A renowned security expert, Mr Jackson Lekan-Ojo, tells GODFREY GEORGE that the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, has no right to direct residents of the state to bear arms
The Zamfara Governor, Mr Bello Matawalle, has directed residents of his state to bear firearms to defend themselves against terrorists. How viable is this option to fight insecurity?
Governor Bello Matawalle is frustrated. It is unfortunate that the Chief Security Officer of Zamfara State is overwhelmed by the security situation in his state. When one is overwhelmed, definitely, confusion will set in; you may not say any opinion that is normal because you are not your real self. When you look at the security situation around Zamfara State, there is nothing bad in a normal clime that there should have been a declaration of a state of emergency in that place. When you are declaring a state of emergency, you don’t need to collapse any democratic structure. Zamfara should have been overflowing with security operatives who will make sure no place is left ungoverned and unmanned by military personnel. All these have been left undone. I will still praise the security system, but the command and control have been left to lie fallow. The buck falls on the table of the Grand Commander of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
But the governor said arms bearing in for the residents to protect themselves from the incessant attacks from terrorists. Are you saying the people should just watch, do nothing and get killed by terrorists?
In criminology and security, the only situation where people take to self-help is when people have lost confidence in the state. Now, it is not even the people that have cried out that they have lost confidence in the state; it is the governor who is supposed to be the Chief Security Officer that has cried out. That is to say the governor has lost confidence in the Federal Government in which his political party is in charge.
Some say the decision by the governor will breed anarchy. Do you agree with that?
Self-help will always yield to anarchy. This is because in that kind of situation, everybody does whatever he likes. How many people from Zamfara State will be able to buy arms that will be used to confront these bandits? That is to say, some of them will be recruited. Even if the state government funds and gives them arms, most of them already have criminal intent with no way to express it. By the time they are armed, they will now become official criminals. They will use the same arms to become kidnappers. They will use it to become rustlers and bandits. In the end, the whole Zamfara State will become a lawless territory. If someone does not greet a person the day before, that person can just use his firearm to shoot the man that refused to greet him. It will no longer be a fight against terrorism and banditry; it will now be a fight against oneself. In a nutshell, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has failed. Nigeria has become an unsafe territory. I wouldn’t blame the governor because he is talking from the angle of frustration.
Does Governor Matawalle have the constitutional power to make such a decision?
The Zamfara State governor is just confused. He just had to say something to his citizens before he dies of depression and pressure. Crying out to the entire world seemed like the only option. He does not have any political or constitutional powers to do that. The Zamfara State House of Assembly does not have the power to legislate over that. This is the sole prerogative of the President. It is on the Exclusive List. Even the Minister of Defence, National Security Adviser and Vice President do not have the power. We don’t have anything like ‘Vice Commander-in-Chief’. It is an exclusive job; it is on the table of Mr President. Even Mr President has his own limits. He cannot register AK-47 for anybody. The governor of Zamfara State lacks the power and authority to do this. A former minister of Defence had said something similar some time ago. At a particular time, the Governor of Katsina State, (Aminu Masari) said something like that. We are getting to that time when people may begin to take up arms because with the level of insecurity, Nigerians have lost confidence in this government.
Why do you think it has been very difficult to tackle insecurity in the country?
The thing is that the government of the day is too complacent with these people (terrorists and bandits). If in your home, your child begins to display things that show him/her as being a radical, you deradicalise him immediately. When these people were coming, kidnapping one person this month and 10 next month, where they de-radicalised by any action which would have served as a deterrent? This was not done. Now, they have become so radical that no amount of effort can be made to deradicalise them. The government, with its action, was invariably encouraging them to do more. It happened in the North-East, but we thought it would just end there. So, we were lackadaisical. These people changed style and entered the North-West with the rustling of cows and raping of market women. At a particular time, they will attack innocent herders. Now, they no longer attack herders because the herders have left the place for them. They have metamorphosed into full-fledged criminality.
Now, people are kidnapped in hundreds. When they do these kidnappings, the government is not there to rescue those people. So, the family of those people have to go and pay. When they saw this, they (terrorists) discovered that kidnapping for ransom was even more profitable than the senseless killings. It has become a business. Now, they are in Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger states. It seems like they are virtually everywhere. Why not bombard the entire region at once and smoke out these terrorists? They don’t reside in the skies, do they? Nothing like that has been done. So, there is nothing to serve as a deterrent. We have been saying it that the government does not have the political will to end this. Just like the Governor of Kaduna State (Nasir El-Rufai) said the other time that some high profile persons were backing these terrorists. I believe there are people who have political sentiments and are covering these people with emotions, religion and tribalism.