When the Boko Haram marauders raided Kano in 2013 or thereabouts, killing close to 100 of innocent folks in one fell swoop, among them travellers at a popular motor park, former President Goodluck Jonathan visited the ancient city and was shocked by what he saw. After sniffing the air reeking with the stench of charred bodies, and bereft of fresh ideas, he declared that the only immediate solution to what had become a perennial madness was recourse to self-help. In his words: “We have gotten to a point that Nigerians should rise up and defend themselves.”
Reacting to the declaration in this column, I welcomed the idea and proffered some solutions. But my recipe fell flat. And now, I am consumed by a feeling of déjà vu, following President Muhammadu Buhari’s own declaration that only Nigerians can defend the country against these incessant killings and allied crimes. In other words, we should help ourselves. His stance came on the heels of the protest organised by the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), having been rattled by the gruesome murder of one of their own, Rev. Lawan Andimi, who was the chairman of the Michika Local Government chapter of the association, by the Boko Haram insurgents.
In view of the current security challenges that have spared no one, methinks we should revisit the solution put forward by the former Governor of Abia state, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, in May 2009. Orji Kalu had sniffed the air. And what did he perceive? He perceived the overwhelming spate of criminal activities in the country, especially the wave of kidnapping and armed banditry. Note that Orji’s advocacy preceded the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgency. He advocated the granting of a gun licence to every Nigerian adult as a way to curb the orji of violence gripping the country. Huh, did I say orji of violence when I meant orgy of violence?
Hear Orji Kalu when the situation was not as horrific as it is today: “Liberalising the possession of guns will make the citizens more equipped to fight crime.”
Kalu’s argument sounded pragmatic then and now, given the disturbing inadequacy of the law enforcement agencies in the country.
Many who agreed with Kalu gave as examples other countries, including Uganda, that have succeeded in implementing the policy of gun licences. And it has worked for them!
It is germane to say that if a man or a woman has a personal gun, and if a criminal is aware that he/she does, the chances of attacking and molesting him/her are fewer. There were instances of armed robbers fleeing an entire street on the explosion of one gun fired by one resident. Even the sound of knockouts can send a criminal running for cover before realising the harmlessness of the sound.
Indeed, Nigerians have been devising ways of protecting themselves lately in the face of intimidation by criminals of all hues because they believe that government cannot adequately protect them, hence the birth of Amotekun in the South-west axis.
Tens of thousands of Nigerians possess guns illegally, though some of them use them to commit crimes because they know their targets are armless! The last time I checked, of the 500m weapons circulating along the West Coast of Africa, no fewer than 350m guns are in wrong hands in Nigeria. The gun licences will be the ultimate for self-protective measures.
However, the argument against granting gun licences to individuals may be stronger at the time Kalu came up with his advocacy. Over the years, since the return to democratic governance, events have proven that many Nigerian adults, if given guns, would kill each other during campaigns and elections. Our electoral machinery is another name for national violence. Most of the current and former elected politicians were known to have navigated their ways to the office through the barrel of the gun.
Before 1999, a group known as MEND or Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, had a different agenda but politicians from that region recruited and armed them to navigate their way to power. Upon capturing power, the politicians ditched them. The arms at their disposal were used to perpetrate all manner of criminalities including kidnapping for ransom.
“ECOMOG”, a euphemism for an instrument to capture power, was foisted on Borno state by a governorship candidate as a magic carpet to fly to the Government House with a promise to accommodate them in his government. He reneged on his promise and the “ECOMOG” transmuted to what we now know as Boko Haram. And its creator is walking free!
Those who rammed the American system of government down our throats foresaw what is happening to us now. Arguably, one of the most insecure countries under the sun is the United States. It is the reason why gun ownership is liberalised in that country. There are psychopaths in any direction you look in the US, just as there are in Nigeria today, such as the Boko Haram terrorists, armed robbers, kidnappers, killer herders, etc. I am sure the situation in the US would have been worse if guns were owned by criminal elements only.
As for me, I breathe the same air as the Executive Vice President of the American Gun Association, Wayne Lapierre, who declared and I quote: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to arm a good guy with a gun.” And I am one of the good guys!
However, the good news is that some concerned members of the National Assembly, rattled by the degeneration of the security situation all over the country, are becoming favourably disposed to the idea of setting up community policing. There is a call in some quarters for the declaration of State of Emergency to bring insecurity under control. They have my total support. It is one of the surest ways to help the government at all levels to secure the country. The federal government should help us to help ourselves and the country!
In my view, there are two options: give us well-trained, fully equipped and well-motivated state and even local government police systems to secure every nook and cranny of our beleaguered country or liberalise gun ownership. If we are going by the second option, I would not settle for an AK 47 riffle – a weapon that is older than I am! A more superior weapon like a subor heavy machine gun will be okay by me. Imagine a Rambo-looking Clem shimmying along the streets of Abuja. No criminal elements would try any nonsense with me, knowing that I provide a balance of terror!