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(FRANK TALK) Insecurity: Before we lose Sokoto too

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By Steve Nwosu

Much as we would love to believe otherwise, and without prejudice to the best efforts of our military, the honest truth remains that we have yet to retrieve Borno State from Boko Haram insurgents. The same goes for several towns in Yobe, Adamawa and several other states in the North-east geopolitical zone.

And as if that was not enough bad news, we are gradually losing Katsina and Zamfara states too, as insurgency gradually shifts to the North-west – albeit under new aliases: banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling etc.

There is also insecurity in Kaduna – Southern Kaduna to be precise. But the case of Kaduna looks more like what is happening in Benue – only it’s a little worse. In fact, if the truth must be told, the situation in Southern Kaduna fits more into that classic archetype of state-sponsored terrorism, which probably underscores that recent tweet by Sen. Shehu Sani thus: “When the Bandits kill in Zamfara, it is condemned. When the bandits kill in Southern Kaduna, it is explained.”

But this is neither about the questionable commitment of Gov. Nasir El-Rufai to the seemingly programmed killings in Southern Kaduna, nor Governor Aminu Masari’s losing of grip in Katsina, nor even the military’s handling of the insurgency in the North-east.

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This is about Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s Sokoto, which had largely remained the only oasis of peace in the desert of banditry and insurgency that has become the lot of the North in the past decade.

However, the recent attacks in Sabon Birni Local Government Area, and other parts of the state, are a telling reminder of the crass defilement the Seat of the Caliphate could be subjected to if concerted efforts are not made to arrest a malaise that is about to take root.

Bandits, in their hundreds, riding on motorcycles had attacked the communities, sustained the onslaught for several hours and left close to 70 persons dead. Before then, the state had also recorded several similar attacks by bandits who usually attack at night and vanish before security operatives can mobilize to the affected areas.

At the moment, no fewer than six local government areas are said to be on the verge of being overrun by bandits, with close to 350,000 citizens facing annihilation, as a result of the accompanying insecurity.

Of course, Gov. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is not taking the attacks lying low. Security has always been top on Tambuwal’s agenda since the past five years – which explains why Sokoto had remained relatively peaceful until the recent attacks.

And to underscore the seriousness the former Speaker of the House of Representatives attaches to security matters, less than 20 hours after the attack, Tambuwal and His Eminence, The Sultan, were already on ground to assess the situation, alongside key security operatives and some prominent citizens of the state.

Of course, there is no denying the fact that Tambuwal has been on top of the security situation in the state. His administration has put in place a new security architecture, which incorporates the youth, students, traditional institutions and even local vigilante working in tandem with both the state government and security operatives.

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Not too long ago, the governor commissioned more than 100 specially equipped vehicles and distributed the same to all the security agencies to help in the war against banditry and kidnapping.

Since the success, or otherwise, of the security policy is dependent of intelligence gathering, Tambuwal also set up a central communication control system for both sharing of intelligence and deployment of response to arrest any breach of security. He has also intensified consultative meetings with stakeholders in the state.

Lawyer and lawmaker, the governor also fashioned out a legal framework for the fight against insecurity. The arrangement compels all landlords in the state to keep records of their tenants, to enable the government to harvest useful information on those who reside or do business in the state.

This is even as residents are encouraged to form themselves into residents’ associations, to encourage people to take more than just a passing interest in who their neighbours are and what they do for a living.

Tambuwal has also reached out to members of his former constituency at the National Assembly to consider imposing stiffer penalties for illegal possession of firearms.

This, he believes, would check the proliferation of small arms. He has also advocated for another arms-for-cash deal that could see individuals surrendering their guns to government and getting paid for them.

Security is also one of the reasons why the Sokoto government remains committed to investing in education, health and such social infrastructures as the Zakat programme.

By so doing, every Sokoto citizen (for Tambuwal, that includes both indigenes and non-indigenes) has something to hope for and look forward to a better tomorrow. It thus means that preachers of strange religious doctrines would not easily find hungry and willing foot-soldiers to recruit for any insurgency.

Unfortunately, there is only so much that one governor can do to arrest the situation, especially when the bandits are known to move freely between boundaries and borders. Tambuwal has, therefore, called on the Federal Government to come to the aid of Sokoto and other similarly challenged states.

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A few weeks ago, when he had a private meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on the matter in Abuja, the governor renewed his call for more security presence, including a Mobile Police base, in Sokoto.

He also made a case for state police, more recruitment into the police, training, logistics and other equipment, which the police and other security agencies need, to be able to function optimally.

Clearly, the Federal Government, which still controls the security agencies, has a huge role to play in ensuring that Sokoto remains safe. And this has nothing to do with PDP/APC politics. If we can effectively defend Sokoto, it would only be a matter of time before the ripple effect spills over to Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina, Niger etc.

However, we are not going to achieve this by building unpoliced express roads into Niger Republic or abandoning our porous borders all in the name of playing the big brother.

I think the time has come for us to review our mindless romance with our northerly neighbours in Niger, Chad, Cameroun etc. Yes, many of us have families in those countries, but that does not mean we should service those filial ties to the detriment of our own existence. Nobody is in doubt as to where the bandits are coming from. But it would appear we are too myopic to do anything about it.

It seems this fixation on altering our country’s demographics by throwing open our borders (or deliberately refusing to properly police them) to give free entry to a particular ethnic stock is now hurting us more than whatever benefit we hoped to derive from it.

It has largely contributed to our intellectual laziness and unwillingness to develop our human capital to its fullest capacity. It has encouraged libidinal indiscretion and the resultant irresponsible and uncontrolled procreation.

Politics is a game of numbers does not have to translate to unruly numbers! Many of us still have our brains frozen in the politics of pre-colonial Nigeria and the era of the empire builders when population was the sole determinant of strength and relevance.

We have still refused to liberate our minds from the concept of national cake, whereby every goody is brought to the centre and shared based, among other criteria, on population.

In an era when nations are erecting real and imaginary walls to control the quality of immigrants into their territories, we’re still going to sweep the hills and crevices of West Africa and the Maghreb for people to come settle in Nigeria, with our eyes transfixed only on electoral votes and federal allocation.

Of course, human civilisation has long moved beyond such mass exodus. All quality humans have, for more than 70 years ago, now found permanent statehood and settled down. Only riff-raffs and other such undesirable elements have continued to roam the surface of the earth stateless.

Even the itinerant Gypsies of Europe still have countries they can run back to when push comes to shove. And within Nigeria, our own now-indigenous Fulani have never been known to be (and are still not) as violent as many of these felons who are today hiding under the banner of Fulani to commit atrocities across the length and breadth of the country. We have, with our eyes wide open, picked up a very poisonous adder, and put it into our trouser pocket.

Isn’t it about time we told ourselves the truth about the quality of people we let into our country through our northern borders? Or do we have to wait until they sack all the communities (and states) on our northern fringes one after the other before we wake up?

How do we remind some of us that, as Fela would say, “Slave trade don pass”? How do we explain to the semi-illiterates that run our society that you do not need to make war, and physically conquer a country (or a section of it) before you can control it?

Today, we’re all enslaved to China, America and even the United Kingdom and France, but we can’t remember when China imposed the war that has today left all of Africa eating from its palm. That is the power of human development, not population.

Our security and insecurity begin with our borders and the sincerity of policing them. So, securing Sokoto may have to begin from Illela and the communities and bush paths around there. We must not lose this last haven of peace!