(By Emmanuel Kayode Awolere)
“Granted that the intervention by security forces in a crisis may occasionally be compelling to bring about stability and calmness, it is also obvious that the operations of our security forces are grossly lacking in intelligence gathering as well as in the use of modern techniques and equipment in tracking down criminals and insurgents. Indiscriminate killing of Nigerians – whether they are innocent or not – by the security forces will surely take us nowhere in our quest for peace.“
TO paint Nigeria as a failed state may be too harsh a description of our country. Likewise, to describe her as a failing country with little hope of survival may portray one with the image of an unpatriotic citizen. However, the right word to describe the Nigerian state at this critical moment is not a problem. This is because the unprecedented level of insecurity in the country has made it abundantly clear that the nation is not healthy.
Indeed, the Nigerian state is in dire need of surgical operation, without which she may go under. If we may learn from the experiences of other countries, for instance, Somalia, and many other such war-torn countries in Africa, we find that these countries did not just become failed states in a day. The situation crept in as they took one mis-step to another in addressing the root causes of their national problems before things blew up.
Therefore, the question of concern is: how should our own dear Nigerian state address the root causes of her security problems to prevent her imminent collapse? After the return to democratic governance in 1999, a majority of us (Nigerians) were optimistic that good days would soon come. Democracy was seen as an end in itself.
Now, the bitter lessons have been learnt. Today, we know better. We now appreciate the fact that democracy does not have the magic wand to bring those good things of life and the stability we have so much longed for. We now know that it is the determination and courage to do things right by the political leaders of developed countries that made those countries what they have become today, not democracy.
Sadly, as the truth dawns on us, the challenges of life threatening our survival have become complex to the extent that we now have to run to the less-endowed and smaller countries such as Ghana for tips for survival. Indeed, the potentials of our youth population have not only been wasted, many of the youths with great potentials have been forced to become agents of the devil. These youths have taken up arms against the country because their potentials and brilliant dreams have been mortgaged by our corrupt leaders.
Consequently, insecurity has now become a permanent character of the Nigerian state. Indeed, just like Afghanistan, Pakistan and other unstable countries, hardly would a day pass without the media reporting one form of violence or the other in parts of our country, particularly in the northern states. This ugly cycle of violence has made the country unattractive for foreign investments in spite of the many overtures our government made to foreign investors since 1999.
Our country now grapples with the reoccurring problems of terrorism, kidnapping, inter-communal violence, extra-judicial killings and many other kinds of devastating violence. The barbaric killing of four University of Port Harcourt students in Aluu village is still fresh in our memories. Similarly, the horrific massacre of about 46 students in a federal polytechnic in Adamawa State will ever remain indelible in the dark history of our country.
Also, the suicide bombings of places of worship and government institutions by members of the deadly Boko Haram Islamic sect have given our country a bad image in the comity of nations and put her on the brink of collapse. The country is now seen as a nation of terrorists, with consequent suspicion of Nigerians and the attendant most inhuman treatment meted out to them at international airports in Western countries.
Kidnapping for ransom is at a worrisome level within our shores and our security agencies are demonstrably bereft of clues on how to put a stop to the menace. However, in scrambling for veritable solution to this problem of insecurity, it is instructive to first tell our decision-makers that asking for God’s intervention for peace to reign in our country by staging national prayer is certainly not the solution. As the Holy Bible asks, “should we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Surely, it is impossible.
The decision-makers – (both elected and appointed) – should be sensitive to the root causes of insecurity in our country. Nigerians have waited for too long for good days to come. Many have made patriotic sacrifices in the hope that one day the conditions of life in the land would improve. The late Afro-beat maestro and legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, it was who said in one of his thought provoking and memorable, indeed instructive songs that Nigerians were suffering and smiling at the same time.
No doubt, Nigerians are too rugged and can adapt to the worse situation of life. E go better has become the general consoling slogan among many Nigerians. The high level of insecurity is an indication that many nationals have finally lost their patience and hope in the system. The lack of clues on the part government in handling the security challenges is evident in the continuous use of violence as a tool in combating security challenges. Samson Elias Mijah did ask in his PhD thesis titled, Ethics of Violence in Nigeria, “what is the morality in using violence to bring peace is?”
Of course, there is no morality in using violence to bring peace. What kind of peace do we hope to achieve when our security forces continue to perpetuate violence against the citizens under the guise of fighting terrorism and other crimes? That peace will certainly be negative – otherwise known as the peace of the graveyard. Again, the logical question is: “what has become of intelligence gathering in fishing out the real perpetrators of violence and crimes?
Granted that the intervention by security forces in a crisis may occasionally be compelling to bring about stability and calmness, it is also obvious that the operations of our security forces are grossly lacking in intelligence gathering as well as in the use of modern techniques and equipment in tracking down criminals and insurgents. Indiscriminate killing of Nigerians – whether they are innocent or not – by the security forces will surely take us nowhere in our quest for peace.
It is important for me to mention that if anyone is in doubt about the gross violation of people’s rights, particularly in some northern states where our security forces are fighting terrorism, then that person should have a look at a recent research conducted by Amnesty International, which was published in a report titled, Nigeria: Trapped in the Cycle of Violence. In that report by the non-governmental and international human rights advocacy body, it was noted that Nigerian security forces have perpetrated serious human rights violations in their response to insurgencies in some northern states of Nigeria.
It further noted that hundreds of people accused of links with Boko Haram have been arbitrarily detained without charge or trial; others have been extra-judicially executed or subjected to enforced disappearance. Clearly, the cycle of attacks and counter-attacks have been marked by unlawful violence on the sides of the insurgents and the security forces, with devastating consequences for the human rights of the people trapped in the middle.
It is, therefore, good to remind our decision-makers that the fragile peace achieved in the Niger Delta was not through the use of violence. This present approach by the government can best be described as trying to prevent the collapse of a house while the people therein can go to hell.
The untapped solution I wish to recommend and believe is surely within the reach of our government, but only if it has the political will and sincerity to examine it, is what I call “human security.” We cannot continue to chase shadows. Our government must understand that without human security, there will be no national security. An erudite professor of political science and expert in strategic studies, Prof. Nwolise, advocated human security in a lecture he presented at the University of Ibadan as a veritable solution to the security challenges the country is facing.
He argued that national security without human security is equal to nothing. In fact, the mass protest that greeted the fuel subsidy removal in January 2012 and the violence that came with it had clearly shown most of us to be in need of security before we can have any iota of hope for national security in Nigeria. In other words, the untapped solution is the creation of jobs!
Though violence and crimes exist and perhaps are inevitable in every human society, but when these have reached a worrisome level, a very proactive solution is required. Our government must know that voting huge budget for national security when most Nigerians find it extremely difficult to live a descent life is like running a race that has no end. The first proactive step our government should take is to remove or perhaps reduce significantly the extreme anger and frustration in the land.
The huge security budget will only aggravate the level of violence. This is because more instruments of violence are likely to be acquired by our security forces and used to perpetrate injustice against the already deprived and impoverished citizens, who will in turn vent their deep-rooted anger and frustration on the state, also using violence. The spirit of nationalism is losing heat and bodes ill for the corporate existence of our dear country. Therefore, the time has come for our decision makers at all levels of governance to tap the untapped solution of human security if they are truly sincere about reducing our security challenges to a bearable level.
• Emmanuel Kayode Awolere, a peace and security studies expert, wrote from Lagos.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”