going to move from the habitual passivity stance to a drastic activeness that depicts a responsive government? The modus operandi of the dreaded sect and the speed at which they carry out their attacks undermines the acclaimed military superiority of our security agencies. How could different attacks take place successfully within 72 hours in the same geographical location without being challenged by our security operatives? Yet, the SSS and the JTF always claim they are on top of the situation, even though a handcuffed terrorist suspect was able to disarm our SSS right in their headquarters.

   Security experts believe that intelligence gathering has been one of the major challenges that have rendered our national security agents impotent. In the same vein, heads of our national security agents are canvassing for support, collective action and collaboration of the poor masses in the bid to tackle insecurity. But who will guarantee the safety of the identity of the poor masses whose protection is not ordinarily even guaranteed by the government? Initially, the insurgents were attacking government facilities. Now that those facilities have been sophisticatedly fortified and our leaders have drawn security agents to and around themselves, what is left for the protection of the vulnerable Nigerians? The rate at which the insurgents are killing helpless Nigerians has shown that the government is been busy protecting itself at the expense of the governed and the suggestion of another tier of policing at the state and local government levels for law and order is being stiffly opposed by the same functionaries and their agents that have ringed themselves with a fortress of police or soldiers. Sadly, while the poor masses are expecting the government to find a lasting solution to the problem on ground, the ruling government is busy trivialising and politicising the woes that are befalling the masses. What a pitiful exhibition of heartlessness! Playing the blame game on the blood of the people. They are guaranteed of executive protection, because they are in charge of the armed forces. But who is protecting the defenseless and helpless Nigerians in those troubled states? For how much longer would they take to stop the shedding of innocent blood? Is Nigeria under siege?

• Bakare is of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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