By Ademola Adesola
Nigeria is not at war with any external enemies.
Yet, the human conditions of a vast number of its incredibly longsuffering peoples from South to North are indistinguishable from those of citizens in war-torn polities.
Already undone by unremitting climb in unemployment, poor remuneration, dearth of requisite modern infrastructure, weak education system, poverty of biblical proportion and economic strangulation, and wounding injustice of varied colourations, Nigerians are more than ever daily being processed through the intolerable mincer of insecurity.
Avoidable in many practical ways, these miserable conditions of most Nigerians have incrementally worsened since the acclaimed restoration of the country to democracy in 1999.
While the insecurity plague and other social horrors afflicting Nigerians predate the current administration at the federal and the other supine levels of government, it is indisputable that these solvable socioeconomic problems have worsened on the watch of the extant rulers.
Taken together, the kaleidoscope of insurgency as championed by the nihilistic Islamist sect (Boko Haram) in the Northeast, the marauding murderers and land-grabbers in the Northcentral called Fulani herdsmen, the kidnappers and criminals in the Southern states, or the extrajudicial killings, violent quelling of peaceful protests, and unlawful detentions of Nigerians across the federation by security agents have been making Nigeria more insecure and unlivable in the last six years.
More painfully, nothing from those ostensibly saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the security of the inhabitants of the country suggests they value human life and have a deeper appreciation of the climate that keeps the disease of insecurity active in the country.
For a more realistic appreciation of why the insecurity disorder in Nigeria is aggravating increasingly, particularly on the watch of the Muhammadu Buhari regime which has duelling insecurity as one of its three-fold objectives (the other two being economic transformation and anti-corruption), it makes sense to avoid the specious reasons and superficial justifications that the floundering Buhari administration and its uncritical supporters spin tirelessly.
To better appreciate why insecurity continues to cheapen lives and make peaceful workaday living extra stressful in Nigeria, we must examine, one, Nigeria’s federal system; two, the nexus between poverty and insecurity; three, the quality of democracy in practice; and four, the question of (in)justice.
The defective federalism favoured in Nigeria is an enabler of insecurity. Far more than at any other periods, Nigerian since the promulgation of Decree 34, aka Unification Decree, in 1966 by the Major-General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi junta, has remained a unitary state despite the expensive pretensions to federalism.
In as much as the state governors are beholden to the feds for the security and economic management of their states, any claim to federalism is spurious.
The federalism beloved in Nigeria, as the federalism scholar J. A. Ayoade sums it up in his notable 1997 inaugural lecture entitled “Nigeria and the Squandering of Hope,” is “a design error or it is an error by design.”
Unless expeditiously reversed, such grave fault, that thinker posits, will remain an effective source of punitive tension. Similarly, in his review of Nigeria’s strange federalism, the political science teacher, Browne Onuoha, postulates that “[w]e are not practising federalism in Nigeria […] From the beginning, the issue of federalism became a very funny arrangement, which became worsened by the military.”
Unfortunately, no civilian government since the military worsened this already bad system had ever committed to undoing the mess and emplacing a functional federalism.
The consequence of the entrenchment of this ersatz federalism – a “disaggregative federation as Ayoade labels it – has been a steady solidification of insecurity. For a populous and vast country like Nigeria, a centrally coordinated security system is ill-fitting.
A one-kind-fit-all policing system cannot serve the security need of the Nigerian federation. This current system must be unbundled and powers devolved among the federating units.
As we have seen time and again, neither the state governors nor the commissioners of police really have any control of their states. They depend on the feds to recruit police officers and deploy them to states.
When the security situations in any states become overwhelming, the feds take recourse to the military to do police jobs.
In not taking seriously the need to decentralize policing in the country, the Buhari administration shows itself incapable of addressing one of the sources of insecurity in the country.
Poverty, unemployment, poor wages, and weak purchasing power have never been known to strengthen security in any country.
These conditions feed insecurity. All these disgraceful situations exist in terrifying degrees in Nigeria. In their essay, “The Tangled Web: The Poverty-Insecurity Nexus,” Lael Brainard, et al, contend that “Extreme poverty exhausts governing institutions, depletes resources, weakens leaders, and crushes hope—fueling a volatile mix of desperation and instability.”
A sustained focus on local media reports reveals that Nigeria has seen a huge increase in kidnapping, wire fraud, and other crimes in the last six years.
