RE: Kaduna Under Siege By Noah Ebije- A Rejoinder, By Emmanuel Ado
By Emmanuel Ado
Noah Ebije,the Chief Correspondent of the Sun newspapers Kaduna State, can be utterly reckless and deliberately mischievous with words. At the height of the 2019 campaigns he had described the wedding reception crowd at the campaign flag off of the now twice defeated Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), governorship candidate Isa Ashiru, as “unprecedented”. Ebije who prides himself as a “wordsmith” was only contributing his own “efforts” to the defeat of Nasir El-Rufai, by painting a picture of El-Rufai lacking the support of the people of Kaduna State. Unfortunately the “unprecedented” crowd of Ebije, was handed a resounding defeat, a defeat that the Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal further reconfirmed when it threw out Ashiru’s challenge of his defeat as “lacking in merit”.
The screaming “Kaduna Under Siege” article by Noah Ebije, published in the Saturday Sun newspaper of 26th October 2019, fits a pattern of “literary antagonism”, by Ebije targeted at El-Rufai and his administration,is disappointing because it lacked substance,largely generalizing and a rehash of events he failed to put within context, that would make his readers understand the security challenges confronting the Federal Republic of Nigeria,of which Kaduna State,is one of the 33 states currently battling issues of kidnapping,banditry and the herdsmen/farmers clashes. But if only Ebije,had made efforts to consult the best friend of writers – the dictionary- he would seen that the word “siege” is used in a “military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender”, which thankfully is not the situation in Kaduna State,but painfully true in some parts of the country.
While acknowledging that Kaduna State,like at least 32 other states,including the Federal Capital Territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are facing security challenges,I must equally stress that Ebije’s use of the word “siege” seriously exaggerates the security situation. But can the situation get worse than it presently is? The answer is again painfully yes! The logical question would be why? The straightforward answer will be the failure to understand that the various security challenges that confront us today are different from the 1967 civil war that Nigeria fought, just as the tendency to see the various security challenges in isolations, the consequent and frightening failure to make the necessary connections,that Nigeria as a country is under attack. It was a similar failure to make these necessary connections that strengthened and emboldened the notorious Boko Haram (BH), to take its bombing spree to Kaduna,Kano and Abuja,whose residents like Ebije hitherto thought they were immune from what was purely a North – East “problem”.
Ebije , thinking in “isolations” could jolly well have written about his native Kogi State, which like Kaduna State is a gateway to virtually every part of Nigeria and thus attractive to common criminals, especially bandits who have found kidnapping a more rewarding venture than armed robbery. Since assumption of office in 2015 El-Rufai had shown a strategic understanding that the security challenges along the various boarders of Kaduna State needed the united front of the North-West and North -Central States of Plateau, Niger, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States to tackle. To date El-Rufai has hosted at least three security summits to encourage joint efforts in dislodging the bandits who have made life a nightmare for travelers and people living along the boarder areas,most especially the Birnin – Gwari Local Government Area of the State.And like El-Rufai feared,the failure to act in unison is largely responsible for the free movement of the bandits from one state to the other with impunity. The recent security situation in Birnin-Gwari is as a result of unilateral offensives by the Zamfara and Katsina States,and so once kaduna State lunches its planned offensives, the bandits would move back to those two states or Niger State.
The point must be made that unless the concerned governments of the North – West and North Central team up and wage a sustained battle against the bandits, they would continue to traverse the various state’s and wreck havoc at will. In 2015 when the North-West States, Niger State and the Federal Government collaborated in waging a sustained battle against the bandits,the results were fantastic,until petty jealousy and politics reared its ugly head. Thankfully it must be clear to everyone by now,especially those who scuttled the collaborative efforts that the problem is not a Kaduna State problem.
But very fundamental is the crystal clear fact, that unless the federal and the 36 state governments address the root cause(s) of the security challenges, the various efforts like killing kidnappers without understanding the underlying cause(s) would amount to absolutely nothing. Moving forward Nigerians need to understand and to distinguish between the different cause(s) and fashion out appropriate strategies to address each security challenge. The response to ethno – religious crisis, a major source of insecurity definitely requires a different response to that of the Niger Delta militants who want to control the oil resources located in their region. Just as the MOSOP challenge is clearly different from that of the bandits. It’s not enough for the Ebijes’ of this world to scream about the security challenges without proffering solutions. Or is it that the likes of the Ebijes’ lack an understanding of the problem or they are blinded by ethno- religious sentiments that unfortunately seem to drive the national discussion on the issue? For certain the Federal Republic of Nigeria is facing security challenges from within and without and security experts have argued that the external sources have only capitalized on the internal crisis ranging from our differences to failure of governance at the various levels of governments.
The apogee of inherent mischief in Ebije’s article is his reluctant acknowledgment in the final paragraph that the Kaduna State Government is addressing the physical aspect of security – boots on the ground. It’s appalling that a reporter on “the ground”, who should be up to date on the various initiatives the Kaduna State Government has continued to put in place, produced the article in question,that does his person more harm than the state. Lagos State where the Sun has its headquarters,is a scene of perpetual strife:robberies on the highways,gang killings in Mushin,Ikorodu and random violence by its motor-park outlaws. But the Sun newspapers hardly writes screaming headlines that creates the impression of a town under siege,rather they localize events. But if anything happens within the large expanse of Kaduna State,several times the size of Lagos the Sun newspapers will not mention the specific location – they will scream a blanket headline of “Kaduna boils”,”Kaduna under siege”, like Ebije.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has consistently warned about the security threat that frustrated youths pose to everyone. Is Nigeria already reaping the “fruits” of the failure of the political class to provide employment opportunities and basic amenities for the people? Can security be guaranteed in the midst of mass despondency? Is crime not bound to go up when we have such glaring inequality? There is absolutely no doubt about it that there is anger,mutual suspicion,fear of domination,which most time is expressed in violence. And unless these sources of the crisis of insecurity are addressed,Nigeria will only be scratching the surface of the problem. A serious reporter will attempt to look at all these factors and proffer solutions and not catalog the attacks,some which have been found to be a scam to attract relief materials.
There is no denying the obvious fact that Nigeria has continued to witness increased security challenges,which if not tackled pose real threats to the continued corporate existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Though for the likes of the Ebijes’, the solution lies solely in military operations,beefing up of the police and other security agencies etc,while it’s true that Nigeria is under policed,putting more men on the streets without addressing the other fundamentals will change nothing. Which is why the Kaduna State Government approach of job creation and huge investment in security is much more encompassing. Again the point must be made that even if the numbers of the security agencies go up to a million and we Nigerians continue on the road that we are presently traveling , the various security agencies will certainly not be able to contain the challenges and they will once again become extremely stretched.
El- Rufai keenly aware that security is an issue, at the outset of his Second Term created a Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, in reaction to the security challenges. The ministry has the mandate to coordinate internal security matters, and liaison with the various security agencies. The state has made and continues to make huge investment in security. It actually funds the day to day operations of the Nigerian Police Force,more than the Federal Government does . The military and the other security agencies are not left out,as the government provides them vehicles, communication equipment, ordinance and pays the daily allowances for their daily patrol. It recently funded the acquisition of RF trackers, unmanned aerial aircraft vehicles, CCTV installation and a forensic laboratory,for Operation Yaki because it’s keenly aware that the protection of lives and property, and economic prosperity is the main purpose of government, never mind that in reality that no security agency is under the direct control of the governor.
Since his assumption of office,El-Rufai , has attracted over 500 million United States Dollars investment to the state, as part of a comprehensive package to the address the unacceptable unemployment situation,which is a huge factor in the security challenge, and which according to the African Development Bank Country Director of Nigeria is frightening. By the estimation of the bank Nigeria needs to create 20 million jobs in the next decade and the consequences of failure is better imagined. So far the Kaduna State Government efforts have created more than 10,000 jobs direct and indirectly. The number is expected to drastically increase when the other industries like the Dangote Peugeot Assembly plant,the Moroccan fertilizer plant and the N20 billion Arla diary farm are completed.
Certainly while there is an increased expenditure in security,the fact remains that the ultimate security rests with everyone of us. Nigerians must stop thinking only in terms of physical security,which at best can only deter. The point must be made that Nigeria is not ranked low in the Global Security Index solely on the issue of banditry, kidnapping,but also on regional agitations, ethnic agitations, political violence and religious clashes.
Postscript: Nigerian newspapers may have to structure emergency refresher courses to expand the vocabulary of their reporters beyond these highly bastardized words “crisis”,”tension”,”siege”,”