Deepening Insecurity in Nigeria: The Pentagon on Which the Political Lull Rests and Foreign Policy

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By Bola A. Akinterinwa

Governance under President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) has been largely characterised by political lull, which can be likened to a carrefour of confusion and indecision. At the economic level, inflation is mounting. Institutional corruption is galloping, particularly in the service industries. Electricity supply companies make bills on the basis of estimates and are not sincerely interested in the provision of meters. They make acquisition of meters difficult for their customers. Why is it really difficult to provide meters when anti-corruption is a major agenda of Government?

DSTV is another major fraud. It tells its subscribers that whoever subscribes for one year should pay only for eleven months and that the twelfth month will be made free. I paid for one year, but at the end of the eleventh month, service to my line was cut off. I went to make enquiry as to why I was cut off, promise was made to redress the situation. Even though the redress is yet to be made, how many people have the time to check the correct dates of expiry of their subscription?

What about Smile? DSTV has agents marketing what is said to be a new Smile 4G LTE. I always subscribe for one year. At the point of my last renewal, a new Smile 4G LTE was introduced to me, with the explanation that it is an upgrade of the old and that my current Smile 4G LTE would soon be out of market and, therefore, that there was the need to quickly acquire the new one. In fact, I was told that the new Smile 4G LTE. has twice the capacity of the old one and contained a free data valid for ONE year. It was a case of the French magouille, which took place at the Ozone Cinema Outlet on Commercial Avenue, Sabo Yaba. Throughout the first month of purchase of the new Smile 4G LTE, there was no network. Text messages of apology were sent to me. I reported the matter to the Sabo Police Station, in Yaba, but the promoters who operated under the umbrella of Smile could not be found even though the Smile office is still there. This is institutional fraud, well known but generally acquiesced to.

My recidivist question is why is it that a whole Federal Government is unable to prevent ordinary acts of corruption? Why should the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) be under the DSTV? Why should the NTA not remain, if need be, analogue, to avoid subjecting the people of Nigeria to economic rape? If the NTA has to be part of the DSTV, by force of necessity, why should it not be made free for Nigerians, or why is there is no specially negotiated agreement that will enable poor Nigerians, who are entitled to Nigerian public information, to be allowed the opportunity to have access to its own NTA gratis?

Perhaps more disturbingly, inflation is not only increasing, the situation of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos has become so inclement to the extent that many flights have to be diverted to neighbouring countries, particularly to Benin and Togo, mainly because of lack of appropriate landing gear.

In the same vein, for instance, the National Bureau of Statistics noted in a report last week that ‘consumer price index, which measures inflation, increased by 12.13 per cent (year-on-year) in January 2020. This is 0.15 per cent points higher than the rate recorded in December 2019 (11.98 per cent).’ At the level of States, Sokoto State has the highest rate of inflation with 15.20% followed by Kebbi State with 14.37 per cent. Kwara State has the least rate with 9.49%. The questions here again are clear: are the economic policies of Government in order and in the national interest? Why is it difficult for Government to acquire the necessary landing equipment, especially the Category III type?

The Insecurity Saga

At the level of insecurity, armed banditry and kidnappings are unending. Gunmen attacks are frequent occurrences. There is no month, not to say week, without reports of killings and murder. Last week, the case of an Aso Rock Assistant Director, Laetitia Dagan, 47 years old, was reported. She was reportedly tied with her mattress in her apartment and set on fire. Two Sundays ago, six passengers were abducted along Lokoja-Kabba road. Last week, 12 travellers in a Toyota Hiace bus, belonging to Eleojo Transport Service (Plate Number KSF 19 XZ, were abducted between Itobe and Ajegu in the Ofu LGA, Kogi State.

Fulani herdsmen and farmers saga is another dimension of the insecurity and still remains front page reports in newspapers. The frightening report as at last week is that one million guns were shipped to the Fulani herdsmen, most of whom have reportedly surrendered Nigeria and only waiting for order to act. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was quoted as saying that Nigeria is on a time bomb.

If truth be told, insecurity in Nigeria is deepening at a fast rate, to the extent that many states and communities have now opted for self-help. Is this approach the ideal? Which way Nigeria? Some notable Nigerians have suggested that PMB should sack all the Service Chiefs but PMB is not prepared to do so. As explained by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, ‘you don’t sack people like that. There are processes … [A]t the right time, those processes will be followed. You don’t just wake up and say sack people. It doesn’t happen like that.’

As logical as this argument may be, it raises very simple questions: when is the right time? Calls for replacement of the Service Chiefs dates back to more than one year now. How many years are required to determine which way forward? It is also argued that sacking the Service Chiefs would lead to national disaffection and disunity. This is a more absurd reasoning. If the Service Chiefs, in their five years of tenure, only succeed in making changes within continuity, that is, tactical changes but continuation of Boko Haram insurgency, then the extent of wellness of the Service Chiefs is, at best, not good enough for national security interest, meaning that new tactical ideas have become a desideratum. Most unfortunately, however, PMB cannot see any fault with the performance of the Service Chiefs.

