To Bear Arms or Not, the Situation Must Change
At the heat of persistent banditry attacks in parts of Wase Local Government Area in Plateau State, during an interface meeting with selected members of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), in his ancestral home of Bashar, the member representing Wase Federal Constituency and Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, made a categorical statement of hope. He sounded a word of warning to all those involved in the murderous act to either repent or be prepared to face the music.
“Let me assure you all that are here even if it’s my blood child that is caught involved in banditry, let him be made to face the music for his crime. I stand with justice for peaceful co-existence and progress”.
That was a statement later backed with ruthless action that rekindled hope in several minds of those, hitherto surviving under threats from bandits and armed robbers that got almost institutionalized within some areas of the federal constituency.
It is no more news that one of the clearest markers of our failing state is the extent to which insecurity has reinvented the daily reality of living in our dear country. All over the country, it has become only too common for pockets of insecurity to erupt, casting their soot far and wide, while leaving those in their immediate vicinity slaughtered or badly shaken as the case may be.
In these days of technology, it is usually a matter of a precious few seconds before events in one part of the country reverberate in other parts of the country.
So, when farmers have been slaughtered for defying the orders of bandits in Zamfara and Niger States, the chilling effects are felt in remote communities in Enugu which have been attacked severally because the people protested against the excesses of herdsmen unleashing their cows to stampede their farmers. When bandits abducted hundreds of school children in Kaduna, Yobe and Katsina States, the effects were felt in Abia State where herdsmen were fingered in kidnappings for ransom.
When terrorists razed schools and villages maiming and murdering people in Borno State, the searing flames constituted the reminders of the insecurity incinerating Anambra State where multiple buildings were razed. As these have gone on, many Nigerians have had cause to ask themselves what they can do to secure their lives and property especially as it appears that the situation has become overwhelming for security agencies in the country.
For decades in Nigeria, community vigilantes have demonstrated that when properly supported, it is not beyond them to rout those who steal into communities to cause chaos safe in the knowledge that they would have had a field day and be gone long before security personnel can mobilize.
One can recall the celebrated days of the Jungle Heroes that labored assiduously to save humanity in their lifetimes such as Malam Da in Gimbi, Doka in Kambari, Hashimu Maikada in Bashar, Sarkin Bakan Gombi in Adamawa and Ali Kwara in Bauchi. They were heroes that deployed their prowess for the good of all.
Vigilantes have shown their viability and validity over the years in serving humanity to their best without modern equipments.
With insecurity sweeping through the country, it has become fashionable for state governors to cause these vigilante groups to morph into something closely resembling state police or regional police as the case may be. In a country where the police and other security forces have long been federally controlled, this has unsurprisingly become a source of friction between the gatekeepers at the federal level and their counterparts in the states.
Plateau State in the North central was the first during the Jonah Jang brand of administration to fly the kite with Operation Rainbow in the zone. The southwest region followed suit with Amotekun and the southeast soon followed with Ebubeagu. There has since been similar groups in some states of the country notably Kano and Benue states. With the rise of such groups a natural question arose on whether or not they should be allowed to bear arms.
Commenting on the development, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase said: “With the terrorists and bandits laying waste to communities across Nigeria always wielding sophisticated weapons and matching Nigeria’s security personnel weapon for weapon, it yields to commonsense that there can be no fruitful effort to confront the brand of insecurity rippling through Nigeria without measures taken to adequately arm those who would be tasked with confronting the menace”.
Yet, the federal government has legitimate concerns over the proliferation of arms in the country. In a federation that has been flawed at best, there are also legitimate concerns over the use to which some unscrupulous state governors will put some of the groups they are forming and arming in the name of fighting insecurity to humiliate and frustrate political opponents. Even from the composition of the security outfits, one can clearly understand the intention of those governors.
The experiences so far recorded in Ebonyi and Imo States where Ebubeagu was accused of multiple crimes offer a cautionary tale.
In this wise, current disagreement between the Federal Government and Ondo State Government over plans of the latter to arm Amotekun bears close attention.
While Governor Akerodolu has insisted that the group will be backed by law and allowed to bear sophisticated weapons to ‘combat’ the killers threatening to overrun his state, the federal government warned that the group is not allowed to bear arms. I stand with the opinion of the federal government.
Some groups are accusing the federal government of allowing vigilante groups in some states to bear arms while preventing similar groups in other states from bearing same arms.
What is clear is that Nigeria’s federal system of government remains too sickly to confront the many challenges rearing their ugly heads in the country. With security breaches mounting all over the country, the federal government which controls the agencies assigned with the task of checking insecurity is profusely bleeding credibility and authority by the day.
Going by the present operational position of the federal controlled security agencies, the day may soon come when armed regional groups will be the only hope of maintaining security in Nigeria’s increasingly vulnerable regions if certain measures are not introduced at this critical time.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues