There is no doubt that Professor Wole Soyinka is a widely respected academic and social commentator. I personally have a great respect for him.
But there is something about the eminent professor’s persistent comments on the security situation in Nigeria that is beginning to become quite disturbing. It is the fact that the learned gentleman does not seem to see that if, for any reason, there is a breakdown of law and order in any state of the country, the Governor of that state should be the first person to get the blame for whatever is happening wrong in his state. The state Governor and not the President of the country is the chief security officer of his state.
If anything is going wrong in any state, the President comes in as a sympathizer with whatever the Federal Government can offer to cushion the situation. That is what happens even in countries like the USA. If there is a disaster in an American State, the President attends, but as a sympathizer from “the pinnacle of power”. Americans don’t blame their President if a mad man suddenly jumps into a lecture room and starts shooting students and lecturers. The President attends the funeral in sympathy of the State Governor.
In the case of Nigeria, rationally speaking, there are 36 states in the country. These 36 states and the Federal Capital territory, Abuja, are the President’s constituency.
There is relative peace in more than 30 of the states. Only three to six states have been literally set on fire by their own people. The whole world comes crashing on the President. That, to my mind, is not being fair. No one asks what the Governor has done so far or what plans he has mapped out. No one asks, as the chief security officer of his state, why his own people who voted him into office now turn around to make governance difficult for him.
Indeed, when the security challenges in Nigeria are viewed from this perspective, Professor Soyinka’s recent comments on CNN and other media tend to become rather upsetting.
After his recent interaction with CNN’s Amanpour, he is quoted as saying: “One thing is certain. The President and his government cannot sleep easily after what has happened to Nigeria. The era of denial and indifference has ended. The situation has now gone beyond the President and the solution must be internationalized. The government of the nation is in serious trouble. The person who has no excuse is the President of the nation. I’m calling now not on the nation but on the international community to take action. This is a global problem and the foothold is being very deeply entrenched in West Africa.”
The truth of the matter is that Nigeria does not really need an external intervention in this conflict. What is happening in North-East Nigeria is home grown politics. It is a revolution of the people, by the people, for their (top) people. It is a conspiracy.
If we take what is happening in Borno State for instance, and we really want to be practical not theoretical or academic about it, we may want to ask: is it possible that these insurgents will come into a village in broad day light with armored cars, heavy duty vehicles, rocket propelled launchers, IEDs, Petrol Bombs etc and the villagers are unable to spot these strange things and are unable to report persons of dubious characters in their midst to law enforcement agencies? Or how would the insurgents manage to carry these things around if they usually came by night when there is curfew in all the towns and villages in the state?
Or take the recent case of the Boko Haram killing of as many as 300 people in Gamboru Igala at the beginning of the week, and abducting 11 more girls from Warabe and Wala communities in Borno state in just one swoop. How does anyone explain that the military was said to have got “intelligence reports” indicating that some Boko Haram members were seen with the Chibok kidnap victims? By what means did they receive the “intelligence report” that turned out to become hoax?
Barely one hour after they left in search of the girls, the hoodlums struck – for 12 good hours! Where were the security officers during those 12 hours? And why did those security officers stationed there earlier not return to save the situation? These, and similar questions only point to the chief security officer of the state and his local officers. They point to the fact that there is more to all these than meets the ordinary eyes.
And so, eminent Nigerians like Professor Soyinka must redirect their anger and their questions first to the citizens of these and neighbouring villages in the areas Boko Haram has concentrated its merciless killing spree. The local government chairmen and their supervisors and workers must answer questions about what they know or deliberately failed to know. And most importantly what the chief security officer of the state, the Governor, is doing to contain his people who voted him into office but now find the need to revolt against their own.
Except for the reason of sympathizing with the Governor, the President comes in full swing only when the Governor has failed, and the Governor who fails the mandate of his own people has no reason to be there in the Government House as Governor. If the people who voted him into office are asking him to go, he should go. I think Mr President should take the bull by the horn if his party allows him to do so. Then, the President can declare a full scale war (like the Biafran war) on the insurgents, just as the executives of the South Leaders Forum, former Vice President Ekwueme, Bishop Gboningi and Chief Edward Clark have suggested. The President will need to declare war in those states if the insurgency must be contained in the interest of a united Nigeria.
Fortunately, one of Nigeria’s more progressive Governors, Chief Theodore Orji of Abia State, recently touched off on the role the current security challenges in Nigeria impose on State Governors when he addressed a massive audience of Nigerians and friends of Nigeria at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced Studies, John Hopkins University, Washington D.C in the United States of America.
Delivering a paper titled, “The Role of Governors in Nigeria’s Federal Democracy: Meeting the Challenges,” Governor Orji’s observation can be summarized as follows:
* That the chequered history of Nigeria’s democratic transition and its economic development had imposed on the present Governors in Nigeria the hard task of quickly and forcefully addressing all imaginable problems, be they personal in nature or issues that affect the general welfare of the people.
*That the current situation the Governors find themselves in must propel them not only to work tirelessly to meet the aspirations of the people who elected them into office and ensure that good governance is enthroned but also to avoid the impunity of the past.
* That every Governor has his own challenges which must be surmounted in order to record success.
*That every Governor in Nigeria must, therefore, strive to enthrone collective participation, consensus building, accountability, equity, inclusiveness and more importantly the rule of law.
*That two related problems which often challenge the governors’ performance include unequal availability of resources and over-dependence of many states on the purse of the federal government. This over-dependence of the states on “Abuja Allocation” may have become the reason Mr President is erroneously seen by some Nigerians as the chief security officer of some disturbed states. Mr President is not, the Governor is!
*That these two problems are creating further challenges which are both structural and intra-state in nature and bear with them the collective barge of misrepresentation of the Public Service as being there only to share the national cake.
* That the centralization of power in the Federal Government, especially the concentration of resources in the centre which, in turn, heightens political competition at the centre, creates violent conflicts and reduces effective participatory democracy and accountability in public office, especially at state level.
* That there is a crying need for the devolution of more power from the centre to the states which will certainly liberate more assets for Governors in their roles of deepening democracy and enhancing development.
These observations certainly go a long way to show that Governors and local government chairmen must first be held responsible for what is happening in their territories before anyone calls on the President who has 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory as his constituency. The President comes in only if he has to declare full war in those states.
* Mr Asinugo is a London-based journalist and editor of Trumpet newspaper.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters