The Minister of Defence, retired Major-General Bashir Magashi, has said that Nigeria is “bleeding” due to self-interest and other primordial considerations of the elite.
General Magashi said this Thursday in Abuja at the seventh edition of the ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team.
The minister said quite a number of political, ethnic and religious leaders were exploiting the social division for their personal gains.
General Magashi had told reporters yesterday that Nigeria lacked a national consensus, common comprehensive understanding and the interpretation of what national security is because of such divisiveness.
But some pundits and regional groups have cautioned the federal government to stop beating about the bush and call all those behind the insecurity in Nigeria by their names.
Blame game our major problem
According to the defence minister, “Make no mistakes that our nation is bleeding now. It is bleeding because of the self-interest and other primordial considerations underlying decisions, which quite a number of our elite; political, ethnic and religious, make it so. Such elite are quick to attribute blames to groups other than theirs.
“The whole idea is to exploit the social division for their political gains and it is because of this divisiveness that Nigeria lacks a national consensus or common comprehensive understanding and the interpretation of what national security is, like Boko Haram, farmers/herders clashes, IPOB and other political associations that are coming up with different mandates and different concerns. All these can encourage groups to seek violence as a legitimate alternative.
“From here emerges a narrow vision of national identity and vision which threatens our country’s prospect of social cohesion and stability. This is why we’re seeing the rise of self-help syndrome, often endorsed by states and local elites seeking violence as a legitimate alternative.
“The rise in vigilantism and identity-based militia, who claim to be working for the political and ethno-religious emancipation of their people, A.K.A resource control, secession and regional self-determination, define the potent threats to the national security in our country,” he said.
According to him, government had come up with a comprehensive report on the identified enemies and taken a position, which he said he did not want to pre-empt.
“We have made a comprehensive brief as far as the security of this country is concerned and the methods we want to use in ensuring that we strategically and tactically get rid of all enemies of this country, be it political enemy, religious enemy, ethnic enemies and all the political enemies of this country.
“We have made a comprehensive report or research on that and we have taken our position, which I don’t want to pre-empt here, but certainly, we are coming back with that,” he said.
Expose identities of enemies of state- ACF
Reacting to what the defence minister said yesterday, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) called on General Magashi to immediately release the identities of the enemies of state who are responsible for the security challenges facing the country.
The ACF through its National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, in a phone conversation with Daily Trust, last night, said: “There is no need of wasting time, you know the kind of difficulty Nigeria is in now with all the insecurity, and then someone knows the identities of those putting us through all these hell and he is keeping it.”
He said the position of the ACF is that anyone who is in possession of information in relation to the identities of those causing Nigeria’s security problems should either release the information or would be viewed as a collaborator.
“The level of insecurity and damage done to Nigeria now is such that anybody who has evidence that this is the man causing all these problems should be able to expose that person immediately. He shouldn’t wait for Christmas day or Sallah day to expose the identities of the people,” Yawe said.
Also speaking on the same issue, Afenifere Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, in a chat with Daily Trust challenged the government to name those behind insecurity if it had truly identified them as claimed.
“There is no need to say you have identified them, just go ahead and name them,” he said.
Adebanjo regretted that the federal government continued to negotiate with bandits in the forest without being able to arrest anyone of them.
He said he would not want to believe the statement that the government had identified those behind insecurity, adding that instead of announcing that the sponsors of insecurity have been identified, the government should go ahead and name them.
He said, “Let them name them. We are tired of this nonsense. If you have identified them, name them. There is no need to say you have identified them.
“If truly you have identified them, name them, if you are not lying. We are tired of this statement. I don’t believe they have identified them. If you have identified them, what is stopping you from publishing their names?” he asked.
Attacks on security formations an affront
Defence Minister Magashi also spoke on recent attacks on security formations and personnel.
Magashi, who described the current attacks on police formation in the South East as an affront on Nigeria’s security architecture, warned that such would no longer be tolerated. He said the killers of 12 soldiers in Benue State would be brought to book,
The defence minister, who said nine of 12 weapons belonging to the murdered soldiers had been recovered and that arrests were being made, added that the position of the military has been communicated to the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom.
He said: “Whoever touches the military has no regard for this country and this country is governed by the rule of law and we have accepted democracy as a solution to the liberty of individuals in this country.
“We have been very firm, we have succeeded in reiterating to them what we actually want and we have got some answers that the weapons that were captured from the soldiers have been retrieved, at least we have nine of them out of 12 and the perpetrators, they have been captured and taken to the police for proper interrogation and subsequent prosecution,” he said.
Netted Boko Haram sponsors
General Magashi also confirmed that some individuals who funded Boko Haram have been arrested particularly in Kano state. He said the military would not be deterred but would remain focused on eliminating all perceived threats as he expressed the hope that this objective could be achieved with the deployment of new military assets that would soon arrive.
The minister expressed concern over the current situation in the Republic of Chad, following the death of President Idriss Deby.
Magashi, who said he knew Nigeria would be most hit by the demise of Deby, voiced the commitment of the federal government to control the influx of refugees and weapons.
He said the absence of Deby’s influence on the borders which might worsen security situation in Nigeria and other neighbouring countries underscored the need to beef up security around borders, particularly with the Republic of Chad in view of the ongoing unrest in the country.
According to him, “If there’s no security in Chad, there will be a lot of trouble for all neighbouring countries. But thankfully, we have a lot of ongoing military cooperation, through the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF), which we expect to continue. We remain mindful of our borders and developments in Chad.
Magashi said: “The problem is now going to be aggravated. Because we are not sure the direction in which that country is going to face. Politically, the government is putting its head together to see how best they can restore the peace in that country.
“So, security wise, we’re beefing up all borders to ensure that refugees did not flow into a country. Even Nigerians there I’m sure some of them would like to come back. We have to make ready. Let’s prepare for them and not allow them to come in and use others to come because of the problems that they will create.
“The issue of weapons and armament, we are also afraid of that. Before now, Chad has been the one stopping most of this infiltration of weapons and the rest of it. Now, that is free for all right from Libya down to Nigeria. It’s very easy now because the absence of the influence of Chad in that route. So, we also have to take care of that. I think we are on top of the situation. All we are praying is that African countries will find a solution to the problem of Chad and get in a more corrective society as respected by international organisations.”
Northern governors meet Buhari
Some northern governors on Thursday met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja over the rising insecurity in the region.
The governors were led by the chairman of Northern States Governors Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong. In attendance were the governors of Kebbi, Atiku Bagudu; Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai; Yobe, Mai Mala Buni; Niger, Abubakar Bello; and Nasarawa, Abdullahi Sule.
The Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, was also present at the meeting.
Lalong, while addressing reporters later, said: “This meeting is in respect of some of the common features of insecurity that we have within our states. You’ll recall that many of the states have some of the insecurities that are very similar. So we put them together and see how to address some of those issues. And we felt that we must also meet Mr President about it since it’s about the insecurity.”
Lalong, while reacting to a question on the key takeaways from the meeting, said: “I think they are not to be disclosed because these are about security. But the take away I say is that the meeting with the president was very fruitful and we are also very committed, and we have seen a lot of commitment, so we are waiting for implementation.
“The assurance I will give you is that based on this meeting, we will also wait to see the commitment, and Mr President has given us that assurance.”
By Muideen Olaniyi (Abuja), Lami Sadiq (Kaduna) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)