The problem of insecurity and lawlessness has forever been with us in Nigeria. What is, however, particularly alarming about the new state of insecurity in the country is its pervasiveness. Bandits and terrorists are now extremely militarized and are employing terror in all its ramifications in their operations, leaving behind a trail of wanton destruction of lives and properties. They have so effectively undermined our sense of human value and dignity that our senses of harmony and communality are no longer guaranteed. Our sense of insecurity has made us suspicious of one another and is giving credence to all kinds of wild conspiracy theories concerning the driving force of factors behind the insecurity issue itself. The criminal elements in the country are taking advantage of the cracks in the administrative and political structures of the land. It is also clear that because of the efficiency of the new brand of terrorism in the form of banditry and kidnapping, many other crime-prone individuals will take to terrorism and exacerbate the insecurity situation. In a word, we live in a city without walls. Nobody is safe and no environment is secure.
The adverse effect of this on the psyche of the people is hard to quantify. Many people now pray for security more than they do for economic prosperity. Social and economic lives have been disrupted. Travelling by road is hardly better than playing Russian Roulette. Farmers, pupils and students in schools and tertiary institutions are becoming the favourite targets of bandits and terrorists. Visiting Nigeria from abroad has become unattractive, being highly risky. Nigerians in the diaspora are being denied the opportunity and the favourite routine of visiting home during festival periods. Home is hardly home again.
Coming at a time when nature is waging one of the most devastating wars against humanity with the COVID-19 pandemic, we can only imagine what other calamities and threats to our lives the precarious state of our country is incubating or may trigger.
The counterpoise to physical and socioeconomic vulnerability can be militarized individuals and communities with the ability to undermine state authority. In other words, the longer this state of insecurity lasts, the more we will all feel forced to resort to self-help methods of securing ourselves. States like Somalia, Afghanistan and Sudan did not fail and disintegrate into their present state of lawless overnight. Note that a country will fail if its Government loses control of its territory to bandits, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein, or it is unable to secure its people and provide public services. Security is the essence of Government and the foundation for a country’s prosperity. Brazen, widespread criminality is a metaphor for a weak and ineffective Government. A weak and ineffective Government is a prescription for chaos and anarchy.
This is why some of us showed interest in the idea of states setting up security outfits to complement the security efforts of the police and other federal security agencies. It was also very gratifying that the Federal Government went out of its way to lend its support to the idea. Unfortunately, a year after the fanfare and grandstanding, nothing significant has come out of that idea. No state government or region has done anything of note to impact the security situation in their state or region. The insecurity situation is worsening and the Governors have returned to the blame game. This is most unfortunate. It betrays a failure of the Governors to understand the link between security on the one hand and such pillars of democratic governance like the welfare and prosperity of the people, their economic aspirations and state development, the people’s freedoms, their right to an environment of free enterprise, rule of law and national integration. Insecurity is a trap. It captures and keeps in a locked combustible container the potentials of the people for whom the structures and apparatuses of governance are established. Government is not established to develop the state, but to manage and protect the environment within which the people can attain their full potentials and develop themselves and invariably the state. The building of roads and other physical structures do not develop a state. What develops a state is the development of the people per their capacities.
People do not only want to labour, but they want to enjoy the fruits of their labour. They want to secure their present and future generations. They want to plan and establish a self-sustaining life pattern and means of livelihood. They want to be able to build and nurture their civilizations.
It is, therefore, the duty of Government at all levels to defend, preserve and extend peace and the frontiers of peace of the state. It is the primary duty of the Government to protect its people from the enemies of the state who are never short of tools and mechanisms to turn internal differences and fault lines against the people. The enemies of the state are no longer enemies at the frontiers with their guns and bayonets or tanks and bombs. They are a part of us, our families, our communities, our societies, our social circles, our political circles and religious brethren. They are from among our men of God, politicians, security agencies, elites, scholars, active workforce, professionals and uneducated brothers and sisters. They are privy to and knowledgeable in the use and manipulation of all scientific and technological inventions available to all of us. It is now inexpensive for them to wage their wars against us. This is why our armies and conventional security agencies are losing the war against them. The conventional war philosophies, tactics and operations are now obsolete in the war against the enemies of the state. Vigilance, perceptiveness, incorruptible law enforcement and cutting-edge intelligence gathering may help, but we need more than the best of all of that. Cutting off the financial chains of terrorists and crushing the cells at the earliest rearing of their ugly heads are helpful, but we need much more than the best of such integrated plans.
Government at all levels must deny terrorism access to the hearts and minds of individuals and the people. They must deny the enemies of the state not only physical sanctuaries or bases among the people, but they must endeavour to banish them from our hearts and souls. Government at all levels must forge an impregnable and incorruptible alliance with the people to fight the enemies of the state. This they can achieve by yielding the resources of the state to the people and avoiding the temptation of breaching the social and economic freedoms to the people. Good governance builds trust and promotes economic prosperity for the people. Selfless and exemplary leadership is an effective trust builder and breeder of common values and aspirations. Weak national and administrative institutions, Government of exclusion, nepotism and corruption weaken the state and make it vulnerable to terrorist infiltration and betrayals by public officials. The larger the number of people lifted out of poverty the less the number of people available for recruitment into the army of the enemies of the state.
In conclusion, it is poor, ineffective governance that has pulled down the walls of our cities and the fences of our homes. Without good governance and economic prosperity, security cannot be guaranteed in our land.