There is pervasive fear all over the country that hoodlums, street urchins and cultists are set to take over control over the space nationwide. A taste of what to expect was the random shooting at the governorship election campaign launch of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held at Ikeja, Lagos, on Tuesday, where three journalists were wounded and many others, too, rushed to the hospital. Preliminary investigation showed that it was a fallout of power contest between two factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
In December 2018, the Lagos State Police Commissioner disclosed that 36 cult members had been arrested in various parts of the state, with many already charged to court and remanded in prison custody.
The situation is not different in Ibadan, Oyo State, where hoodlums operated in parts of the city freely, razing about 30 houses and shops, looting stores and inflicting injury on innocent residents and passersby. It, too, as was the case at the APC, Lagos rally, was said to be a result of a bloody clash between factions of some gangs.
In Ogun State, the police announced that 23 cult members gathered for initiation in Ilaporu, Awa-Ijebu, were rounded up before they could be moved into another frenzy of mass destruction.
One feature common to this development is that they are mainly young men and women, operating under the influence of dangerous substances and benefitting from proliferation of arms in the country. It is an indication that the times are perilous, and unless something is done to fundamentally tackle the problems, the future may be bleak. The security situation in the country is already incredible. Armed robbers and kidnappers are on free reign all over, insurgency has become full blown war, with local government areas held, major roads sealed and military formations falling.
From the North East, the wave has spread to the North West states of Kaduna, Zamfara and Katsina, where armed bandits have constantly overwhelmed the security forces by wielding superior weapons. We now have a class of low lifers who are determined to take it out on the elite and the society. In the far North, the almajiri, an established group of street urchins, are always available to wreak havoc for political, communal or religious reasons. In the West, they are the touts, who go about killing, with some teaming up in cults and others offering service as professional assassins.
Both in the North and South, the killers are emboldened and armed by politicians at election periods. They are deployed to snatch ballot boxes, disrupt the voting or collation process or intimidate opponents. After the elections, when they are discharged, they find other uses for the sophisticated weapons, as militants, insurgents, robbers, assassins or just members of cults and menacing gangs. As borne out in the narration of the build-up to the daring robbery of banks in Offa, Kwara State, last year, yesterday’s discharged thugs are today’s robbers. They move freely, convinced that their godfathers are able to see them through arrest and prosecution.
It is another election season, the security forces should resolve to act dispassionately and professionally to cure the society of this thriving societal ill. Politicians found to keep armed thugs should be brought to book to serve as deterrence to others, otherwise, a bomb, worse than the Boko Haram menace is ticking to consume all in no distant time.