Sunday, 19 May 2013
Nigeria, Secure And Calmly Under Siege By Prince Charles Dickson
In the last one week, most Nigerians have been more American than Obama and Mitt Romney, with Barack Obama claiming the prize, I watched as Nigerians go viral with congratulatory messages and reflections. Both those with valid passports and those that hardly knew how Obama won.
Our government was in overdrive, opposition asked government to facilitate free and fair elections, government asked opposition to learn from Mitt Romney.
We all want to be associated with success stories, our presidential system on paper is fashioned with the US as case study, but really that's where it stops.
I have read various commentaries on lessons from the US elections, sadly my take is, nothing will change, at least in these parts anytime soon, for Nigerians, there are no lessons, only realities.
While we witnessed the US elections, I smiled as news reports had it that Obama was spending time with family and playing basketball. People were moving freely, going about their legitimate businesses...
Bringing me to my admonition this week and one of our sad realities, only weeks ago Ondo state decided, in an atmosphere calmly secured undersiege.
People literally slept on both sides exiting and entering Ondo state because movement was stopped. The Inspector General gave instruction for a shot at 'perceived' misbehaviour order. Soldiers, Policemen and women with other security personnel turned the state into a military camp.
How many of us have been to Abuja, visit a place like Maitama, or Asokoro, and a random pick, the house of Sanusi Lamido, from outside and see the armed artillery guarding the residence.
Check the number of security personnel and multiply that by the number of 'big boys' and off course 'girls', that reside on that block. And I asked myself a question, how many armed personnel do we have that we spare or waste this much to protect a single person?
Driving through a police facility today in most parts of the country, half of the road is barricaded, and some average of ten security men are idling away in some charade checking booths of rickety looking cars and waving at those in the posh cars.
A state commissioner is at least entitled to a civil defence personnel as security aide, in every state of the federation an average of ten serving or past politician get not less than two policemen or soldiers to provide security and carry their purse for them.
And here we are talking about not having enough men to tackle boko haram...or armed robberies, kidnaps etc.
Ever counted the number of security personnel detailed to a commissioner of police, a service chief or subsidy thief?
And yet the Obama we congratulate and celebrate carries his bag, and yes under watchful eyes but not an embarrassing array of security uniforms and hungry looking policemen ready to man-handle citizenry at the slightest altercation.
Securely undersiege, is the only reason why police men and soldiers are sun tanned because the president is going to pass the road to or from the airport.
I am aware of a particular state in which almost every past head of state and veepee has a house, each of these houses has three soldiers guarding, these are houses they have never lived in, no one lives in them and yet there is need to secure them in siege.
Today, we simply practice garrison democracy, a military personnel friend of mine, sadly said "my brother, we are no different, except the gun and uniform, I spend more time with civilians than in the barracks, after few years, exams are written by us, some of us even cheat, and pass out empty in the head, full in the stomach with pot bellies and loose in finding workable solutions to real security challenges".
A soldier spends five years guarding a retired general and stays on a rank, no prospects, no training, no motivation...only polishing his shoe and sunning same in front of oga's gate.
These days in places like Abuja, you are not sure which street will be closed and at what time? For what reasons, as security personnel litter the streets because some 'big men and women' are in the 'hood.
Gone are the days when the officers' mess was a resident of intellectual discourse, where men of different arms met to jaw-jaw and rub minds on national issues. Soldiers are everywhere, regular uniforms, combatant uniforms, mobile and STF and JTF uniforms.
Recently David Mark's daughter was getting married, several SSS personnel, how many road safety corps members, mobile and ordinary police men and women, bomb detectors, deployed on duty for that course.
How do we explain the security deployment because a governor's daughter was having a graduation party?
On a daily basis, I don't think there are less than five highly sophisticated and high class vehicles that escort the Comptroller General of Customs, Immigration or Prisons. And all those cars are heavily manned and armed.
A nation undersieged and moving calmly towards self-destruct. Even district heads now arrange their own local vigilante too
Weeks back at Wuse Market, an oga's wife was doing her 'buying', while a sergeant was holding her purse. She too is a 'first woman' to some first and needs to be calmly secured.
How much do we spend in this siege mentality, we need security for church and mosque worship, soldiers for to provide wedding security, policemen and civil defence personnel at birthday parties for one year olds because na oga dey involved.
We are living a siege, there's absolutely nothing that bares semblance to sanity. If one lives in a 'face me I face you' apartment, you queue to use hygiene utilities.
We spend hours on fuel queues, then hours in traffic, we queue either at the bank, or ATM and queue at the eatery or mama put, in all these queues, everyone is a suspect. We are regimented in fear, secured in a siege and fact is little is being done to bring succor as Nigerians grind on in pain.
The fact remains that we need a firm leader that can put a stop to all these self inflicted local terrorism called security and worry about the citizens not self.
We need leaders that are people oriented, not the current siren blasting crop, leaders that are ready to walk and work the talk, that share with us, and care. Until then congratulating Obama, for all we like, the lessons won't be learned...for how long we will continue in our siege mentality only time will tell.