Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Fulani Herdsmen And The Return Of Neighbourhood Watch
In my earlier article titled “Fulani Herdsmen: Mr Buhari, Please, Keep Your Sympathies”, I had criticized the governor of Enugu State thus: “…what was all that smile about from the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwianyi, on his visit to Buhari? Did he go to Aso Rock to be turbaned that he went in such a flamboyant flowing gown, grinning with laughter from ear to ear?”
I was utterly disappointed by the governor's demeanour on the occasion of his visit to President Buhari that I added thus: “That governor did not look like a man in pain for the calamity that befell his people. He looked more like a man who had gone with the blood of his people to renew a ritualistic obeisance to a leader who cared less how the blood was obtained”.
However, just days later after the article appeared generously in the media, the governor has won back my heart and the hearts of many well-meaning Nigerians by the actions he has taken to forestall a reoccurrence of the dastardly attack on the people of Ukpabi Nimbo by the relentless Fulani herdsmen.
As if to prove the critics of his earlier less-than-impressive reactions to the attack wrong, the governor summoned a security meeting of the state where he lampooned, and rightly so, the obvious ineptitude and incompetence of security agencies in the state. He frankly demanded an explanation from the security chiefs why, after having briefed them about intelligence report of the impending attack and mobilized them appropriately, and received assurances from them that no such attack would happen or would be allowed to happen, the governor left thinking he had put the situation in check, only for that magnitude of decimation of a people to take place!
That smacked of conspiracy especially when it was reported that a police corporal who was later detained on the orders of the Inspector-General of Police led the attack. The obvious conclusion is that the security apparatus as presently constituted in Enugu can only be trusted less by the governor for the protection of everyone in the state in which he is the Chief Security Officer.
It is even more worrisome that the security chiefs refused answering questions from pressmen present at the meeting over the governor's demand saying that theirs is a regimented formation that is answerable only to their superiors. Yet, they collect money from the governor to help secure the state but when the governor demands from them why such a failure in their operations, they find a convenient alibi of receiving instructions only from their high command.
It is because of such lapses as this that I support the governor in his second action after his ill-acted visit to Aso Rock: the reactivation of a neighbourhood watch based on an already existing Act of the State. This is what is expected of any caring, responsive and responsible governor. With the neighbourhood watch, the State would have created an additional paramilitary agency to support the security forces who appear overwhelmed by the current numerous crises ravaging our country. There would be a security organization that would be directly responsible and answerable to the governor; a group that would not need to wait for instructions from Abuja before they act even if the situation on ground is very dire and urgent.
In view of the commonness of this security challenge among states in the south east, I urge all governors in that zone to take a cue from the Enugu State governor and establish similar security outfits to properly safeguard and defend the lives and property of people in the area. This is in addition to whatever the federal government is planning to do. This, apart from securing lives and property, is also another avenue of creating jobs for the teeming youths of the zone whose bursting energy can be diverted for a useful venture as this.
However, in doing this, the governors must ensure that the neighbourhood watch is led by an experienced and highly disciplined retired senior military/police officer who would have the ability to ensure that the watch acts within the ambits of the law. They must also ensure proper training and orientation for them since they would be carrying arms. The carrying of arms is a very important aspect of their job. Not to arm them is to send them on a suicide mission!
For some northerners who are already kicking against the establishment of such neighbourhood watch in the south east, they have nothing to fear. The watch is established to cooperate with the police and military in dealing with crime in the zone. All the northern elites need to do is to call the terrorist Fulani herdsmen to order, and there would be peace. In this circumstance and as in all circumstances, only the guilty are afraid. After all, there is neighbourhood watch everywhere, though their nomenclature may differ. In Lagos, this system has helped to restore some sanity as vigilantes now guard almost every street.
Similarly, in the northeast, we cannot afford to forget the gallantry of the Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF, who are well armed to confront Boko Haram insurgents. The success the CJTF records in the northeast is what the neighbourhood watch is looking at recording in the southeast. It would be hypocritical for anyone in the north to criticize the establishment of a neighbourhood watch in the southeast while the CJTF are enjoying the support of northern leaders and indeed all Nigerians for their performances in the northeast's theatres of war.
Having said these, one must commend Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State for not dwelling much on the criticisms he received in the wake of the attack and his visit to Aso Villa. Rather than dwell on them and try to negatively engage such critics as some would have done, Ugwuanyi took a step backward and looked at the criticisms dispassionately and decided to act. In just a few days, he has turned from a villain to a hero for daring terrorists and their sponsors by having the courage to do the right thing in setting up the neighbourhood watch.
This is how leaders should see criticisms. Criticism is a vehicle of fearless honesty that turn leaders to heroes in so short a time. Having appointed his staff who might not be courageous enough to tell him the truth, great leaders rely on criticisms from “enemies” to know their true values and adjust accordingly.
Based on this, we have forgiven Govenor Ugwuanyi, and we lend him all the needed support to protect and defend his people in the face of recurring unprovoked attacks from a marauding group eyeing the greenery of the eastern star.
Written by Jude Ndukwe.