The claim about rich and powerful Nigerians being behind the generalized insecurity in the country has echoed again, setting tongues wagging. The first in recent times came from Ameh Ebute, a former president of the upper Chamber in the National Assembly in the Third Republic barely a week ago. This time, it is Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha who is saying exactly that, the transcript of whose interview with a foreign radio station has been splashed in a few Nigerian newspapers.
Unlike Ebute who went specific with names, Al-Mustapha rather put a general claim on the table. Both have set tongues wagging because their position returns Nigeria to an old argument. President Buhari has made that claim sometimes in 2018 during one of the intriguing explosive moments in Jos but he never returned to the theme again in terms of presidential pronouncements for public consumption. The poser raised in response to that hint from the president was why his government was not negotiating with such rich people if the intelligence and security establishment could not burst and shame the spoilers.
The matter died down since then only to resurface in the past week. While Al-Mustapha is a trained security operative, Senator Ebute is not. It is not clear what grade of security reports Senator Ebute received as a Senate president and if he still gets any such thing as for his audience to attach what weight to what he is saying.
Tongues are, therefore, wagging and questions being asked such as why might what has been a life and death issue for thousands of people killed, kidnapped or raped becoming a football of allegations, claims and counter-claims in the media? Why is an elite consensus that makes a united action against insecurity impossible and why are discordant tunes emanating when what looks like such a consensus is in the making?
In fairness to Al Mustapha, he said in the interview that “the few Nigerians benefitting from the country’s mineral resources seemed to be unstoppable”. In other words, his own analysis traces the insecurity to a specific explanation, not atavistic individuals out for the Buhari regime. There is something serious in that line because it is also the position of other informed Nigerians who have granted interviews on the issue. One of them became a party boss recently. All such views totalize into the overarching claim that capitalism itself has become more criminal and more violent and weak state structures operating with pre-Cambrian security practices as in Nigeria are most vulnerable. Al-Mustapha equally made the same point in the interview where he said “From the way, they’ve access to weapons today in Africa, and different kinds of drugs, and from the kind of people that are given such things and they are using it, these have shown that the strength they have has started to overpower the laws of African countries, especially here in Nigeria”.
Although there is no outright contradiction in that, Al-Mustapha has said some two years ago that the people in the Buhari Government do not have the technical capacity to fight the current phase of insecurity. Col Dangiwa Umar (rtd) said something similar in a very recent newspaper interview too. But their position is not a consensus as General Mohammed Magoro offered a different outline of how to confront the crisis.
Al-Mustapha emphasizes elite consensus of patriotic Nigerians as the way to go but nobody sees any aggressive mobilization of the elite into such a consensus. While a few members of the elite appear to be so inclined, the government of the day does not appear friendly to such approach. President Buhari appears incapable of overcoming his ancient feuds with his former superiors as quarrel breaks out between him and Chief Obasanjo now and there, for example. If that continues, where will the consensus come from? In recent years, academic study of security has been dominated by the contention that security is never about safety but about power: who gets protected, by whom, where, how and why? Isn’t Nigeria proving this theory correct?