Human Capital and National Security

10
Guest Columnist: Okey Ikechukwu

The Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) was in the works for quite sometime. So was the Army War College. Then came the tenure of the current Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Buratai, and both institutions were kick-started. They now offer laudable contemporary training programmes, effectively reinforcing the National Defence College (NWC), among others, in continuous and progressive human capital development for the officer corps of all the armed services, security agencies and paramilitary organisations. These, essentially military establishments, have also since opened themselves to measured collaborative engagements. They have expanded the frontiers beyond narrow operational matters, having seen that a lot more can be achieved through knowledge exchange programmes of proven value and relevance.

When we approached NARC two years ago to argue a new perspective on, and approach to, aspects of national communication regarding what is going on in the North-east, the Centre evaluated and quickly endorsed our detailed training programme on “Strategic Communication for Asymmetrical Military Engagements”. Thus arose a collaborative partnership, with participants from all the armed services, security agencies and paramilitary organisations in the country. Numerous other independent and joint programmes have since been executed and there are ongoing ones. The lesson that has emerged, so far, is that interface between serious institutions and organisations yields the best results when attention is focused on the national interest.

It was probably because of NARC`s chain of success stories that it got a fresh directive from the COAS to institute a free, mandatory, monthly human capital development/lecture series; with participation drawn from all the armed services, the security agencies, MDAs and other national stakeholders. This has been going on for some time now. As the “victim” of the latest edition of the series, the topic inflicted on me by NARC, with the approval of the Chief of Army Staff, was “The Challenge of Human Capital Development for National Security.”

It was, for me, a matter of showing that investment in developing the average citizen, through education and training, is the most important investment in national development and national security. The thesis here is that the human being is the primary resource of the nation. When this resource arrives as a newborn child, it is only a “potential” national asset. Only formal and informal education, the instilling of norms, values and skills, as well as tests for both character and the application of knowledge can it “substantive” national asset. Only people with fully, or at least substantially, developed capacities can make positive contributions to the economic and other value-chains of a society.

Thus, a nation with a large population is only “potentially” wealthy. It will remain so, until it develops its “national” resources,” or human capital, instead of focusing only on the exploitation and consumption of its “natural resources”, or minerals and agricultural products. A normless, largely illiterate and unhealthy population that cannot even live together in peace, is only a conglomerate of liabilities. The home, the school system, the vocational training platforms and sundry agents of socialization and economic value are like the various departments of a “factory” used by communities, empires and modern nations to produce the commodity called “citizen”. Parents, teachers, crafts masters and leaders are the “factory workers.”

The quality of the “products” of this allegorical factory depends on: (1) The condition of the “factory” itself – the home, school and agents of socialization, (2) The capacity of the “factory workers” – in terms of knowledge, policies, contemporary relevance, moral and role examples of leaders, etc., (3) The “factory tools” – information, knowledge, skills and character, and (4) The “Quality of processing” – parenting practices, teaching methods, leadership goals/examples and citizenship grooming.

Based on the above, our dear country is more like a factory with a dysfunctional production line today. We are not producing enough citizens of full value. Our school system is turning out unemployed, underemployed and unemployable young adults, most of whom have not imbibed the basic reflexes of positive socialisation, to say nothing about their being trained as people who would understand the concept of “National Interest.” Narrow concerns about daily survival make them easy collaborators for anyone desirous of undermining national interests and national security.

From the basic submission that “grooming of the human being” is the first pillar of national character and national security, we adopt Aristotle`s assertion, “In vain do you build the city if you do not first build the man”, to argue that parenting, training and education, national leadership policies, as well as effective law enforcement, must work in concert if there is to be meaningful and lasting national security. A culture of hard work, thrift, responsible wealth acquisition and attention to personal and group safety, for instance, creates a stable, prosperous and secure state. A culture of reckless consumption and irresponsible leadership, on the other hand, creates a corrupt state and a citizenry that will gladly plunder the commonwealth at the least opportunity and act in ways that are not protective of wider national interests.

This confirms the foundational primacy of citizenship education and responsible leadership, over the best security infrastructure and military hardware for national security. Make institutions of state “extensions” of the family and the society becomes an ecosystem that creates, maintains and sustains its own optimal internal environment, or homeostasis, while ensuring that other creatures in the surrounding food web do not overrun it. No organism wants others to create biological equilibrium, or a new ecosystem, at its expense. None wants to become an item on his neighbour`s menu. Every organism within a territory resists all “invasive” species that may undermine its optimized ecosystem.

This is the logic of national security: a refusal to be overrun by any invasive species, whether in fact or by subtle mental colonization. This also brings out the dangers posed to our national security by sections of the Nigerian media, the NGO community and sundry non-state actors that are not sufficiently grounded on modern “national interest journalism” and the political economy of tendentious international media terrorism. International fellowships, internships and many, presumably supportive, capacity building programmes for our brilliant top media men and scholars are often subtle recruitment platforms for subversive national aid from our so-called development partners. But that is a matter for another day.

The foregoing scenario complicates the life of our armed services and security agencies in two distinct ways. First it hands over to them new entrants with a mindset that is resolutely subversive of national interests and national security. Second, serious institutions of state get saddled with young men and women who have actually not learnt anything in school; including how to read, write and communicate meaningfully. Many young people who apply to become part of the human infrastructure of our national security architecture have been socialized as low-grade criminals. They have no qualms about stealing, rape and vandalism of their boss` vehicles, or even official vehicles. Put poor parenting, a lousy educational system and reprobate elders together and you get the recipe for a national security template that must depend on substantial kinetic interventions by overstretched military and security forces.

Finland now uses human capital development to drive its national interests and security. It has the best education system in the world and a national security network that draws more from citizen loyalty and national consciousness than from military hardware. It is the world`s number one in science and mathematics, while the US is ranked 17th and 21st in the same subjects. It spends $3,000 less per pupil than the US, with a 2% dropout rate, against America`s 25% dropout rate. About 47% of US teachers come from the bottom 3rd of college graduates, while Finland`s teachers come from the top 10%. Finland`s national security today is auto-piloted by general socialization, because it rests on deliberately created new national values, new learning curriculum and a determined training of teachers.

Finland worked at it for a whole generation, moving from new curriculum to making Masters Degree mandatory for teachers. Knowledge and skills upgrade were facilitated on all fronts. Enough teachers were produced, to ensure that there were three teachers to every classroom. Two of the teachers concentrated on instruction, while the third focused on students with learning challenges. That is why the Finns are now enlightened enough to know their “national interest,” whereby “law enforcement” is part of an overall moral responsibility that starts from the home and permeates the entire society.

It was not luck, the burying of live cows by marabouts, speaking in tongues, the laying of hands, weekend-long night vigils in prayer houses, or holy water and the carrying of revered religious objects, that made it possible. No! It was through plans, programmes and efforts, not sacrifice to their ancestors, that the average student now speaks four languages, including English. It was also not a special task force, or a yearly education summit, that got everyone involved in enforcing a national culture knowledge, learning, education and reward for meaningful engagement.

In rounding off the daylong engagement at NARC, it was agreed that the armed forces and security agencies should, in the immediate and short term, strengthen their professional human capital development institutions with rigorous programmes that would make up for the poor quality materials being turned out by our schools. Some of the suggestions, including those classified and with long-term projections, revolved around the need for managers of our educational system to build on the recent improved monitoring of pre-primary education in some states, as well as the inspectorate function. Unless closer attention is paid to the quality of education, values, the quality of leaders at all levels, the training and qualification of teachers, rebirth of vocational schools, and sound role modeling, we may be left with a national human capital infrastructure that will remain the greatest threat to national security.