Without jot of doubt, this is not to suggest that PMB has not attempted to take the bull by the horn, the point being made is that his efforts are good but not good enough to arrest the brouhaha of national insecurity. PMB’s efforts have been to no avail. Government claims that it has nipped in the bud boko haramism but the boko haramists have always responded by launching heavier attacks on the people whenever the Government makes such claims. The situation of deepening insecurity has therefore become a political lull, the genesis and understanding of which has to be put in context. In this regard, we observe that Nigeria’s political lull rests on a pentagon of inseparable self-deceits.

It is important to first of all note here that any country or individual who is not sincere to or with itself or himself, should not be expected to be sincere with any other persons, individual or corporate. Living under whatever false pretences cannot enable anyone, any country to have peace and rest of mind. Insecurity in Nigeria is a resultant of false pretences. This explains in part why PMB is currently challenged by how to balance error and terror in the political governance of the country. It is the foundation of the pentagon of self-deceits guiding political governance in Nigeria. Let us espy the root cause of the initial error: colonial manipulation of census figures.

The Pentagon of Self-deceits

Colonial manipulation of census figures is criminally in conception, design and outcome. We are therefore not surprised about the regrets of Harold Smith, the British-born, who took active part in the pre-independence census and with whom the Ben TV had an interview. Harold Smith admitted that Britain’s agenda ‘was to completely exploit Africa.’ What the British found in Southern region of Nigeria was ‘strength, intelligence, determination to succeed, well established history, complex but focused life style, great hopes and aspirations… The East is good in business and technology, the West is good in administration and commerce, law and medicine, but it was a pity we planned our agenda to give power “at all costs” to the northerner.’

Specifically on the issue of census, ‘Harold Smith confessed that the census results were announced before they were counted. Despite seeing vast land with no human being but cattle in the North, we still gave the North 55 million instead of 32 million… [T]he West, without Lagos, was the most populous in Nigeria at that time, but we ignored that. The North was seriously encouraged to go into the military… The Northerners were given accelerated promotions…’ This quotation is self-explanatory. It is the original root of the problem, because the inflated population figures in favour of Northerners would be reckoned with in national planning and development calculations thereafter. The first and immediate implication is the giving of sponsored priority for Northerners, even though many of them were and still are very bright, very intelligent enough to be allowed to compete with their other Nigerian compatriots.

For instance, Otunba (Sir) Frederick Akinsanmi, a former Federal Ministry of Education staff, recalled of recent that, when he was posted to Sokoto in 1973-1975, he ‘experienced firsthand the issue of admission of S.75 holders to the School of Basic Studies, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, for a one session crash or preparatory program, only for the Northerners. After the 9-month program, it was direct, automatic admission of all attendees to ABU first degrees courses.’

The case of Dr. Femi Badejo, a seasoned political scientist with the University of Lagos before he opted to become an international functionary with the United Nations, is worth mentioning. His daughter went to Queens College in Yaba, passed out very well, scored more than the required 200 points for university admission but was not admitted. Another classmate of hers did not even obtain the required 200 points but was given admission on the basis of factors of environmental conditionings. Dr. Badejo went to court on the matter.

The point being made here is that the system of political governance in Nigeria does not allow for unity of purpose and cooperation. On the contrary, it aids and abets animosity, which should not be. The existence of Northerners and Southerners, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, etc is what really makes Nigeria great and greater than any other country in Africa. Nigeria is greatly blessed for it, but Nigerian leaders always mismanaged the blessings by myopically promoting selfish, to the detriment of national, interests. This is self-deceit of a tall order.

Another question of self-deceit is the Constitution of Nigeria. The Constitution provides for a secular state, that Nigeria is a multi-religious state, or that there will not be a state religion. However, it is the belief of a good number of Nigerians that, in both theory and practice, Nigeria is a Muslim state. From the perspective of the Constitution of the country, the words Muslim and Sharia are mentioned several times, while the word Christian or Christianity is never mentioned for once.

As noted by Damilolly in his ‘the Islamisation of Nigeria: The Nigerian Constitution Recognises only Islam’ (vide https://www.nairaland.com), in the 1999 Constitution, Sharia was mentioned 73 times, Grand Khadi 54 times, Islam 28 times, Muslims 10 times and there is no single mention of Christ, Christian, Christianity or church.’ In this regard, ‘some mischievous elements are taking these lapses in the Constitution to come to the ungodly decision that probably the state is an Islamic state,’ the Christians have further submitted.

In fact, in the strong belief that the Constitution has been skewed in favour of Muslims and to the detriment of Christians, the Christians have argued that, since Sharia courts have been established for purposes of justice for Islamic followers, there should be Ecclesiastical courts as well. And true enough, how the issue of Islam is causing trouble for Nigeria cannot be far-fetched: Nigeria registered as an observer Member State of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which was founded on September 25, 1969. It comprises 57 Member States. 47 of them are said to have a population with Muslim majority.

In this regard, it was estimated that Nigeria had a population of 178,517,000 people of which 48.8 per cent is said to be Muslim. It is on this basis that it is generally considered by the OIC that Nigeria is an Islamic state. In fact, Nigeria changed her observer status, under the military regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, to that of a full member. But is Nigeria really an Islamic State regardless of whether the words Muslim, Islam, etc, are mentioned many times in the 1999 Constitution?

