Security in Nigeria depends on human welfare, not state-centric bureaucratisation
Adoyi Onoja, 23 May 2012
The creation of a Ministry for Homeland Security further entrenches a militarized vision of security centred on the state. This is an internal version of 'peacekeeping', not the 'peacebuilding' the country needs.
As Nigeria grapples with persistent insecurity challenges – the Boko Haram menace representing the latest – attention has shifted to the call for the creation of a Ministry of Homeland Security. The call highlights the source, understanding and role of Nigerian intellectuals in the debate on post Cold War security. The thrust of post Cold War security theory and practice attempted to broaden and deepen security away from states and military, to human welfare and non-military matters. Once the debate was ignited, it filtered into the developing world where the term ‘security’ has become misrepresented. In Nigeria, the perception, source and practise of security prevalent amongst scholars and practitioners are outside prevailing Nigerian realities.
In Nigeria, the process of state formation ended with British colonisation. Colonisation imposed a pax Britannica while at the same time creating the conditions for new conflicts after independence. The struggle for control of the state by different forces was informed by the need to appropriate resources. These forces aggregated their interest in the name of pre-British communities and not the emerging Nigerian state. Military intervention in politics followed this partisan line. Thus while the West looked outside for its insecurity, in Nigeria it was – and is – within.
The issues of arrested development – incomplete state formation and adjustment, enforced union during colonial rule, mismanaged unity in pre- and post- independence eras and poor governance heightening abject poverty and unleashing conflicts – ripened the scene for permanent insecurity. Most restraints to conflict, such as familial, religious, moral and civic norms, weakened or collapsed against the growing child that was Nigeria. It was at this point the military entered the fray believing that the crisis of law and order required militarised regimentation and discipline to prevent the disintegration of the country.
Military rule mismanaged the state, perverted and centralised institutions, entrenched corruption and instituted a conception of security that dehumanises the human being. In the process the military diluted the function of civil and social institutions like the family, school, religious bodies, voluntary organisations and the workplace, whose contributions constitute security. Police effectiveness derived from the role played by these institutions, but with flagging confidence the police settled for the ogre of joint military-police operations. Nigerians believed the police had failed, hence the new order. Nor were the political class exempt. They grovel before the military in security matters even in spite of security sector reforms.
The everyday insecurity confronting Nigerians is beyond the comprehension of the military. It stems from the unsatisfactory and unhealthy food they consume; the poorly staffed and equipped hospitals available; inability to pay for drugs which can only function with a healthy diet; the unhealthy and confidence sapping clothes they wear; the resentment-breeding schools they attend with classes under trees or in dilapidated buildings; to ill motivated teachers constantly searching for greener pastures; to school children turned into farm labourers, to ill equipped and ill motivated secondary and tertiary education; to the poor and non existing transport infrastructure; to the inadequate public housing scheme; to insufficient infrastructure like pipe borne water, electricity, sewage, drainage and sanitation; to corrupt service providers and public servants; to the irregular payment of salary; to insecurity provided by the dozen ill motivated and brutalised security outfits. This variant of insecurity is beyond the comprehension of the military or the political class it mentored. Indeed the military and political classes have used all means at their disposal to distance themselves from their fellow citizens’ daily ordeal because they now feel threaten and therefore act to fortify their personal security.
Years of military domination denied Nigerians a dispassionate knowledge of security. To recover, we need to purge society of their influence and reorient security knowledge beginning from the family.
There are two possible referents of security – the state or the people. State-centred security is realist in its approach and saddles its defence to the armed forces. The pursuit of realist and human security in Nigeria respectively produce ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘peacebuilding’. Since Nigeria favours a militarised approach which creates conflicts, peacekeeping rather than peacebuilding prevails. Peacekeeping as an exercise of the state results from the work of idle hands, inducing conflicts exacerbated by lack of economic opportunities, which bolster vote-seeking politicians and the Boko Haram, and ultimately sanction state-centred security.
People-centred security emerged post-Cold War exposing the inhuman living conditions of Nigerians due to poor governance. Ken Booth posited that insecurity is a life-determining condition because people understand what security is by knowing how insecurity feels. Direct and unavoidable danger is the determining condition of Nigeria’s people, since independence but particularly in the last thirty years. Poor governance and management of the Nigerian state is responsible for this. Peacebuilding thus begins with tackling poor governance.