Taming the spectre of assassinations

A PALPABLE sense of heightened insecurity invades the psyche of every Nigerian today. Stories of violent crime have become commonplace. It is now news if a single day passes without an incident of violent killings and, or abduction of citizens – whether civilian or military, innocent or criminal. Non-state actors have seized the country from every angle and have put the people under the barrel of the gun.

In his Independence Day speech penultimate Saturday, President Muhammadu Buhari admitted the disturbing level of insecurity and promised de-escalation. While he is at it, every geo-political zone in the country, sadly, suffers one form of attack or the other by criminal elements and non-state actors. From kidnapping to banditry and molestation/killing of innocent citizens, the country is undeniably troubled.

Non-state actors such as the Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgents, IPOB separatists, pirates, bandits and cultists are having a field day; and are not letting up. Abduction of school children and hostage-taking has been recorded. Jailbreaks have also been experienced. This year alone, no fewer than four correctional facilities (prisons) have been affected, including a medium security correctional centre at Kuje, in the Federal Capital Territory. Bandits have turned some states in the Northwest and Northcentral into killings fields. The Southeast quakes under the violence of separatists. The Southwest records cases of kidnappings. The coastal regions suffer the scourge of pirates.

The Abuja-Kaduna train route, which was a source of relief to many travellers in that corridor, has now been rendered redundant – fallout of an attack on a train taking passengers to Kaduna. Some of the victims have been released after hefty ransoms were received by the abductors, and only last Tuesday the remaining 23 were released by some kind of coordinated military action. About 160 of the passengers were reported to have been abducted when the train was attacked on March 28, this year. There was also a security breach around the Kaduna airport about the same time.

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project in its recent report stated that there have been 134 attacks by non-state actors, including Boko Haram and ISWAP, in the first half of 2022 alone. According to the report, 57 of the attacks were targeted at civilians and recorded more than 196 fatalities; and 68 attacks on security forces with 282 deaths. Worse hit states were listed as Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina, Niger and Kebbi. More than a million people have been displaced and the population of out of school children have galloped by more than a million this year. 

As if these are not enough afflictions, there is a resurgent spectre of political assassinations. There are fears that this might escalate with the kick-off of campaigns for the 2023 general elections, judging from previous experiences. The do-or-die type of politics associated with this clime always lends itself to violent confrontations and fatalities. There were situations, particularly in the Southeast, during the pre-campaign season and even during the off-season governorship elections, when candidates escaped assassination by the whiskers, while their supporters and innocent bystanders became casualties. It also happened in some states in the Southwest. 

This sad situation pre-dated the politics of today. It started right from the First Republic when violence ruled the landscape and eventually led to a sordid redirection of the country’s historical trajectory. It continued during the second republic and the third. In the early days of this fourth republic, political assassinations assumed an alarming dimension with prominent politicians mindlessly mowed down by agents of political opponents. This trend must not be allowed to continue. It must be stopped by all means necessary!

During the off-season governorship elections in Ekiti, Osun and Anambra States in the last twelve months, incidences of assassinations or attempted assassinations and abductions reared their ugly heads. The current governor of Anambra State, Prof Charles Soludo, escaped by the whiskers during one of his campaign tours in his place. A little over a month ago, there was another attempt on the life of a lawmaker from the same state, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah. He survived by the grace of his bullet-proof SUV; but four persons in his entourage including his police aides, were not so lucky as they were killed in a gunfire at the Enugwu-Ukwu junction in Njikoka Local Government Area of the state. 

Unlike Ubah, a former special adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, did not ride in a bullet-proof vehicle and so was killed on his way to Owerri airport, in Imo State, in May 2021. His assassination was also linked to politics. The situation has now forced politicians to either service their bullet-proof vehicles or order new ones, while some are placing orders or taking deliveries of same, to preserve their lives in the dispensation. No such plan covers the aides who hang around them all the time.

We must acknowledge that in the last three months, there has been a renewed offensive by the military and other security agencies against violent criminals and insurgents across the country; and we hope that the tempo will be sustained to rid the country of violent and criminally-minded elements. While the Federal and state governments battle non-state actors, it will be necessary and in fact obligatory for politicians to let politics be a tool for projecting their policies and programmes for the people and not for endangering lives and national unity. 

They should adhere to the dictates of the peace accord which they willing signed penultimate week; and rein in their aides and supporters away from igniting or engaging in utterances, actions and tendencies capable of endangering lives and disrupting the peace of society. Over the years, candidates have been known to promote violence and killings by inciting their supporters against their opponents. This must stop; and must not be condoned in this dispensation. Security agencies must do the needful should any politician attempts to compromise the peace of the society for whatever reasons. 

Politicians must learn to accommodate opposing views and must see electoral contests as a game where there would invariable be winners and losers. It must not be a do-or-die affair and must not be allowed to be even if they want it so. Cases of assassinations and attempted assassinations should be viewed with utmost seriousness and those behind them must be told in very clear terms that this country would no longer tolerate their unbridled rascality. 

We admit that even the best countries of the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have their security challenges too; but we can see clear actions being taken to rein in the bad guys. What we see here does not give room for comfort; and what time is better than this electioneering moment for the political elite to showcase a new orientation and prove that indeed Nigerians’ lives matter.

Every leader secretly or openly nurses the fear of how history will remember him or her. We believe the best way to be on the positive side of history is to always give the people peace of mind; by ensuring the safety of lives and property. This can be done through deliberate provision of the necessary and basic amenities that would empower the people economically and socially and keep them away from untoward indulgences that would eventually become a burden to the country and its people. 

One last word for President Buhari as he prepares to vacate office next May: Tame the terrorists, crush the bandits, banish kidnappers, win over separatists, deal with other violent criminals; and give us all a country where we will be free to sleep with our eyes closed. 

Mr President should also ensure free and fair polls, because compromised polls often invite violence and killings of monumental dimensions. He must let the politicians know that rules and laws are sacrosanct and must be obeyed. Our society needs peace; and that must be ensured, no matter what it takes.

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