Being a public lecture delivered at the University of Calabar by Senator(Prof) Sandy Onor, the senator representing Cross River Central senatorial district in the National Assembly
There can hardly be a better time than now for us to engage in an honest discussion of the state of our nation especially as it concerns insecurity and national unity. We live in difficult times, times that challenge our humanity, call into question our faith in the rationalism of man, times that inundate us with strange and perplexing behaviours and strange mores. In times of insecurity, uncertainty and confusion as we are witnesses to in our country, it is necessary that we re-examine the society’s given frame of reference, including the values; philosophies, norms and policies that guide and moderate the conduct of public affairs. We need to be constantly conscious that there are things that must be defended for the purpose of peace, progress and national unity. At the core of such values are freedom, justice, dignity and the rule of law. These are some of the values that differentiate the organized society from its predecessor, the state of nature, which according to James Brice was a society in which every man was a wolf unto every other man. In his own account of the state of nature, Thomas Hobbes, one of the finest philosophers of all time said that life was “nasty, brutish and short.” A critical reading of the postulations of evolutionary theorists like Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus, Herbert Spencer and Alfred Russel Wallace validate these viewpoints. To be sure, it is natural for man to assert himself as stronger, better or greater than his fellow man, and avails himself of any opportunity to prove it. He bullies and browbeats his neighbours; he engages in fair or foul competition with his fellow man, all in a bid to assert his superiority. These innate traits in man when exhibited are capable of breaching the peace and unity of society and as a result, retard its progress and development.
The formation of civil society and the enthronement of the rule of law was meant to regulate and mediate the actions of men and women that could mar the march towards civilization and development. To accomplish this, it became imperative to select a group of people who were vested with the authority to administer public affairs on behalf of the people. All such organized societies had the inalienable right to choose the form of government under which they will live. After experimenting with several forms of government, many societies, especially those in the West came to the conclusion that democracy was the best form of government. This conclusion was recently given intellectual validity by Francis Fukuyama in his seminal book, The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama argues convincingly in this book, which has been described by some commentators as a magnum opus, that liberal democracy is the best conceivable socio-political system for fostering freedom and self-actualization. Because he believes that liberal democracy would not be superseded by a better or higher form of government, Fukuyama avers that liberal democracy offers the most complete and rational satisfaction for any group of people in the world. In his view, liberal democracy is immune to the fundamental internal contradictions and irrationalities that ruined earlier forms of government. According to him, other forms of government, from monarchy to communism to fascism, had failed because they were imperfect vehicles for freedom and security. As Fukuyama argues:
The most remarkable development of the last quarter of the twentieth century has been the revelation of enormous weaknesses at the core of the world’s seemingly strong dictatorships, whether they be of the military-authoritarian Right, or the communist-totalitarian left. And while they have not given way in all cases to stable liberal democracies, liberal democracy remains the only coherent political aspiration that spans different regions and cultures around the globe (xiii).
Based on his convictions, Fukuyama concludes that liberal democracy constitutes the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the final form of human government anywhere in the world. He maintains that the ideals of democracy cannot be improved upon. In substantiating his position, he posits that the world’s most developed, secure and stable countries are also its most successful democracies.
Praised for his intellectual sophistication, Fukuyama (who was a deputy director of the U. S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff when he published the book) quickly emerged as a celebrity in the United States and in many other places where the United States was preaching and winning converts to democracy. Kimball avers that: “Rarely has the word brilliant been used with such cheery abandon.” The End of History and the Last Man contributed greatly in shaping the intellectual discourse on democracy, especially its inherent ability to bring about good governance around the world. Because of this, there were celebrations in many places where democracy was adopted as a form of government in the closing decades of the twentieth century. Okon Uya’s comment on this is insightful:
From the perspective of the twenty-first century, the last quarter of the twentieth century will probably be best remembered and designated by historians as ‘the Age of Democracy’… The Berlin Wall, that noted symbol of the man-made division of the International community into the abode of totalitarianism, on the one hand, and liberal democracy, on the other, has gone into the dust bin of history. Totalitarian regimes, whatever their designations, descriptions and uniforms, have collapsed or are collapsing with such amazing speed that one is left to conclude that they were perhaps gigantic political formations with feet of clay… Liberal democracy has triumphed over other competing systems as the model of good governance and the best guarantee for the development and survival of our human family (Imbua et al 568-9).
