Listening to the Senate Majority Leader, Alhaji Ahmed Lawal, on BBC Hausa Service this morning where he hinted the readiness of the Senate to toe the line of APC Restructuring Committee, the Presidency and Governors’ Forum, I am left with the certainty that the ruling party has traded the security of lives and property of many Nigerians for 2019 elections. It is a great tragedy that the temptation that was resisted by the PDP for sixteen years could not be avoided by a party that came to power on a popular mandate.
Before we discuss the matter in detail, first, let us listen to Lawal, who can be heard on the audio attached to this post, saying:
“We Senators have no opinion in this meeting except what people came up with. The President, who was represented by the Vice President, has said that Nigeria has reached a stage where it is imperative for states to own their police.
“Again, the Chairman of Governors Forum - the Governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari - spoke at this meeting on behalf of Nigerian Governors. He said they are supporting the statement made by the Vice President that states should also form their own police.”
Asked whether it could be adduced from the inclination of the Federal Government and Governors on the matter that the Senate will also bring up the matter for legislation, the Majority Leader replied:
“Our view is to do what the people want. If the matter is brought before the Assembly, we will work hard to ensure that it is passed. But there are some who complain that governors will use state police to persecute their political opponents. Here, measures can be taken to ensure that the chance is not given to anyone.”
Mhmm. Do we need more than the supporting statements from the party, governors, presidency and now leadership of the National Assembly to understand where APC is heading to on this matter?
Some may argue that the President has expressed his disapproval to state police. I ask: how many times was he made to swallow his words on suggestions he feels strongly against? Remembering his acquiescence to Naira devaluation, fuel price increase and external loans leaves no room to doubt that he is just a lamb surrounded by wolves. More so, with the dismal performance he has registered so far and with his eye and that of his party now fixated on 2019, swallowing the restructuring bait becomes irresistible.
The restructuring bait, especially its state police portion, tempting as it is to politicians, is a poison that will shutdown the nervous system of the the Nigerian body. The three misgivings are real. We have been there before.
The first is fear of discrimination. To a person like me who lives and moves around the country for business and advocacy, the fear of ethnic persecution readily comes to mind. My Fulani/Muslim/Northerner identity makes me the most vulnerable in Nigeria today. I will face three levels of persecution. As a Fulani alone, some states will be no go areas for me, including Zamfara, Benue, Taraba and, one day, Plateau.
State police will definitely be ready tools for executing ethnic cleansing plans of governors like Darius Ishaku, Jonah Jang and Samuel Ortom against citizens they harbour an inherent, insatiable hate. States like Plateau, Benue and Taraba will definitely be inhabitable to Muslims, where they are an oppressed minority in the first two and a suppressed majority in the third. The ethnic cleansing campaigns that we have seen in these states since 2001 attest to this fact.
Just five days ago, Alhaji Saleh Bayari, former National Secretary of Mi Yetti Allah, reminded the nation at the All Fulani Groups Conference in Minna of how Governor Jang used elements in the Police to carryout an all out massacre of Muslims including babies and children in Kuru Karama in 2008. Before the Governor left office, not less than forty-two towns and villages in Plateau State were cleansed of their Muslim populations. Today, a pacifist Lalong is the Governor there and the killings have stopped. But the likelihood of other Jangs winning elections in the future is high. Also, allow Ortom of Benue State the power of state police and no Muslim will remain in Benue. Sure.
Beyond the three volatile northern states, Northerners in general may not find life easy in the south. From their utterances and practice, most southern intelligentsia and leaders exhibit unbridled hate for northerners. Remember Bola Ige (SAN), in spite of his education, was publicly inciting Nigerians against Fulani calling them Tutsis of Nigeria after the Rwandan genocide. And Ige was among the ‘finest’ that southern Nigeria could produce. Recently, Ben Nwabueze (SAN) has been equally hateful in speech. You will not be mistaken if you say hate speech is invented in southern Nigeria. It is there in the region’s mainstream media and social media as well, tonnes and tonnes of it is churned year in year out since 1957.
Nothing has driven northerners to Buhari as the possibility of relief from this persecution. This fear remains his support lever among us. Even under him, hundreds were killed in Ige recently not to mention the invented Farmer/Herdsmen crisis. Harassment of travelers, daily killings of northerners especially in Eastern Nigeria, extortion by gangs, vigilantes and state revenue officials and activities of organizations like OPC leave northerners with the fear that a stamp of approval for state police will further heighten their vulnerability in the south.
In the contrary, southerners do not have much to fear in the North because they have been shown a good degree of tolerance. They run their businesses without hindrance and I doubt if the situation will change. The North has been accommodating to everyone.
The second is the fear of political persecution by incumbent governors as it happened during the First Republic. The persecution that NEPU and Tijjaniyya elements suffered in the hands of NPC in the defunct Northern Region is a sad commentary that no well meaning Nigerian would like to see repeated.
Contemporary governors in the country have not behaved better. They go to every length to buy the services of the Police in repressing their opponents. The recent shameful complicity of Kano State Commissioner of Police in preventing Senator Kwankwaso from visiting Kano testifies to this desire for tyranny among our governors. With a police gang under direct command of the governors, hell will be let loose on anyone that may oppose the governor or his policies.
Apart from opposition party politicians, even politicians of the ruling party, like the legislators who always like to cultivate parallel loyalties in states, will come under the direct fire of the governors. Absolute control is what governors crave for and acquiescing to the idea of state police feeds directly into their plan.
