THE HORIZON BY KAYODE KOMOLAFE firstname.lastname@example.org
Expressing helplessness, Governor Abdul’aziz Yari of Zamfara said last Friday that he no longer considered himself the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the state. The governor’s lamentation was embodied in a message to the people of the state as they celebrated Eid el Fitri.
Doubtless, Zamfara has been the epicentre of banditry and horrific killings in the northwest, a situation that has prompted some action by the air force two days ago. Killings are reported almost every other day in Zamfara. Only three local governments in the state are said to be free from horrors of the bandits.
Yari, who incidentally is the chairman of the governors’ forum, alleged that he has no control on the security machinery of the state. According to the governor, the title of the chief security officer “ is just a nomenclature.” Given the enormity of the bloodletting in Zamfara it would seem understandable that the governor is overwhelmed by the problems.
However, is it justifiable for a governor to drop the responsibility for the security of the people because of the alleged lack control of the state apparatuses established to ensue security? Someone needs to tell the governor that it is not so easy to “resign” as the state security officer. According to Section 14(2b) of the constitution, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The governor took his oath of office based on this constitution just as the President and Commander-in-Chief did. There is no way a governor could be permitted to “drop” a constitutional responsibility. To be responsible for security is not a policy choice for a governor. In fact, it is a total perversion of the concept of governance for a state governor to say that he is abdicating the security duty for even a second. The governor should just summon a strategy up his sleeves and govern.
Beside legalism, it is a moral responsibility of a leader not succumb to despair in the face of a crisis. It is part of the duty of a leader to give hope to the people even when it appears that there is no basis for it. A mood of resignation should not permeate the security atmosphere of the state under his leadership. Yari’s critics say the governor hardly stay in the state seven days in a week to attend to the business of government. This certainly compounds the question of moral leadership in the circumstance.
History is, of course, replete with examples of how moral leadership could be decisive in moments of crisis. Take a sample. With his inimitable rhetoric, Winston Churchill as the British prime minister deployed words in the battle against Adolf Hitler during World War II. The point at issue here is about the task of the leader to lift the spirit of the people in the face of a crippling crisis. Those who have no courage and sense of mission should stop seeking leadership positions. It amounts to trivialisation of governance for a governor to announce so cavalierly that he would not perform his constitutional duty. If there is a challenge of inter-governmental relations in solving a problem, the governor should face the challenge squarely rather than resigning.
More fundamentally, Yari’s “resignation” should compel a thorough debate on the role of state governments in national security within the context of a broad security policy review. After all, the heads of security agencies and armed forces formations located in a state work with the governor as members of the state security council.
First, there is a myth that the governors are completely powerless in matters of security. This myth has to be concretely exploded for a meaningful discussion of the problem. Governors should not be permitted to abdicate their constitutional responsibilities for the security of their respective states. Even the District Officer (D.O.) in the colonial days had security responsibilities. The territory for which a D.O. was responsible could be as large as that of a state.
The fact is that governors actually assume some security powers. That is why they make allocations for the famous security votes. The other day, Mr. Peter Obi, who was the governor of Anambra state for eight years, advocated a system that would make governors “account for security votes.” According to Obi, some governors could allocate up to 20-30% of state expenditures as “security votes.” For the former governor, security votes constitute leakages in the treasury. He should know what he is talking about in this matter. Recent developments seem to vindicate Obi’s iconoclastic position.
Now security votes are theoretically meant for security tasks of the governors. For instance, Yari has not told his people in Zamfara if he would stop allocating part of the state resources as security votes following his “resignation” as the chief security officer. If the myth that a governor is only a chief security officer of his state in name is sustained, for what then does he need security votes, which in some states run into billions of naira? This is a major contradiction the Zamfara governor needs to resolve as he girds his loins to tackle the huge problem of insecurity in his state.
Contrast Yari’s lamentation with the remarkable courage and steadfastness of his Borno counterpart, Governor Kashim Shettima. Borno has been the worst hit in the Boko Haram’s killings and destruction in the northeast. From the day he took oath of office, Shettima has been giving leadership under the yoke of Boko Haram terrorism without buckling for a day. He has never waivered in discharging the security responsibility to the people. On one occasion, he summoned the exceptional courage to tell the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan that the Nigerian military could not match the insurgents in terms of firepower. He has since been proved right by the subsequent turn of events in the country. Rather than resign he critically engaged the federal authorities to tackle the insecurity in the state. Shettima has never shirked his own fraction of the responsibility for the security of Borno state in the last eight years.
Policing is one area where the myth of lack of state control of the state apparatus is often peddled. Yet, there is hardly any report of a state commissioner of police refusing to work with the governor in responding to security challenges. If anything, the reverse is the case in most states.
Ironically, state governments spend lot money on procuring equipment and facilities for their respective state police commands to enhance security. In reality, the funding of the police is already a shared responsibility between the federal and state governments while we await the realisation of the dream of a “state police” in a “true federalism.” State governments are funding police anti-robbery squads.
In fact, in Lagos state, beginning with the administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the management of security has been well structured with the establishment of a security trust fund to which corporate citizens and private individuals contribute immensely. The model has worked and it is likely going to be embraced by other states. Policing of Lagos state has been enhanced by the deployment of the funds to equip the police. The state commissioner of police is, of course, an important member of the state security council. Even when President Olusegun Obasanjo and Tinubu were at daggers drawn on most issues, the security chiefs in Lagos state worked harmoniously with the former governor to the admiration of all.
Pray, the Nigeria Police Force is that of the whole federation. In fact, there is no federal government police contrary to the impression being created by some state police advocates. State governors simply fail to assert their powers as the majority in the Nigeria Police Council as provided for in the constitution. The people’s lawyer, Femi Falana, puts the matter this way: “It’s a shame that all the state governors have allowed the federal government to usurp police powers in Nigeria. Mind you, the constitution has not created the federal government police force but the Nigeria Police Force. Section 214 of the constitution provides that the president cannot appoint or remove the inspector-general of police without seeking the advice of the Nigeria Police Council.”
In the specific case of Zamfara, the possibilities within the justice sector (with all its limitations) ought to be explored before the wringing of hands by the governor while his people are slain. The governor should be working with the police to ensure that the killings are properly investigated and the suspects arrested. The job of the prosecution is that of the Zamfara state attorney general. So the situation is not as helpless as the governor makes it to appear to the public.
Beyond physical security, the people also need social security. Now both aspects of security are mutually reinforcing. Is the governor also abdicating the social security responsibility? For a poor state such as Zamfara, governance would include provision of basic education for the children of the poor and universal healthcare delivery. Youth development would reduce the reservoir of recruits into banditry and other violent crimes. Poverty is at the root of the crisis ravaging Zamfara and other parts of Nigeria. Nigeria sowed the wind of underdevelopment and poor governance; it is now reaping the whirlwind of violent killings by terrorists and bandits.
So, Governor Yari should not resign as the chief security officer. He should rather face governance squarely.