I think this important story should be juxtaposed with the launch of the so-called Operation Restore Peace in the South-East. The first thing to point out before I go on is that from 2016 up until November 2020, the South East was probably the most peaceful region in the country, along with the South West. That is what the data says.
Since this year, there have been more attacks on the state recorded, but the SE still ranks third behind the SS, NC and NW for attacks on policemen. It was in April that the SE came second behind the SS.
For those who have ever gone to the South-East by road, the biggest complaint has always been highhandedness by the police (and army), and indiscriminate extortion.
A three-year research by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law said that Nigeria’s security forces extorted ₦100 billion in roadside bribes in South-East Nigeria between 2015 and 2018.
This, is the real reason why the population in the region is looking away as this nonsense of UGM is happening. But our security forces are acting unaware. You can’t gain support where people are at best indifferent to you.
I was in the South-East last week, and the police were off the highways, except for two checkpoints I encountered, one in Mgbidi in Imo State, and the other in Ihiala in Anambra.
The lack of police on the highways led to ease of movement, and more importantly, no extortion. This has tilted the balance of sympathy even further away from the authorities, but it is clear that the authorities do not get this in the language they are using. What does “be ruthless” mean when what is clearly required is a hearts-and-minds operation?
It is disappointing that Nigeria’s security architecture is intent on doubling down on methods that have clearly failed and only succeeded in alienating one of the three large ethnic groups upon which the country’s tripod rests.