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Theatricalization of Security in Nigeria – by Emmanuel Onwubiko

Emmanuel Onwubiko

Image : The author

I owe this title to my younger brother who is a philosopher and a distinguished scholar based in Australia by name Chukwuemeka Onwubiko. As can be deciphered, theatricalization simply comes from the word theatre and it is a notorious fact that in reality the theatre is a public space whereby audiences are entertained by creative entertainers such as comedians and musicians and even clowns are fundamental components of the performers in a theatre. 

For the benefit of Nigerians, let me use the huge public assets built in Lagos by the National government known as the National theatre. The question to be asked then is why introduce the concept of a theatre while addressing a very serious issue as SECURITY OF LIVES AND PROPERTY OF NIGERIANS. Security is such an important concept necessary for the survival of all political entities that Nigeria’s Supreme law -the Nigerian Constitution recognized SECURITY as the PRIMARY DUTY OF GOVERNMENT. The fact however remains that in the last several years the country called Nigeria has come under intense criticism for abysmally failing to protect the lives and property of Nigerians.  In the last 16 years however many instances of security challenges have happened that has graphically painted Nigeria as a near lawless entity. 

Going by the fact that insecurity perdure or endure for such a long period of time most observers have come to the conclusion that the institutionalization of impunity induces lawlessness and insecurity. For a fact, since 1999 till date Nigerians know that a lot of crime have happened without the security agencies and the operatives laying their hands and arresting the masterminds of these breaches of security and rule of law. Over these many years the Nigerian Security Agencies that have failed to build good enough volume of intelligence to prevent crime have further added a new low by playing funny and indeed unprofessional roles in the handling of investigation of serious crimes. I will use a particular case of the killing of a senior editor of The Guardian since over six years now as a case study to show the lack of professional capacities and competences in the various Nigerian Security establishments. 

I will use also the Chief Olu FALAE’S kidnap by armed Fulani herdsmen and also the incessant attacks of villagers and the gruesome murders of villagers in the North Central States by suspected Fulani herdsmen as instances of theatricalization of security in Nigeria.  It is as if while Nigeria burns and burdened by widespread insecurity the hierarchies of the Nigerian Security community are playing to the gallery and behaving in the most profoundly unprofessional manner. Take for instance, the Department of State Service or the State Security Services as the case may be were recently engaged in a public show of shame over the parade of two different sets of suspects as those who allegedly gunned down the then Chief Private Secretary to the Edo State Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-Mr Olaitan Oyerinde.  

The DSS paraded one set of killers whereas the Nigeria Police Force paraded another set of suspects as the killers of Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde and till date nothing has happened to name and shame those security officers that misled Nigerians in this assassination of a Nigerian who worked with a State Governor. The inefficiency and incompetence in high display amongst the security agencies has created the unfortunate impression that human life which is universally SACRED is too cheap in Nigeria.  Many instances of broad day murders have happened and the killers are moving about as free persons and possibly recommitting further crime of murder. The members of the National Youth Service Corp slaughtered in Bauchi State by alleged supporters of the then Congress of Progressives  party of the then General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd)  after the 2011 Presidential election was adjudged to have been won by the PDP’S Dr Goodluck Jonathan. Till date none of these killers have been prosecuted or even arrested.

That incidence of the assassinated Chief Private Secretary of Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State was indeed the perfect theatricalization of security in Nigeria.  On the invasion of Chief Olu FALAE’S farm in Ondo State by alleged Fulani herdsmen who also kidnapped him for a week and didn’t release him not until they extorted N5 million ransom from the family members of this erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Finance Minister, the DSS have again enacted a version of theatricalization of security duty.

It’s sad enough to recall that It took the personal directive of President Muhammadu Buhari before the Police Inspector General left his air-conditioned office in Abuja to head to Ondo State to spend some few days before Chief Falae showed up after he was dumped by his abductors somewhere in the evil forest, but the DSS or is it SSS have further muddled up issues.

The Department of State Service has just introduced the method of theatricalization of security in Nigeria which may result in the unwillingness of the Nigerian State to apprehend and punish appropriately in the competent courts of law these dare devil terrorists who invaded the farm of a Septuagenarian and kidnapped him after wrestling him to the ground whilst attempting to bundle him away. Now the hierarchy of Department of State Service headed by a man from Daura a Fulani settlement in Katsina State has dismissed the plank of allegations that the culprits who kidnapped Chief Olu Falae were Fulani herdsmen.  The DSS said those who kidnapped the elder statesman were criminals and not Fulani herdsmen even against clear evidence rendered by the suspects being paraded that they are Fulani herdsmen.  

