Nigerians may fight back if the government continues “to oppress” the people — Bolaji Akinyemi

Bolaji Akinyemi, former minister of external affairs, says Nigerians may fight back if the government continues “to oppress” the people.

Akinyemi, who spoke in an interview with Nigerian Tribune, was commenting on the readiness of the country for state and community policing.

A presidential panel had recommended the establishment of state police to tackle the rising insecurity in the country.

Akinyemi said the “time is ripe” for state policing even though he still has some reservations.

“I think the time is ripe for both local government and state police. I still have my reservation, but the time is ripe. Whatever difficulty we would run into as part of its implementation, we just have to face those difficulties and tackle them because people have talked about the governors using them against their political opponents and there is viciousness in Nigerian politics, let us not deny that,” Akinyemi said.

“You saw what happened during the last election in River State, but then the federal police would still be there and let us not under estimate the ability of people to fight back if it comes to that.

“Maybe we’ve been spoon feeding people for too long in this country, treating them like children, then the people would fight back and then you would know that there is a limit to which government can actually oppress people when they start to fight back. I mean Nigerians are not that unique, people fight back in the rest of the world.

“You have heard of the Arab Spring, was that not fighting back? You see what is happening in Hong Kong, is that not fighting back? You’ve heard of ‘Operation Wetie,’ it was within this very country.

“I am not calling our people goat, when you push a goat against the wall, goat is the most docile of all animals, but if you now push it against the wall, it would turn round and fight you.”

Commenting on the insecurity situation in the country, Akinyemi said both criminal and political factors are responsible for the continued crisis.

He also said shortage in the number of police personnel is another factor why insecurity has persisted.

“Now, I am stressing this because I served on the committee to review electoral laws, the Uwais Panel put together to review electoral laws and we came to the conclusion. It was one of our recommendations that Nigeria should adopt United Nations recommendations on ratio of police to civilians,” he said.

“We have about 400,000 policemen. The UN said we need 1.3million policemen. So, look at that shortfall. It means we don’t have enough security personnel to even enforce our laws.

“That’s why I then said obviously, you have to go in for massive recruitment, not all this 10,000 a year thing that they are doing. It has proved inadequate. If you have 1.3million policemen, you would have enough to stop rustling of people’s cows and stop kidnapping along Abuja/Kaduna road.”

Asked his take on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to rejig his service chiefs despite public outcry, Akinyemi said, “they are his service chiefs. If he says he is happy with them, he would live with the consequences.”


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