That Security Alert By America - Mc Ebisco
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That Security Alert by America

The political landscape of Nigeria was shaken to its foundations last week of October when news about an evacuation order from home governments of citizens of America, Australia and Britain hit the airwaves. Social media raised the level of fear, anxiety and frenzy. In a statement, the US Mission in Nigeria stated that “the (State) Department ordered the departure of family members of US government employees from Abuja due to heightened risk of terrorist attacks, following on the October 25 authorization of departure of non-emergency US government employees and family members from Abuja due to heightened risk of terrorist attack”. There were pictures of stationary vans parked at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja which reportedly conveyed the departing diplomats to the border. More conspiracy theories, some shamelessly spurious and inflammatory, made the rounds on WhatsApp groups.

The situation appeared precarious, scary and even apocalyptic. Was another Afghanistan in the offing? If terrorists overran Abuja, what would become of Nigeria? How would the states in the south take a terrorist takeover of the seat of government? Break up into warlords-held territories like Libya? What did the Americans know that our intelligence agencies had missed or which the NIA and DSS had communicated to the Presidency but was ignored? Why did the Western nations dramatize the security situation? Was the US government overreacting because in Afghanistan ‘the collapse of the Afghan government occurred sooner than intelligence projections had estimated, and evacuation efforts became significantly more urgent? No one really stopped to think that it is inconceivable for a group of extremist to overthrow the federal government and expect the rest of the nation to smile and look on! It will be the outbreak of war or anarchy, or both!

The Nigerian government spoke through Minister of Information Lai Mohammed: “I want to reassure both citizens, non-Nigerians, Nigerians living in this country that security agencies are on top of this matter”, and that “there’s no cause for alarm”. He also blamed the Nigerian media for reporting the American advisory in a sensational manner ‘just for clickbait and the attendant monetary gain”. But on Tuesday the 25th October men of the DSS backed by security men from the US Army raided Trademore Estate Lugbe and reportedly arrested some terrorists. Explosives and other dangerous items were found. It confirmed the authenticity of the security alert. Security was beefed up in and around Abuja. The streets of Abuja and places that used to hold huge crowds were deserted. On Monday the 31st, Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina announced to the consternation of Nigerians that the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria was travelling to United Kingdom for a ‘routine medical checkup!

There had been this threat by terrorists to life and property in Nigeria. By kidnapping and collecting ransoms, it was believed that they had amassed enough wealth challenge the Nigerian State. Whereas Boko Haram had been limited to the northern fringes of the country, the entry of ISWAP into the terrorist ring in Nigeria seems to have introduced a new and more serious, dangerous dynamic. ISWAP is reputed for not taking prisoners. After the June 5th 2022 attack on a Catholic Church in Owo and the August arrest of ISWAP operatives from a Kogi State cell, the threat became more palpable. Before then Minister of the Interior Rauf Aregbesola had blamed the attack on ‘these animals, ISWAP”.

Besides, bushes and forests across the country are occupied by armed Fulani men who from all accounts are not Nigerian Fulani. The narrative had always been there that they could launch a savage attack on Nigerians in order to create an Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria. True or false, there is extant literature on this subject. The Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC and PDP jettisoning its power rotation policy has inadvertently promoted the narrative of religious domination. Besides, one of the indices of a failed state – loss of control of some of its territory, or of the monopoly on the use of physical force – stares us in the face.

It is against this broad background of uncertainty, religious and ethnic tensions, herdsmen attacks, and state inefficiency that the American evacuations order to its citizens gained serious public attention and some credibility. Some netizens condemned America for issuing the advisory to its citizens because it created undue panic and that the FBI and sister agencies in America had never been able to predict of any of the mass shootings in God’s Own Country! Others countered that it was well within the right of America to warn its citizens in Nigeria if it perceived a threat to their lives. I look forward to the day the Nigerian Embassy in New York will issue an advisory to Nigerians in cities across America to avoid shopping malls on specific days of the week!

If the Nigerian government was angry with the western powers – America, Australia and Britain – for issuing the ‘embarrassing’ security advisory, the immediate announcement and the President’s visit to London to receive medical attention indicated otherwise. For it was either the president did not consider the advisory an affront to national dignity because it was predicated on truth or the burdens of his health concern are bigger than any claim to national dignity. But his continuous treatment in a foreign hospital is a threat to national security. One Ahmad Salkida posted on social media: ‘The UK issued a travel advisory on your capital city and canceled flights leaving many of your citizens stranded.

Your government called the advisory reckless. You did not summon or demand a retraction from US/UK ambassadors. Instead, you went on a medical trip to the UK days later”. If ordinary citizens can reason like this, what has happened to the nation’s rulers and their advisers? Does commonsense take leave of occupants of the federal seat of power? Is this why Reuben Abati one assured us that voodoo, magic and necromancy are well entrenched in the sociocultural world of Aso Rock?

The situation appeared precarious, scary and even apocalyptic. Was another Afghanistan in the offing? If terrorists overran Abuja, what would become of Nigeria? How would the states in the south take a terrorist takeover of the seat of government? Break up into warlords-held territories like Libya? What did the Americans know that our intelligence agencies had missed or which the NIA and DSS had communicated to the Presidency but was ignored?

National security is, should be everyone’s concern. But the managers of security have a fundamental role to play in protection of life and property. This is because the instruments of offence and defence are in their hands. If the government thinks that the security of the people is important, it has not demonstrated that concern in either utterances or actions. We know of families that have started standing on one foot in the country by securing visas with which they can evacuate at the drop of a hat. Parents are being invited by their diaspora children to relocate and spend their last years in peace and safety. The body language of Abuja does not suggest that the situation is grave; which is a contradiction of the daily experiences of Nigerians in the north and in the south, Christian or Muslim!

The security alert from the western nations was a nightmare. But it fed from and reinforced existing fears and uncertainties about the future of Nigeria, especially with how the federal government has handled the terrorists. No sane government releases over one hundred terrorists or tolerates a jail break that unleashes those sons of the devil into our geographical space. As long as we have this geographical space to call home, no efforts should be spared to guarantee safety of life and property.

If by design or default Nigeria falls into the hands of extremists, be sure that none of the state actors who subtly encourage terrorism can pass the test of fundamental Islam. More importantly, an unstable Nigeria like current Libya would be disastrous to the whole of Africa and Europe! The American prediction that Nigeria will ultimately fail resides in the open minds and subconscious of most citizens. It is traumatic. Perhaps it accounts for the massive looting of state funds, the thinking that actors must grab a piece of the national cake before the state crumbles! How can we end this era of debilitating uncertainty?