NIIA’s Roundtable on Insecurity in Nigeria: The Neglected Aspect of the Profound Causal Factors

INTERNATIoNAL BY Bola A. Akinterinwa 

The Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) held an interesting online roundtable on ‘Insecurity in Nigeria’ on Friday, 15th July, 2022 from 4pm to 6pm. The meeting was quite interesting, from the perspective of the many leading scholars and professionals involved. The likes of General Ishola Williams, Professors Femi Otubanjo, Attahiru Jega, Rotimi Suberu, Richard Joseph, Akin Osuntokun, Peter Lewis, Efem Ubi, Taiye Simbine, Habu Mohammed, Balogun M.J, Isa Salami, Ebenezer Obadare, Mojubaolu Okome, etc, all seasoned academic and practitioners, were not only there, but also took active parts in the discussion.

The roundtable was also interesting from the perspective of the time limitation of five- minute rule given to the panellists but which none of them respected. If the NIIA Director General, Professor Eghosa Osaghae, of the NIIA condoned the disregard for his own rule, it might be because of the pertinent points of submission which would be useful for policy purposes. And more notably, the roundtable was important because of the topicality of the theme and technical management of the meeting which was free from interconnectivity challenges. Presenters addressed the subject from a multidimensional approach, but mostly from theoretical perspectives. What is noteworthy about the meeting is that there was a near consensus on the deepening situational reality of insecurity in Nigeria, which the Government of Nigeria has little capacity to contain was never in dispute. What was in dispute is how best to address the containment of insecurity in Nigeria. 

Without doubt, insecurity in Nigeria, be it considered from the angle of social insecurity, state insecurity, or humanitarian insecurity, and even insecurity of public administration, is currently threatening Nigeria’s political unity and integration. Insecurity is now more complex. Boko Haram’s insurrection in the North East, which reportedly had been technically neutralised but which, in truth, has apparently resurfaced as armed bandits in the Northwest; kidnapping and train-jacking, Fulani herdsmen and farmers hostilities; open-day armed robberies and Nigerian government’s terror. In fact electoral insecurity, arising from terror of thuggery and open vote buying, with the acquiescence of the law enforcement agents, is more of a threat to political stability, good governance, peace and security, than the use of violence or the error of terror government. In all these cases, it is noteworthy that the profound causal factors of insecurity in Nigeria were not adequately addressed at the roundtable.

The Roundtable 

The holding of the roundtable coincided with President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB)’s call at the graduation of 247 students of the Senior Course 44 of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji. Kaduna State. PMB noted in his call that ‘most of the security challenges facing the world today are both asymmetric and trans-border in nature, involving mainly non-state actors in different regions and sub-regions of the world.’ More important, PMB directed the military ‘to confront these terrorists and insurgents and wipe them off the face of the earth and bring peace to our countries… Combating these prevalent security threats effectively demand that African countries continued to work together at all levels, be it tactical, operational and strategic.’

The directive is interesting because of its meaninglessness. Many are the times PMB had instructed the military to cut all the feathers of the Boko Haram, but all the instructions have been to no avail. As a matter of fact, the Boko Haramists have always and promptly responded to PMB’s instructions with more serious attacks on innocent citizens. At best, PMB’s instructions have remained manifestations of braggadocio. Besides, terrorism, right from its 1789 French Revolution origin, through the introduction of letter and parcel bombs and skyjacking, to kidnapping for ransom, it has been difficult to suppress terrorism, despite the signing of many international conventions on terrorism and counter-terrorism. This is again in spite of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1368 of 12 September 2021, which declared international terrorism as a threat to international peace and security.’ If the global community has not been able to nip terrorism in the bud for centuries, it is not PMB’s instructions that can do the magic simply because Nigeria lacks the capacity, which is one of the issues generally discussed at the zoom meeting.

The roundtable can be explained and understood at three complementary levels, analytical framework, issues addressed, and the way forward. As regards analytical framework, Professor Richard Joseph, who kick-started the conversation, adopted the medical diagnostic method to make the understanding of the issues and the problematic easy to understand. 

As he put it, he asked everyone to imagine a situation of an emergency in which case a sick person is rushed to the hospital for urgent medical attention. What the doctor will normally do is to first seek stabilisation of the patient. After stabilisation, the doctor must find out what the causal factors of the emergency or the ailment prompting the rush to the hospital. When the cause of the ailment is diagnosed and known, the level of prescription of treatment and course of treatment then comes in. And finally, the doctor will need to work out the long-term rehabilitation agenda for the patient.

Professor Richard Joseph cannot be more correct based on this framework of analysis except that, at the level of diagnosis of an ailment, there can be very serious implications if the diagnosis is faulty. In some cases of medical diagnosis, there have been wrong diagnoses, leading to wrong prescriptions and unnecessary loss of innocent lives. This can be true in the case of failing states. Most of the submissions at the roundtable relied heavily on Professor Richard Joseph’s framework. As much as I also share the goodness in the framework of analysis, the framework does not enable the profound causal factors of insecurity in Nigeria to be understood and without which there cannot be an enduring solution to insecurity in Nigeria. 

