The response of governors from southern Nigeria divide, especially the South East, to the existential threats confronting their States is embarrassing to say the least. Even where they speak at all they speak tongues in cheek. They watch their states as they are being invaded by persons who have no legitimate business and whose motives are shrouded in mystery.
Even in lockdown, where there is a subsisting presidential order and resolutions of the Nigerian Governors Forum stopping interstate travels, these movements have continued without hindrance as the governors make only feeble, muffled noises or simply keep away. Many say it is un-African talking while you have food in your mouth. But this is not the real reason these so-called leaders holding the mandate and constitutional authority as chief security officers of their States with commensurate immunity, have not done anything meaningful to reassure their frightened people. We shall return to the real reasons shortly.
First, let us review what has been happening and why men and women of goodwill are genuinely alarmed. Able-bodied men are seen in their scores herding down South from the North. Their method is partly what has made their movements surreptitious and presumed sinister. Mostly sandwiched between animals and goods in Dangote trucks, they give very vague information concerning their missions, which of course cannot be noble.
This upsurge in these movements of human cargo to the South coincided with the curious decision of some northern governors to deport Almajiri to their States of origin. This strange decision during lockdown raises more questions than answers. First is the questionable data relied on to ascertain the actual States of origin of these stranded young northerners most of who left home almost as infants. Watchers believe that if such data does not exist, the exercise could be a facade for a much bigger covert operation.
Some contrarily think that these are young men fleeing hunger, terrorism, banditry and the fiasco that hard life of most parts of the North have become, to safe parts of the country. In other words, the men just want to go hassle for a good life. But with the governors too scared to put measures in place, how do you ascertain the veracity of these conspiracy and economic theories? Without proper profiling, even those sent back would return or head to other States as nobody can tell who they really are.
Expectedly, a great number of these Almajiri have found their ways to southern Nigeria. The problem with shipping northern youths to the South is multidimensional. Fact is: in this COVID-19 times, many of them are infested and have no homely care waiting for them where they are headed. Secondly, the renewed onslaughts of the Nigerian military against Boko Haram terrorists in the North East and armed bandits in the North West is providing enough heat that can compel many of them to seek sanctuary in safe parts of the country, especially the South East.
There is also a strong informed opinion that a good portion of these men are the same killer Fulani herdsmen congregating in the southern part of the country. Many stranded Fulani jihadists are believed to have found their ways into Nigeria, cashing into the windows provided by visa-on-arrival policy and ECOWAS protocols on free movement of goods and herds to enter Nigeria and try to make their home in the vulnerable parts of the country, especially the South East.
Lending credence to this scary plausibility is the corresponding increases in brutal killings, kidnappings, raping, maiming and the like associated with the herdsmen in the last couple of years since these caliber of Fulani herdsmen, adjudged the 4th most deadly terrorist group in the world, joined the mix. They are clearly different from the Fulani that have coexisted with Nigerians for decades.
Whatever is the case, whether it is the unskilled, Corona-infested Almajiri driven away by those who sired them; or congregating herdsmen, or fleeing Boko Haram terrorists and armed bandits that constitute the able-bodied young men flocking southern Nigeria from the North, there is enough cause for concern. Yet, the Federal and State governments have not shown any care to what most people rightly interpret as a major security and existential threat. For example, the latter category can use the respite gained from their relocation to regroup and extend terrorism to unaffected parts of southern Nigeria.
These developments task leadership to its limits. Despite the exigency of the time, this is the time southern Nigeria, especially the South East, has witnessed the most embarrassing leadership deficits. While South East governors are pussyfooting, the movements of the faceless northern youths are intensifying and most forests are being taken over by them where they form cells for missions yet unknown.
Many wonder why governors and other political leaders, especially in the South East, just disappeared and left the people to their fate. There are three main reasons responsible for their inglorious and dodgy conduct. Top is corruption. They all have their hands deep in cookie jars. They have dipped their States’ treasuries so much so that they are now scared stiff of the fate awaiting them as their tenures expire. There are at least three governors in prison for the same reasons. Apart from normal State allocations, the governors have access to LG JAC account and monthly security votes, all running into billions, which they treat as pocket money.
In the absence of State Houses of Assembly in the real sense of the word to checkmate them, the only authority that stares the governors in the face is the EFCC. The others, to some extent, are ICPC and Code of Conduct Bureau. Weighing their options, it is obvious to them that the people are too weak and disorganized to bark and bite. Without possible consequence, the governors can only fear Abuja than fear the poor people who gave them their mandate to govern them. Democracy is indeed a charade in Nigeria.
In addition, some of these governors are calculating their political future. They want to be presidential and vice presidential candidates and do not want to be associated with policies that will make them unpopular in the North and with the powers that be even if that means their people perishing as a result. Some of them are even scuttling the campaign for Nigerian President of Igbo extraction for the simple reason that they see greater chances as running mates for northern candidates.
In view of these glaring facts, those still waiting for governors and political leaders, especially of the South East, to deal with the existential threats confronting their states may wait for eternity. The earlier they realise they are on their own the better for them and their security.
• Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist; email: [email protected]