Opinion | Tinubu, Security And Future Of Nigeria.

By Tayo Ayinde

One of the most serious challenges, which will confront the next President of Nigeria after the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure next year is the fragile security of the country and the loss of lives and property throughout the land to assorted acts of violence including banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, cultism, herdsmen-farmers clashes, ritual killings and separatist agitations among others.

There is no doubt in my mind that of all the leading contenders for the presidency, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, by his proven track record of performance, is best placed to find a lasting solution to the security challenge and putting in place measures to better secure lives and property across the country. It cannot be overemphasized that the provision of adequate security for the citizenry is a necessary condition for peace, economic progress, political stability and even the continued existence of the country.

Even though it is widely known that state governors are Chief Security Officers of the territories they govern only in name as they have no control over any of the security agencies such as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Department of State Services (DSS) or the military, for instance, Tinubu as governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, performed valiantly in helping to restore security in a state that was plagued by chronic crime infestation and insecurity as at the time he assumed office.

As the Chief Security Detail to Tinubu during his tenure as governor to whose office I was deployed by the DSS, I can testify to the grievous security situation in Lagos with armed robberies taking place in banks and other places in broad daylight, widespread urban crime worsened by terrible environmental filth and degradation, bad condition of most roads, incessant traffic chaos and indiscipline as well as ethnic clashes leading to several deaths and destruction of property worth millions of Naira.

In the last quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of 2000, for instance, there were violent and bloody clashes between ethnic groups involving, among others, the Yorubas, Igbo, Ijaw and Hausas in different communities at the popular Mile 12 market, Ketu, in Kosofe local government area, Ajegunle, in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area, the Oko-Oba abattoir in Agege as well as Mile 2 and parts of Amuwo-Odofin Local Government areas among others. The governor always responded promptly and actively to these incidents of violence, personally visiting the areas affected to offer succor to the wounded and displaced persons, plead for calm and restoration of peace while also working and coordinating closely with the security agencies to restore normalcy.

I recall that during one of the violent conflicts in Ajegunle, some demonstrators featured on a CNN prime news report carrying placards calling for a return to military rule as a result of repeated violence in Lagos and other parts of the country. That very night, Governor Tinubu in a live interview with Jonathan Mann of the CNN, assured the international community that the violence in Ajegunle was an isolated incident which had been swiftly brought under control and that people were peacefully going about their business and other activities across the state. It was this kind of proactive response to crises that helped ensure that after the initial communal violence witnessed in Lagos in 1999 and part of 2000 the state enjoyed peace and harmony throughout Asiwaju’s tenure.

As I recalled in an article to commemorate Asiwaju’s 60th birthday in 2012, “I hardly realized just how dogged and intelligent he was when, in 1999, I was seconded as his Chief Security Detail from the State Security Service (SSS), my former office. It was as such my responsibility to protect him and his family. Coming as his Chief Security Detail, I was naive enough to believe that my charge was one of those politicians who knew nothing about security and needed to be schooled. How wrong I was! Surprisingly, I discovered that he was way ahead in the areas where I figured I should have tutored him. It later dawned on me that he would not have survived the years of guerrilla warfare with the military if he was less knowledgeable about security matters”.

As I continued in that piece, “Working with Asiwaju Tinubu as Chief Security Detail was, therefore, as tasking as it was interesting and rewarding. His instructions were those of a man who had seen it all. He demonstrated apt Knowledge of what was required to provide maximum security around himself. First, he purposely briefed me, along with his Aide-de-camp, Mr. Omogbolahan Wasiu Lawal, now His Royal Majesty, Oniru of Iruland, and his Chief Security Officer, Kayode Egbetokun, on why we should not treat his security with levity. It was clear, detailed and stringent. It became obvious and understandable that a dogged fighter and committed democracy activist like him would be on the hit list of anti-democracy forces, both in and out of uniform. Besides, his exploits in NADECO and the lacerations they caused were ever fresh in the minds of ‘his adversaries’”.

In order to contain the several clashes in Lagos at the inception of his administration, Asiwaju Tinubu integrated various leaders of ethnic groups such as the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa into the governance process through their representatives while also adopting different measures to empower and calm restive members of such groups as the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Egbesu Boys as well as key Hausa operatives of the Abattoir in Agege. Mention must also be made of how Asiwaju through the introduction of the Private Sector Participation (PSP) in Waste Management generated thousands of jobs for area boys and other citizens who were employed as ‘Highway Managers’ to clear refuse and keep the environment clean. This went a long way to help reduce the rate of crime in the state.