By the close of the twentieth century, there was virtually no part of the globe that liberal democracy was not hailed as the best form of government with inherent ability to guarantee respect for human rights and social justice among other virtues that make it the preferred form of government. By the close of the twentieth century, there was no country in Africa where the one party state, once hailed as the panacea for holding in check the rivalries and competing loyalties inherent in ethnically pluralistic societies was still cherished. In the same way, military interventions in government were regarded as an aberration, only justifiable if it was preparatory to the inauguration of democratic regimes. Totalitarian regimes were confronted by “people power” on the streets of Zaire, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Mali, Zambia, Benin, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Cameroon and so on (509). The situation was not different in Nigeria where individuals and groups rose up in defence of democracy. For instance, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which was formed by a broad coalition of Nigerian democrats on 15 May 1994 as an organisation of mass resistance against military rule, believed that the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria was the only reliable panacea or cure for the various human rights abuses that were perpetrated by military regimes. As Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State reminded us recently, the general belief was that the “the worst form of democratic government was better than the best form of military government.” Thus, Nigerians were expectedly in ecstatic and colourful moods on 29 May 1999 when the domination of the Nigerian political space and actual rulership of the country by the military came to an end. Many Nigerians were convinced that the political kingdom had come, with many of its blessings.
The Democratic Project in Nigeria Since 1999
As stated above, the swearing-in of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the democratically elected president on 29 May 1999, as well as the inauguration of civilian regimes at the State and Local Government levels was seen as a significant watershed in the chequered political history of Nigeria. Expectations were high that the enthronement of democratic governance at all levels of government on that date will usher in a political culture based on justice, equity, sense of belonging, participation and involvement, tolerance, transparency and accountability in the conduct of the affairs of the nation. Across the nation, people expressed the hope that there would be massive improvement in the welfare and wellbeing of Nigerians marked by radical improvement in political, social and economic growth; health and educational services and infrastructure; a reversal of the poverty, corruption, indiscipline and moral decadence which appeared to have been the norm in the days of military rule (Imbua et al, 2012:664). In short, because of the optimistic feeling that there was going to be massive improvement in the quality of life of Nigerians, many people expressed satisfaction not only for seeing “the end of history” but even more importantly, for being among the last men, to borrow the elegant phrases of Fukuyama. At this time, except for a few doubting Thomases, the world had come to believe that there was “an inseparable linkage between a democratic polity and the inauguration of a regime of good governance” (Uya, 2000:1).
Despite the massive euphoria occasioned by the return of democracy, there were some people who called for caution, arguing that though democracy is the best form of government, the best guarantee for rapid economic and social development of any nation, it was also the most difficult to manage, to consolidate and to build real life and meaning into. Though aware of what democracy has accomplished for some western nations, proponents of this view insisted that there was no guarantee that democracy will achieve the same result in Africa. They made the point that democracy was not a potted plant which can be transported into any soil and made to grow without creating the required environment for it to consolidate and to endure. More and more people became disenchanted as they witnessed several developments under the Obasanjo presidency which seemed to suggest that democracy may not lead the nation to the Promised Land. Though there were noticeable improvements in infrastructure and the establishment of several institutions that promoted the running the Nigerian state, many things were far below expectation. The feeling was not significantly different under the late Musa Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Because of the claim that they were not getting the expected dividends of democracy under the Peoples Democratic Party, many Nigerians easily bought into the “change” campaign mantra of the All Progressives Congress and saw Muhammadu Buhari as an incorruptible brand that could put Nigerians on the path of prosperity.
The support which enabled Buhari to create history by becoming the first person in the country’s political history to defeat an incumbent president was based majorly on the belief that he has the capacity to tackle insecurity, corruption and improve the economy. Everywhere he went for campaign, Buhari vowed to crush Boko Haram within three months in office and improve the security of lives and property in the country. After more than six years in office and with less than two years to the end of his second and final term, insecurity has worsened beyond the Boko Haram insurgency. Virtually all parts of Nigeria are currently battling with various kinds of violent crimes. The Global Terrorism Index (2019) ranked Nigeria as the third worst nation prone to terrorism with no improvement since 2017 (Nasir Ayitogo Premium Times, May 31, 2021).
Apart from the disturbing cases of insurgency, banditry and kidnapping, secessionist violence is pushing Nigeria towards the brink of collapse with many people calling for the resignation of the president for failing to secure the country. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka has described the country as a war zone and the Sultan of Sokoto recently said that northern Nigeria is the worst place to live in the country. Recently, a legislator from the president’s ruling All Progressives Congress, Smart Adeyemi, was moved to tears while contributing to a debate on the floor of the Senate on the dire security situation in the country. The bad security situation compelled the amiable and usually optimistic Nigerian historian, Ebiegberi Alagoa to assert that “Nigeria now faces a level of disharmony and danger even greater than the days of the Biafran threat” (2019:14). A cursory look at the insecurity conundrum in the various geopolitical zones of Nigeria shows that Alogoa’s assertion is a true reflection of the realities on ground. The security situation as it stands now is getting worse. A day hardly passes without hearing one form of insecurity or the other in many parts of the country. This unpleasant reality led Governor Samuel Ortom to the painful conclusion that “For the purpose of this APC led government, I want to say that the worst military government we have had in Nigeria is better than this particular government led by APC.”
