By Prof. Adoyi Onoja
The month of October and the year 2023 would forever be remembered in the history of Israel. This is much like the month of October in the year 1973. The former marked the second time in the history of the modern State of Israel which began in 1948 that its military invincibility was shattered. The first time was in October 1973 when Egypt and Syria, leading the Arab forces, launched a surprised attack on Israel. This was the consequence of the Israeli humiliation of the Arabs in the 1967 war.
The second time was a day after the fiftieth anniversary of the 1973 attack. On the 7th day of October, 2023, Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement founded in 1987, launched series of attacks on Israel. This development was the consequence of the collapse of the Oslo Peace Process, the incapacitation of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation-led Palestinian Authority and the immense suffering and suffocation of the Palestinian people particularly those in Gaza under the control of Hamas.
The concern of this article is not with the conflict between Arabs and Israel predicated on the conflict between Palestine and Israel which began in 1948. Of these, most Arabs states have since made peace with the State of Israel leaving the Palestinians track of the peace process on life-support in intensive care unit if not dead. The concern of the article is with what is called security in the crisis and the received wisdom of this security in Nigeria.
The article intends to achieve two objectives. The first objective is to demonstrate what is universal in security. The second objective is to draw attention to what is the specific in the politics of security. The latter would be interrogated within the context of representative rule system in Nigeria in the last almost a quarter century. This is because Nigeria is not under military rule anymore.
All over the world, security is universally acclaimed to be the highest classification given to public policy issue that constitutes existential threat to persons and communities requiring the highest deployment of resources to relieve the condition(s). What is universal in security?
As a word and arguably the most powerful word in politics, security’s history began in Europe and among Europeans during the Middle Ages. The etymology of security is from the Latin Securus and Securitas and the English Secure. Securus, Securitas and Secure means from free from care, something which secure, condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension. Security’s etymologies embed security’s history and philosophy. Security emerged from the experiences of Europeans and Europe in the over 500 years of the collapse of civilisation in all spheres.
Security exemplified the yearning of Europeans for the return of civilisation in Europe. It was the middle Ages or Dark Ages European experiences that birthed the word we know today as security. Thus the notion of free from care, something which secure, condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension captured the yearning of Europeans and in today’s human experience knows no race, gender, class or creed. In the context of human being, being human and humanity, security is the desire of all human beings, in all spheres of life, anywhere and everywhere in the world.
The politics of security gives a country-culture-specific construct to security occasioned by what I called the country’s history, experience and reality (HER) on the one hand and on the other hand the received wisdom of the practice of security often the product of the human divide across development indices that separated the world into two unequal halves. It is the country-culture history, experience and reality that drive the politics of security. The politics of security thus determines what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved in the countries of the world.
For the developed world, not only is there governance of security and security governance. The construct of security looks OUTWARD in the search for security for the countries in the developed world. For the developing world, governance of security and security governance is LACKING and the received wisdom of security takes its cue from one of the developed world’s OUTWARD practices of security combined with the local power dynamics of the countries. Thus security, for most of the countries in the developing world, is INWARD and focused on the POWER ELITES in the main.
Operation Al-Aqsa Flood as Hamas called its attack on Israel and Israel’s War against Hamas expressed the universality of security and the politics of security. The universality of security for both Hamas and Israel is their quest for freeing selves from care, providing selves with something which secure and/or creating condition which secure and eliminating or reducing the feeling of apprehension. The politics differs and the difference is in their construct of security owing to their history, experience and reality. The latter constitute the substance of security for Hamas and Israel.
However, it is in the characterisation of Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu and the speech of Mr. Joseph Biden that the lessons for what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved would be taken. Mr. Netanyahu goes by the sobriquet Mr. Security in Israel and in the media. With the possible exception of the late Mr. Arial Sharon, Mr. Netanyahu’s political career was built around his promise to deliver security to Israelis. Of the years he spent in power under the platform of the Likud Party, Mr. Netanyahu’s trump card remained security. The coalition that brought Mr. Netanyahu to power this time around which is considered the most extremely rightwing ever in the history of Israel played the security card as well.
Security or free from care, something which secure, condition of being secure and/or feeling no apprehension is the type that Israel’s Arab neigbhours, Iran and Hamas vowed to deny Israel. Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was directed at accomplishing this goal. This is the security Israel lacks and need and Mr. Netanyahu promised to deliver.
This security, when taken from this perspective, gives Nigerians that see security as the name and work of the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE) the justification to continue to push forward their thesis of security. This is even against the grain of history, experience and reality (HER) and the undefined, uncharted and ungoverned security space under representative rule system of the last twenty four years. This is the security blind alley that has ripped Nigerians bare of its resources without delivering security to most Nigerians in the last fifteen years.
