(GIN) — Bolu Ahmed Tinubu, who eked out a controversial win in Nigeria’s recent elections, now faces a what some call a near-insurmountable challenge: to quell the violence gripping the country, wielded by various groups of assorted loyalties.
“The degree of insecurity in Nigeria is unprecedented,” wrote Charles Kwuelum and Iyabo Obasanjo in Foreign Policy magazine. “It’s not just former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell…arguing that Nigeria is a failed state. Nigerian public and government officials regularly say as much themselves.”
Tinubu takes over from Muhammadu Buhari, who claims to be leaving the country in a better state than when he took power in 2015.
“Our battle to ensure that all Nigerians live in a safe and secure environment has achieved considerable results,” the 80-year-old Buhari said in a televised address.
Contrary to Buhari’s remarks, the 71-year-old Tinubu inherits a tide of violence from the northeast to the southeast. “At least sixty-three thousand Nigerians have been killed in various acts of state and nonstate extrajudicial violence, with attacks by Islamist insurgents, assorted armed bandits, and kidnappers claiming the most lives,” wrote Ebenezer Obadare in a recent blogpost. “Numbers aside, a real sense of lawlessness pervades, with a growing recourse to vigilante justice signaling popular frustration at law enforcement and the judicial system.
“The country’s kidnap-for-ransom industry has surged: between January and March this year alone, 1,484 people were abducted. In some cases, security agencies have been accused of complicity with criminal groups.”
Obadare added that attacks by herdsmen on farming settlements seem to be driven by land degradation or desertification, compounded by intensified drought due to climate change. Herdsmen reportedly killed 2,539 people in as many as 654 attacks. As much as 60 percent of land in Nigeria is under pressure of desertification.
“As soon as he takes office, the new president will face significant security problems,” said Emeka Okoro, security analyst for the analysis group SBM Intelligence. Tinubu will have to tackle three major fronts.
The most urgent priority is central and northwestern Nigeria, said Okoro. In these agricultural and poor regions, fierce competition for land frequently degenerates into deadly clashes between farmers and herders, where the absence of justice and protection from power has contributed to the birth of armed gangs that are responsible for mass killings and kidnapping for ransom.
“The bandits invade a community, kill the inhabitants, and destroy their property, with little or no resistance from the security forces,” charged Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, sultan of Sokoto, one of the most heavily attacked regions.
According to researcher Idayat Hassan, director of the Center for Democracy and Development, the new administration will have to move away from the “enemy-centric, weapon-centric approach” that prevailed under Buhari, and “adopt a non-military approach.” That would include tackling the underlying problems, such as “unemployment, poverty, the fight against marginalization” and “reform justice.”
Matthew Hassan Kukah, bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Sokoto, Nigeria, said that “we stare at an imponderable tragedy as the nation unravels from all sides.” Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said, “A situation where you are not safe on the road, you are not safe on the train, you are not safe at the airport, shows a very serious situation.”