It is estimated that between the 2014 abduction of 276 students from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State to the 2021 abduction of 317 students from Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara State, 1157 students have been kidnapped in Northern Nigeria. More than 19000 people have been killed in Herder /Farmers clashes in Nigeria and even more, have been displaced in just one decade. Boko haram, a group trying to establish an extreme Salafist Wahabist state in Nigeria for about 2 decades has claimed at least 36,000 souls and established a sustained state of insecurity in North-Eastern Nigeria as well as in the corridors north of our border. Down below in the Gulf of Guinea, an unspoken war is waged by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. Meanwhile, the intercity roads across the nation have become a nest for kidnappers to the extent that only the brave or the suicidal dare them.
In short, our nation is buffeted with a full-blown national security crisis. A crisis so bad that only 3 days ago the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Buratai claimed he had survived 3 assassination attempts during his tenure.
Part of the problem is that the principal agency of law enforcement, the Nigerian Police is understaffed. It is just about 371, 000 men strong as against a national population estimated at 200 million. It is also over-centralized. Section 214 of the 1999 constitution establishes a Nigerian police force and outlaws any other such force anywhere in the nation. The ultimate control of all its units is with the President faraway in Abuja. The problem is not law enforcement alone. Global warming has compounded decades of lack of attention to desertification. An increasing population explosion here and above us amongst our neighbors north of the border has led to an accelerating race to the bottom of the poverty index and a struggle of attrition for diminishing resources. Over 30 years of economic decline in Nigeria has not helped matters. Immigration services are overwhelmed by a lack of political will to stem the surge of the population into the nation. To add to this hydra-headed problem, the government has seemed powerless to rein in influential religious leaders who provide a veneer of legitimacy to bandits.
The solutions to our problems are well known. For many years now there have been strident calls for a fundamental restructuring of the Federation. The magnitude of that problem would suggest a need for government to facilitate an open wide-ranging national conversation about the nature, cost and purpose of government itself. Beyond this, there is a need to adopt creative solutions to the issue of nomadic livestock breeding, an anachronism in this age. There is a need for a renewed focus on the problems of global warming and desertification as well as a serious look at our exploding population to adopt proactive policies to rein it in. If one good thing has come out of the constant raiding and kidnapping of students, it is that it has exposed us to the disgraceful state of our secondary schools and the quality of their products. It exposes the philistine nature of our ruling elite who send their offspring to private schools and foreign lands for education while sustaining a shameful charade in the name of public education. It is almost diabolical that the same class is also hypocritically one of the most religious in the world.
Beyond the internal, there is a need to pay attention to our immediate international neighborhood and the happenings there for our security. It is not enough to maintain an external affairs ministry and intelligence services whilst paying no attention to the criminality in the Gulf of Guinea or the disorder and anarchy around us particularly to the North of our border. We need to revamp our armed forces in an accountable manner as respectable organizations that attract international regard. It is not every criticism of their conduct that is unfair and lessons can be learned.
Over and above all of this, this crisis draws attention to the importance of good governance and our failures over the years to master its proper art.
Ositheame Agiode, Lagos, Nigeria.