There are at least two fundraising efforts ongoing for Sunday Igboho, now deemed a Yoruba freedom fighter. So far, one has garnered £43,024, raised out of its £100,000 goal while another one has raised about $4,000. A couple of weeks ago, when I got the links urging me to donate to those funds, I thought the initiative would not get far. I must have underestimated the degree of collective frustration against the present leadership. From sums ranging from £5 to £500, people are committing themselves to the noble project of salvaging their homeland from myrmidons. I am aware that a similar fundraising effort is ongoing by some IPOB members who also want to support the Eastern Security Network. I should also put it on record that Sunday Igboho himself has stated several times that he would not be accepting public donations. Yet, people are moved to give to his cause.
When you read the various comments that accompany many of the donations on the website they are being collected, you realise how massively disillusioned people have become with this present regime and their failure to achieve anything worthwhile in the past six years. There seems to be a pervasive sense of helplessness and hopelessness filling up everywhere, and it shows in the commentary. They not only feel unsafe in their own country, but they also seem to have lost faith in the capability of the state to protect them. Nigeria is faltering badly, and the lack of seriousness our leaders have been displaying heightens the apprehension that things could get even worse. We have gone from a people who had high expectations of the leaders voted into power in 2015 to the point of overlooking their crucial role in providing security nationwide.
Things are so bad that people now circulate phone numbers of those to call to report “any unusual movement of Fulanis.” Such moves are a recipe for brewing trouble. At this rate, we will generate so much heat we will combust this already precarious nation. The ethnic clash that recently occurred in Sasa market in Ibadan is an example. Such tensions have occurred in the past, but given the backdrop of herdsmen violence and banditry, existing frictions will be upscaled to the point that every perceived slight will ignite the release of latent aggression. Thus, one cannot blame those giving their ‘torokobo’ to preemptively support the mercenaries and militias they expect would protect them from both bandits and ineffectual government.
While we can thus make a case for people turning to alternatives in the absence of state-led initiatives, we also have to face the fact that such efforts are ultimately disempowering. For how long are people going to be mobilised to raise funds for their own self-defence? The appeal on one of the fundraisers for Igboho enjoins, “Let us rise up and support Chief Sunday Adeyemo Igboho, “They need buses to move around to secure our ancestral land. Our security is threatened as we speak. Seems people in a position (sic) of authority are helpless.” The other fundraiser appeals, “Sunday Igboho has stood in the gap to fight for the security of the ordinary citizens of south western Nigeria at great personal cost. Please donate to support his efforts for achieving security and peace in the Yoruba nation.” Such appeals echo a general sentiment about the state of a country where virtually every corner has been taken up by brigands who rob, abduct, extort, and threaten peaceful co-existence.
But first, we must rid ourselves of the supposition that those in the position of authority with the task of addressing these issues are helpless. They are not. As bad as things are in the country, the Buhari regime still regularly disburses hundreds of millions as security votes. Anyone who thinks Nigerian security agents are confounded by the growing security crises in the country only needed to see them arresting protesters at the Lekki tollgate on Saturday to know they have not lost their bite. If those same people have been unable to tackle the insecurity situation in the country, it is not because they are helpless to the point we should fund mercenaries to pick up the slack. From the OPC to even the regionally-operated Amotekun and the ESN, these efforts do not go far as effective security architecture. They give us something to be momentarily excited about, but they leave the very fundamentals of the problem of insecurity unaddressed.
Looking up to private individuals to provide society with a duty the government owes them is part of the attitude that brought Nigeria to this sorry juncture. Ours is a country where people -sometimes exhausted from demanding their rights from their leaders- resort to self-help. Public education is not working? Set up private schools or send your children abroad for a good education. Government cannot provide electricity? Generators! The state cannot guarantee water supply? Dig your own borehole. Quality of goods and services is poor? Import from abroad. Impassable roads? Well, the Nigerian rich have learned to surmount even that problem with private jets. Thus, we do not solve problems but merely bypass them. Outsourcing security concerns is an exhibition of this same tendency to find a way around issues that require our leaders to show diligence.
Nigeria has grown so systematically worse since the beginning of the present regime that by 2023 we will need a visionary leader whose entire first term could be spent just cleaning up their mess. What we need now is not more self-help. Those who can effectively organise to raise funds for private security initiatives should extend their efforts to stimulating civic consciousness among our people. Rather than bypass the glaring problems of failing leadership, we should hold leaders accountable to do the jobs for which they are being heavily paid. Raising funds for private initiatives to resolve the complex problems of insecurity in a supposedly democratic society is neither social progress nor freedom-fighting; it is self-defeat. The more we deem our leaders helpless and organise around them, the more they evade the duty and accountability they owe us. Nigeria’s security problem is first and foremost, the responsibility of elected and appointed leaders.
Of what use are all our lawmakers at the federal and state levels if they are just as helpless as anyone else and cannot resolve the problems at hand? If our various leaders cannot perform up to par at this crucial moment, our response should not be to cede their responsibility to private individuals or private initiatives. Instead, we should exercise our power of reprimand against them as civic-conscious citizens. Of what use is a democracy where all we get to do is to vote the same mediocre leaders who defect from one political party to another without ever serving any meaningful purpose when it comes to the issues that really affect us? Of what use are leaders who represent our geopolitical constituencies but cannot represent concomitant urgent interests?
One cannot fully blame people trying to fend for themselves through all these private initiatives. Yet, we have to also be mindful that we are toeing a path that continues to slide us down on social and ethical scales. As a Yoruba person, I find it particularly worrisome how we are gradually abjuring the intellectuals and elites to now rallying roughnecks for our social causes. Our intellectuals have fallen in public estimation-they are now synonymous with ineffectiveness and self-interest pursuits-and people seem to have grown unimpressed with their rational judgment. Now, they prefer those that represent brute force but can get the job done. We should not accept this order of things without questioning how we fell this low.
Presently, we have leaders represented at the highest echelons of power than several other Nigerian ethnic groups. Some of these leaders specifically instructed us to vote for this regime because it would benefit Yoruba causes. How come they are helpless to the point we now have to resort to self-help on a matter on which they should be strenuously advocating for their people?
– Adelakun, a respected columnist, writes for The Punch