Rightly, Professor Richard Joseph, in the context of Nigeria, raised the issue of stabilisation, which he said is most urgent. He raised both the State Responsibility to Protect and International Responsibility to Protect (IR2P) to which Nigeria is a signatory both of which underscore the responsibility of states to protect their citizens, responsibility of other states to assist whenever they are called upon to do so, and when situations of insecurity become so dire, the international community owes it a responsibility to intervene, and not simply interfering. Intervention involves the use of force while interference is limited to use of diplomacy.

True, IR2P deals more specifically with crimes against humanity, genocidal crimes, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. It is not a rule of customary international law. In fact, apart from its application in 2011 to contain the excesses of Muammar Gaddafi, the principle has not been of general application. Consequently, the extent to which the international responsibility of Nigeria can be called to question is still very limited.

On these observations, even though Professor Richard Joseph cannot be more correct, particularly on the urgent need to stabilise Nigeria, we strongly believe that, on the issue of determination of the causal factors of insecurity in Nigeria, there is a missing point and that is the neglect of the profound causal factors. In this regard, Professor Bola A. Akinterinwa addressed the theme from the perspective of polemology in which he distinguished between and among profound causal factors, accidental causal factors, catalytic causal factors, and the remedial factors. Professor Akinterinwa contended that the various submissions fell under accidental and catalytic factors and therefore arguing that no recommendation will be good enough to nip insecurity in the bud without firstly and appropriately addressing the profound causal factors (see below).

As regards the main issues discussed at the zoom meeting, stabilization, fears of a possible Srilankanisation of Nigeria, that is the option of public revolt, the neglect of institutions, bad governance and conscious promotion of Islamisation and Fulanisation, which is responsible for the order and counter-order, amounting to disorder in the country, were raised for discussion.

And more concernedly in this regard, Chief Akin Osuntokun argued along the profound causes by drawing attention to PMB’s security architecture which is largely driven by nepotism to the extent that whenever any fresh appointment is to be made by the president is quite predictable. Chief Osuntokun said Nigeria had lost her sense and spirit of community and that the reasons being given for insecurity in Nigeria were irrelevant. 

He referred to the maiden edition of the Fulani cultural festival held at the Abuja headquarters of the Miyetti Allah Kauta Hore, a Fulani socio-cultural association, on 5th June 2022. At the festival, Alhaji Bello Bodejo, the President of the association, said ‘we know our friends and enemies and we will act at the right time.’ He also said members of the Miyetti Allah ‘have been cheated, denied all the necessary opportunities for good life and education, and this time, our sources of livelihood are being targeted. Obviously, we have been pushed to the wall, hence the justification for the recent display of anger by our people. It’s left for the government to do the needful.’ But who are the friends and who are the enemies? What was the right time to act? In any case, the Fulani festival was held on the eve of the massacre of Christians who were worshipping at the Francis Catholic Church in Owo. This underscores the point of an Islamo-Fulani agenda and sanctions against the enemies of the Miyetti Allah.

Professor Attahiru Jega reminded that the more one sees, the less one also understands, and therefore, whatever recommendations that are made cannot but be difficult. While admitting the recommendation of Professor Richard Joseph that the insecurity situation in Nigeria requires an urgent stabilisation, he asked what he called a big question: if Nigeria needs stabilisation, who are the would-be drivers of the stabilisation? He also asked when the stabilisation agenda will begin. 

While Professor Mojubaolu Okome discussed insecurity in Nigeria in the context of human insecurity, especially in terms of no human respect of human life and dignity by the law enforcement agents, non-payment of legitimate taxes to lawful authorities, inability of the military to meaningfully address the problem, she also cautioned the Government of Nigeria to seek to avoid the Srilanka option. Professor Femi Otubanjo explained the insecurity situation in the same vein. He said Nigeria has become an agglomeration of lawlessness in various ramifications. Many are the ungoverned spaces and so many are the criminal cases begging for attention and prosecution. Most unfortunately, the perpetrators are left to frolic freely with AK-47 rifles with impunity. 

The Neglected Causal Factors

Without any shadow of doubt, the foregoing observations are dynamics of insecurity in Nigeria. Isa Salami is not wrong for agreeing with the need for stabilisation and state policing. He posited that volunteering information is difficult in Nigeria, particularly for reasons of lack of faith in one another. Charles Edomsomwan argued that the current security architecture of the PMB government cannot meet the challenges of insecurity in the country. He observed in this regard that Nigeria has a monolithic police force and that, because security is existential, there is the need to quickly rethink our security architecture. While Professor Peter Lewis reminded of the cases of agitation for separation and asked how the agitation came into being, Professor Taiye Simbine agreed that there had been a lot of neglect of our institutions over the years. We share these observations. Ditto for the argument of porous borders, unemployment and wrong framework to the national malaise raised by Professor Simbine which are also other dynamics of insecurity to be attended to.