Insecurity across the various Zones of Nigeria.
The 36 states that make up Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory were grouped into six geopolitical zones during the regime of General Sani Abacha as the basis for the rotational presidency which his administration enshrined in the unpublished 1995 constitution. The six geopolitical zones are composed as follows: North-Central (Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory); North-East (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe); North-West (Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara); South-East (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo); South-South (Akwa Ibom, Bayela, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers); South-West (Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo). The six zones were not entirely carved out based on geographic location, as ethnic and politico-historical ties were taken into consideration. The various geopolitical zones of Nigeria are infected with the burg of terrorism, insurgency, militarization, secession, herdsmen attack, cattle/farmers clashes, banditry, kidnapping and other sectional and religious agitations that are reflective of the nation’s geopolitical and ethno-religious fault lines. Thus, we shall attempt in this section to briefly highlight the various conflicts in Nigeria on geopolitical basis.
North-East and North-West
The North-East was peaceful until the monstrous Boko Haram (‘Western Education is a sin’) attacks first led by Muhammed Yusuf, escalated over a decade ago. Boko Haram has its operational base in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State and largest city in northeast Nigeria. At its inception in 2002, the main tenet among its followers was regime change in Nigeria as they believe that democratic and secular rule is in contradiction to Sharia. The sustained assault by Boko Haram on the Nigerian State, her citizens and foreigners followed its spread from Sambisa Forest Reserve in Borno State to the entire North-East and currently North-West geopolitical zones. The unprecedented increase in violent attacks is defying the narrative among some analyst that the northwest is relatively peaceful compared to the northeast. Boko Haram has mutated into cells with links to international terror groups like the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State- West Africa (ISIS-WA) among others. Boko Haram has notoriously diminished Nigeria’s image at the international level. Both human and material resources have been lost to the fight against this terror group. The abduction of school girls- over 300 female students in Chibok (Borno State) on April 14, 2014; 110 female students from the Government Girls’ Science School, Dapchi, Yobe State on February 19, 2018 and 344 schoolboys from a school in Kankara near Katsina in December 2020 devastated Nigerians home and abroad. Women, children, men, military and paramilitary personnel have been kidnapped, maimed and killed. Schools have been shut down in several parts of the north east and north west as a result of insecurity caused by Boko Haram.
Upon his assumption of office in 2015, President Buhari relocated the military command from Abuja to Maiduguri, improved the military budget and approved the purchase of arms for security forces and agencies, probed the use of military funds under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, which led to the arrest of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki over the alleged embezzlement of $2 billion or nearly N650 billion allocated for arms purchase. In the last six years under Buhari, the defence budget has remained high even as the performance of the military has fallen below the expectation of many Nigerians. After claiming that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated”, President Buhari announced in March 2018 that his government was ready to accept the “unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard.” Many Nigerians criticised the move on the ground that the release of “repentant” Boko Haram militants into the civilian population could be counterproductive. The irony of the war on terror in the North-East and North-West, is the mismatch of funding and ineffectiveness on the part of the military. Analysts have identified some factors responsible for the vulnerability of the northeast and northwest to incessant violent attacks owing to porous borders and difficult terrain, arms and weapons trafficking, poor governance, poverty and climate change, overburdened security apparatus, controversial peace agreements between some state governments and criminal groups etc. These same factors, it must be stated, are more or less universal in their applicability, across the country.
The North-Central is a minority area in the Muslim Fulani-dominated Northern Nigeria. The region is also known as the Middle-Belt in protest to its discontent to the hegemonic Fulani-dominated Northern Nigeria. The north central zone is going through trying times brought about by kidnapping, cattle rustling, banditry, low agricultural production and infrastructure deficit. Benue State particularly has remained under the attacks of armed herdsmen suspected to be Fulani. The activities of these herders since 2015 leave the indigenes in a precarious situation. Indeed, some analyst have posited that the lingering conflict between herders and farmers in north-central Nigeria is deadlier than the Boko Haram insurgency. The escalating violence in the zone has deeply unsettled the local economy. Agriculture, the mainstay of the region’s economy, has been badly hit. Many farmers in the affected areas have abandoned their farms for fear of attack.
The insistence of the herders on open grazing, their claim to grazing routes, and the recent report credited to the Minister of Justices that the Presidency will mobilize legal support for herders to contest the implementation of the anti-grazing law in their states of settlement have not helped the situation. The debate on the appropriateness of open grazing in the 21st century as against ranching which is globally practiced, is indicative of some sinister motive by the cattle herders and their backers. One continues to wonder why animal husbandry which is an individual enterprise has earned the support of the government and some notables from a section of the country. In a recent video that went viral on social media, the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom insisted that open grazing, RUGA and cattle colony remained banned in Benue State. Earlier in 2017, the Benue State government had enacted the Open Grazing Prohibition Law, effectively banning cattle grazing in all parts of the state. The state government went ahead to create a Livestock Guard to enforce the ban. The ban has attracted mayhem from Fulani pastoralists who accused farmers of blocking their grazing routes. The establishment of military camps or training grounds in forests in the region to check the movement of hoodlums is yet to produce the desired result and as such the north central zone is shrouded in insecurity.
