The government must make a choice between control and protection, argues Kelechi Akubueze

The Nigerian post – colonial state, with its national security infrastructure as presently constituted, is facing a very high risk of ultimate collapse! This collapse will not come as a big bang, but will come as incremental but steady weakening of the authority and capacity of the State to exercise the functions of a State. Already the State is substantially weakened with the number of ungoverned spaces increasing by the day: from terrorist activities and occupation of territories in Borno and Yobe and later Adamawa and Taraba; to banditry in Zamfara, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kastina and Kano; to kidnapping on Kaduna – Abuja road, now extended to Niger State, a border state with the FCT; from the threat of bombing of oil installations by Niger Delta Militants to civil disobedience by IPOB in the South East; from herdsmen/farmers skirmishes in the Middle belt to the call for dismemberment of the federation in the South West; the country’s internal contradictions could be rightly said to have reached the final conflict phase. As the number of ungoverned spaces increases with widening national fault lines, and as the authority and capacity of the State diminish consequently, these ungoverned spaces will be swiftly occupied by two categories of people:

One, criminal elements (terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, etc.) who will keep cashing in on the emerging weakness of the State and hence exacerbate such weakness by unleashing more terror on the citizens and tasking the security forces to their limits;

Two, ethnic champions who are canvassing for secession and who will further exploit the void and make the State more ungovernable.

As the above two scenarios continue unabated, the Nigerian State will gradually cave in to its ultimate collapse. The point here is that, the very fear of the State, secession, will finally be realized, this time not due to overwhelming forces of regions to break away, but due to weakness and diminished capacity of the State itself from exhaustion in trying to manage the numerous internal contradictions and social forces that have been unleashed.

The solutions proffered here are exclusively within executive powers of implementation, and will address two immediate issues: effectively combat, within the shortest possible time, the security challenges facing the entire country presently; diminish substantially, the rising regional pressure on the federal government, and create the needed space and environment for the good and efficient governance.

The immediate solution here is a policy realignment and paradigm shift in the Police administration. Everywhere in the world, the police combat crime. The military is trained and equipped to engage situations where there are targets and defined theatres and boundaries of warfare; when the source of threat is internal and interwoven within societal dynamics, the police must take the lead.

Presently, the federal government is inundated with pressure and demands for restructuring, and one of the key issues is state police, as against the present federal structure of the police. It is suggested here that government implements a “Hybrid Option” that will provide the benefits of state policing but without losing federal central command of the police:

A new policy of government that will mandate the deployment of Commissioners of Police only to their States of origin; a policy to ensure that 50 – 70 percent of the police force in every state, including the senior officials, is made up of officers from that state; a review of minimum wage for the police as incentive for a new brand of policing; only 30 – 40 percent of police personnel to be deployed to states outside their origin. The same should be applied to DSS and Civil Defence Corps

At the risk of sounding too structural, functionalist theorists may ask the question: if everything was working well within the federation, will people or regions still be insisting on breaking out? The answer is No and Yes. No because if we had a country where citizens have confidence in the government to protect their lives and property, nobody would be agitating to break away. Yes because, in reality, given the present structure of the Nigerian State and the system of security in the country, things can never work well. I have tried researching to find if there is any country that operates the same system as ours and has recorded success in this area, but up till now, I haven’t found one, and I don’t have the confidence that we are likely to score a first in this.

In Chinua Achebe’s popular novel Arrow of God, when the villagers accosted Eze Ulu, the Chief Priest, and demanded why he of all people would allow his own son to attend the white man’s school which was then regarded by the entire natives as an abomination and sacrilege, Eze Ulu wittingly told them that when a strange disease hits the land, the blood that would be used for sacrifice to defeat the disease must be one that matches the level and seriousness of that disease. If the country insists on running the type of federalism it is presently running, then its leaders must be ready to deploy a security structure that can sustain the political system the country is operating. Anything else is self-disillusion, as the truth is emerging every day before our very eyes.

The reality is that the government must make a choice now between “Control” and “Protection” or find a perfect balance between the two, otherwise, the State itself might be lost! The primary objective of any government is the protection of lives and property of its citizenry. If a government reaches a point where it can no longer fulfill this responsibility, the result will be anarchy and a return to the Hobbesian state. We can still make hay while the Sun shines; yes, before the sun sets!

Dr Akubueze is an international elections expert, and consultant in peace building, conflict prevention and resolution