It is a season of allegations, alerts and outright blackmail. Either our psyche is being assailed by alleged attempts to overthrow the government of the day or our sensibilities ruffled by fear of speculated terror attacks.
State and non-state actors are active players in this game. But, state actors have been the most potent purveyors of these allegations, alerts and warnings on impending subversion against the government and ancillary criminalities.
Governments all over the world, have the advantage of access to information especially on security matters. So whenever they come up with such information, it ought to be taken seriously. However, the frequency of such alerts and the manner they are currently traded are beginning to diminish their value, raising doubts in the minds of discerning public.
That was the exact situation when the Department of State Services DSS, alleged sinister moves by misguided elements to wreak havoc on the government, sovereignty and corporate existence of the country. The presidency joined the trend by alleging a plot to overthrow the regime of President Buhari. They further alleged a move to pass a vote of no confidence on the president in a bid to precipitate a forceful change of government, albeit, illegally.
But many saw in these allegations, an attempt to run away from the reality of a government that is unable to keep faith with its social contract with the people in the face of a failing economy and looming anarchy. Not many were convinced that an attempt to overthrow the government really existed in the absence of any evidence to that effect. But one thing certain is growing public disenchantment with government’s response to the debilitating challenges that had put the country on edge. There is no doubt the captain of the ship had lost control in the middle of a turbulent ocean.
Instead of alerts on touted coup plans, what the situation called for was effective responses and solution finding to the myriad of challenges behind the increasing loss of confidence in the leadership of the country. It called for reassurances and commitment from the president that he is still in charge and irrevocably committed to justice, fairness and the wellbeing of the constituents.
The feeling that pent up grievances behind the agitations will be doused by mere allegations or wished away is wrong. Neither will military might offer effective therapeutic response to the malignant tumor. The issues will rather become more problematic and complicated if nothing decisive is done to address them to the satisfaction of the citizenry.
Even then, there is a dangerous angle to the armada of allegations from state actors without any attempt to prove them conclusively. If the government has evidence of coup plots or covert subversive plans against the state, it should make them public. They should progress beyond accusations and alerts and apprehend suspects to face the law.
Where such evidence is not availed the public, then people are at liberty to ascribe whatever meaning to such allegations. The frequency of such allegations without any effort to provide evidence for them is beginning to send wrong signals to the citizenry. They may soon culminate to stigmatization and profiling even with lingering doubts in the minds of the public on the motive behind them.
Just recently, the DSS alleged that IPOB/ESN had acquired bombs and explosives which they were moving in articulated vehicles from Lagos to a hide-out in Orlu, Imo State to destabilize that state. Without prejudice to whatever information the DSS may have, one had expected they should have gone beyond alerts to actually apprehend the culprits. They knew the source of the bombs and explosives- Lagos.
They knew the type of vehicles the bombs and explosives were to be conveyed in- articulated vehicles. They were also privy to the destination of the bombs and explosives- a hide-out in Orlu. They had all it takes to burst the plan, arrest the masterminds and parade them. Yet, nothing of such happened. How do we then believe them?
And I ask, are there factories in Lagos that produce bombs and explosives for IPOB/ESN or any willing buyer? Where in Lagos State are such factories located and who are their owners? Why Lagos? Or do we presume they were brought in through the sea ports? If so, what investigations have the authorities conducted since then and what is the outcome?
These posers are compelling now the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu has also alleged of an impending plot by the same IPOB to attack soft targets in the state. He said the threat by IPOB agitators had been put on the radar of the commands intelligence gathering and other security services. The commissioner said the command has also taken note of threats by agitators of Oodua Republic and other Yoruba separatist groups- ‘24 of such groups have been identified and closely monitored’.
But the IPOB described the allegation as baseless just as they denied acquiring and ferrying bombs from Lagos to Orlu. The group said they nurse no such plans and it is a ploy by the security agencies to cause disaffection between the existing peaceful relations of the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups. As if to corroborate the position of the IPOB, nine Pan-Yoruba self-determination groups promptly issued a statement in which they picked holes with public declaration by the police of the alleged plans by the IPOB to attack Lagos.
The groups contended that if the police really had credible information on the issue, they should have discretely gone after IPOB members and arrest them instead of raising an alarm. The groups saw in the alarm an attempt to set the Yoruba against the Igbo and urged the Yoruba to ignore such attempts as the two groups need each other.
They also warned against ethnic profiling given that in the recent attack on the Yoruba at Mile 2 Lagos, the ethnic group of the attackers was known. Yet, at no time did the police make any attempt to speak about the ethnic identity of the perpetrators. They have said it all. And that highlights the contradictions in the flurry of accusations that have inundated the public space in recent times
It is not clear what the security agencies intend to achieve by these allegations, propaganda and potentially divisive alerts. But it is getting clearer by the day that there is more to them than ordinarily meets the eyes. The tempo and texture of the allegations add to the suspicion on the source of the escalating insecurity in the country. The feeling is that insipient hands of fifth columnists can be seen in it all.
No thanks to the inability of security agencies to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that some of these infractions now providing the basis for military action are neither contrived nor simulated to achieve predetermined ends. If anything, trending video from Akwa Ibom State gives further boost to the air of suspicion surrounding heightened spate of insecurity in parts of the south east and south-south.
In the video, Governor Udom Emmanuel lamented the freeing by the state’s police command of heavily armed bandits in fake army uniform arrested with 18 AK-47 riffles. According to him, the criminals were released through the order of the state police commissioner as soon as they were arrested and their riffles returned to them. He accused the police of naked partisanship to precipitate mayhem and provide basis for security agencies to attack the state. That captures the dilemma in the attacks on security personnel and ancillary governmental institutions in the southeast and south-south for which an engagement plan has been approved by the president.
It is hoped we have not boxed ourselves to a tight corner. It is hoped we have not through actions or inaction, created a Frankenstein monster. The challenge is gargantuan but not entirely insurmountable. But the scorching heat can be doused if the recommendations of southern governors are taken seriously.