The South-East, linguistically speaking, is relatively homogenous. Since 1945, the Igbo have dominated what used to be Nigeria’s Eastern Region. The regional composition of Nigeria wherein the three major ethnic groups, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo, and Yoruba controlled the then three regions- North, East, and West respectively, provided the sense of entitlement which the Igbo group deployed in the face of the fallout in the power game at the centre in the 1960s. It was an interplay of this discontent that culminated in the secessionist agitation with the declaration of the Republic of Biafra. Although, the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) ended several decades ago, the secessionist agitation persists due to unaddressed demands of the aggrieved south east geopolitical zone. The Igbo claim of marginalization at the centre is typified for instance in the structural imbalance of the South-East (the geo-political zone with the least number of States – 5 States), the yet-to-be-realized Presidential ambition of Ndigbo among other things.
The Biafran agitations either by Ralph Uwazurike-led Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) or the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are fuelled by a perceived feeling of oppression, marginalisation and injustice. There are a litany of other protest groups in various parts of the southeast that are not well known. The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said in a recent interview that: “There are over 30 separatist groups in South-east Nigeria.” The Senator who expressed displeasure with the branding of IPOD members by the Buhari administration as terrorists while it continues to “beautify” perpetrators of insecurity in the north as bandits, left no one in doubt of his position on IPOD when he said: “I am a supporter of the cries of our people against injustice.” Without any regret for serving as surety for Nnamdi Kanu, Senator Abaribe blamed President Buhari’s administration for the lingering security challenges in the country. He regretted that the administration was applying double standards in its handling of the security challenges in the South-east and the northeast and the northwest. The fragile security situation in the southeast has been compounded by the activities of armed herders and “unknown gunmen.” The activities of the various protests and criminal groups have expectedly destroyed lives and properties, undermined economic activities and made life extremely difficult for the people.
Conflicts in south-south region of Nigeria are essentially resource-based. The crises in the Niger Delta region are majorly a reaction to the environmental consequences of oil exploration and the mismanagement of the accruable revenue by agents of government and indigenous accomplices in the region. Indigenes of the various oil producing areas in the south-south region continue to lament over abject poverty, environmental damage, lack of basic socioeconomic infrastructure, and high rate of unemployment amidst great abundance of biocarbon resources in the land. The discovery of oil and the prospects of rapid development that accompanied it brought much hope and joy to several south-south communities. It was expected to be an opportunity for them to have access to such basic facilities as electricity, good roads, pipe-borne water, hospitals, healthcare centres, well-equipped schools, etc. Besides, the oil companies were expected to provide employment for their sons and daughters. The people are grieved that the measures taken by the Federal Government and the oil companies to accumulate wealth are exploitative and antithetical to the fulfilment of the expectations of the oil producing communities. It has been argued that the immense wealth that oil represents is only seen by the oil-producing communities; they do not touch it. Karl Maier lends credence to this claim by arguing that the Niger Delta stands as a monument to the failure of modern African nation-states to care for its people (Maier 2000: 112). He avers that “almost the only time the delta people saw any impact of the oil was when it was spilled into the water in which they fished and bathed” (113).
Because the peoples’ expectation of development has not been realized, they have consistently confronted those they hold responsible for their plight through such activities like youth restiveness, pipeline vandalism, violent uprising, and intensified militia activities in the area. The first person who organized formal protest against the injustice done the region – and through resort to arms – was Isaac Adaka Boro. In his posthumously published book, The Twelve Day Revolution, Boro tells his readers why he led the revolt against the Nigerian Government:
A Niger Delta State is a clear case as the people concerned have a distinct historical silhouette. Such a demand becomes all the more compelling when the area is so viable, yet the people are blatantly denied development and the common necessities of life. If Nigerian governments refuse to do something to drastically improve the lot of the people, inevitably a point of no return will be reached; then evil is afoot. (Nwahunanya, 531).
Over three decades later, another Niger Delta son who was a writer and an environmental activist – Kenule Saro-Wiwa – was to observe similarly in his book, A Month and a Day, as follows: “In this most sophisticated and unconventional war, no bones are broken, no blood is spilled and no one is maimed. Yet, men, women, and children die; flora and fauna perish, the air and water are poisoned, and finally, the land dies” (148). After the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the struggle moved to the level of militancy, which assumed a deadlier and more dangerous dimension with the formation of such protest groups like the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Niger Delta Peoples’ Volunteer Force (NDPVF), and the Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF).
