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Insecurity in Anambra: There are difficult choices to be made

By Chima Christian

I have taken what my learned friends call “judicial notice” of Gov. Willie Obiano’s address on the security challenges in Anambra state.

Obiano’s Sunday address was magisterial. If you’ve not already, please go read it up. He substantially acknowledged all reported crimes – the killing of Police and Naval resources, attack on a Nigeria Correctional Service convoy, foiled attempt at razing a police station early Sunday morning, kidnapping and indeed worrisome suspected herdsmen terrorism in some parts of Awka North, Ayamelum, and that stretch of Anambra peripheries.

The Governor also acknowledged the beheading of a suspected cultist by a suspected rival cult group in Okija. The tout menace the Government allowed to fester and immensely profited from received not just a mention but a strong rebuke from the Governor.

Obiano reassured Anambra residents of the steps his government is taking to reclaim charge of the situation. I’m not so optimistic about the actions that will follow, but Obiano’s speech should make every onye Anambra, including his fiercest critics, proud.

The state sounded as if it has a containment plan. Even if does, I’m afraid the ship has sailed far beyond what is seen on the surface. If the government is of the impression that a “police action” of just a few weeks will wipe off these “unknown gunmen,” they may have learnt nothing from 1967 and the years in-between.

Government, both federal and state, but essentially the former, should be weary of high-sounding military analysis and PowerPoint presentations that recommend an all-out military offensive. Nigeria tried it with Boko Haram at its embryonic stage. The catastrophic failure of that poorly-considered idea should inform today’s policymakers.

Already there are reports of sporadic shooting into the air, and hasling of young people around Onitsha, Obosi and Nkpor by security operatives in “retaliation” or in protest of their slain comrades. I sympathize with these soldiers.

The bond they form with their colleagues, especially during high-octane trianings and missions is difficult to erase. But military commanders must not allow emotions of thier “boys,” who may not have a full appreciation of what the issues are, to run afoul of the overall strategic goal.

Public policy consultancy doesn’t come cheap. But this advice is freely offered because of the collective good that accrues when government’s actions are informed by wise counsel.

To take out these “unknown gunmen,” government must FIRST neutralise their ideological knockout punch. Our people are alarmed at the attrocious incursions of herdsmen terrorists. Federal Government’s condonation and seeming encouragement of their crimes gives rise to widespread speculations of a grand subjugation plan.

Whether or not this plan exists is not the focus of this intervention. One thing is sure, our people will never accept that future – whether real or imagined.

That these “unknown gunmen” enjoy significant public support despite their reprehensible acts, and the danger such acts pose to the society, is a testimony to the people’s radical protest to herdsmen terrorism and its often discussed wider goal.

The incidents in Plateau, Benue and other such places, including the recent attempt on Gov. Ortom’s life, lend credence to this radical protest.

Until the government runs these marauding terrorists out of the land and totally wipes off the fear of whatever grand plan that has occupied the minds of our people, it can try but it won’t win a war against an equally violent group that has anchored its operations on running those terrorists out of town.

Untill that fear of conquest is erased completely, the vast majority of our people are willing and, as the events of the past week have proven, able to make incremental adjustments to their values and morality to accommodate excesses of their armed “defenders.”

On the ideological side of the largely undeclared war, it should be clear; “unknown gunmen” are winning. Despite the attrocites acts of the past few weeks, their approval rating remains higher than that of the police/military combined.

This is not just among the youths, but among the elite, including, if not especially, orthodox religious elite.

At a youth unemployment rate of 42.5%, earned distrust in public office holders and public institutions, little faith in the concept of Nigeria, threat of subjugation, a feeling of marginalisation and a very strong ideological appeal, these “unknown gunmen” can recruit faster than the government can kill.

There are difficult choices to be made. May God imbue our leaders with the spirit of wisdom.

Chima Christian

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