17 November 2012

Nigeria: The Abia Formula for Tackling Insecurity


Abia State used to be a byword for insecurity, especially during the period the notorious Osisikankwu and his gang held the state and other parts of the south-east hostage and made meaningful life impossible there. His terrorist activities overwhelmed the then inspector-general of police, Ogbonna Onovo, who did not appear to have an answer. There were insinuations that the ugly situation was politically motivated and required a political solution.

For the governor, Theodore Orji, it became a test of his ability to govern , since he had just taken an oath to protect life and property. When this issue was raised during the governor's interaction with journalists in Umuahia recently, he did not disclose the strategies his government adopted to tackle the problem because of the security implications. But the problem got solved anyway - and that was what mattered.

Sine Governor Orji's approach worked, it should be a model for the federal and other state governments with similar problems. It is known that, apart from other undisclosed strategies, he did not negotiate with the criminals neither did he try to placate them.

One of the methods he adopted was to depopulate the market from which the criminals recruited their operatives, not by killing and maiming them. He provided would-be kidnappers an alternative to a life of crime. It is said that an idle mind is the devil's workshop - he gave their minds something positive to think about.

The army of unemployed youth who made themselves ready tools in the hands of miscreants became soldiers of youth-propelled development. By putting them through skills acquisition and setting up businesses for them in their chosen fields, Orji made them see the senselessness in crime.

Today, Abia is quiet again. Businesses are back on stream. Night life that used to be a horror is back and bubbling. Parents no longer have to worry about the safety of their wards in school. And potential investors, drawing from the government's initiative, are streaming in to take advantage of the peace that exists in Abia State.

We recommend the Abia style to the federal government that is currently at war with a terrorist group named Boko Haram ("western education is forbidden"). Boko Haram has been on a rampage of human and material destruction because the environment is conducive for it. An unemployed youth will find it difficult not to succumb to the false propaganda of the sect and its promise of a better life even in hell.

The strong-arm tactics adopted by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in Boko Haram hotspots will not work because two wrongs cannot make a right. As Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, also a former governor of Yobe State, testified recently, the JTF has killed more people than Boko Haram. Therefore, instead of sending soldiers after young people (some of whom are innocent), who are already bemused by the crass immorality and wanton corruption around them, the federal government should keep them occupied and give them reason to have hope.

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