Oil producing areas have also complained about the steady reduction in the weight of derivation in the revenue allocation formula beginning from the civil war period when some people from outside the region began to complain that the money given to the region was affecting development in other regions of the country. One of the major proponents of this position was Adebayo Adedeji, an adviser to the military government during the civil war. Adedeji argued that, “more than any other single factor it hampered the development of a sense of national unity and common citizenship in Nigeria” (Oyovbaire 224). Convinced by this argument, the federal government reduced the weight of derivation from 50% to 20% in 1975 (Okeke 39). This was during the Gowon regime. Further reductions were to be made under the Obasanjo regime (1976 – 79), the Shagari regime and the Babangida regime. The Technical Committee set up by the Obasanjo regime, which was headed by a renowned economist, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, discarded derivation completely and suggested five criteria for revenue allocation. These included “equality of access to development”, “absorptive capacity” and “fiscal efficiency.” The Constituent Assembly dismissed the Committee’s report on the basis that it was too abstract (41 – 42). Given the continued opposition of the Northern intelligentsia to derivation, it was further de-emphasized as a criterion for revenue allocation during the Shagari regime (1979 – 83). In 1980, President Shagari appointed a revenue allocation committee, headed by another renowned economist of the time, Dr. Pius Okigbo. Shortly after receiving the report of the Okigbo Committee in July 1980, Shagari submitted a revenue allocation bill to the National Assembly. What eventually became the Revenue Allocation Act of 1982 provided for the payment of only 5% of federally collected revenue to the oil-producing states. Okechukwu Okeke asserts that the further reduction of the weight of derivation in the Revenue Allocation Act of 1982 was “unjust, and amounted to the oppression of the oil-producing states.” Unfortunately, the oppression got worse in the Babangida era. The 5% derivation was reduced to 1% in 1990 (Okeke 43). In his analysis of the situation, Okeke believes that “the North was exploiting its power and the organizational weakness of the oil-producing states to maximum advantage.”
After General Sani Abacha became Head of State, and as a means of gaining legitimacy for his government, he convened what he called a Constitutional Conference. At that conference, delegates from the southern states campaigned for state ownership of mineral resources. The proposal which was strongly opposed by delegates from the northern states was not adopted. However, to conciliate the oil-producing states, the Northern delegates conceded to a significant increase in the weight of derivation, from 1% to 13%. The Abacha regime adopted the recommendation and included it in its unpublished 1995 Constitution. The proposal which was subsequently adopted by the Abdusalami Abubakar administration became Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (44). The 13% oil derivation payment has been described as grossly inadequate by some contemporary commentators.
A new dimension to the agitations in the Niger Delta region has also emerged, with many stakeholders considering as faulty, the continued payment of the derivation to states, saying that such funds should be disbursed directly to the oil-producing communities. Some people are canvasing for a total break from what they considered as the state government’s hijack of funds of oil-producing communities. Some militants are agitating that the release of 13% derivation to the state governments amounts to stabbing the Constitution on its head and escalating an unacceptable and illegal reign of leaving the oil-producing communities to bleed endlessly.
The South-West geopolitical zone has had several of both internal and external clashes over land, marginalization, self-determination, etc. In the case of the Ife-Modakeke clash in Ogun State, Nurudeen Ogbara remarks,
Mutual antipathy between neighbouring communities in Nigeria is not entirely unusual. In some cases, this antipathy lingers into a spiral or cycle of spasmodic violence and insecurity. Ethno-communal crises of this kind have been on the increase in various parts of Nigeria… The seeds of such crises predate the current government and date back to well before the successive post-independence military dictatorships that ruled the country since 1966 (36).
The south-west zone has experienced a dramatic upsurge in kidnapping, house invasions, and robbery. The Yoruba region has also raised alarm that it is under siege by Fulani herdsmen. Like the north central, the Yoruba leaders have vowed not to cede any land in the south-west for cattle ranching. The Coalition of Oduduwa Elders (COE) has expressed frustration over what it refers to as the worsening insecurity in the country, saying that Nigeria may soon cease to exist unless proactive steps are taken by President Buhari to salvage the situation. Troubled by the rate of insecurity, the governors of the six states in the region have established Operation Amotekun (“Leopard in the Yoruba Language). The primary goal of Operation Amotekun is to support and supplement the states’ police force in safeguarding the region.
The Yoruba have moved away from restructuring to self-determination. They want a regional autonomy that grants them access to natural resources and education. Since the Yoruba had once enjoyed speedy and monumental development between 1951 and 1966 when regional autonomy (in terms of economic and social development drives) was practised in Nigeria, the Yoruba desire the reintroduction of the political system where regional autonomy would be granted on internal security, access to natural resources, education, transportation and other social programmes as the only way through which the region can again experience a satisfactory level of development. They feel that regional autonomy will lead to improvement in basic amenities such as good education, roads, shelter, healthcare and other infrastructure that could enhance their standard of living.