There is also the Libyan angle to the argument. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi made it clear to all the people of Africa, in general, and Nigerians, in particular, that the only solution to the problem of insecurity and particularly, boko haram insurgency, in Nigeria is to divide Nigeria into Muslim North and Christian South. This simply means the geo-political partitioning of Nigeria into two sovereign countries: North and South in the mania of Sudan and South Sudan. The mere fact of not talking about North Sudan does not imply that Sudan as it is currently called, does not mean it is not in the north. In both cases of the OIC and the Muammar Gaddafi’s suggestion, the truth remains that politics of religion is now seriously militating against a united and progressive Nigeria.

A third leg of the pentagon of self-deceit in Nigeria is the aspect of ethnic struggle. It is useful to go down the memory lane here: It was as far back as 1962 that the genesis of ethnic struggle can be rightly dated to. It was then the idea of discontent with the federation of Nigeria was first given birth to. The Igbo people were not happy with it and therefore began to think of secession.

A related part of the discontent led to the crisis in the Western region, before it ultimately resulted in the January 15, 1966 coup and the July 28, 1966 counter coup. In all, the civil war broke out in 1967 and after the war in 1970, General Yakubu Gowon divided the four regions into twelve States. Today, there are thirty-six States in all, but the functioning of the States has become an issue. Some observers are even calling for a two-tier structure: Federal and Local Government. The southerners, especially Yoruba South West, in particular, have been agitating for restructuring but to which the Federal Government has been vehemently opposed. The report of the 2014 National Conference, as openly revealed by PMB himself, has not been looked into. PMB said the report was in his drawer and that he has not bothered to even look at it, which is in many volumes. What is this again? A manifestation of self-deceit! Nigeria, as it is today, cannot sustain its survival and long term existence without restructuring.

A fourth pillar of the pentagon of self-deceit in Nigeria’s political governance is the factor of foreign interference. Interference is permissible in international relations but intervention is not permissible. Article 2(7) of the United Nations Charter is very clear on this. The problem, however, with permissible interference is when it is taking place at the non-governmental level.

For instance, there is the reported revelation of Eeben Barlow, the military contractor engaged to assist in the release of the abducted Chibok girls. Barlow is the chairman of the Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection International (STTEPI), which is a private army. In an interview with the Al Jazeera, he revealed how he made efforts to secure the abducted Chibok girls and how his contract to get them released was terminated.

In his words, ‘but we were never allowed to execute the entire operation… President Jonathan’s government saw the entire Boko Haram contract, if we call it that, as a last grasp to regain popularity. The incoming President, PMB, was heavily supported by a foreign government and one of the first missions was to terminate our contract. We were told it was the United States and they had actually funded President Buhari’s campaign and the campaign manager for President Buhari came from the United States.’ More important, Barlow has it that he did not blame the United States because he too understands the nature of foreign interests. He explained it thus: ‘I’m not saying that the US is bad, I understand foreign interests but I’d have thought that a threat like Boko Haram on the integrity of Nigeria ought to be a priority but it wasn’t’ (vide https://www.independent.ng).

When the STTEPI was contracted and once doing well, especially by quickly recovering an expanse of land of the size of Belgium, why terminate the contract at the instance of the United States? Was the termination in Nigeria’s national interest or in that of PMB? Does the United States truly want an end to the Boko Haram saga? The element of self-deceit is again at work but Nigerians condone it. If PMB was specially funded as a presidential candidate and he won, why would he not dance to the tunes of the United States after election? This is a case of who plays the piper also dictates the tune. This brings us to the last pillar of the pentagon of self-deceit: use of manu militari methods to impose selfish sectional interests.

First, PMB believes that national security interest takes precedence before rule of law. Government therefore selectively complies with court order when convenient. In international practice, protection of the national security interest is done within the framework of rule of law. It takes precedence over everything else. PMB believes that he can use intimidating policies and methods to impose decisions that are publicly perceived to be very sectional and ethnic.

Second, PMB does not appear to believe that his decisions can be very faulty, and therefore, does not show any preparedness to listen to public complaints, especially in terms of whether to sack his Service Chiefs, in terms of nepotism in the context of appointment of his kinsmen, in terms of very corrupt people in his government, etc. This is currently what obtains in modern-day Nigeria.

Put differently in sum, political governance in Nigeria has been largely predicated since the time of independence in 1960 on a pentagon of inseparable self-deceits: colonial manipulation of population results which wrongly, but consciously, gave the north a population it never had; Nigeria’s Constitution, which provides for secularity but only talked about Muslim, Sharia, etc, in several parts of the Constitution, without mentioning other religions in the same manner; the resultant ethnic struggle to redress the anomaly but to which the Government of the Federation has not always been favourably disposed; acquiescence and protection of foreign countries’ interests in the conduct and management of national affairs; and use of manu militari methods to impose selfish sectional interests. These are the banes of the Nigerian society that largely explain the unending insecurity and which foreign policy must seek to address, without which insecurity may not come to an end.