Emeka Nwosu urges President Buhari to address the contradictions and injustice in the system
Perhaps, with the exception of the Nigerian civil war and the period leading to it, never in the history of this country has the security of lives and property taken such a terrible nose dive as evident in our land today. Political observers are agreed that the nation has never been so divided in its history. It would appear that all the latent centrifugal forces in Nigeria have been activated and unleashed on the federation with no hiding place for any one.
The security situation in the land today is scary. No part of Nigeria seems to be immune to the security crisis that has enveloped the country, and is escalating by the day. It will not be out of place to conclude that anarchy has taken over the land with life becoming cheap and valueless.
The words of W. B. Yeats as quoted by Chinua Achebe in his path breaking book, “Things Fall Apart”, have become truer of our current situation. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre; the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. It would appear that Yeats had Nigeria in mind when he authored this poem several decades ago.
The entire country today is within the vice grips of criminal elements who are identified by various names. In the North East, the nation has faced Boko Haram insurgency since 2009 with no end in sight. The Boko Haram insurgents are a group of terrorists whose declared agenda is to overthrow the existing socio-political order in the country and institute an Islamic Caliphate anchored on Sharia legal framework. The crisis has since expanded to the North West of the country under the assumed name of banditry. Katsina and Zamfara States are now the epicenter of banditry, where the kidnapping of school children for ransom has become the order of the day.
The terrorists who government has branded as bandits also engage in cattle rustling and illegal mining of gold and other minerals in the areas of their operations. They have since extended their evil activities to Niger State in the North Central Zone of the country where they engage in random abductions of students, women and travellers.
In other parts of North Central like Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa and Kogi, the citizens contend with the savagery and brutalities of marauding herdsmen who have laid siege on the indigenous populations, sacking and looting villages and taking over ancestral lands of the besieged communities for the grazing of their animals. These tragic incidents which manifest in the form of herder-farmer crises are also being experienced in Taraba and Adamawa States in the North East, and indeed in the South of the country.
But in all these unfortunate situations, the innocent victims including the farmers are helpless, as there is no form of protection from the State and compensation for the huge losses in material and human resources. Rather the AK-47 wielding herdsmen and bandits are hardly apprehended or brought to trial by law enforcement agencies. Often times, spokesmen in the Presidency have risen to the defence of the herdsmen. This open support seems to have emboldened the herdsmen, as they have continued in their orgy of killings, raping and kidnappings. The mild manner with which the federal authorities handle the herdsmen fuels the suspicion that they enjoy institutional backing.
The atrocious activities of these terrorist herdsmen dubbed bandits and rustlers by government for whatever reason have led to so many ungoverned spaces in several parts of the Sahelian North and Middle Belt. These ungoverned spaces have been taken over by the killer herdsmen and mercenaries migrating from the Maghreb.
These places have become breeding grounds for jihadist elements and sundry criminals who have declared a war of conquest and attrition on the indigenous communities in Nigeria. The desperate situations in which the affected regions in the country have found themselves have forced them to resort to some policing initiatives to safeguard their homelands and fend off the marauding killer herdsmen. For instance, the South West Zone last year, in the face of unrelenting killings and kidnappings by herdsmen, established a regional security outfit codenamed Amotekun. A few days ago, the Governors of the South East Geo-Political Zone also responded to the herdsmen menace and other emerging security threats in the zone, with a collective security body known asEbube Agu. These regional security initiatives clearly underscore the urgency of the dangerous and perilous times in which we live today in our country. It is also an indication that the government at the centre has failed in its responsibility to protect the citizenry. It is a well-known fact that the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people. When a government cannot fulfill this basic obligation to the governed, it has lost its moral legitimacy to exist.
Social contract philosophers of the old like Thomas Hobbes, Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Locke who propounded the theories on the origin of the modern State were unequivocal in their postulations regarding the obligations of the State to the citizenry and the rights and duties of the citizenry. According to the philosophers, every citizen has the natural rights to defend himself or herself in a state of nature. But anarchy, chaos and bloodshed would rule in such a society. In the words of Hobbes, in the state of nature, life is short, nasty and brutish. They, therefore, reasoned that there was the need for the people to come together and surrender those rights to the Leviathan, which in modern parlance means the sovereign authority of the State, to act in their defence and on their behalf.
Having surrendered those natural rights to the State, the citizens are to be protected and defended by the Sovereign. According to Rousseau, the government owes a sacred duty to act in the defence of the ordinary citizen, having surrendered his or her right to self-help. Indeed, John Locke went a little further to state that the citizenry has a legitimate right to rebel against any government that fails to honour the social contract. Against the foregoing, the actions of non-state actors like Igboho and the Oodua self-determination groups and Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB and other such bodies may have their philosophical underpinnings within the ambits of the social contract theories.
