NATIONAL SECURITY IN NIGERIA

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INTRODUCTION

To the ordinary man or woman on the street, security means safety or protection from harm and danger. Security is very important because as Zabadi rightly observes, “unless one can be assured of his physical security, everything else will be meaningless”. Imobighe also adds that “without security, individuals within a state will find it difficult to engage in productive activities. Similarly, without security, the state is bound to experience great difficulty in harnessing its human development and the promotion of the general well-being of the people. It was Ogbonna Onovo, Nigeria’s former Inspector General of Police who said, “Every human being is always conscious of his or her security at any given time, and at all places. In the same way, every government worth its salt all over the world makes the security of lives and property within its territorial area of jurisdiction a priority agenda, just as it makes the survival, continuity, defense, and security of the state a primary goal”.

According to the US Institute for National Strategic Studies Team, “at the heart of a Defense White Paper is the government’s concept of national security. Consequently, Nwolise clearly observes that Nigeria presently has a national security policy that was articulated by the Obasanjo administration. To him, Obasanjo stated the following while formulating Nigeria’s Grand Strategy for national security. Nigeria in practice follows a state-based rather than human-based national security concept and practice, thereby falling far short of what serious nations do. He further made his claim that Nigeria’s National Security policy does not emphasize human security which is the real issue in the national security agenda of the 21st century. To most of the political elite in Nigeria, national security is still seen in the Cold War era perspective of procuring sophisticated weapons and personnel.  This projects a narrow, archaic and false image of national security.

In a similar view, Osakwe, clearly posits that “as a concept that was passed down to African states from the colonial era, security usually assumes a militaristic approach either because the political system is inherently unstable or those in control of state continuously wish to remain in power. In either case, emphasis is on the acquisition of arms and ammunition to the detriment of national human development. In Nigeria, the conventional defense or militaristic doctrine is what guides defense thinking; whereby, a sufficiently effective modern military organization is seen as the answer to internal and external threats in Nigeria Basically, the military as an instrument of the state is designed to serve the purpose of physical self-protection against harmful threats to its sovereignty and territorial interests.

According to Katsina, “Nigeria as a sovereign entity faces no threat from its West African neighbours, because her economic and military strength supersedes those of neighboring countries. Declaration of war by her sub-Saharan neighbors is impossible. Furthermore, Nigeria has never been in direct open conflict with a world power capable of invading her, except in her quest to consolidate supremacy and independence in African affairs under Murtala and Abacha. In addition, the respect, prestige, and big-brother status accorded Nigeria by her sub-Saharan neighbors make it impossible and morally wrong to attack or invade any country in the region”. From this reasoning, it becomes obvious that the main sources of threat to Nigeria’s national security lay manifest in socio-economic and political inequality.

Omodia and Aliu (2013:39), maintain that a return to democratic rule in 1999 brought a feeling of hope and optimism that socio-economic and political issues would be tackled. Today, the nation is on the verge of claiming the failed state status as aspirations and hopes have turned into disillusion and disappointment. This anger and frustration have fueled violent conflicts, inter and intra-tribal and religious, armed groups engagement with the state, and a high rate of crime and insecurity. Groups like the killer herdsmen, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Boko Haram, O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Arewa People’s Congress (APC), Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, Egbesu Boys, armed robbery and kidnappings and bandits have tagged Nigeria, a failing, if not a failed state in this century.

 

Moreover, the manifest presence of political and socio-economic inequality in Nigeria constitutes a more formidable threat to Africa’s security and Nigeria’s national security particularly. Based on a National Bureau of Statistics report in 2010, over 100 million Nigerians live in poverty on less than 1 dollar a day. As a result, some of the world’s poorest people live in the continent of Africa, Nigeria inclusive. Threats such as corruption, tribalism, poverty, bad governance, unemployment, near-zero industrial bases have remained lethal as the era of military rule, supplemented by an ineffective and corrupt bureaucracy have damaged the values of political accountability and people-based leadership.

