Saturday, October 1, 2011

Nigeria at 51: My Reflection on Security.

Undoubtedly, the most cumbersome task to attempt is the analysis of the state of security in Nigeria. How does one prepare a conclusive report card on a nation that has been peaceful, at least relatively. However, going by the spate of security issues that has bedeviled Nigeria in the last 2 decades, the job then becomes easier than thought. It would amount stating the obvious saying our security as a people, and as a nation is in serious threat. While reflecting, a few issues possibly responsibly for the present state of insecurity in Nigeria popped up on my mind, and these issues I will be x-raying in their chronological order of influence.

Politics no doubt has always constituted a security threat to Nigeria, even right from the beginning of our existence as a nation. As early as the 1959s, Nigerian politicians with their political concept of ethnic nationalism always throw the nation into a state of great panic. With every of the 3 major ethnic groups always determined to take control of the nation, caution is always thrown to the winds. The “weties” of 1965s in the West still lingers in the memory of traditional historians. A new dimension was however recently introduced into the system with the doctrine of do-or-die politics as espoused by a former president, who still shamefully pride himself as an elder statesman. Many have even attributed the emergence of private, ethnic, and religious militias to the activities of these apostles of do-or-die politics. A Punch Newspaper front page caption, September 27, 2011 reads “violence is fuelled by existence of private militias that were established, funded and used by politicians and individuals.”

Coming right after politics is religion, and perhaps it will even be better to weave a third leg in ethnicity into the equation to make a complete case. Religious intolerance, with largely ethnic nationalism coloration has always constituted a threat to our collective security. The resultant crisis from this religious intolerance has always come with a huge price. We remember the 1980 Maistatsine Islamic uproar in Kano during which 4,177 people were reported as slaughtered with properties worth millions of naira destroyed. Do I have the freedom to weep? General Ibrahim Babangida said in New Nigerian, October 19, 1988, page 3 “…one should be reasonable enough to know that God, like the father of any household, can never be satisfied with members of his family who quarrel, fight, undermine and sometimes kill one another in His name. The hypocrisy of such statements, from our leaders, in this category I will not attempt verifying. The spate of killings witnessed in Plateau State in the past 3 years clearly reveals one cannot successfully separate religious intolerance-induced security unrest from ethnic nationalism-induced.

To think this is not enough, a new puzzle was recently presented to our nation in the guise of Boko Haram. This is no doubt the biggest issue in Africa presently. Launching what can now be safely regarded as guerilla warfare, scores of analysts still find it difficult placing what the real issues are. While some will say it is basically an act of religious fanatism, others opine it is another violence scheme from politicians who believed it is the sole right of a particular ethnic group to rule this country. Whatever be the case, the underlining issue here is that our politicians understood perfectly well the huge influence religion has over the soul of men, so all they do is whip up religious sentiment around their scheme. The puzzle for me here is how come Nigerians buys the evil plots of these politicians hook, line, and sinker. This takes me back to my piece on education where I stated: “…if the mind alone is developed and both the body and brain are neglected, then we have a sorry figure of a religious fanatic who condemns everything, and everybody but himself, and whose only prophecy is one of pessimism, catastrophe and gloom for mankind. If his body and brain are fully developed whilst the mind remains undeveloped or only partially developed, then we have a shattered soul. By his lack of a sense of spiritual values, he denies freedom to a class, and by doing so, brings about a situation called revolution in which the freedom of all is seriously threatened and in some cases completely submerged by a deluge of war…”

I have asked myself a question repeatedly since the emergence of the much dreaded Boko Haram; is it that impossible for our government to secure us? Is it that impossible to break the strong hold of Boko Haram on this nation? It did not take me long however to discover that our government has laid the groundwork of survival for the Boko Haram sect.

One of the plus for Boko Haram is that it takes root and operates I he core Northern part of Nigeria where we have the Hausas; a people spread across the nooks and crannies of West Africa (Mali, Senegal, Chad, Niger et al.). Added to this is the cultural proximity and affinity between Hausas and Fulanis. As it has been alleged, it is difficult to out rightly say the Boko Haram sect is entirely made up of Nigerians. I read in one of the national dailies recently that the federal government in conjunction with security agencies intends checkmating the heavy inflow of persons (mercenaries) cum arms and ammunitions into the country through strict border control measures. This is no doubt fallout of our government’s shortsightedness. I belong to the class of analysts who posited Nigeria should have opted for a gradualist approach in her pursuit of socio-economic and political integration of the West African countries (ECOWAS project). Rather, in her bid to play the self-bestowed “big brother” role in the ECOWAS project, Nigerian government indiscriminately opened up her borders, invariably exposing the security of her citizens to risk. It is a source of great worries considering the rate at which arms and ammunitions, foreign Islamic fundamentalists, religious fanatics, and terrorist groups infiltrate the country. This act of terrorism, or civic unrest as a political scientist friend of mine would say, is however not an exclusive preserve of the Boko Harams; we have over a score sects as well spread across the Niger-Delta region.

I look around me, and almost everything I see constitute an intense pressure on the security of this nation; even unemployment. Research has it that Nigerian youths are now shifting their focus to the Nigerian Force (Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Police Force.) in a bid to circumvent the unemployment-induced hardship in the country. This sharply contradict what obtains in notable countries of the world (U.S, U.K, China…) where citizens enlist themselves in the Army and Police Force based on passion for the protection of territorial integrity, dignity, an pursuance of internal security of their country. Such then is our plight as a nation when we place our security concerns in the hands of such misfits. What more to say when they have even told us that the Army and the Police Force has been infiltrated by the Boko Haram sect. I think with a total of about 120 Chief Security Officers spread across the nation, Nigeria should have a solid grip on such matters as this. What best describes our 51st birthday is that; it was the year we recorded the first suicide bombing in the history of Nigeria. We can only hope there would not be any again. A facebook friend asked, albeit jokingly “if Boko Haram suggested we stay indoor, and the federal government commands we do same, whom are we likely to obey?” Your answer should wrap this piece up, but permit me to ask, what does your own score card reveals?

Long live Nigeria.

Alamu Samson.

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