In the face of damning failure of a structured and centralised national security architecture in a presumptive federation, the time for fundamental course correction is now, writes Louis Achi
According to Jeb Bush, Florida State’s 43rd governor from 1999 to 2007, “Great countries need to secure their border for national security purposes, for economic purposes and for rule of law purposes.” In Nigeria, these fundamentals, if not absolutes, are being strangely gamed with.
The consequence therefrom, in part, represents the key drivers of the unending bloody crises – insurgency and criminality – that criss-cross the national landscape and willy-nilly birthing a potential breakup scenario. It is clearly time to look at the fundamentals and do a bold course correction to save the ship of state.
Since the military abrogated the four regional governments and imposed a unitarist federation in 1967, the federal government continues to hold on to the police, armed forces and other security agencies grimly. This has spawned damning consequences for management of crime and insecurity at the grassroots, provoked ‘controversial’ regional/non-state self-help security initiatives and more.
Sovereign states set up security institutions to meet their core remit of protecting their citizens from both internal and external aggressions. Today, in Nigeria, this crucial role is sorely defied as the country comes increasingly under multi-dimensional threats from criminals and crisis entrepreneurs. Dozens of innocent lives and soldiers are wounded and lost every day to avoidable insecurity.
Churches, mosques, residential buildings, schools, farmlands and land/maritime passengers are not safe as they are daily invaded, attacked and kidnapped by bandits, rogue herdsmen and terrorists. By the last count, no less than 5000 lives had been lost in the last five years to these inhuman depredations.
Not many know that over two million Nigerians – about the population of Gambia (2.348 million in 2019) – are internally displaced by insurgency in the Northeast region. Attacks even appear to be scaling up notwithstanding deployment of security forces to these conflict theaters. Worse, political interference and corruption are key factors that have undermined and skewed justice delivery to hapless victims.
Prominent political stakeholders, the legislature, elder statesmen, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), important socio-cultural platforms, prominent clerics and traditional rulers have spoken up against the unfolding bloody infamy and seeming reluctance or incapacity of the executive to deal decisively with the debilitating challenges to the Nigerian state.
Last month, former Senate President Bukola Saraki called on President Buhari “to provide leadership by taking measures that would reassure Nigerians to keep faith with a one united, peaceful and progressive Nigeria.”
His words: “I have watched with concern the recent development in Oyo and Ondo States, in which quit notices were given to Fulani herders and there were subsequent burning of the property of the Fulani herdsmen in some parts of Oyo State. These have increased tension and unduly raised the temperature in the country.
“The ugly developments in these two states are symptomatic of the continued threat to the unity of our country that we have witnessed on a higher scale in recent times and in different parts of the country, including the Southeast and South-south zones.
“It is important for President Buhari to rally all interests and everybody at the leadership levels to a round table, in order to discuss and find appropriate solutions.
“President Buhari should call all relevant politicians and stakeholders together – former heads of states, retired and serving security chiefs, present and former leaders of various arms of government, traditional rulers with relevant experience – everybody must be made to contribute ideas on how to save our country from insecurity, disunity and invasion by criminals.”
Perhaps, in response to these legitimate expressions of outrage and deep concern, President Muhammadu Buhari recently dropped the military service chiefs and appointed new hands. Just last week, the president ordered the arrest and prosecution of all illegal arms bearers in the country irrespective of their ethnic affiliation.
Indisputably, the proliferation of arms is fuelling insecurity across the country. However, curiously, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State proclaimed last week that, Fulani herdsmen, his ethnic kin, had the right to carry AK-47s to defend themselves.
Going forward, according to the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, briefing Defence correspondent in Abuja, last week, “In line with the reorganisation of the Armed Forces of Nigeria with the appointment of new service chiefs, the operations of the armed forces are equally being reorganised to tackle the security challenges in the country effectively.
“In this regard, the service chiefs led by the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Leo Irabor (GSS) commenced an action at all levels. These include carrying out strategic, administrative, operational and logistics adjustments, changes and reviews, to improve the security situation in the country.”
Will a change in Nigeria’s security architecture lead to a reduction in the security challenges? Human security is a holistic concept that encompasses human rights, good governance, access to education and healthcare and ensures that each individual has opportunities and choices to fulfill his or her own potential.
Integrating a human security approach in the National Security Strategy can help identify and address cross-cutting challenges and prevent them from spiraling into conflict that are being currently experienced.
New national security architecture must include decentralization of security agencies. The central command model suggests a dodgy agenda and has failed woefully. Other traditional components address inclusivity, management, decision-making and oversight structures and institutions, as well as national policies, strategies and plans.
Many institutions and agencies contribute to national security management – so coordination of decision-making is key. Crucial decision-making structures like the National Security Councils, can cover policy, legislative, structural and oversight issues, and might co-ordinate or implement policy, or assess and advise.
Legislative involvement in security decision-making is also essential for ensuring public support and legitimacy. The legislature can review draft laws, providing consent or suggesting changes, and influence budgets. CSOs, et cetera, can also contribute to oversight. They can give feedback on policy development and implementation and promote public awareness and debate of security issues.
Clearly, the time for new security architecture to save Nigeria is now.