Insecurity and Governance in Nigeria
The insecurity and violence witnessed in the various geopolitical zones of Nigeria are products of bad governance, which result in youth restiveness owing to unemployment, poor infrastructure, corruption and ineptitude. The conditions of living have become near-impossible and life is fast becoming a burden for many people. All around us are overwhelming evidences of stark poverty; collapsing health, education, political and economic infrastructure resulting in the increasing pauperization and near elimination of the Nigerian middle class; pollution of values as shown in massive corruption, indiscipline, moral decadence and the resurgence of dangerous dimensions of ethnicity; insecurity of life and property, and political violence. Although we have certainly not qualified for the status of a failed state, we must summon the courage to admit that all is not well and that things are not getting better. As it concerns insecurity, it is clearly an understatement to say that Nigeria is passing through one of the most trying periods in her history. Despite the amounts of money appropriated to the security sub-sector, Nigeria’s prospects of national security are bleaker than ever before.
Security is very critical to the existence and smooth running of any state. Without doubt, the primary essence of the state is the promotion and creation of social, political and economic conditions that would enhance the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry. The state cannot perform this raison d’etre unless the maintenance of law and order is achieved. Originally conceived as protection against military attack, national security is now widely understood to include non-military dimensions, including but not limited to security from terrorism, minimization of crimes, economic security, energy security, health security, environmental security, food security and cyber-security. Some of the major threats to national security include: Political threats such as internal political instability, terrorism and human rights abuses; Economic threats, such as poverty, unemployment, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, financial recession and piracy; Environmental or man-made threats, such as ecological changes, degradation of land or water and lack of food or other resources; Social threats, such as minority/majority conflicts, organized crime, drug trafficking, trafficking in small arms and light weapons, human trafficking, illegal trade, uncontrolled mass immigration and disease. The implication of this is that national security, with its focus on the protection of the state, becomes “human security”, which puts the individual and community first. What is certain is that there could be no guarantee of national unity, of life and property in the current environment of fear, mistrust, poverty, difficulty, alienation and political gangsterism that envelop our nation. The desire to promote security and national unity in Nigeria must involve the taking and implementation of several actions, including but not limited to the following:
- i) Implanting and institutionalizing the love of fair play, freedom and equality;
ii)Resentment of autocracy whether in military uniform, ‘agbada’ or suit;
iii) Encouraging freedom of dissent and respect for the individuality of each person;
iv)Creation of the appropriate environment that enables the individual to free himself from the constraints of poverty, hunger, ill-health, coercion and control;
- v) Equality of all, ruler and the led, before the law;
- vi) The cultivation and inculcation in the citizenry of a democratic temper, an attitude of service and trusteeship, a sense of civic responsibility, a spirit of fair play and tolerance of other people opinions and interest, absence of arrogance and arbitrariness and a sense of honest, faithful, selfless, disinterested, impartial and objective service;
vii) The emergence of dedicated, selfless, disciplined, patriotic, honest and highly motivated leadership, free from the cancers of social indiscipline, ethnic hatred and jealousy, religious bigotry, and the tendency to personalize rulership and power;
viii) A deliberate move towards the creation of a society bound together by shared sentiments and outlook.
As we have tried to show in the foregoing discussion and elsewhere, most drivers of insecurity and conflicts point to the failure of governance. Thus, governments at all levels must address these drivers. As a necessity, the policy solutions to security challenges must include strategic improvement in border security, active intelligence gathering, better community policing and stronger ammunition controls policy.
The federal governments must collaborate with state governments to address the challenge of border porosity. Concerted efforts to recruit, train, and post adequately equipped customs and immigration personnel to the border areas can boost surveillance and stem the tide of the free flow of arms into the country. Moreover, addressing corruption of custom and immigration personnel is pivotal, because border patrol is a major racket for security forces and some government officials. All this has become the more imperative following the visa on arrival policy announced by President Buhari at the Aswan Forum for Peace and Development in Africa in Cairo on 11th December, 2019. The unexpected announcement of this policy attracted criticism from many Nigerians who have continued to argue that the visa on arrival policy is detrimental to the government’s efforts to curb population expansion, unemployment, insecurity and infrastructure deficit. Based on these criticisms, the Nigerian legislature flagged down the policy, stating that it was yet to receive the endorsement of the legislative houses. Unfortunately, this warning was ignored and the Immigration Service, directed by the President, has long began the implementation of the policy. The Immigration Service must have to put adequate safeguards in place to deal with the security challenges that accompany the movement of people with lesser barriers and implement a seamless policy.
