Happy New Year Nigerian! According to the Federal Government’s calendar, insecurity is “over.”
After the seven years of the president, the meetings of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) with the heads of security, several and persistent directives and orders, repeated budget provisions and disbursements, declarations of intent and ambitions, speeches in the country and in abroad, expensive orders for sophisticated military equipment, one of which led to an unresolved political explosion in July 2019 over government spending of $1bn from the Excess Crude Account, insecurity in Nigeria ground to a halt hit at midnight yesterday, December 31, 2022.
It’s a new day and a new year! Buhari has done exactly what he promised when he ran for office in 2015, reiterated it on a “Next Level” basis in 2019, and routinely assured Nigerians every time a microphone was placed in front of him: he has ended the plague of insecurity
For anyone who has a lot of faith in the government’s word, this first day of 2023 is surely one to celebrate. Remember, only in October 2022, Rauf Aregbesola, Buhari’s Home Minister, reminded Nigerians that insecurity across the country would end in December.
According to the Minister, Mr. Buhari himself had given his security agencies the deadline yesterday. “I believe that no one is resting in [any of] the arms of the government with a mandate to maintain law and order, ensure security and eliminate threats”, stressed Mr. Aregbesola. “We are in it, and in the first instance, we must ask ourselves, governance is about guaranteeing the safety of life and property. We will remove all security issues by December… Nigerians will definitely breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the day.”
It’s been quite a while to get here. Earlier, during his June 2021 Democracy Day speech, Buhari recalled his pre-election commitment, just as he had done dozens of times before.
“When you elected me as your president in 2015, you did so knowing that it would put an end to growing insecurity, especially the insurgency in the Northeast, but the unintended consequences of our dispersal in the Northeast pushed them further into the country, which is that we now face and what we are dealing with.
“By the grace of God, we will also put an end to these challenges. Unfortunately, as in most conflict situations, some Nigerian criminals take undue advantage of and profit from a difficult situation in the mistaken belief that adherence to democratic norms prevents this administration from confronting them head-on and decisively. We are already addressing these obstacles and will soon bring some of these culprits to justice.”
And then a month later, Mr. Buhari reaffirmed his promise when he held a presidential dinner for members of the National Assembly in Abuja. He told them that his administration would use everything in its power to end insecurity in the country and bring the criminals responsible to justice.
And so, now that December 2022 has passed, Nigerians should rejoice that Mr. Buhari’s pledge on insecurity has, too. Since last night, Nigeria is now a safe country.
This means that members of ISWAP and Boko Haram no longer control an inch of Nigerian territory. Banditry is no longer the nation’s most prominent industry. Parents no longer fear that their children will be taken from the classroom to be forced into marriage or turned into soldiers.
This means no more AK47-armed cattle herders invading farms, towns and villages. Nigerians no longer fear the various criminals emerging from rough roads to single out travelers for kidnapping-for-ransom or removal of body parts.
This means that intercity rail services will no longer be looted by criminals better armed and smarter than members of Nigeria’s security services. Train services will no longer require the protection of the Nigerian Air Force or expensive private security.
Furthermore, it means that security institutions such as Kuje Prison and the Nigerian Defense Academy and police stations and airports are no longer in danger of being taken over by armed bandits at will. It means that Buhari’s armed presidential convoys will no longer need the protection of armed presidential convoys or the Nigerian Air Force.
It means Nigerian businesses and offices are no longer in danger of looting by unknown gunmen who prey on the indifference of indifferent governments that look the other way when citizens need them most. It means that citizens can now walk the streets, without fear of other men attacking simply because they can, or of uniformed policemen shooting and killing citizens because citizens are unarmed.
This means that, as decreed and declared by Mr. Buhari, the era of insecurity that began during the reign of his predecessors has ended. Nigerians can now come out of the shadows and hide and resume their lives.
It means that neither Mr. Buhari nor his security chiefs nor state governors will ever again bother with questions about insecurity, such as why they themselves need large, heavily armed convoys and road closures just to get to the airport or back home. It means that even the president’s wife will find her heavily fortified official home safe enough to live in, rather than in another country.
But of course everyone knows that often nothing is as it seems in Nigeria, especially when the motivation is an official pronouncement. Nigeria did not become safer after midnight last night, as it has never become safer in the last seven and a half years because Mr. Buhari broadcast his directives to all television cameras.
Buhari did not start insecurity in Nigeria, but he acquired the presidency in part by bragging that he was the man to end it. Instead, he has pushed it year after year because he didn’t really understand the challenge or be willing to do what it took to control it.
Prominent among those issues is that the Nigerian leader came to office without genuine commitment and because of insecurity and any other challenges Nigeria faced. That’s why there’s no aspect of his report where he’s accomplished more than platitudes.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is becoming increasingly insecure because of, rather than in spite of, Mr. Buhari. Despite his government’s claims, Nigeria is worse off than it was before he arrived, and the whole world knows it: it is more chaotic, more dysfunctional, and grossly more corrupt. That’s one explanation why some of Nigeria’s most hellish creatures are trying to succeed him this coming May.
That is why, as we enter January 2023, and less than five months before Mr. Buhari leaves office, he must apologize profusely for the cynicism and treachery of the outgoing threat he oversees.
Happy New Year, Nigeria? Please!