The same governors will have hell waiting for them after their tenures for it is the tradition of our governors to persecute their predecessors even where the latter were their benefactors. Space will not allow me cite so many examples here but Goje, Bafarawa, Muazu know what I am taking about. Suffice it to say that the present governors should know that what goes around will come around one day. For them, in fact, that day is near. They are digging their own graves.
Finally, with state police let us also forget about free and fair elections. These glorified gangs of criminals in the name state police will readily do everything to serve their masters and there cannot be a more patronizing duty for them than to arm-twist the election process and pollute its atmosphere with their coercive force. INEC national elections will follow the format of our state electoral commission’s.
Instead of reducing insecurity, state police will only increase crime in the states and aggravate corruption and poverty.
Experts have said that apart from Lagos State, no state can stand on its own financially. Add state policing to their destitution, governors who already can hardly pay salaries will superintendent a force that is underpaid and which as a result will resort to extortion of citizens and crime.
We already have a bad example in Benue State. The State owes its workers 11 months salary. The implementation plan of the anti-Fulani law there provides for the training of not less than 800 Livestock Guards in policing and handling of firearms. AK-47 rifles were supplied to not less than 700 of them with each guard promised a monthly salary of N15,000.
The salary promise, little as it looks for a person armed with AK-47 assault rifle, was not kept by Governor Ortom. So the Guards engaged in crimes like extortion of pastoralists, cattle rustling, kidnapping and ransacking villages in Benue and neighboring Taraba and Nasarawa States. When some of them were arrested last January at Arufi in Taraba State, they confessed to the military that the Benue State Governor owes them five months salary arrears. Only N15,000 per month, just $40 dollars! During the month, a kidnapped member of Taraba State House of Assembly was reported killed. The Guards are still on the loose, terrorizing citizens as they wish and out of control of the Governor.
The incumbent governors too can become hostage to the police gangs they will create. Governor Ortom is already one in the hands of the leader of the Guards, whom the Governor sacked after the January 1st incident but was forced by fear to reinstate recently. The Guards leader is a person who boasts of the capacity to determine Benue future elections! What can be more intimidating to Ortom than this? This is not to mention threats from his rival gang leader, Ghana, who is perpetrating mayhem in Benue villages for being sacked by the Governor as head of Internal Revenue Committee of three local governments in the state. He has vowed to continue his rampage unless he is reinstated. This is a classical personification of Mutanabbi’s thesis:
ومن يجعل اضرعام للصيد بأزه
تصيده الضرغام فيما تصيدا
"Whoever makes the the lion his hunting bird will one day be a prey to the lion.
So not only the Fulani pastoralists or
Northerners but also ordinary Nigerian citizens have a rough ride ahead. A group of them especially should be worried: the civil servants, who would suffer the most. Why? Well, the governors will conveniently use security as an excuse for their theft and for not paying salaries. With monsters in the form of armed thugs that are glorified as State Police, nobody can counter their claim. After all it will be argued that security is the most fundamental responsibility of government. I have a painful example to cite here and it perfectly demonstrates what governors in Nigeria means by security.
By the time an audit was made of the ‘security’ expenditure of my state between 2007 and 2015, it was found that the Governor Yuguda has spent N102billion on that head. 😳 Bauchi State is not Borno, Yobe or Adamawa. Yet, the then governor found it expedient to ‘spend’ an average of N35million daily on security for eight years - daily, yes, daily, on the average. And he left office owing workers two months salary and a debt of over N80billion. In December 2014 he withdrew over N4billion OFR ‘security’ and N2billion in May 2015, according to documents signed by his top official.
This was a governor that reported his predecessor to EFCC for spending (what we may now term only) N5billion on security for eight years! The predecessor was only let off the hook on the matter when Yuguda’s scandalous expenditure during the first two years was shown to the then NSA in 2010 and Farida kept the file aside. Kai! That regime was fantastically corrupt. Yet, Yuguda is a free man in this era of change, not even subjected to the charge-and-bail charade of the administration.
If the above would happen to a state that received N935billion in eight years, what will happen if it is burdened with state policing under a tenure that earns a far lesser revenue?
I am sorry for this long essay and I have more regret for the condition Nigeria finds itself today where it is led by a government which against all hopes and promises has displayed unashamed degree of ineptitude. We all thought it would use the popular mandate that shove it to power for reforms that will especially secure the nation further. However, it has now shown that it will stop at nothing to perpetuate its tenure even if it means making the citizens less secure. This is bad. Very bad.
Members of the ruling party and their supporters, and those that may not feel our vulnerability, along with those that time without number have expressed their desire for the dissolution of the Nigerian nation or penchant for confederation, can all hail the APC for this move. While they continue to take the last steps toward achieving their goal, we will not relent in telling all citizens that state police will be a monster that will consume this democracy.
We believe that in a multiethnic developing nation like Nigeria it is better to work on the path of reforming the Nigeria Police by cleansing it of bad eggs and equipping it for 21st Century policing no matter what that will demand of will and resources. Anything short of this will be a recipe for disaster.
Therefore, the assurance of the Majority Leader that legislation on state police will be designed to avert these fears is as assuring as any other APC promise: Good for hoodwinking the masses at election but impossible for implementation: the Naira:dollar parity, N42/liter of petrol, N5,000 for each unemployed, functional refineries, stable electricity, single-tenure Presidency, internal democracy, smooth roads, better education, name it - all empty and in many cases worse than the PDP.
Well, 2019 will come and pass, with or without APC in power, but Nigerians will remain.
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
14 February 2018