Nigeria on the Brink, Says Don

06 Dec 2012

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Prof. A. U. Nonyelu


Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof. A. U. Nonyelu, in this interview with Charles Onyekamuo, dissected the security challenges in the country and the state of the parties among others.  Excerpts:

One of the challenges facing this nation today is insecurity. There is this problem posed by Boko Haram insurgency in the northern parts of the country. And down south, especially the south-east, kidnapping poses serious threat: what from a purely social perspective do you think is responsible for this social menace and how it can be arrested?  
Security is an all-embracing concept. It goes beyond the absence of war or even the prevalence of peace in the society. In discussing national security, you also narrow it down to individuals, issues, about hunger, poverty, disease and then the general breakdown of law and order.

However, the problem with Nigeria is that insecurity is assuming alarming proportion, raising questions about the ability of the political leadership particularly in the light of countervening forces or non-state actors who now challenge the supremacy of the state or even the state’s power to monopolise the instrument of violence in the territory called Nigeria.

It is this scenario that has supported the classification or designation of Nigeria as a failed state or more appropriately collapsing state. The rise of the Niger Delta militants in the south-south coincided as it were under the Obasanjo presidency with the struggle for resource control which has since been politicised under the guise of amnesty with its attendant fallout.

Similarly, Boko Haram emergence was a combination of sectarian philosophy propelled by quasi-political cum materialistic undertones. It seems to me that the way the Niger Delta militants have been treated with some of them coming up as emergency billionaires may have resonated among the youths in the far Northern states who now feel that taking up arms against the state and its institutions and even among civil society may likely lead to the same desired end in terms of amnesty which is now being bandied about for Boko Haram. Beyond the dialectics of creed and greed is the failure of the state to respond appropriately to myriad problems facing majority of the citizens of this country.

This is more so when we remember that the primary aim of the evolution of civil society nay the state is to ensure the protection of lives and property and welfare of members of a given community. Men out of their own accord elected to hand themselves over to a constituted authority in other to move away from Hobbesian state of nature. It appears that currently we are moving back to the Hobbesian state of nature in the collosal absence of jobs, basic amenities, disease, and poverty pervading the land.

You have listed unemployment as one of the problems. But governments at the three levels are not providing jobs and the economy appears to be in comatose. Government says it is providing the enabling environment for the private sector to create jobs. Do you think the sector alone can tackle unemployment?
The problem is the lack of clarity of perspective that afflicts most of Nigeria’s leaders. It is common knowledge that no matter how charismatic a warlord may be, unless there is in existence, a large pool of unemployed people that will swell the ranks of these sect or ethnic based militias, that warlord can’t achieve anything. The pool of Almajaris that walk the streets of Kano and other places in the North, the agberos in Onitsha and Aba or Lagos are reservoirs of army that threaten the security of the nation. And because there is no means of livelihood, when they see conspicuous consumption by our “leaders” a recipe for violence, a disaster has been created.

The extant ban on employment in this country in both the public and private sectors needs to be reviewed. In a developing society like ours, government should not only restrict itself to providing the enabling environment for private businesses to thrive, it should do more by being involved indirectly and directly, alleviating the problems of the people. Social security benefits and welfare packages must be introduced as a matter of urgency in this country. A state of emergency must be introduced in this country if we are to arrest the drift and chaos staring us in the face. Seventy per cent of Nigerians are living below one dollar a day; that means less than N160 a day. This is paradoxical considering the amazing wealth, human and material resources that God has endowed us with.

A cursory look at some of the registered political parties shows they are all in one crisis or the other. What do you think is the reason this instability?
My immediate response is to say that looking at the characters of these parties, their ideological undertones and composition, there are no basic differences. A party is driven by its ideological orientation as shown in its vision, mission statement, and its manifestoes and porgrammes of action. In Nigeria you can’t tell what the programmes and manifestoes of these parties are. People can’t even differentiate one from the other. The only difference is in their names. Under the Sani Abacha regime, the cerebral Bola lge described the five political parties then as five leprous fingers of one hand. I am inclined to use the same appellation, the only difference is that they are more than five but they are all of the same dubious ancestry.

Recently, the senate President David Mark and the INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, said at a forum in Abuja that these parties lack discipline and that some of them merely exist on paper for the reason of collecting grants. Would you subscribe to de-registration of some of these parties?
No, I do not because those that win elections in Nigeria win primarily through foul means much as I agree that some of these parties exist on paper, but to restrict registration of parties to winning elections is to do injustice to majority of Nigerian that do not believe in the so-called major political parties. Democracy is all about choice, liberty, freedom of expression, justice, equity, rule of law. Democracy is not what politicians these days call democracy dividends roads, hospitals, schools, pipe-borne water etc. if these were democracy dividends, then the military men were even better in the provision of these amenities.

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