However, it should be observed that many scholars in recent times have redefined security away from the dominant view. It was Robert McNamara who argued that: Security is the development and without development, there can be no security. Any country that seeks to achieve adequate military security against the background of acute food shortages, population explosion, and low level of productivity, the fragile infrastructural base for technological development, inadequate and inefficient public utilities, and chronic problem of unemployment has a false sense of security.

In corroborating this assertion, Dudley Seers notes that development is made up of the eradication of poverty, unemployment, and inequality. To him: The questions to ask about a country’s development are: What has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality? If all three of these have become less severe, beyond doubt there has been a period of development for the country concerned. If one or two of these central problems have been growing worse, especially if all three have, it would be strange to call the resulting development, even if per capita income has soared.

From the above, it becomes obvious that poverty, unemployment, and inequality are indeed potent threats to national security. The security of the individual citizen is therefore very important. For the citizens to live in peace, the necessities of life, food, good health, jobs, justice, freedom, and all other ingredients of development must be provided.

As Ebo, argues, “the security of a nation is ultimate to be found in the security of the citizens”. This makes the presence of food essential in national security because its absence projects a potential source of threat to the security of the nation. Ebo further emphasized that “…a hungry man is an angry man and in an atmosphere of social and economic alienation, a hungry man is more likely to listen to the rumblings of his empty stomach than to the gospel of government publicists.” A strong economy and a healthy population are assets to any country. Thus, food security is seen as the first security any nation must have since a country that cannot adequately feed its citizenry leaves them at the mercy of donor agencies that can manipulate them.

According to a Central Bank Report (2004), “Nigeria has been consistently threatened by the high rate of corruption, mismanagement, the low exchange rate of the naira, high inflation and low industrial capacity. These threats no doubt have implications for Nigeria’s security as indeed, a viable economy is essential for the survival of a nation. Ogbeidi (2012) argues that corruption and mismanagement have affected and dominated the Nigerian economy to a large extent. As Sakaba maintains, corruption has become endemic in the Nigerian polity. He further stressed that the security posture adopted by a state is largely determined by the resources available to that state, and where these resources are plundered and mismanaged, national security would be affected.

Furthermore, Nigeria’s national security is also greatly challenged by the plethora of financial crimes being perpetrated in the financial sector of the economy. These crimes include embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, currency counterfeiting, document forgery, insider trading, and other forms of economic and industrial sabotage. The implications of these activities have negatively affected developmental efforts in Nigeria.

Nigeria has the potential to be among the league of developed states in the world. However, to achieve this, it is imperative now for the political elite to reject old habits of corruption which has hitherto limited Nigeria from becoming a well-developed state. This does not relegate the need for strong institutions. However, no state can develop strong institutions without the essentials of good leadership, leaders to implement the conditions needed for creating and sustaining strong institutions. A positive change in the mindset of the Nigerian political elite is all that is needed to eradicate corruption in Nigeria and for the state and its citizenry to experience sustainable socio-economic development.

It was Fage who observed that, in achieving the objective of national security, a nation must be economically buoyant. An economically buoyant nation can be confident when exercising national power. Karl Marx (in Aligwara, 2009:65), highly supports this notion as he argues that, “the economy is the fundamental base on which the superstructure of the society is made”. As Tedheke (1998:8) asserts, “economic power must be viewed as the ultimate source of national power.

THE SOLUTION

The primary objective of national security shall be to strengthen the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to advance her interests and objectives, to contain instability, control crime, eliminate corruption, enhance genuine development, progress and growth, and improve the welfare and well-being and quality of life of every citizen (Grand Strategy for national security). Therefore, in redefining national security in the 21st century, Nigeria must operate a buoyant, diversified and indigenous economic infrastructure that will serve as the base for sustaining education, research, and development, science, and technology; as these are paramount for a highly vibrant and industrialized economy which in turn, would not only increase military power and capability alone but other vital areas of national development such as agriculture and socio-economic empowerment in all.

 

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