These crimes cannot be divorced from the crushing poverty and idleness that define the existence of most young people in Nigeria.
Nigeria has a big demography of young people, a source of prosperity and progress for any country governed by purposeful minds.
The waves of crimes threatening the security of Nigeria are not activated by older “citizens” of the country.
Members of the energetic, creative, and resilient youth fold are often behind most crimes in the insecure land.
Until visionary, creative, and thinking minds take charge of the levers of political powers in Nigeria, insecurity will remain a constant cause of worry there, and any efforts aimed at transforming the country without a structured attention to poverty and youth unemployment will be counterproductive.
Insecurity also thrives in Nigeria because of, to borrow Claude Ake’s useful phrase, “the democracy of alienation” most Nigerian rulers cherish.
They may not don military uniforms, most rulers across the levels of governance in Nigeria are instinctively and willfully dictatorial.
Although they profess democracy, their thoughts and actions show that they neither have a basic grasp of the concept nor do they feel comfortable submitting to its ethics. Nigerian rulers are fair-weather democrats.
They are democrat only when the concept can burnish their image. Oddly enough, in the country those surface “democrats” run debate is frowned on, dissent criminalized, and free speech pathologized.
Even protest, which is part of the greases for lubricating the wheels of a democratic system, is seriously anathematized.
In the way they manage the special project platforms they love to masquerade as political parties, Nigerian rulers’ dictatorial tendencies bloom.
In giving free reins to their oppressive inclinations, these despots hurt others and make harmonious coexistence impossible. In privileging only their own voices as supreme and infallible, they consider alternative views as sacrilege and their authors as blasphemers in need of harsh, counteractive punishments.
What has been the experience of the Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky Shiite group? How does the Buhari regime mange the agitations of the Indigenous People of Biafra?
How about the protests of the Omoyele Sowore RevolutionNow movement? What happened to the protests variously organized by the activist, Deji Adeyanju, and the Nigerian singer and songwriter, Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa, aka, Charly Boy?
Why is Mubarak Bala imprisoned without trial? What was the offence of journalist Agba Jalingo for which he was cruelly incarcerated? The list is long.
These groups and individuals were mishandled and decimated by agents of state because they dared to exercise the rights consistent with the demands of a democratic system.
They became enemies of the state because they projected perspectives that didn’t align with the retrogressive convictions of the pretentious democrats in power.
Any society where the rulers detest debates and alternative reasonings will remain a boiling cauldron of instability.
The illiberal dispositions of the Buhari government and those across the states of the federation are contributing bigly to the insecurity in Nigeria.
For as long as the policies and programmes of these governments dehumanize Nigerians and the logics undergirding them shallow, there will always be Nigerians who will raise the banners of fresh, different rationalities.
Rather than crush these people and seek to make them silent, governments who care about security will meet those people at the level of ideas. One tree does not make a forest; a camorra of rulers and their aides do not possess all the ideas needed to make a country functional.
Finally, insecurity plagues Nigeria because it is too much at peace with injustices. The people in Benue, Taraba, Kogi states, and the Internally Displaced Persons and those mourning their gruesomely murdered loved ones in Northeastern Nigeria know the colours of injustices too well.
Those in Southern Kaduna too are struggling with injustice. What the people in these states have got as justice for their excruciating ordeals is that the offenders have not been made to answer for their crimes.
Some of these people have lost their homes and lands to Fulani herdsmen and the ones whose family members have been killed or kidnapped by Boko Haram have witnessed the so-called rehabilitation and reintegration of members of that implacably ruthless group into society.
Those “repentant” insurgents – never mind that the public is not aware of their mea culpa – are said to be ready for educational trainings and financial gifts from government.
Yet, those they messed up their lives and disrupted their families are out there in ramshackle tents living a miserable life.
There are many more terrible cases of injustices across the country. Self-help is fast gaining ground. Those left in the lurch by governments are rising for their own defences and seeking justice their own way.
Jungle justice seems preferable to communities who have waited in vain for state protection.
The outcome of those self-help measures cannot but trigger insecurity. No country with heavy doses of injustices as are rampant in Nigeria can be at peace and secure.
Insecurity plague does not emerge from a vacuum; it is precipitated. In other words, Nigeria’s insecurity is more a product of the (in)actions of its myopic rulers than it is of their smarmy followers.