Kaduna Train Attack : The debt we owe Nigerians Mr President-Abdulmumin Jibrin
By Abdulmumin Jibrin
I refrain from public commentary on security situation of the country owing to the privilege of an open channel of communications I have with critical actors in our government. While this proximity to power grants one access to both overt and covert activities of these policymakers, it also gives one glimpse of the lapses in the system. But there’s only so much even the most patient counsellor can do.
It’s one tragedy that shouldn’t have happened, and the experiences of hundreds of passengers, some of whom have been killed, injured and abducted, are tales of a haunting betrayal of a nation.
While it took about 24 hours for some reliable information surrounding the attack to be gathered, it’s unbelievable that such a sensitive and strategic infrastructure despite previous attacks coming as early warnings could be hijacked by bandits without a readily-stationed measure to repel and track the murderous criminals.
It’s scary to come to terms with this gross violation of Nigeria’s security and knowing that this is just one of a series of repeated tragedies.
The vote of confidence passed on us by the public since the attack is deserved, and it should alarm us to reassess the compromises that have left us this vulnerable, and this must begin by us holding those responsible at various levels to account.
This abominable train attack and the lack of capability to protect the Abuja-Kaduna road is a metaphor for our failure and must inspire sober reflection and immediate action to end this cyclical spate of killings across the country.
And the stronghold of the bandits within the stretch, along with their style of operations, is known even by the civilian travellers conversant with the geography. How on earth can we claim as a government that for seven years, we have not been able to put a standard operational mechanism to prevent or repel such hit-and-run attacks, deal with bandits targeting the Abuja-Kaduna rail and road travellers and protect the entire stretch of the road?
The cost at which the road can be effectively protected can’t be as much as this huge cost we are paying at the moment. If we are not able to protect the Abuja-Kaduna rails and roads, how do we assure Nigerians of our capability to protect far away roads, towns and villages from bandits, terrorists and criminals?
Yes, I strongly believe there may be politics and involvement of some disgruntled security operatives but this is not an excuse for our inability to protect road and rail travellers along the Abuja-Kaduna road. We have more than we need within our control to protect that road irrespective of who’s fueling the crisis, the strength of the bandits and their modus operandi.
The response of our government to the latest attack is the same. Nobody is being held accountable? Isn’t it clear that something went wrong with the operational plan on the ground to allow such a cruel attack by the bandits?
If something went wrong, what went wrong? Who is responsible? The only alternative to this is to admit that there is no standard operational arrangement to deal with such attacks along that axis after seven years! I have no doubt that our continuous failure to hold someone accountable has greatly contributed to the repeated attacks.
A few government officials I spoke to since the attack told me what I already know—that the president has done everything required of him as far as the security matter is concerned, rightfully so. He has, provided money and equipment.
He has also rejigged the security architecture, harmonised inter-agency functions and approved all strategic plans for various security operations. I’m not unaware of these, and can conveniently agree that the president should not be blamed. I have held this position for a long time because I know he has done his part.
However, my argument is that the job of the President does not stop at that. He must follow it up and supervise closely to ensure that someone is held accountable where there is a failure. It is absolutely important to know what went wrong and also who’s responsible. What went wrong should be made public and those responsible named and dealt with.
Such response is the least that can pacify the justifiably outraged public. Mr President, if Nigerians are not told what went wrong or the operational failure that created room for such attack and if you don’t hold anyone accountable, we cannot blame Nigerians for singling you out and holding you accountable despite doing your own part of the job, however unfair it may appear.
The command structure for operations like this is clear, whether involving a single agency or joint operations. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) telling the country that the bandits would be tracked is not enough assurance.
The damage has been done. While we mourn our loved ones lost in this preventable madness, support the injured, secure release of those kidnapped and repair the damaged rail as directed by the president, the lingering fear and concern of everyday Nigerians is the guarantee and assurance of security in preventing another attack. People can only feel secure if they know the plans you are putting in place to ensure that a next attack is prevented or at worst repelled.
It’s traumatizing that after seven years in power, with about one to go, Nigerians are still debating their safety along the Abuja-Kaduna road not to talk of the entire country. Something is definitely wrong, and the redemption the President seek can only come when he begins holding officials to account for failure and explaining the solutions devised.
The media has been saturated with agonizing stories of losses. No sane citizen can go to bed without nightmares after learning about the experiences of the innocent passengers in the train ambushed by bandits, and that’s because we are all passengers. Believe me, we are as vulnerable as they were that unfortunate night.
As a card-carrying member of the APC, I share in the successes and failures of this government. I cannot detach myself from either. We owe the people this collective responsibility to do better. May God strengthen us to deliver and bring an end to these security challenges.
Jibrin, a politician writes from Kano