A former military governor of Kaduna State, Dangiwa Umar, a retired army colonel, has blasted the federal government over the security situation in the country, saying it is strange that the government is according undue attention to threats by separatist movements despite the more daunting security issues posed by bandits, kidnappers and insurgents in the North.
In a statement issued yesterday in Kaduna, Umar asked the federal government to go beyond the arrest of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and pay greater attention to the more serious security challenges threatening to cripple the country.
According to him, activities of bandits and insurgents have resulted in the evacuation of over 20 per cent of villagers in Northwest and Northeast, while hundreds of people were being murdered, maimed and kidnapped for ransom every week.
He also added that millions of people have been rendered internally displaced, facing disease and starvation.
Umar said bandits have abducted over 1,000 school children in the North in the past eight months, adding that over 300 others are still in captivity, with the bandits demanding humongous ransom payments.
He noted that the recent re-arrest of the IPOB leader was greeted with a loud sigh of relief and celebration in some sections of the country.
Umar said the arrest also elicited congratulatory messages to the federal government, which appears overwhelmed by the intractable security challenges and in dire need of any redeeming act.
He described the development as clearly an exaggeration of the security threat Kanu and indeed IPOB posed to the nation’s security and unity”.
“It is quite strange and disturbing that the federal government is according undue attention to the threats of separatist movements in contrast to the more daunting ones posed by bandits, kidnappers and insurgents in the North-west, some parts of North-central and North-east.
“Hundreds are being murdered and maimed every week. Many more are kidnapped for ransom”.
He lamented further that millions of people have been rendered internally displaced, facing disease and starvation. “Over 1,000 school children were abducted in the past 8 months with over 300 still in the hands of the bandits and kidnappers demanding humongous ransom payments.
“Rape of women and young girls has become a daily occurrence. Most economic activities, particularly farming, which is the mainstay of the people in these areas are now all but impossible.
“Government’s earlier claim of having technically defeated the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east has turned out to be empty propaganda”, he said.
Umar maintained argued that contrary to this claim, the enemy had transformed into a more determined and deadly force, threatening to overrun the whole of the North-east.
He said, “For the average northerner living in these zones, who is barely aware of the activities of separatists, banditry, kidnappings and insurgency are of greater threat and concern to him.”
He argued that the arrest of Kanu was of no serious consequence since it did nothing to ameliorate this harsh and brutal condition.
He said however that in recognising the right of every citizen or group to express the desire for self-determination, the use of violence should not be supported or condone.
“IPOB and its leader may well be responsible for some of the violence, including the murder of security personnel, arson and destruction of public and private properties for which they should be held to account.
“We must however be honest enough to identify the cause of the current growing restiveness in the South-east”, Umar added.
He called on the government to deploy non-violent means in addressing the problem of people agitating for self-determination.
Umar said it was self-evident that justice, fairness and equity are the best means of building a united and virile nation, particularly one as diverse and fragile as Nigeria.
“It is my long-held belief that this country is more beneficial to all the federating units, if only because it provides a security umbrella to all its units.
“None of them will fare better in a balkanized Nigeria due to their similar diversities.
“The recognition of Nigeria as the giant of Africa is not on account of its huge oil wealth but its size, diversity as well as other potentials”.
Umar argued that the nation can only remain united and prosperous when all its citizens and the component parts feel a true sense of belonging.
“Without it, the nation’s unity will be in serious jeopardy similar to what Nigeria is currently experiencing.
“Truth be told, the Buhari’s administration has so far exhibited poor skills in its management of our diversity.
“Yet it has the benefit of great examples by past administrations and statesmen, which should guide it,” he added.
He recalled that after the civil war from July 1967 to Jan 1970, the then Head of the Federal Military Government, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, declared a no victor, no vanquished reconciliation and reintegration policy, noting that its implementation may not have been perfect, but it produced a guiding vision which served as a template for the reintegration of the nation.
“In 1978, eight years after the civil war, the NPN (National Party of Nigeria), Presidential candidate, Shehu Shagari, a former Commissioner of Finance the Gowon Government, picked his running mate, Alex Ekweme from the South-east.
“They won 1979 presidential election and enjoyed an enviable brotherly relationship as President and Vice President.
“They won a second term in 1983. President Shagari’s Government pardoned the former Biafra secessionist leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu, which permitted him to return from exile in 1982.
“He went on to contest a senatorial seat under the NPN.
“These are in sharp contrast to the declaration of President Buhari after his election in 2015 in which he promised not to treat, on equal terms, those who gave him only five per cent of their votes with those who gave him over 97 per cent of theirs.
“This may account for his government’s refusal to appoint an Igbo as head of any of the security services,” Umar explained.
Umar stated that a review of Buhari’s ill-advised policy will go a long way to neutralise the growing influence of IPOB among Ndigbo, both at home and in diaspora.