Come May 29th, 2015, Rtd General Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in as the new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; a hallowed position with plethora of responsibilities’, chief of which is ensuring the security of the lives and properties of Nigerian citizens; a task that will task his leadership credentials to the extreme; one he has no choice than to perform having rode to victory at the polls on the promise that he would help create a much more secure and stable Nigeria when voted into office.
GMB will be inheriting a country in negative peace; a hot peace of the graveyard that masks the true realities on ground – a brewing insurgency in the North-East that shows no signs of abating, increasing ethno-religious animosities among the country’s constituent groups, a disgruntled populace at the brink of revolt, treats of fresh outbreak of violence in certain parts of the country consequent to recent political developments, an accelerating crime rate, coupled with other symptoms of violence. He will be faced with the gargantuan challenge of transforming these negative security variables on ground by creating a security system that takes cognizance of the peculiarities of the Nigerian society in its construction and implementation.
By way of setting a security agenda for the incoming President, this column postulates the adoption of a holistic approach in hashing out a new national security policy for the country; a departure from the current system that emphasizes strategy at the expense of the collective. Nigeria’s current National Security system, despite recent commendable reforms under the outgoing Good luck Ebele Government, consequent to the onset of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, still tilts towards mainly strategic considerations; a class cum government centered security system that focuses mainly on the safety of the members of the country’s ruling class and physical structures of the state.
Rather than continue in the faulty footsteps of previous administrations, and in line with his promise to transform the security sector into a viable working machine that is able to address all latent and manifest security issues, GMB’s government should do a drastic detour by shifting emphasis from “Strategic Security” to “Collective Security”, a form of “total security” that has the general population as its central focus, and includes terminology such as “human security”, “common security” “co-operative security”, “environmental security”, “democratic security”, and “preventive security”. This is because security constitutes more than the mere wielding of guns to protect politicians and other government officials. It goes beyond training and arming the security forces with the most modern sophisticated gadgets. It includes, but not limited to, an all-inclusive effort on the part of the state to provide an environment free from all the social, political, economic and other injustices that have ceaselessly ravaged Nigeria – a multi-facetted arrangement than the purely strategic paradigm.
The spiraling spate of violent conflicts across Nigeria can be premised on the absence of a comprehensive national security policy that is structured on the peculiarities of the state and its citizens. This largely due to a general lack of understanding of the nuances of what constitutes national security by both the country’s past leaders and security top brass’, and failure to set in motion a security system that is structured on the country’s historical experiences, structural contradictions and other salient factors that have shaped her evolution.
Security within the context of the West is not the same thing as the situation in Nigeria or any other country for that matter. That is why a thorough study must be conducted by experts to understand the factors responsible for the several conflicts and other violent acts that have reared their heads in the country over the years, before forging a new security plank. Lessons learnt from internecine conflicts such as, Isaac Adaka Boro’s Rebellion, the Nigerian civil War, Niger Delta militancy, violent activities of ethnic nationalist groups such as the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Odua People’s Congress (OPC), the rise of extremist groups like the Maitatsine group, Jama’atu Alhlsunnati Lil Da’awati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram (Western Education is sin), the mainly criminal cases of kidnapping, assassinations and other violent acts that border on crime and criminality, should guide the new administration in its efforts at constructing a new national security formula for the country.
Again, the undeniable issue of structural violence which is due mainly to the ricochet effect of some economic policies on the people is an issue that should be in the front burner of any attempt to construct a new security structure for the country. Successive Nigerian governments since 1960, rather than owning up to their responsibilities’ for the asseverating security situation in the country, have blamed the activities of opposition groups, insurgent groups and other real and imagined anti-progressive elements bent on sabotaging the state on various fronts, ignoring other factors that are consequences of maladministration such as: poverty, human rights abuse, political corruption, lack of a democratic culture, illiteracy and other forms of structural violence.
GMB’s national security strategy should also be eclectic to the extent that it gives room for the participation of other significant stakeholders (both state and non-state actors) within and outside the country to contribute their quota to the security of the country and its citizens; a multi-track approach to security that unifies the activities of “Government, “Citizen Diplomats”, “Private Businesses”, “Activists”, “Academic Institutions”, “Non Governmental Organizations”, “Religious Institutions”, “Media” et al. The truth is that there are several organizations operating in the system whose functions are of a security nature. These organizations should be brought into the fold to create a larger and more efficient security hub; a spectrum where ideas are sourced, analyzed and utilized. The country’s security system should be liberalized.
On the other hand, in streamlining it security policy, the incoming government must ensure that all inter-agency squabbles are addressed and redressed to create a level playing field for all participants to freely contribute to the country’s security. Inter-agency disputes are partly to blame for the inability of the current security system to effectively check the increasing incidences of violent conflicts in Nigeria. A situation where the military sees itself as being superior to other arms of the security system has the tendency of creating disaffection within the system. For instance, at the embryonic stage of the Boko Haram insurgency, the rivalries within the sector – military, police et al – countervailed the initial successes recorded by the security forces against the group. Regular law enforcement has also been affected by these unnecessary, unbridled contests for supremacy among the country’s security forces. The new administration should delineate the boundaries within which each security arm should be operating. This will help mitigate the constant disputes that often rear their ugly heads among the country’s security organizations and create a clear roadmap that will help build a synergistic relationship within the system, resulting in their beginning to see one another as partners in progress, and not as glory-seeking rivals.
Again, the incoming government must move to improve on the standard of training and equipment currently available for the country’s security forces to enable them cope with new threats consequent to the emergence of antithetical extremist groups committed to achieving their aims with iron and blood – a phenomenon that seems to have overwhelmed the capacity of the current security setup to guarantee the safety of the lives and properties of Nigerians; a development that has brought the security services out in bad light. A standard security system thrives on standard training of personnel and adequate provision of materials.
In all, GMB’s National Security Policy should be preventive rather than reactive; a proactive approach that seeks to prevent the outbreak of violent conflicts in Nigeria by addressing their structural/ background factors, in tandem with other practical strategies; an approach that relies on massive intelligence gathering, analysis and usage. A paradigm shift in the country’s security system will go a long way in ensuring that potential threats to the safety of the lives and properties of Nigerians are checkmated before they manifest, and obviated when they do manifest.
Security in all its defining ramifications constitutes the fundamental objective of most modern states – the foundation on which they are constructed. No responsible government will shirk this primary responsibility. It is the chief duty of the Nigerian state to protect all – and not just some of – its citizens from any threat to the full enjoyment of their liberties as bonafide citizens of the Republic as contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (See Part 2: Powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 11-subsection 1; and Chapter 2: Fundamental Principles and Directive Objectives of State Policy, Section 14 Subsection 2b. Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999). The incoming administration must be guided by this constitutional Mantra in working out a new security strategy for the country.
God save Nigeria!
IMAGE: American Advisors Group