A thorough analysis of the escalating security crisis in the land will immediately reveal the receding power of the Nigerian State to fulfill its basic security and welfare obligations to the people as provided for in the Constitution. There is deepening economic deprivation arising from unabating unemployment and underemployment. There is palpable hunger and excruciating poverty in the land. Life, for a mass majority of Nigerians has thus become meaningless, hopeless and indeed, nasty, short and brutish. In their present desperate situation, these aggrieved Nigerians who feel excluded and marginalized in the scheme of things are now challenging the Nigerian State because they believe that it has failed in its constitutional obligation to the people. This is a dangerous situation that must be apprehended through the deployment of deft statecraft and change of strategies by the incumbent Buhari administration. A military approach to the resolution of the current security crisis would only exacerbate the conflict and widen the existing fault lines.
From all indications, Nigeria appears to be on the road to State failure. Law and order may not have completely degenerated as evident in some failed African States like Somalia, Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. But we do not need to get to that point before we begin to fashion out measures that can help us to pull back from this Somalia that is ominously staring us in the face.
One of the underlying causes of the current security crisis which we face today is the wilful mismanagement of the country`s diversity by the Buhari administration. Never in the history of Nigeria has the composition of the federal government been so lopsided and clannish! No heterogeneous country like Nigeria can be run in such a whimsical manner without loud protests from the people. What the Buhari administration, in its pandering to primordial interests, has failed to understand is what Professor George Obiozor in one of his books, refers to as “politics of precarious balancing in Nigeria”. Given the plural character of Nigeria, no government can succeed without maintaining the precarious balance in the federation.
It will be wishful to think that the security crisis will cease without dealing with the underlying causes and applying evenhandedness in the management of public policy. At the centre of the crisis is the issue of justice and equity. If the truth must be told, there can be no peace if there is no justice. There can be no peace if people are being discriminated against on the basis of where they come from and the religion they profess. There will be no peace in a country where Police and Security agencies with skewed composition are being used to intimidate, hunt and harass citizens from certain sections of the country.
For crying out loud, Nigeria is a Federation. It should be administered as such. The current unitary system where everything flows from Abuja must be jettisoned. The regions, zones or states should not be treated as vassals that must take instructions from the Centre. For instance, how do we rationalize a situation in which all the Heads of Security agencies in the South East are mainly from the North and of a particular religion? What message are we sending to the people of the South East? Why is the entire geographical landscape of the South East littered with check points by all manner of security agencies? More than 50 years after the Civil war, a people are being treated with such disdain? The older generation that witnessed the war may have watched with docility all this while thinking that a better deal will come to the region one day. But the new generation of younger people in the zone cannot understand why they are being treated unjustly by the system. The resultant frustrations and anger have given rise to the snowballing security crisis in the area.
Instead of engaging the leaders of the Zone and indeed other Zones experiencing crises in a sincere dialogue to fashion out a comprehensive solution, the dominant thought of the ruling cabal is how to use the military and other security agencies to invade the troubled Zones. They are not bothered about the excesses of the killer herdsmen who have become the greatest threat to the unity of Nigeria. How can we continue like this?
If we must save this Federation from implosion, the government at the Centre must come down from its high horse and tackle squarely the underlying causes of the tension in the land. There may be no need for another fresh national dialogue. We have enough recommendations in the reports of previous national confabs that address the issues causing the agitations across the country. All the government needs to do is summon the political will and empanel eminent scholars and leaders from all the zones to review the reports and reduce them into implementable agenda, starting with the restructuring or recalibrating of the federation to give the zones or regions autonomy to manage their affairs as envisioned by the founding fathers of Nigeria at the various Constitutional Conferences held at the Lancaster House in London.
The current structure of Nigeria is not working. Nobody should pretend that it is working. The inherent contradictions in the system have made the system unworkable. And no amount of papering or moral preachments without concrete tinkering of the presently unjust structure will bring peace to our beleaguered nation. Looking for IPOB or an imaginary ESN or a Sunday Igboho or Oodua self-determination groups to crush cannot bring any enduring solution to the table. Buhari`s administration should come out from its cocoon and begin to engage stakeholders from all the zones in the direction that has been enumerated above. All men of goodwill from around the country must speak out now and call out the government to commence the process of national renewal. This is the time to act. At times like this, the words of the Italian Philosopher, Aligheri Dantes are instructive: “The hottest part of hell is reserved for to those men who keep silent in times of moral crisis”.
The oppressed people of Nigeria are crying for justice and fairness. We must listen to them and genuinely address their legitimate concerns. It is the collective hope of all well-meaning Nigerians that President Buhari should do the needful. This will help to pull the country back from the edge of the cliff.
––Nwosu, a Public Affairs analyst, holds a Doctorate Degree in Political Economy and Development Studies