As pertinently observed by Dr Efem Ubi, the problem of insecurity is basically that of leadership and governance. He strongly believed that if there was good governance, the problems of poverty, unemployment and insecurity would not have arisen. He underlined the external aspects of the incursions and indirectly subscribed to the idea of Nigeria as a failing state, bearing in mind that the core values in Nigeria’s Constitution are security and territorial integrity. Professor Habu Mohammed, in the same vein, argued that there are both internal and external factors responsible for insecurity in Nigeria. He also observed that Government does not have adequate capacity to deal with the current situation of insecurity. More important, he observed that insecurity is a consequence of the long neglect of the institutions. 

But true enough, even though these reasons, with the many others, are quite valid arguments and are reasons for insecurity in Nigeria. However, they are not the profound causal factors. They are the accidental and catalytic reasons for insecurity which can be tangentially addressed but without any potentiality to nip the profound causal factors in the bud. Without firstly dealing with the profound causal factors, all efforts cannot but be in vain. 

In our eyes, insecurity in Nigeria is a priori a resultant from the conflict between the proponents of Fulani hegemony and opponents, the origin of which he partly traced to the Senate debate of 28 November 1961 during which Chief O.A. Adegbenro-Beyioku raised the issue of dispute between the North and the South (vide PP 64 et s of the Senate Official Report).

Apart from fears of Fulani hegemony and Fulanisation agenda, there are also fears of Islamisation agenda. It is partly because of this fear that the Muslim-Muslim electoral ticket became a critical issue today in the forthcoming 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria. The Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, told the world that there would not be any peace in Nigeria until Nigeria is split into Muslim North and Christian South. Put differently, one main objective of Boko Haram’s insurgency is ensuring an Islamic State, beginning with the North East. Several Nigerian leaders, including Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR and former President of Nigeria, corroborated this point. President Obasanjo mentioned that PMB has an Islamic and Fulanisation agenda and PMB has not publicly refuted the allegations.

With this information in mind, when PMB directed, some three years back, that all those residing in the country illegally should seek regularisation of their illegal stay in Nigeria, rather than sanctioning them for entering Nigeria illegally, many political observers saw the directive as a manifestation of a Fulanisation agenda, especially that many, if not most, of the illegal aliens, were Fulani. In fact, the Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, also made it crystal clear that Nigeria is currently being made a home for all Fulani herdsmen in West and Central Africa.

And true enough, it is not the question of simply providing a home for them, but also the criticality of the use of force to acquire titled land for them. This is why there is deepening insecurity in the country. PMB has tried various means to sustain this Fulanisation Agenda, – RUGA Agenda, Grazing Routes Controversy, and currently, Water Resources Bill, etc., all of which are being resisted, and are manifestations of the profound causes of the recidivist insecurity in Nigeria. The professorial discussions which, at the meeting, identified unemployment, porous borders, economic poverty, etc., as causes of insecurity are valid but they are, at best, accidental in character. Insecurity has become recidivist in Nigeria because of deliberate lack of political will which is a core catalytic dynamic of insecurity. President Goodluck Jonathan once admitted that there were Boko haramists in his government. General Theophilus Danjuma, who Professor Rotimi Suberu quoted as having told the story of the conman and the gunman, openly accused the Nigerian army of aiding and abetting the Boko Haram. Dr Obadiah Malaifa, corroborated the complicity of the Nigerian military in sustaining the Boko Haram before he died. Additionally, insecurity is also deepening because Christians have not been violently responding to the massacre of Christians based on Biblical considerations. Their silence sustains the renewal of attacks on them. It is most unfortunate to consider macroeconomic and socio-military factors or lack of state capacity as main reasons for insecurity in Nigeria. Insecurity will continue to endure in the absence of political will to truly address it.

Consequently, in terms of quo vadis, opinion of the roundtable is mixed. Four main points were agreed to: doctrine of responsibility to protect; stabilisation of the polity and determining who its drivers are; establishment of State Police Force; and ensuring political will.  Other points of agreement were the need to address Nigeria’s porous borders, institutional neglect, capacity development, societal lawlessness, restoring community spirit, and avoiding Srilankanisation of Nigeria. In this regard, the doctrine of responsibility requires ensuring security. Security cannot be ensured without commitment of which political will is the foundation. Political will only exists when there is objectivity of purpose. Political governance in Nigeria is not predicated on any objectivity of purpose for various reasons: PMB’s Fulanisation agenda which is defined by policies of open grazing, cattle colony, Ruga Colony and Water Resources bill all of which are being vehemently contested by many states, especially in the South and the Middle Belt. For as long as the Government is seeking Fulani hegemony, Islamisation agenda and using brute force or manu militari, peace and security cannot but remain a dream. This is the neglected aspect of the NIIA zoom meeting and which requires more attention.

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