Former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Friday, called for the reorganisation of the nation’s security architecture, saying that this is will make the country to overcome her security challenges.
Obasanjo, who said this in a lecture he delivered at the 2020 Sobo Sowemimo Annual Lecture organised by the Abeokuta Club, maintained that the handling of security situations by the present government do not give any individual or group any assurance of a secured nation.
The former President, while speaking on the lecture titled “COVID-19 and Nigeria Security Issues: The Way Forward”, posited that the issue of fighting insecurity in any part of the country must be collective responsibility of all.
He said: “Federal security architecture as organised and operated by the present government cannot give any individual or group hope, let alone assurance of security within Nigeria.
“Our destiny is in our own hands. In reform and restructuring, security architecture, structure and arrangement must devolve more security responsibility on the community, local and state authorities.
“Unfortunately, I have recently observed from some writers on the security situation in the North, the feeling or attitude of ‘it serves them right’. We must not gloat at the difficulties or misfortune of others, rather we must emphathise.
“Wherever there is insecurity in Nigeria, it must be of concern to all of us. It should not be the attitude of ‘am alright Jack’ or ‘it serves them right’.
I believe it should be ‘we are all in one bad boat and we must put all hands on deck to fix it’. Maybe now that we are all feeling the pinch, the collective fixing will be understood and be easy to accomplish”, Obasanjo said.
“I will not hesitate to say that in this statement, Arewa message, spoke the minds and made presentation on behalf of majority of right-thinking Nigerians and not Northern Nigerians alone. We are all bothered and burdened.
“The beginning should be seeking to know why the criminals are doing what they are doing and with that knowledge, we can begin to work out permanent solution that will move criminals from crimes, and take away insecurity for all of us.
“Insecurity in any form and in any part of Nigeria is insecurity for us all. I have also heard it nuanced that the ‘North will not make the mistake of Jonathan again, meaning no Southerner will be seen as President of Nigeria again.
And, of course, no Middle-Belter! What a dangerous and destructive idea and position for anybody to take! Such notion will prove those who regard 1914 as a mistake correct.
But pursuing such an agenda may unleash colossal insecurity and violence of unimaginable proportion on the country. I know, for sure, it was such mentality that permanently divided Sudan.
“We are all challenged to put our thinking caps on, join hands and seek solution together to insecurity, otherwise we will be destroyed piecemeal. There is no time to stand and stare or just to continue to call on governments that are ineffective.
“Let us take initiative and spearhead actions that will involve governments and the governed and will devolve security architecture, apparatus, arrangement and responsibility in subsidiarity.
“Papering over the obvious cracks in Nigeria’s polity is not the answer, tearing up or seeking disintegration is also not the solution, remaining silent makes us accomplices and irresponsibly so.
“The solution lies in men and women imbued with courage, nationalism, patriotism, commitment, foresight and love in critical mass, to spearhead the crusade for new Nigeria. Let us launch and promote such a crusade on the slogan “Security Matters To All; No security, No Nigeria”. And the time is now”.
“Delay is postponing the evil day. Failure to act now will lead to more frustration, greater despair and larger mentality and feeling that may lead to action of ‘break it all up’.
May God forbid that! And may God, who I have always described as a Nigerian, save Nigeria. But we should be mindful that God’s patience has limit of elasticity. Hence, we must not continue to tempt Him”.
“It is evident that no ethnic group nor geopolitical zone and not even the Fulanis in Nigeria are collectively satisfied with the present situation in spite of president Buhari being a Fulani man.
I am, of course, discounting invidious and irredeemable Fulani fundamentalists and hegemonists. I believe that you find such people within any Nigerian tribal or ethnic group.
“We must not adopt position of mindlessness ‘do nothing’ and allow a few to wreck our present and our future. Together, we can have Nigeria of our dream.
And I believe that there are Nigerians in all walks of life, from all ethnic groups, religious groups, cultural groups, political groups and across age and gender who will work genuinely and sincerely for emergence of a new Nigeria based on principles of democracy, equity, justice, mutual respect, egalitarianism, good governance, federal character, and extol merit and competence”.
Obasanjo equally called for reform of the basic structure of Nigeria’s federating units, saying that there is need for the repositioning of the country for the purpose of unity, equity, competence, good governance, security, stability, healthy competition, justice, fast socio-economic development and as well make Nigeria undisputed regional leader.
His words: “My personal conviction is that, with the experience we have had operating the current Constitution where we have seen some important aspects of the Constitution being breached willfully and wantonly and with the centre seemingly being overwhelmed by the issue of security, with crying need from different quarters for reform of the basic structure of Nigeria’s federating units, there is need for the repositioning of our country for the purpose of unity, equity, competence, good governance, security, stability, healthy competition, justice, fast socio-economic development and making Nigeria undisputed regional leader.
“As a regional leader, Nigeria must always be at the table and be an effective contributor to global decision-making process and adequate share in worldwide division of labour and global resources”.
“I remain firmly convinced that without reform of federating units, as I will like to satisfy those who may not like the word ‘restructuring’, Nigeria will remain insecure, unstable, non-progressive and stagnated at best or disintegrated at the worst”.
“I have not lived for the demise of Nigeria nor for its destruction or incapacitation in any form. Rather, I have lived to make and see a great and united country”.
The former President also warned Nigerians not to mistake the lifting of restrictions on lockdown for the end of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
He described COVID-19 as a disease that Nigeria in particular and Africa in general was ill-prepared and poorly equipped for.
The elder statesman commended the federal and the state governments for the efforts and measures they had taken to deal seriously with the virus.
“The idea of leaving the states to deal with the issue mainly at their level on the principle of subsidiarity was a good one.
“It allowed each state with its limited resources and facilities to gear itself up and to issue instructions and regulations on restrictions based on the reality of the state,” he said.
Obasanjo, however, warned that while the federal and various state governments had relaxed the restrictions, Nigerians should not think that the nation had survived the pandemic.
“Although restrictions are being lifted, we are not out of the woods yet,” Obasanjo said.
He, therefore, stressed the need for continuous awareness and measures “to disabuse the minds of ordinary people who may still believe that COVID-19 is not real or that it is the disease of the rich”.
“They must be conscious of the fact that the disease has no social or economic limitation or barrier.
“It can afflict anybody no matter his or her age, gender, profession or trade, social or economic standing.
“We must not let down our guard because we may not have reached the peak yet.
“If the epicenter has moved from China in Asia to Europe to North America and now to Brazil in South America, Africa may or may not escape being an epicenter.
“And even then, we must be prepared for the possibility of a second wave,” he said.
The elder statesman counselled that the virus might not disappear from the surface of the earth, but that it could only be rendered weak and feeble and preventable with vaccine.
He further emphasised on six areas for quick attention for the sustainance of the nation in the post COVID -19 periods.
They are food availability and security, employment and job security, change in the pattern and style of living including travelling and innovation, science, technology, digitalisation and artificial intelligence.
Others are local content, raw materials and substitute as well as diversification of the economy and enhancement of export commodities.
“It is up to us to take these six areas very seriously.
“With good leadership and right policy and with the public and private sectors working together and the civil society joining hands, all the six areas can be taken care of and we can safely put the pandemic behind and move the country forward,” he said