Israel defined its security vis-a-vis its assessment and evaluation of its history, experience and reality (HER) beginning from its foundation in 1948. What is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved for the State of Israel is the product of the history of Israel that goes back in time to its experiences across the ages – experiences that coalesced into the pogrom of the Second World War and the birth of its State in 1948. Security is focused on Israel’s overwhelming need to survive and flourish as a race/people/culture and a state amidst being surrounded by hostile neighbours. This is the existential problem of Israel to which Mr. Netanyahu’s Mr. Security’s appellation and indeed most Israelis obsession represented. The Hamas-led Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and the conducts of Hamas brought this security need into a sharper focus and put on the political agenda the question of HOW CAN SECURITY BE ACHIEVED. It is a referendum on Mr. Security’s governance of security and of Israel from this perspective.
For the Nigerian audience hooked to the conception of security as the name and work of the MILE, barring the sentiments that would define how they view the development between Palestinians and Israelis in the area, the Hamas-Israel October War and the responses of Israel and the United States of America is, for the Nigerian audience, SECURITY-IN-MOTION.
Israel shares in the UNIVERSALITY of security and differs in the POLITICS of security. What is security for Israel, whose security for Israel and what is a security issue for Israel did not emanate from INSIDE Israel. There are no state manufactured bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, farmer-herders, unemployment, inequality etc. to justify the insatiable appetite for fund for the military, intelligence and law enforcement as security. Israel’s security did arise from the INADEQUACIES OF GOVERNANCE or the ineffective and inefficient utilisation of human and material resources for the benefit of most if not all Israelis. Israelis have one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East and in the world. Both developments – inside and governance – are the genesis of Nigeria’s state claims to security.
There is the display of the universality of security and the politics of security in the American response to Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. From the perspective of the Americans and in particular Mr. Joseph Biden’s address, security takes on America’s history, experience and reality (HER) and the larger role of America in “its world”/”our world” and in particular the role the State of Israel play in the Middle East to enable America attains its security. In his first address, following the launching of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood by Hamas, Mr. Biden noted that “… it is not about party or politics; it is about the security of our world; it is about the security of the United States.”
In other word, what is security, for the United States, cuts across party and politics even if, for the United States, politics drives how it pursues its security and that of Israel in relations to their geopolitics. This security excludes those of the countries of the Middle East and Iran. The world that Mr. Biden referenced in his address is mainly esoteric and the open part is the democratic one which represented the ideals the United States and Israel subscribe and to which most other countries of the Middle East including Iran did not. This, their world, INCLUDES the two partners – the United States and Israel – and EXCLUDES the other countries of the Middle East. This, their world, is driven by the needs and might of the United States and this security represented most if not every issues that drives what is security, whose security and what is a security issue for the United States. In this security’s Middle East sphere, the State of Israel represented the how to attaining this security, in the Middle East. The survival and thriving of Israel, from the point of view of the United States’ security, in the Middle East, is paramount to the United States of America.
Nigeria’s state is bereft of its own founding philosophy (nature, meaning and purpose) and ideals which would have become the platform to build its security – what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. This is unlike the United States and the State of Israel that drives their individual and collective what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved based on their founding philosophies and ideals. Thus for the Nigeria authorities where the only instrument in the hands of its persistently transient state and government is a HAMMER, most if not all problems define as security takes the form of a NAIL. Thus Mr. Biden’s speech on security and the subsequent actions and developments in the Departments of State and Defence including the visits of State and Defence Secretaries to Israel and some Arab countries and the deployment of two aircraft carriers to the Eastern Mediterranean and the resupply of munitions to Israel in pursuit of this security NAILED security for them as the name and work of the military, intelligence and law enforcement.
If Israel, the United States and Hamas defined the issues they individually put forward as existential and thus security, what is existential and security for Nigerians and Nigeria? Is the overwhelmingly bad governance or the ineffective and inefficient utilisation of human and material resources for the benefit of most of its people at the federal, states and councils levels, in the short, medium and long terms, which provides the enabling environments that stoke the flame of conflicts not enough to be declared existential, in the absence of the type of enabling environments of Israel, Hamas and the United States? Is it not time a NIGERIAN state emerge and embrace the universality of security within its history, experience and reality and in the context of a founding philosophy and ideals and commence the construct of the politics of security in an objective fashion?
Twenty four years after military rule ended, ideas, persons and institutions are still predominantly defence oriented and inclined. Rather than jettison the MILE-centric security that was built in the image of the military and occasioned by their constitutional mandate of providing defence, intelligence and law enforcement and begin the construction of security in the image of civilian and civil rule governance mandate that embrace the entire spheres of Nigeria, the elites of representative rule retained and converted military rule’s defence-grade security type into security that cater for the entire wellbeing of the elites of representative rule and the elites of the military, intelligence and law enforcement. This is the universality of security and the politics of security in Nigeria.
Nigeria, under civil rule system, needs to discard this security type as it is the foundation of the absence of free from care, something which secure, condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension for most Nigerians under civil rule system. The legislatures have the responsibility to lead the way in the construction of governance of security and thus unleashing security governance in Nigeria.