By Clifford Ndujihe
FORMER Presidential Candidate and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, has urged political leaders not to concentrate only on 2023 elections permutations to the detriment of urgent national security concerns, warning that “we must have a Nation first before election and our people must be alive and safe first to be able to vote.”
Counselling that the current wave of insecurity blowing across the country is more pressing than the elections, Olawepo-Hashim, in a statement by his media office, lamented that security breaches have escalated across the nation and reached a frightening dimension.
His words: “The Barbarians are at the gate of the capital, our Republic is under threat, our tested ways of life, pluralism, democracy, State secularism, are about to be imperiled. The clock is ticking; time is running out, the forces of evil are set to take the capital.”
According to a report by Beacon Consulting, a security risk management and intelligence consulting company, banditry and terrorist attacks have escalated across Nigeria, leading to the death of 7,222 persons and abduction of 3,823 others in the past seven months.
A breakdown in terms of geopolitical zones revealed that the North-East recorded 777 incidents, in which 2,052 individuals were killed and 344 kidnapped. In the North-West, 519 incidents occurred, leading to the death of 2,229 individuals, while 1,989 were abducted. No fewer than 494 incidents were witnessed in the North-Central, of which 1,748 residents lost their lives, and 950 were kidnapped.
Said Olawepo-Hashim: “In the past two years, we have spoken on the Nation’s security challenges, and offered concrete suggestions on how to confront them but all the suggestions have been ignored. Now is the time for Patriots and statesmen and friends of Nigeria to rally and defend the ideals of our Republic, the ideals of peace and the ideals of modernity and civilization. It is time for the nation to construct a new Defence and Security Architecture to permanently destroy the seed of terror and uproot banditry/kidnapping across the country.
He added that with all manners of armed groups within two-hour drive to Abuja (the nation’s seat of power), from Niger and Kaduna, the government should not downplay the alarm raised by Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State on the growing number of ISWAP fighters in the country.
Last April, the 2019 presidential candidate noted that if between 2015 and now, the government has allocated approximately N5.081tn for defence, including the appropriation of N4.669tn to the Federal Ministry of Defence from 2016 to date and $1bn for the purchase of military equipment, the template on the fight on terror requires political responses that must tackle the underlining causes of the threats.
“Presently, it is an understatement to say we are at a turning point in our history when terrorist forces have technically surrounded our nation’s capital highlighting the severity of our national security challenge. Despite the offensive of the military to clean up the bushes in the capital, the axes surrounding the capital are still in the hands of the enemy and they retain the capacity, flexibility and initiative to launch attacks at any place and time of their choice.
“We should never surrender through in-action, limited action or wrong and slow response to the urgent threat confronting our father land, our response must be deep, broad and all encompassing,” he counselled.