Serious consideration must be given to the promotion of functional local engagement. The federal and state governments must collaborate with traditional leaders, local government administrators, religious leaders, members of local communities and other state actors at the grassroots to build community resistance against crime and violence. Policies that have weakened the local government as the third tier of government and rendered it incapable of maintaining law and order at the grassroots have to be reconsidered. Traditional institutions played a huge part in governance during the pre-colonial period. This was why the European colonizers depended on them for the success of the colonial enterprise in Africa. Well defined traditional structures like the Sokoto Caliphate, the Oyo Empire and the Benin Kingdom played prominent roles in colonial governance and the attendant maintenance of law and order. In fact, even in the so-called stateless societies, chieftaincies were manufactured as was the case with the institution of warrant chieftaincy in South Eastern Nigeria (Onor, 2013:185). This is definitely not the time to play politics with local governments and traditional institutions.
While it is unpatriotic and inadvisable for any region of Nigeria to canvass for the dismemberment of the country, it is important to renegotiate the basis for the continued corporate existence of Nigeria. Here lays my support for restructuring which seems imperative as the federal pendulum swings between centripetalism and centrifugalism in the nation-building process. A re-structured federation will heal and free the nation from some of the security challenges it is currently facing. We must restructure in order to untangle the federal government from too much power and responsibilities foisted upon it by many years of centralizing militarism; we must devolve more powers to the states and local governments and make them more useful and accountable to the people to whom they owe primary loyalty and by so doing, reduce their indolence and complete dependence for survival on the federal government. This would certainly mitigate the increasing tensions building in our polity.
Advocates of restructuring are of the view that Nigeria is not practising “true” federalism as was the case with the First Republic. In a “true” federal system, states have ownership and legislative powers over mineral resources. Commenting on this, former External Affairs Minister, Bolaji Akinyemi stated that, “the provisions [of the Independence Constitution] were clear: the regions controlled their resources and surrendered only a percentage to the federal government” (qtd in Okeke 50). The present system whereby state governments troop every month to Abuja to receive money from the federal government is strange to the principle and practice of federalism. Rather than the federal government being a “feeding bottle” for the states, the states should collect revenue and pay taxes to the federal government. Because states depend on the federation account for the bulk of their revenue, state governments have become lazy, and unlike the regional governments of the First Republic, are no longer competing with one another to develop their various states. The following excerpt is representative of the reasoning behind this position:
Today, if State X labours hard to attract companies to its state or even build industries, the corporate tax revenue would be paid into the Federation Account and shared to everyone. Similarly, if a state promotes tourism, all the VAT collected (including from alcohol and cigarettes) would be paid into the Federal Account and shared to all – including states where alcohol and cigarettes are banned. Where is the incentive to work hard or promote industry? Little wonder then that on all economic and social indicators, the average Nigerian was better-off in 1966 under the regions than in 2012 (Soludo 2012).
The above, formed the background to the ongoing legal battle over the collection of VAT (value added tax) in Nigeria, of which states like Lagos, Ogun and Oyo have joined Rivers State in an appeal to the Supreme Court by the Federal Government.
Strategic investments in human and infrastructural development can solve the long-term, underlying challenges created by poor governance and deepening poverty that feed such insecurity. We are persuaded that the quest to end insecurity and promote national unity in Nigeria requires a return to the basics, which entails a better conceptualization of the essence of governance as essentially a covenant; a contract between the ruler and the ruled. It is this people centred focus which sees the promotion of the welfare and wellbeing of the people and the various communities within the polity as the most important raison d’etre that gives governance a moral and legitimate anchor. Furthermore, the issue of equity is also critically important. Equity implies equality of treatment of Nigerian peoples regardless of ethnic origins, religious affiliations or social status. It also implies equality of access to opportunities for self-development and the creation of an environment for social peace based on mutual respect and tolerance of the federating groups within the Nigerian polity. It was Pope John XIII who said that peace and justice must go hand in hand. As the late Pontiff asked, “what are kingdoms without justice but large bands of robbers?” “In the long run”, declared the late J. F. Kennedy, “peace is basically a matter of human rights”, because, as he put it, “peace and freedom walk together.” In the context of our subject, security and justice must walk hand in hand for the good of the nation. When, as in the case of Nigeria, governance and public offices are dominated by a particular group that pays no attention to complains by people from other groups, it is difficult to be patriotic. Harold Laski lists as part of the essence of the democratic way of life the absence of wide economic differences between citizens and the refusal to recognise privileges built on birth or wealth or race or creed. If Nigeria is to have anything like democracy with peace, we must all fight resolutely against privileges built on birth, wealth, ethnic group, state of origin or creed.