Why is the DSS interested in doing Public Relations gambit for the Fulani Ethnic nationality instead of concentrating the professional competences of their investigators to unravel the causes of the emerging criminal acts of robbery and terrorism by Fulani herdsmen?  Sociologically and to a large extent in the criminology field the best way to combat a crime is to determine the symptomatic roots of that specie of criminality. The nation is undeniably facing the incessant attacks of communities and farmlands by Fulani herdsmen and has added kidnapping for ransoms what is logically expected from the security agencies is not to engage in rhetorical defence of the Ethnic origin of the offenders but to fight the root cause of the crime. This is the reason why Nigeria hasn’t made much progress because security chiefs behave like big brothers of their Ethnicity even when these acts are classified as crime against humanity committed by persons from same ethnic origin like the security chief in question.

People are beginning to read meanings into the apparent silence of President Muhammadu Buhari a Fulani by origin at the groundswell of allegations that some Fulani herdsmen have constituted themselves into criminal nuisances all over.  Why maintain silence when crime of genocide are being carried out by a class of people and the security officials are sounding defensive and the Commander-in- Chief is maintaining deafening silence. Several communities on the Plateau have been destroyed and hundreds of villagers slaughtered by Fulani herdsmen and the Nigerian President is unconcerned and hasn’t done anything to control these criminal acts when he has the primary duty given by the constitution to protect lives and property of Nigerians.     In 2009,   the News Editor of Guardian Newspaper, Mr. Bayo Ohu was murdered by assailants in what the press said looked like a contracted murder mission.

Mr. Ohu’s life was cut short on the early hours of a particular Sunday in September of 2009 when assailants visited his Akowonjo home, in Lagos state of Nigeria, knocked on his house door and shot him at point blank range. Only his personal laptop computer was taken away.

Until his death, Mr. Ohu also headed the Political Desk of The Guardian Newspapers in Nigeria. He has been described as a loyal and consistent journalist. This writer worked as professional colleagues in The Guardian and so his assassination is a personal loss to me as well as all others who knew him to be friendly, accommodating, understanding and compassionate.

 Mr. Ohu’s death just like dozens of other unresolved murders have left a big riddle for the Nigerian police as a similar murder of another journalist which occurred last year is yet to be unraveled. Chief Bola Ige (SAN) a serving Federal Attorney General and minister of Justice under the then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration was gunned down in his home in Ibadan Oyo state but till date since the year 2003 or there about no culprit has been prosecuted.

In The Guardian edition of September 21st 2009, a six-man gang had invaded the home of the journalist at exactly 7.00 am on Sunday morning demanding to see the journalist whose wife had already gone for Sunday morning service.

 The gang was said to have arrived at the residence driving in a white Toyota Camry, pretending to be casual visitors. They reportedly double checked and ensured that he was dead before they left, apparently giving way to rumours that the attack was premeditated as either an act of revenge or just a get out of my way contracted murder assignment. They made away only with the journalist’s laptop computer.

 Sources informed that the late reporter was at home with his four children when the gunmen arrived at the house. The late journalist responded to a knock on his door and as he opened they shot at him immediately. The 6- gang members immediately forced their way into the house picking up his laptop and double-checked his body to ensure that he was dead before fleeing in their car.

Spokesman for the Lagos State Police Command then, Frank Mba, who visited the journalist’s home on the same Sunday, confirmed that the police had begun investigations into the murder.

The reporter who filed the story of the dastardly crime of the murder of Mr Ohu has a similar description of theatricalization of security that I have enumerated when he reported thus: “confidence in Nigerian police has been waning in the light of the two murders as journalist union bodies continue to pressurize Nigerian Police (Lagos State Command) on the need for the security and safety of the public in Lagos state to be guaranteed. However, lives of journalists who remain the last hope of the Nigerian populace remain to be in danger in the face of the current murder and the other unsolved case which had given the police much more challenges”.

The Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalist also described Ohu’s death as a clear case of murder rather than robbery which is currently being attached to it. They have called upon the presidency to intervene and fish out the culprits of the two murder cases in the spirit of the safety of life of journalists and entire citizens of Nigeria. These scenarios pointed out in the report as filed for The Guardian shows how the security agents dramatize crime and therefore are not professionally committed to solve crimes therefore making Nigeria look like a criminal enterprise.  Do go Nahawa in Plateau State was reduced to rubble by armed Fulani herdsmen just as Children, men and women were murdered in their sleep but till date no culprits have faced the weight of the law.  From 2009 till date over 25,000 persons have died from the bloody activities of armed terrorists of Boko Haram but the DSS have till date not pinpointed the masterminds who should be made to face the music in the court of law.  We must stop playing comedy with security issues if we must defeat the regime of impunity.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com, www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org.

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