One of the first tasks undertaken by Asiwaju was to re-name the anti-crime outfit, Operation Sweep, which he inherited from the military, which now became the Rapid Response Squad (RRS). While members of the squad from the military were withdrawn and sent back to the barracks, members of the new outfit were re-trained and re-orientated to interact with the public with respect, civility and decorum. Again, to quote my 2012 piece, “And in addition to renaming the outfit, Asiwaju commenced the process of rearming the squad with modern facilities that would enable it to function and meet the challenges of the crime situation. He went about, with clinical thoroughness, the business of providing improved logistics and equipment required to take on the challenge. Some of the equipment he procured included bomb jammers, over 250 walkie-talkies in the first instance as well as the establishment of base stations for Government House Security. Others were bullet-proof jackets for members of the RRS and patrol vans for the SSS, Police and the Military to improve response time to distress calls. He also bought armoured vehicles for the squad”.

“Other organizational strategies he employed as incentives to get the best out of members of the security outfits and his own personal security details included provision of insurance cover to further stimulate their dedication to duty. And in order to achieve effective surveillance, Asiwaju Tinubu proceeded to integrate the RRS with the community-based Neighbourhood Watch with the aim of combining the collective vigilance of the different communities in the state to expose and control crime with the swift responses of the RRS as a strategy of reducing crime in the state”.

Under Tinubu, we made extensive use of the Spy Police, who are non-uniformed officers, to gather intelligence and thus enabling the government to act proactively to nip crimes and conflicts in the bud. Some of those often dismissed as area boys and riff-raffs were also sources of vital information to the governor that facilitated the monitoring and control of crime in the communities. The governor was constantly in touch with ethnic, religious, traditional and community leaders holding continuous meetings with them individually and in groups to promote and ensure peace and harmony in the state, which is acknowledged as a microcosm of Nigeria. I have no doubt that under Asiwaju’s leadership of Nigeria from 2023 by God’s grace, there will be more intensive use of technology and efficient intelligence-gathering to fight and contain all categories of crime and violence across Nigeria.

Before Asiwaju’s emergence as governor in 1999, the chaotic traffic situation in Lagos State contributed to the level of insecurity in the Centre of Excellence. Not only were the roads across the state mostly in deplorable condition, there were hardly any functional traffic lights and street lights. Thus, criminals had a field day operating on the roads during traffic or at night under cover darkness. In addition to establishing the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) to enforce traffic discipline, the governor ensured that new roads constructed by his administration were equipped with traffic lights and street lights that help considerably to curb crime on the highways enhance safety and security in the state.

I will always remember Asiwaju’s prowess, courage and dexterity as Chief Security Officer of the state as amply demonstrated in his handling of the bomb blast at the Ikeja Army Cantonment on January 27, 2002. As I recounted in my 2012 piece referred to earlier, “Lagos residents will recall on that fateful night the confusion and anxiety the incident caused throughout the city. For those living in Ikeja and environs as far inland as Oshodi, Isolo and Ejigbo, it was a night of great tragedy because hell was let loose. Probably believing that there was an attempt to overthrow the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo or a military insurgence, a large mass of residents fled southwards from the blasts. In the process, many unknowingly rushed into the Oke Afa Canal in Ejigbo that was veiled by water-hyacinth and which bordered a banana plantation where they hoped to find cover from the blast. Unfortunately, many got drowned while others were severely injured.

“Asiwaju’s first act upon learning of the blast was to rush to the Nigerian Television Authority Channel 10 where he made a state broadcast allaying the fears of Lagosians as to the true cause of the blasts. It was actually as a result of a fire outbreak at an old armory at the Ikeja Cantonment. It is believed that this timely broadcast in English, Hausa and Igbo went a long way to save more lives that would have otherwise have been lost because as soon as the people knew the truth, they stopped running and calm was restored”.

As governor, Asiwaju accorded the highest priority to the welfare and training, both through local and foreign programmes, of both his personal security staff and members of the security agencies in the state. It is indisputable that under his leadership, the military, police and other security agencies will enjoy a new lease of life through enhanced welfare, training, equipping and motivation for more effective and efficient service delivery towards protecting the sanctity of lives and property in the country.

I cannot forget that as far back as 2005, Asiwaju sent myself and his then Aide de camp, Mr Omogbolahan Lawal, now His Royal Majesty, the Oniru of Iru land, to undergo a special training course in counter-terrorism in Israel. That was long before terrorism became the serious challenge it is now in contemporary Nigeria. He knew that Israel had developed specialized knowledge and skills in fighting terrorism in the Middle East and in different parts of the world. It is this kind of proactive thinking and foresight that there is no doubt that Asiwaju will deploy in training and empowering officers and men of our various security agencies in rising to the challenge of Providing adequate security of lives and property across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

• Mr Tayo Ayinde is the Chief of Staff to the Lagos State Governor.