TODAY, not a few Nigerians are bewildered, at a loss to understand whether Nigeria is still a democracy or is in a military or quasi-military regime. Nigeria’s very many security officers are everywhere, all over the place. They are either expressly encouraged or they simply read the body language of the rulers of the nation-space and are encouraged to be everywhere, toting guns. Gun-wielding security officers, brandishing arms and ammunition, are not in short supply, everywhere in the country; neither are socio-political drift, recession and stagflation. What is desiderated and in short supply is food, definable in terms of good governance and “stomach infrastructure”. The popular question today is whether the multiplicity of gun-toting security officers in the land will add up to food, as defined.
This multi-million naira question becomes relevant judging by the over-supply of security personnel with guns on our streets. Too many guns are in the hands of the Police, the military (soldiers, naval and air force officers), the State Security Service (SSS), the DSS, Customs officials, Immigration officers, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, bodyguards and sundry other clandestine security outfitsall these bear arms, in the open, and are seen everywhere. Today, we are eyewitnesses to the brash, brutish and barbaric abuse of power by uniformed personnel on Nigerians roads.
Intimidation, fear, oppression, beating and public nuisance which had receded considerably since the resumption of democracy in this country, are today emerging from the shadows of their cocoons to take the centre-stage, under the present administration’s watch.
Unarguably, President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be nurturing a quasi-military paradigm in the body politic and allowing it to capture the democratic process. Where we expect a carrot, Nigerians now have to grapple with life-threatening sticks. The security personnel appointed to protect and secure the lives of the people now harass and dehumanize the people and threaten their security. They think they are above our laws. They have become part of the nexus of power that protects our leaders, runs errands for the elite and suppress our democratic experiment.
The surreptitious enthronement of a quasi-military regime in a supposedly democratic Nigeria is tantamount to reducing our democracy to self-idolizing farce. The common natural instinct of average Nigerian is to defend our hard- earned democracy with vigilance, but when those defenceless defenders are confronted with AK 47s, the chance of a fair contest is nil. With every passing second, one uniformed security personnel is abusing, oppressing, manhandling, extorting, hectoring, brutalizing, intimidating and subjecting fellow Nigerians to one nameless offence or the other, under the shining sun of democracy?
When this nation transited or transformed from the catastrophic horror of military regime to democracy, there was widespread celebration of hope. The hope is anchored on greater freedom, less coercion, intimidation and oppression from uniformed personnel. Military regimes are associated with guns; but democracy and guns are strange bedfellows. Guns in a democracy are abnormal, unnecessary and irrelevant.
They make democracy dysfunctional. There are too many guns are in the hands of our Police, Army, DSS, SSS, NSO, NSCDC, etc. Ostensibly, these many groups are meant to protect and give a comforting sense of security but, our security personnel give us multiple insecurities because of their penchant for primitive force and brutalities that they paradoxically fail to exhibit when out of this country on foreign assignments!
President Muhammadu Buhari has to reduce the number of gun-carrying forces or warn them against terrorizing innocent commuters on the streets or bus-stops, in urban areas, and on our inter-city roads. Along Lagos-Ibadan and Lagos-Benin expressways, for example, gun-wielding forces, including the Police, immigration officers, Customs, etc., make travelling very hurting and uninteresting. On the contrary, when you travel for tens of hundreds of kilometres in the US, France, Germany, Britain or even Israel, which is perennially at war with its hostile neighbours, you don’t see any police, let alone other armed groups, stopping you on the roads to ask, “Wetin you carry?” with a view to eliciting, at gunpoint, illegal tolls from hapless commuters. The way it is, it is like the country is besieged by gun carriers, and we feel that the President cannot remain indifferent to such a situation, which paints Nigeria as a country beleaguered by gun-terrorism perpetrated by its own uniformed personnel. Our democratic gain is the creation of more stability, peace and security and not terror by gun-wielding Police or a state where Nigerians are under constant surveillance, fear, intimidation, wickedness, oppression, brutalities, senseless killing, inhuman beatings and lawlessness.
We appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to undo the emerging paradigm of a quasi-military regime, put Nigeria back on the path of democracy, peace and stability and to stop painting the picture of a deficient, backward, barbaric, brutalizing country, which is incapable of practising unalloyed democracy, which alone can lead to genuine transformation of our society.