In The Fugue in Fugar, Columnist Ogbuagu Anikwe discusses national security implications of kidnapping a senior police officer

It’s a week today since Ibrahim Ishaq, divisional police officer (DPO), was abducted while returning to his base in Fugar. Fugar is headquarters of Etsako Central Local Government Area in Edo State and hometown of late Navy Commodore Mike Ahigbe. The news left us in a state of suspended animation.

As a citizen, I’m yet to decide which is more frightening. Is it that hoodlums have the boldness to kidnap a senior police officer, and the temerity to place a N50 million ransom on his head? Or that we, Nigerian citizens, have taken this in our strides and are going about our business as if this is a non-event? Has the Nigerian mind moved from suspended animation to a state of fugue – a disturbed state of consciousness in which we view outlandish acts in full awareness but consciously displace them in our minds?

Our state of mind

Why are we are not showing the required outrage over security challenges in our daily lives? Are we hoping to wake up tomorrow from this state of anomie to ponder if the strange things we see actually happened under the watch of a retired military general and self-acclaimed security fixer? Will we wonder in future if the Fugar DPO kidnap actually happened? That “bandits” sauntered into an elite military institution (NDA) to abduct soldiers? Or that “unknown gunmen” actively pursued and murdered our police and military officers in broad daylight? Were our gallant soldiers cowardly murdered because their colleagues leaked troop movements to enemy religious insurgents?

We cannot afford to brush this pathetic case of kidnapping under the carpet. A DPO is a very senior police officer, not below the rank of a deputy superintendent. And being the head of the Fugar Police Station also means that the DPO is the officer on the ground working with Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki and Chairman of Etsako Central LGA to manage crime and maintain peace at Fugar, the local government headquarters.

If the officer directly responsible for security of a Local Government Council Chairman can be picked up by kidnappers like a chicken on a roadside, how difficult will it be to abduct the Council Chairman himself? And that is how it starts in our country, like a cruel joke that we allow to continue to fester until it escalates and gets completely out of hand. The kidnap of DPO Ibrahim Ishaq exemplifies the national security dilemma that our country faces at this time.

The Fugue in Fugar

A national dilemma

The major national security issue Nigeria faces today is terrorism. The tragedy is in our inability to appreciate its scope and our unpreparedness to confront its multiple dimensions. There are three major enablers of this threat that we have not summoned the poliical will to confront.

The first enabler is funding of terrorism activities. It is funding that enables access to weapons of violence that terrorists deploy and use. One can only hope that, sometime in the near future, EFCC will get around to tracking and separating terror groups from their local and international sponsors.

The second enabler of terrorism in Nigeria today is corruption and poor governance.These exacerbate poverty and crime. Poor governance leads youths to drug abuse, makes it easy to recruit them into crime, and sustains them in the entrapment. Police and Department of State Security (DSS) can only do so much to containing associated social disruptions of bad governance.

The third and most insidious enabler of the terrorist threat in our country is poor public perception management. This speaks to the way that officials manipulate information to hide what is common knowledge. Officials shamelessly manipulate and disseminate false and deceptive information. Life becomes uncertain and dangerous when citizens are routinely fed with distorted information.

The Communicatiom dilemma

The Fugue in Fugar

Two ready examples perception management can be found in how we communicate the terrorist threat. In the beginning, insurgents were “totally” defeated, then became “technically” defeated before we settled down to approve annual humongous budgets to deal with the threat. We are still dealing with it.

Again, and until last week, we insisted on referring to those who engage in senseless acts of violence against defenseless citizens as “bandits.” We not only called them bandits but justified their disruptive activities in the northern parts of Nigeria with protests of unarmed youths and separatist agitators in the South. We emboldened them with visits and endless pep talk as they escalated their disruption to horrendous levels.

They abducted innocent school children, displaced farming communities, enslaved and forcibly married women and young girls. These “bandits” engaged in incessant destruction of public assets, graduated to kidnapping for ransom, and assassinated security personnel and politicians. The choice we made on what to call them drove unnerved citizens into a Hobbesian state of “continual fear and danger of violent death.”

The Fugar kidnap and us

The significance of the Fugar kidnap is not lost on us citizens. Security agencies stand in the gap for law-abiding citizens. They are the bulwark against bad and dangerous situations happening to the people. Citizens are left vulnerable and fearful when we weaken this bulwark.

We shouldn’t weaken the bulwark. It should be strengthened with political support, adequate funding, zero corruption among the top brass, and less politicisation of top positions.

The Fugue in Fugar