We Are Not At War Yet Arms Are Flooding Into Nigeria- Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi
Professor Bolaji Akinyemi is a distinguished, retired diplomat, an accomplished academic and highly respected Nigerian. Fielding questions on Arise Television Morning Show, the Professor of Political Science and International Relations bared his mind on the state of the nation, particularly against the backdrop of the recent invasion of the nation’s correctional centre and police headquarters in Owerri, the Imo state capital.
On the state of insecurity in the country and the image of Nigeria in International community
Akinyemi: Well Nigeria has always been a lucky country and that luck is still operating in the sense that the rest of the world doesn’t have the time to focus on Nigeria’s misfortunes now since they have problems in Myanmar. They have problems with COVID-19, they have problems even in the United States and all over the world. So it is not to say that the world is not paying attention to our misfortunes and that has been ably illustrated by the fact that while Biden was calling African leaders and Kamala Harris was also calling African leaders, they relegated Nigeria to the position where it was their foreign minister calling our foreign minister. So we’ve been put in the third class category. This is very upsetting to those of us who have been in the field. It might not be upsetting to other Africans because you must recall that none other person than Nelson Mandela said in an interview with a Nigerian journalist that the world will not accord blacks their rightful status in the world until Nigeria gets its act together. So the rightful insult meted out to Nigeria was to all blacks and we must keep that in mind that whatever we do in this country reflects on blacks all over the world because we are the only authentic African country that has the capacity to lift blacks by their boot traps onto, if you like, a first-class status. I said the only authentic African country because I’m aware that south Africa is there, I’m aware that Rwanda is there but we are the only African power. If I can still use that word without you bursting into laughter out of respect for our audience, we are the only African power that has the capacity to lift Africa from the third world status to the first world status if I can borrow the words of from Lil Kwan Yun. What do you make of the statement by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar that there are six million arms in Nigeria resulting in the death of 80, 000 people? Dr. Ekomo, a security expert said the six million arms is an understatement.
Akinyemi: Yes I do agree with Dr Ekomo that that’s understated. President Jonathan set up a task committee. I Don’t know if it was a task force or just a task committee on this same issue and like everything else, they classified the report but it wasn’t made known to the public because I was a member of what I call the Boko Haram committee. We got hold of a copy of the result and maybe it’s because of the content was frightening. Arms are flooding into Nigeria as if Nigeria is a war zone. Maybe, it is going to be a war zone; maybe they are telling us things that are going to come. The moment Ghaddafi got destabilized and you would say it wasn’t Ghaddafi just Libya but you see, at that time Libya was Ghaddafi and Ghaddafi was Libya but the moment he got destabilized, the arms depots were looted and those arms just came down south and Nigeria at that time with Boko Haram flexing its muscle was regarded as a rightful platform for which the arms could find usage. They did a risk analysis of the problems of Nigeria and they knew that we were not headed for a wedding ceremony, that we were headed for a turbulent future in this country. There was money available to different groups who had been funded by people with money. I mean to procure the arms and that’s why those arms found a respectable acceptance you in Nigeria. And you have seen the evidence of that, how useful that calculation was to them, not to us because from the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East, you now have herdsmen or bandits or whatever you call them all over Nigeria and those arms are still flooding in. Now the question you ask is what are we doing about it and I dare say I’m not in the business of running down governance or running down anybody. We are doing nothing about it. We still have an underpaid army. There’s a United Nations report on the strength of that, but they restricted it to the police only. Again, we came across this in one of the task forces I served that instead of the 345,000 plus policemen that we have, Nigeria actually needs over one million policemen in Nigeria. we are nowhere near that and I keep asking myself, there are educated people who have no jobs who will gladly become policemen; what is the problem about increasing the number of policemen in Nigeria from maybe 345,000 to 445,000 to 545,000 every year until we meet that united nations target? But we are not doing that.
So when you ask me how we are addressing this situation, what kind of an answer do you want me to give? The Army is understaffed, I don’t know whether they are well paid and under armed. The Nigerian army that I knew used to interact with people in the 70s in the 80s and so on. I don’t believe that they could be overrun as we are now seeing barracks’ overrun, cantonment overrun by ragtag mob called Boko Haram. A national daily reported recently about four bandits claiming to have returned 26 AK-47 rifles and 109 general purpose machine guns.
Do you believe Nigeria is fast becoming another Congo?
Akinyemi: Well I’m glad you used the word fast becoming because the answer really is yes. What separates us right now from Congo, I would say are two factors. One, we are still better organized as a society than Congo because if you look at our trajectory from say 1945 until the rain started falling on our heads in the mid 60s, we had time to build up a solid foundation. Honestly, it was a solid foundation that those founding fathers built that is still sustaining us from frankly disintegrating like the Congo has done. Congo is not one country but I wouldn’t say this if I was still the foreign minister because protocol would not allow me to say so but now that you know I’m an old retired man I can say so. Congo is not one country, the Congo is several countries under several authorities, we haven’t got to that stage yet. Number two, we still have a leadership that is basically elected so to speak by Nigerians rather than a leadership that is hand-picked. I mean, hand-picked by foreign forces and then giving a veneer of a democratic election, so those two things separate us from the Congo. You made reference to what happened in Imo state, in Owerri in the police station. You have a prison yard that shares a common fence with police headquarters that shares another common fence with government house. There should be CCTV camera or a camera system being monitored from central control room by security agents located in one of those establishments. You mean this camera did not pick up the approach of a mob? All these happened and there was no reaction from the security forces guarding the places? Was the CCTV not working? Was there a sabotage?