[FILES] Nigerian soldiers and police officers stand at the entrance of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Mando, Kaduna state, on March 12, 2021, after a kidnap gang stormed the school shooting indiscriminately before taking at least 30 students around 9:30pm (2030 GMT) on March 11, 2021. – Gunmen raided a college in northwestern Nigeria and kidnapped at least 30 students, government officials and parents said on March 12, 2021, in the latest mass abduction targeting a school. (Photo by Bosan Yakusak / AFP)
The negotiated release of 27 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna State, no doubt provided a big relief to distraught Nigerians, particularly parents of the students. At the same time, and in view of the bargaining that preceded it, their release brings home the sad reality of gross failings of the constituted authorities. The illogicality of non-state actors freely calling shots, either as kidnappers or ransom negotiators, is reprehensible and indicative of a system without governance. Governor Nasir El-Rufai and his likes that are doing more of talking than action are not offering the stuff of good leadership expected of these dire moments. The common lore these days is for duly-elected state governors to blame the federal for everything that goes awry in their immediate domain. The lure is not unconnected with the central control of security agencies to which the pseudo Federalism has in error bequeathed to Aso Rock and its occupants. Yet, under the 1999 Constitution, as amended, governors also have responsibility of security of lives and property of people in their domain. That is why they are labeled as the chief security officers of theirs. Disparities in constitutional provisions readily aid the worsening insecurity, yet the faulty arrangement and its attendant consequences do not seem to bother many state governors who are content only to cry wolf. They appear too comfortable making excuses of inefficient federal system to mask up their own local incompetence and failings.
A rash of mass kidnappings for ransom in northern schools attests to this era of sheer negligence. Just recently, gunmen freed the remaining 27 of 37 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation that were kidnapped two months earlier. It brought a huge relief to see the victims reunite with their families. But events surrounding the release and the state government’s aloofness are as disturbing as ever. It was bad enough that the students were kidnapped, worse was the attitude of the Kaduna State government towards their freedom. El-Rufai holds a position on not paying ransom to criminals and that is fair enough. But having no alternative plan to rescue victims, or forestall a reoccurrence and keep Kaduna residents safe shows no sense of commitment to the people and is completely unacceptable.
Kaduna alone has had five cases of mass kidnappings in the last five months, and the abducted students of Greenfield University are still in ‘exile’ in their own fatherland. It is unfortunate that the governor’s best response was to make rather insensitive pronouncements on not paying ransom publicly, further worsening the plight of the abducted and their traumatised families. In the absence of real leadership when it matters the most in Kaduna, non-state actors assumed the roles expected of the governor and federal security agencies. Parents and school management on their own secured the release of 10 students. Reports have it that Sheikh Ahmad Gumi’s dialogue committee, with the support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, masterminded the release of the other 27 students. Indeed, roles should have been swapped and public officeholders more proactive, making more resulted-oriented efforts, especially in such desperate times.
It is important to reiterate that state governors have equal, if not larger responsibility to the citizenry as the Federal Government – at least, to keep the people safe, secured and at whatever cost. It is for that purpose that they vigorously campaigned, made promises, got elected and took oaths of office. But the electorates have not seen many of them stand out as a beacon of hope or living-light fountain to radiate the present dark abyss. It is the same serial aloofness from local realities and horrendous style of leadership of the past that plunged the country into current misery, where unemployment rate is high, over 12 million children out-of-school, poverty endemic and Boko Haram crisis displaced millions of Nigerians. The current officeholders have a duty not to sit back and watch the malaise worsen but to be more imaginative as well as compassionate to ease the agony without making lame excuses.
The twin-evil of lopsided constitution and ineffective Federal Government notwithstanding, countervailing responsibilities demand of state governors to be more proactive and innovative in security of lives and well-being of their residents. They should take ownership of affairs and take responsibility of happenings in their states. As a group and in alliance with their representatives at the National Assembly, they should by extension make critical demands of the Federal Government, especially to up the ante on security, in funding and proficiency.
It smirks of insincerity that kidnapper and bandits that are readily accessible to private citizens keep eluding our security agencies, and the governors are at peace with such! It is as well a shame on the current public officeholders that the Nigerian Police is still moribund six years after the All Progressives Congress railed to power on the promises to “establish a well-trained, adequately equipped and goals-driven serious crime squad to combat terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, militants, ethno-religious and communal clashes nationwide.” With 18 governors holding the APC ticket and majority members in the National Assembly, it is no longer acceptable that the governors will claim to be handicapped.
Most expected of citizens’ engagement at this time is to demand credible leadership and accountability at all levels of governance. The people should stop taking excuses with an understanding that the essence of representing the people is to solve their problem. Leadership is all about being a real trustee of the common interests of human happiness. A governor that cannot ensure safety of the people from kidnappers and bandits has no leadership value and is undeserving of the people’s trusts. The longer he or she stays in office the more the people and their affairs get mismanaged.