Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Former External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, has said that the proliferation of arms in the hands of young people in Africa is a sign that many countries in the continent are failing.
The professor of political science and Chairman of National Think Tank, who spoke during an interview with dailymotion.com, a video sharing online platform, posited that when citizens begin to carry weapons, whether for protection or to hurt others, it portends that the state’s social contract with its people has completely collapsed.
Akinyemi, who opined that the killings in parts of the northern Nigeria may have been fuelled by foreign business interests exploiting some mineral resources available in the area, explained that there is a distinction between arms-bearing citizens in a developing country like Nigeria and South Sudan as opposed to the United States where they are allowed to carry weapons legally.
He said that while no single group in the United States can take on the country’s security apparatus, the ones in Africa are threatening to overrun their respective countries.
The former minister also stated that disarmament must be preceded by heavy sensitisation and rebuilding of trust to reinforce the citizens’ faith in their governments.
He said: “When citizens prefer self-preservation, when they decide to arm themselves , defend themselves, it is a failure of the state because under the doctrine of the social contract, one of the things citizens surrender to the state, apart from some of their freedom is security and protection. They surrender that to the state in exchange for the state protecting them.
“When the state fails to perform its side of the social contract and exposes them to deprivation, either by the security agencies or by fellow civilians, then the civilians resort to arming themselves for self-protection and it’s a sign of a failed state.”
Drawing an analogy from South Sudan where fighting erupted between soldiers and arms-bearing civilians, Akinyemi said that the process of building faith in government institutions was completely eroded, reason the move failed.
“During the civil war and the communal clashes that followed it, the civilians suffered brutally in the hands of the same security and fellow human beings. It’s going to take time before you re-establish the social contract. Before the mind of civilians are now at rest that the state is now able to protect them.
“The process of disarming the civilians is one that should be followed by a lot of sensitisation and civil education right from the village up that they don’t need the weapons” he explained.
Speaking on the protracted crisis in the north of Nigeria, Akinyemi said: “What one has discovered is that even foreign agents and businessmen often fuel this militarisation of the civilians to exploit the accompanying instability.
“One knows a lot of that in Congo and even in northern Nigeria where in some of the states, where foreigners have been involved in illegal mining of gold, or diamond, they have actually encouraged communal instability because it allows them to exploit the economic resources.”
He maintained that carrying arms in the developed nations and doing it in the developing nations was not the same.
“There’s a difference between that and the US where civilians are allowed to carry weapons by the law.
“By the interpretation by the Supreme Court of the US, in fact a retired chief justice said that case was wrongly decided – that the constitutional rights, when you were dealing with atomistic settlements cannot be transmitted to constitute rights in an organised society.
“Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that the arms available to the American security forces , that no group in the United States can take on the totality of the military paraphernalia of the US.