South-South Security Initiative: Red Flags That Must Not Be Ignored (1)

By Substance Nature


“Safety and security don’t just happen. They are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear” – Nelson Mandela.

Just when the proposal might still be seen as a pipe-dream in the womb of time, nothing tangible having yet been put in place than a mere grandstand meeting by a few frantic leaders, the signs of things to come are already manifesting with abrasive wind of discontent blowing hard from the creeks of the Niger Delta.

Apparently in imitation of Amotekun aimed at tackling the menace of insecurity believed to be precipitated and perpetrated by the itinerant and infiltrating elements of belligerent Fulani herdsmen, governors of the Six South-South states announced plans to float a security outfit for the region. The salutary announcement was the peremptory outcome of a meeting by the affected governors, held in Asaba, capital of Delta State, on Thursday, March 5, 2020. All the governors, except Prof. Benjamin Ayade of Cross River who of course was represented, were present.

Giving highlights on the laudable initiative, the Chairman of South-South Governors Forum and Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, disclosed that the security model is expected to be driven by “BRACED”, a dead but revived ideology in reflection of the new spirit of the moment. BRACED, otherwise called the “BRACED Commission,” is an extant socio-economic machinery designed ten years ago by former governors of the zone for devising, promoting and propelling socio-economic growth and development of the South-South, but which was abandoned.

Each of the alphabets in BRACED as an acronym represents states in the South-South – Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta. Okowa had reiterated that it was time something practical, functional and sustainable be done in response to unfolding realities in the delta region; hence BRACED as a think-tank has been mandated to work out modalities for a name and details of the security proposal for debriefing during the next gathering of the governors which is scheduled for May, 2020 in Rivers State. “We took very far-reaching decisions and I must thank my brothers for attending this meeting”, Sen. Okowa who hosted the inaugural meeting had told journalists at the end of deliberations.

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Many stakeholders have welcomed this development, although it has come pretty belated if happenings in the South-West in the last four months were a yardstick for measuring how proactive and clairvoyant leaders must respond to the emerging issues of security in the country. Prominent among those to have spoken with strong words of commendation were former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Fani Kayode; a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain and former Delta State Governorship aspirant, Chief Sunny Onuesoke; and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and incumbent Chairman of a regional socio-political organization, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Air-Commodore Idongesit Nkanga.

Recall that PANDEF, days earlier in a communiqué issued at the end of its expanded National Executive Committee Meeting held in Edo State, had called on the South-South governors to as a matter of urgency rise to the occasion by putting together a regional security apparatus and development blueprint similar to those of the South-West. Otherwise, PANDEF threatened to lead the way.

Of course, even before the Attorney General of the Federation-inspired controversies that heralded Amotekun, there were records that about 23 states in the country already had their local security networks. Although many easterners are tickling with the idea of “Ogbinigwe”, Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, had disclosed during their regional general meeting in Enugu that South-South governors had since formed their joint security on July 28, 2019 and inaugurated it on August 31, 2019.

However, unlike the warm embrace and optimism towards similar initiatives in other regions of the country, an assemblage of ex-militants under the umbrella of Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators (CNDA) has described as a concerted political stratagem the initiative of the six governors of the South-South geo-political region to float the security network. Among other things, the body accused the governors of having ulterior political motives behind the proposal to launch a security architecture, postulating that the birth of such a model is bound to create security tension in the Niger Delta, with the possibility of bringing about trade in dangerous weapons in favour of political godfathers.

A statement signed and dated Sunday, February 8, 2020 in Port Harcourt by the convener, Mr. John Duke, on behalf of 14 others had stated: “The CNDA hereby condemn in totality the recent meeting of the South-South Governors in Asaba, Delta State, in order to form a regional security which is totally out of place, as the present problems facing the Niger Delta are not security-related, but freed and corruption by the governors…The aim to create this security outfit is to use them to fight their perceived political opponents and those that would dare speak against their anti-people policies in their respective states”.

This is an incipient but conspicuous red flag. It would therefore be advisable that, instead of playing the Ostrich, the governors must indeed see and assess this initial hullaballoo by the agitators as a pointer and token of challenges that lie ahead, giving them an helicopter view of how holistic, inclusive, integrated, transparent, altruistic and well-structured anything pertaining to the security proposal is supposed to be.

Although BRACED that carries the yoke of designing a workable template for the project is expected to take many things into consideration, it would be indiscreet to awkwardly dismiss the tentative observations by the ex-militants as balderdash. By nature, government disposition is not to easily cower to threats of any kind, but to take these early symptoms of potential disagreements could mean taking everything for granted.

Considering the damage politics and megalomania have done to the South-South, these specious initial fears by CNDA may be justifiable, prima facie. It would be wrong to leap into positive conclusions on the premise of what is happening in the South-West. Indeed, will the South-South governors be able to gather the right quality and quantity of leaders who will speak in unison in selflessly and genuinely advancing the cause of this lofty objective, without any dangerous garnishing with politics, unyielding individual sentiments and diversion of interest?

Launching a project as dynamic in scope and wide in geography like this calls for unity; first amongst the captains of the boat, then followership. For instance, what is the existing level of diplomacy between the serving governors and the leaders in the Niger Delta, some of whom are their predecessors? Could BRACED begin with a reconciliation since the cardinal target is that of unity, growth and development? This is not a project you can successfully execute without oneness of purpose.

Presently, there appears to be no love lost amongst successors and predecessors in any of the six states of the South-South. So, on the basis of what and whom will the programme be floated without some trying to put cogs in the wheel? Those to whom the assignment of developing a framework for the test-run of the project must therefore be circumspect enough to consider issues like who qualifies for recruitments and through what channel, where should they be fetched from, who fill pick the bills, and a solid foundation for the sustenance of this initiative?

Deservedly, Amotekun stands as a prototypical model. Founded on 9th January, 2020 in Ibadan, Oyo State, as an outcome of a security summit held in the same Ibadan in June 2019 courtesy of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), governors of the six states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti have left nobody in doubts that they are driven by a common purpose. As at today, beyond some of the concerned States’ Houses of Assembly having passed the security bill into law, each state had readily donated 20 vehicles, exception of Oyo that gave 33, bringing the total to 133. There are also 600 motorcycles, with each state having donated 100 units.

Amotekun has become like a hypnotic stimulant to leaders in other zones of the country, but to be avoided is the temptation to look at it strictly as the governors’ thing. Will the South-South leaders justify their interest and be vindicated by time and events, or will the assertion by the Coalition of Ex-Militants that as far as the South/South governors were concerned, the security initiative is a scam, a shambolic theatre for calculated selfish gains, become true?

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