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Nigeria has been grappling with what the executives and legislatures describe as “security challenges” since 1999. To address this, the executives and legislatures’ focused exclusively on “how” to achieve security without first addressing “what” is or should be security in Nigeria.
There are two perspectives of looking at the foundation of this sacrosanct belief that the problem with “security” is not “what” but “how.” The first is the executives and legislatures self-conceited understanding and interpretation of Section 14 Subsection 2B of the 1999 Constitution which declared that “the ‘security’… of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. The second is that the staying power of Section 14 Subsection 2B is hinged on the legislatures, executives and most Nigerians socialised knowledge of “security” as having and containing one meaning only: security is the name and work of the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE).
In the pursuit of this “how”, the executives and legislatures have been hard at work, based on their holier-than-thou belief in Section 14 Subsection 2B, as the sacred mandate of governance instituted in the 1999 Constitution by the sovereigns to be pursued and attained by their representatives – the elected.
In advocating this “how” of security for the executive arm is Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman Nigerian Governors’ Forum. Dr. Fayemi recently declared that “nothing can stop state police” because “devolving policing to various levels including the local level is the only solution to the myriad of security challenges facing the country.”
The House of Representatives under the leadership of Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker and representing the legislatures, took the matter of the country’s “security challenges” seriously. Sometime this year, the House of Representatives through the Special House Committee on National Security advertised call for memorandum. In this call, the House specifically requested for “solutions only” or “how” from members of the public. The effort of the House birthed the National Security Summit Report.
The Report is not a bill and as such was not signed into law by the executive. Thus the Report is not binding on the executives and the legislatures. The Report did not contain novel idea on “security”. The Report is only a set of non-binding recommendations along the line of Members’ socialised knowledge of security. The Report is divided into two with one aspect for the legislatures and the other aspect for the executives to implement.
Since the enthronement of representative rule in 1999, the executives and legislatures each contributed the National Security Strategy and National Security Summit Report as the “how” to solving “security challenges” in Nigeria.
These “how” of security failed, is failing and will continue to fail unless the “what” is security which both documents ignored is addressed in tandem first with the history, experience and reality (HER) of most Nigerians and second within representative rule framework for the first time in Nigeria’s history.
The legislatures especially owe most Nigerians this debt. The need for the legislatures to resolve what is security is because the prevailing narrative of “security” is an imitation of one perception of the national security of the United States on the one hand and on the other hand the total lack of distinction in terms of idea, institution and person of security between civil and military rule enabling environment.
Glossing over this vital question of “what” is security by the legislatures and executives, in all their interventions thus far, is central to the failure of this “security”.
The legislatures should cause the determination of the reasons for the failure of “security” in Nigeria beginning in 1999. “Security” failed in Nigeria because of the lack of philosophical direction and this failure is squarely the responsibility of the legislatures. The legislatures evolve ideas into legislations which form the bedrock of policies and programmes for the executives to implement.
The executives pursued their “how” to achieving security assuming that they know “security”. However, this known “security” failed and is failing which clearly indicates that this “security” is unknown. This “security” failed and is failing thus raising the question of what is security. The legislature is task with asking and answering the critical question of this “security” including what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. These collectively summed up the philosophy, legislation, policy and strategy or the theory and practice of security. These questions have never been asked and answered by the legislatures in any form or shape in Nigeria’s chequered representative rule history ever.
The prevailing practice which the executive claim it knows is the executive security. Executive Security arose from the name and work schedule of executive-controlled agencies of the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE). The dominance of the military in politics and governance for the better part of Nigeria’s independence until 1999 laid the foundation of this executive security.
The prevalence of executive security was shaped by the Cold War environment where, for the superpowers, developed countries and discerning developing countries, security is economic and strategic resources. The sourcing of this security or economic and strategic resources anywhere and everywhere in the world defined their foreign affairs and relations. The military, intelligence and law enforcement is the instrument for accessing and safeguarding this security or economic and strategic resource anywhere and everywhere in the world.
For the developed countries, this security worked during the Cold War and continues to work afterward. For Nigeria and under military rule, this security worked. However, in the period beginning from 1999, the unraveling of executive security was inaugurated. This is primarily because executive security no longer secures most Nigerians. Most Nigerians redefine security and their security differently under the government of most Nigerians by most Nigerians and for most Nigerians.
The legislatures and executives were impervious of the change of security by most Nigerians. They continued this “security” for several reasons especially their personal and group interests. One, perhaps because the executives ran out of idea and/or the fact that evolving/updating/reviewing/amending governing ideas is not entirely the executives’ schedule. Two, the executives and legislatures seek to compensate members of the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE) for the loss of their vast infrastructure of governance which was disrupted by the sudden change of enabling environment in 1999.
Three, the executives and legislatures found political economic needs to transform and continue this “security” as accommodation policy between them and the MILE elites. There is stability of political power for the civil political elite and unfettered access to fund for the MILE elite. For this to happen there was need for the birth of perpetually crisis and conflict in the polity. The 1999 Constitution and poor service delivery by the elected and appointed officials engendered this enabling environment.
Four, as a result of the self-interest embedded in reasons one to three, the legislatures acquiesced to retaining the imitated “security” without examining the underlying history, experience and reality (HER) prompting and governing this “security.” They did not bother to civilianise, indigenise and domesticate the 1999 Constitution and the “security” framework of the Constitution even in the face of its successful failure and the imminent uprising of nationalities.
The state of knowledge of security requires studying, thinking, observing and comparing (STOC) security first as social construct and second as country-culture-specific construct. This is in contrast to the steel-cast disposition of official Nigeria to the failed and failing “security” narrative. Of all the institutions of representative rule, the legislatures have the task, resources and mandate to investigate and interrogate this failed and failing “security” in Nigeria.
Beyond the socialised knowledge of security deriving from the long hold of the military in governance and the perception created by the Cold War, Nigerians have never benefitted from any consciously created and constructed idea on security deriving from their history, experience and reality (HER). To this extent, there has never been any philosophy, legislation, policy and strategy of security in Nigeria within representative rule framework. The first three – philosophy, legislation and policy capture what is security, whose security and what is a security issue. The last – strategy – capture how security can be achieved.
In the last twenty two years, Nigeria’s executives and legislatures presume they know this “security”. The legislatures and executives’ optics is fixed in spite of the evidence on the ground. Thus for them, the problem is not “what” is security but “how” can security be achieved. In their estimation, they have done everything that there is to do in resolving the “security” problematique in Nigeria.
Arguably and instead, Nigeria’s legislatures and executives have, in the matter of the undefined, uncharted and ungoverned space called “security”, reached the nadir of EINSTEIN INSANITY long ago.
Our Take: While insecurity has continued to plague Nigeria, efforts made to address this have attempted to sort for solutions only. It is not completely out of place to want to address insecurity; however, understanding what security entails is even more important. Over time, our misguided ideas of what security is and is not, even when it is not a definitive term in the constitution have only bred cycles of failed attempts at addressing it. How do you address what you do not understand? There is need for a shift in conversations about how to address insecurity to what security really is in Nigeria’s democratic system. This is what would birth sustainable solutions to the myriad security challenges we face.
About the Author(s): Prof. Adoyi Onoja teaches history courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the Department of History and security courses at the graduate level in the Security Studies Unit of the Institute of Governance and Development Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi. He can be contacted through email@example.com and on www.adoyionoja.org.ng