Chief Hope Uzodinma, who is now resident in Abuja, visited Imo State yesterday. Upon arrival, he went ahead almost immediately to launch what he termed Advanced Operation Search and Flush, which reflects his only initiative and sole strategy to stemming the conflagration of insecurity that has engulfed Imo State. What really took place during the launch was a display of some vehicles procured for the law enforcement agencies in the State. That was all. Or maybe it is necessary to mention that Uzodinma’s long speech only focussed on, and can be summarized as, a threat to crush all landlords in Imo whose tenants are smokers. And, for Uzodinma, a “wonderful” security architecture had been born.
First, it is important to state very quickly that any government that reduces security to a caricature does not deserve to exist. In political theory, government comes into being for the sake of life, and continues to exist for the sake of good life. When government fails to fulfill this primary obligation, which is the protection of lives, civil society ultimately relapses into Hobbesian pre-political state of nature where life is nasty, brutish, solitary, poor and short. A mighty man can be murdered in his sleep, a great man overcome by great numbers, and a strong man overwhelmed by a confederation of the weak.
It was in March 2020 that Uzodinma first came up with this very same idea of Operation Search and Flush. He launched it amid fanfare. However, between March 2020 and January 2021, crime in the State soared to a new height. Some parts of the State, like Douglas Road, Okwudor axis on Orlu Road, and Onitsha Road, particularly from Control Post to Ogbaku, were taken over almost entirely by armed criminal elements. A Catholic Bishop in Owerri was once a victim of the unmitigated kidnappings in the State.
There was a particular incident that must never be forgotten. In the peak of the lockdown which was induced by Covid-19, truckloads of young men were being transported in the State from the other parts of the country, notably the North. In one of the instances, the Head of Uzodinma’s Taskforce on Covid-19 and former INEC Chairman, openly admitted that they saw those hundreds of aliens loaded in trucks, but allowed them to pass.
The big question now is: Who were those people and where were they headed. This is a difficult question to answer. But we may reflect back a bit to two petitions written by an Igbo group named ASETU to the former President of the USA, Donald Trump, and the United Nations respectively during the lockdown, both of which raised an alarm that aliens were being imported into Igboland to occupy the forests so as to create crisis and insecurity in the region after the lockdown.
If today the lockdown has been eased, and crisis is raging in the land, does that not justify the fears of the petitioners? What does this say about the security architecture in Imo which could not arrest the aliens seen in their hundreds being conveyed into Imo State during the lockdown? Who were those aliens in trucks caught by Uzodinma’s Covid-19 Taskforce and allowed to pass? Why did the Operation Search and Flush not apprehend them?
What Uzodinma has done with the relaunch of the ineffective Operation Search and Flush is to put an old wine in a new wineskin. He has run out of ideas. He is now recycling a failed initiative. There is something called policy evaluation. It is a fundamental part of the public policy process. No serious government would evaluate the performance of the so-called Operation Search and Flush and come to the conclusion that it should continue, even when the rate of crime in State keeps rising, and the hues and cries of extortions becoming deafening.
The truth is that Uzodinma is at a loss with what security means and how it can be attained. To be sure, there are two interrelated ways that the misrule of Uzodinma has continued to fan the embers of insecurity.
First, the government has refused to prioritize job creation. They have no program, no plan and no agenda to intervene in the unemployment miasma in the State. On the authority of the NBS, Imo State is currently the unemployment capital of Nigeria, with 82% of its employable social category completely unemployed. Security begins with disabling those structures that expose the people to crime, and first in this regard is creation of opportunities. It is cheaper to train people and engage them than to buy guns and vehicles, and build prisons. When people find a pathway out of poverty, they can hardly resort to crime. It is called soft security.
Second is Uzodinma’s deliberate policy to stifle the local government system. For almost seventeen months, no local government area in Imo can boast of doing any project, and the whereabouts of their funds cannot be told. This has deprived rural dwellers of opportunities and induced rural-urban migration, which has concomitantly led to an increase in criminality in the urban areas. No government that is serious about addressing insecurity would strangulate the local government system in a state where opportunities in the cities are scare, or even absent, and where over 70% of the
population reside in the rural areas. This is a disaster! The insecurity in Imo is organically tied to the regime of bad governance in the State. No ifs, ands or buts can do any magic until the issue is tackled from its taproot.