One of the most unfortunate things that has happened to Nigeria, which has further frustrated the nation-building efforts is the emasculation of the good intentions of the principle of federal character. A phrase invented by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) inaugurated by the late General Murtala Mohammed on 18 October, 1974, “federal character” was meant to promote “national loyalty in a multi-ethnic society” by ensuring that the predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups is avoided in the composition of government or the appointment or election of persons to high offices in the state. By it, national appointments were to reflect the federal character of Nigeria so as to do justice to all parts of the federation. At state and local government levels, the same general principle was to apply. On paper, these provisions were expected to prevent some of the worst abuses of ethnicity. Unfortunately, the history of Nigeria’s “federal character” has become one of growing complexity and virulence. The nation itself now wears an uglier and more menacing visage than at any other time. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently accused Buhari of “mismanaging diversity” and being responsible for a Nigeria that is today more divided than at any previous time in the country’s history. There is need to reverse many disturbing executive decisions so that the policy of federal character would accomplish the lofty ideals it was formulated to achieve. How can anyone account for the fact that “17 out of Nigeria’s 20 topmost service chiefs appointed by Mr. Buhari are from his northern region, while 16 are Muslim like him”?
Many policies that derived from the inclusion of State of Origin and Indigeneship in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria need to be reconsidered. Many Nigerians blame the increasing level of hate speeches, divisive tendencies, centrifugal forces, agitations and separatist movements on the continued existence of state of origin and indigenship in the statute books, saying Nigeria needed to focus more on the issue of detribalization. From the outset of colonial rule, Nigerians have felt free to move around and work and live wherever they find the right opportunities. As a result of this, every state has a population of persons who have come to it from other states. Some of such people are by now fifth or even sixth generation settlers, whose grandchildren and great-grand children were born in their places of abode. It is in their states of residence that they pay taxes and whatever other levies are imposed by successive governments. Yet these kinds of people suffer huge political and economic disabilities across the country. Discrimination against Nigerian “aliens” in their own country has, to say the least, created a deep sense of alienation, deepened ethnic animosity and militated against the generation of that level of instinctive loyalty that every citizen should yield to his nation. A political culture that renders every citizen a “refugee” in every state other than his/her state of biological origin is an unjust one. To deny a citizen full residence rights in a state of his birth, as it is in Nigeria at present, makes citizenship a political joke and national integration a futility. No state can promote national unity and integration when the spirit of its fundamental law is opposed to it. Sahara reporters recently published an investigative report on how southern Nigerian parents falsify state of origin of their children to beat discriminatory admission cut-off points into Nigerian Unity Schools. As university people, we know that the falsification of local governments and states of origin by people who are desperate to get admission through conditions that are unfavourable to them has been going on for decades.
Let us end with the issue of state police which I believe has become salient owing to the surge in the rate of highly sophisticated crimes in various parts of the country, and the inability of the federal police command to contain the challenges. We are persuaded that the closeness of the state police to the society of its jurisdiction places it in more proactive position for the detection and uprooting of any emerging crime before it gets out of hand. In other words, a police force of persons living permanently in a state would know its environment better and thus, be more capable of policing it. Antagonists of state police argue that the establishment of state police will lead to a situation in which there will be two rivalling institutions of the same responsibility, duty and nature in the country. They also fear that governors would abuse it, that is use it to suppress opposition, threaten the interest of non-indigenes, and even use it to pursue separatist ambitions. Though some of these fears are genuine, we make bold to say that refinement is a continuous process, and as such state police should be allowed to commence first. The National Assembly can always declare state of emergency in any state where state governments grossly abuse state police power. Given the worsening security situation, it makes sense to try alternatives, especially an alternative that has produced good results in other federations. As chief security officer of his state, it is reasonable to assume that the governor would be in a better position to perform the job of providing security for his people if he is in control of the police in his state.
We have in this paper, interrogated the critical issue of insecurity and National Unity in Nigeria, with a view to righting the wrongs of public policy which in our view, constitutes the foundation of the deep, complex and wide spread character of the security challenges that threaten the very existence of our country. We began by exploring the concept of liberal democracy as the best form of government while making the point that, democracy must be practiced as ideally and near perfectly as possible for its fruits to be reaped and enjoyed.
We made bold to state that in Nigeria, our experience with democracy has been less than satisfactory. Geo-ethnicity, political partisanship, religious bigotry, incompetence, corruption and nepotism are some of the factors that hamper good governance in Nigeria. The resultant poverty, feeling of helplessness, anger, despondency and general disbelief in the country, have created the bases for the violent agitations which have manifested in various shapes, sizes and forms across Nigeria. As it is today, we must own up to the fact that, never before has the unity of this country been so maximally abused and threatened.
In the light of this terrifyingly ugly situation, we have made expansive, deep and far-reaching suggestions on the re-engineering of our public policy instruments and policies in the hope that if formulated and/or reformulated and applied, we can restore hope to our people and rescue our country from what is clearly the verge of a very slippery precipice upon which we are presently dreadfully gyrating.