Nigeria is a West African country with more than 250 ethnic groups and population of over 180 million. It is by far the most populated country in the whole of Africa. Although Nigeria’s GDP per capita has been increased through the course of time in nominal US dollar terms, many Nigerians, unfortunately, are still living in abject poverty in spite of huge amount of human and material resources. The average income per capita does not give the real picture due to the high income inequality in the country.
However, since Nigeria got her independence from Britain in 1960, the country’s political structural arrangement has been under one central government. This was to maintain some degree of independence and interdependence and as well as create supremacy authority centrally while component states retain a considerable amount of semi autonomy.
Consequently, under this arrangement, the level of interaction between individual ethnic groups, cultures, traditions, religions from different backgrounds was not easy thereby translated into ethnic and political misunderstanding, mistrust, dominations, conflicts and crises as one may not be considerate with one another. As a result, there are fear, suspicions, intolerance, grieves and greed domination among most communities in the country and especially in the North which has so many ethnic minorities.
Obviously, in a multi-ethnic and multi religious state like Nigeria, where religious conflict is a tinderbox, it is unlikely that the series of stunning mayhem and atrocious murders would not provoked a vigorous counter-mobilisation. Some of the questions on the lips of many Nigerians include: if these are herdsmen-farmers’ clashes, were the slaughtered Catholic priests also farmers or cattle rustlers? To be sure, the same kind of questions would be asked if Imams and mosques were being selectively targeted by people claiming to protest economic or political grievances.
Beyond murders in hundreds of civilian populations and the occupation of sacked villages by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue, Plateau and Borno states, insecurity is galloping on other fronts. For example, On February 10-11, 2019, 141 people were killed in the Kajuru LGA of Kaduna according to the state governor, hours before the Nigerian general election underlines both the feebleness of law enforcement and the prevalence of roving gangs and bandits possibly armed to the teeth. That tendency and trend were reinforced recently when police men in Borno State demonstrated and shot into the air as they protested the non-payment of their allowances.
Theories are afloat about the growing anarchy and distemper that have suddenly overtaken the land on the eve of the election. Some have gone so far as to suggest that there is an official ploy to ensure that the elections do not hold by creating an overwhelming state of insecurity, which will then provide the excuse for postponing the elections. It is uncertain how much credibility can be attached to this hypothesis, despite the fact that the postponement of elections or annulment for various pretexts is not unknown in our history.
The government must however be there to provide a buffer against the shocks and pains of poverty and unemployment. With Nigeria as the world’s headquarter of extreme poverty and the sixth most miserable country to live in, government must go beyond giving matching orders to top security personnel to deal ruthlessly with culprits, to looking for sustainable approach involving both the public and private sectors. A lot of public enlightenment and sensitization of young minds against come-quick riches and religious extremism has become a necessity.
The time has come to be more proactive; to put in motion, mechanisms that prevent all manner of crises than being reactive when they do rear their ugly heads. It is good to arm, train, insure and pay our soldiers and policemen well. It pays to be transparent and accountable with regards to security funding. But we need political-economic restructuring; with community policing to bring security closer to the people. We must also do away with the culture of impunity. The masterminds behind Boko Haram still walk our streets as free men. Giving amnesty to killers is not the best way forward. Wrong doers, no matter how powerful-be they politicians or traditional rulers- must be brought to speedy justice; to serve as strong deterrence to other evil- minded perpetrators.
Nigerians desire and indeed deserve a safe, secure and productive environment for gainful employment, where their potentials can be identified, honed and maximized. The blight of insecurity hurts us all. A government should act like a father figure- that protects and provides. Anything short of that is inimical to peace and development.