We were made to know, by our trainers (at home, school and elsewhere), that words/terminologies with unknown/unsure meaning(s), to us, should be verified – for what they stand/truly are – before they are used. This is an important training aimed at equipping learners (including experts) toward avoiding the mistake of wrong deployment of words/terminologies notwithstanding that the usage may be for the best intention. Wrong usage of words/terminologies, (knowingly or unknowingly), most times, is one of the opportunities that our ‘learned’ friends latch onto to win cases in the court of law. The example just given is to reinforce the importance of using words/terminologies ‘rightly’. What are we driving at here? We are trying to look, simplistically, at operational definitions of some freely used words/terminologies for the purpose of analysing our contemporary Nigeria. Today, this country is facing many challenges like those revolving round severe security lapses. This reality has made most (if not all) law-abiding citizens to continuously call on governments to do the correct needful that will yield sustainable results.
It is, therefore, important to ask seemingly simple questions. Firstly, what is government? Dictionary definition states that it is the group of people with the authority to govern a country or state. Considering this definition, Nigeria, certainly, has governments (at the Local Government Areas, States and Federal levels) – even as reservations exist – and by the dictates of the (warped) 1999 Constitution (as amended) the governments have the ‘authority’ to govern all parts of the geographical space known as Nigeria, as presently constituted. This takes us to the concept known, in political studies, as the State. Again, we rely on our simple definition that defines State as a (nation) or territory considered as an organised political community under ONE government. In analysing this definition, questions will definitely pop up. Examples: Is Nigeria, today, truly, one nation? Or is it still a conglomeration of ‘nations’? If yes is the answer to this second question, then, are these ‘nations’ on the same page? In what manner(s) is/are our political communities organised? Are this country’s political communities under ONE government at the different levels? Correct answer(s) to this last question may assist in answering the earlier ones.
It is no more news that Nigeria has become a geographical entity where some people, termed – perhaps wrongly – as non-state actors, have been made, and/or develop themselves, to become ‘alternative governments’ controlling swathes of forests, open land and ungoverned spaces, to the extent of openly extracting taxes, unhindered, from some of our compatriots. This is intriguingly worrisome as these groups appear not to operate, any more, like non-state actors but like legitimately constituted governments! This is evidently demonstrated through visits, of well placed individuals, to the enclaves of these (seemingly wrongly named) non-state actors including government agents’ well orchestrated regular negotiations with them – whatever they are known as. The question is: Are these people actually non-state actors? This question is necessary because when governments – accepted (for the purpose of this discussion) to possess the monopoly on violence or the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force for the benefits of their law-abiding citizens – appear to have abdicated their role of protecting the citizens of the territory they superintend over, then, obviously, something(s) must be seriously wrong.
When ‘democratically elected’ governments cannot, or decide not to, use their monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of order (in dislodging, completely, the criminals causing mayhem in a country) but are very much interested in muzzling their people, mostly law-abiding ones, then, as opined earlier, something(s) must be amiss. It is either they are having serious legitimacy problem or have lost their compass (if they ever had one). These kinds of governments, as earlier manifested, and up till now, in Nigeria, repress their unarmed people through means, which can only be described as autocratic/dictatorial, such as the use of State apparatus to arrest and incarcerate objective critics and peaceful protesters including people with legitimate grievances, for long periods without trials. When there are trials, governments worsen things by deliberately disobeying legitimate orders from properly constituted courts of competent jurisdiction. Hence, when a government decides to listen favourably only to groups (mostly undocumented illegal foreigners) violating its country’s borders and amassing assault weapons, in well known locations within the country’s territory, then it is imperative that we ask salient questions. For instance, who are Nigerians and what qualifies anyone to be one?
Nobody is, or should be, asking the three tiers of government in this country what strategies/tactics they will adopt in securing us. No, we are not interested in those details. In fact, such is not discussed in the public domain! We only want results! It is governments’ responsibility that Nigerians are secured and this is an inalienable right. However, we demand that the politicisation of Nigerian security should stop! Let us place round pegs in round holes. Nigeria has abundance of sound human resources in all aspects of its national life, only that it is currently being run by people that are just mediocrities who are at best charlatans/con-artists. The uncountable billions of Naira never meant to be accounted for, set aside monthly/yearly as ‘security vote’, should be used for what the name suggests except if what is actually done with these monies is/are different from what we are made to believe. This appears to be the reality considering the well publicised challenges (enabled by the Nigerian State rather than the enemies) encountered by our gallant men (and women) in trying to bring the insurgency, banditry, and all associated and localised criminal acts, under control, most especially in the northern parts of Nigeria.
We cannot continue like this in this country! We should not tread the road that leads nowhere except to a place similar to, or worse than, Somalia. This is not to disrespect Somalia and the Somalis. We are only stating a historical occurrence and facts that speak for themselves. Yes, it is crystal clear that Nigeria had been, and is still being, bedevilled by a dearth of high quality leadership. Thus, we should continually remind ourselves that these pretenders with no transparent vision and mission currently masquerading as leaders should be routinely expelled and pushed out of public offices – en masse – through democratic means and replaced with people having sincere capacity to enable security, justice, peace and tranquillity in convincing proportion in this country. For now, in giving the current Nigerian governments an undeserved benefit of the doubt, we will implore them to convince all, that they are neither incapacitated nor overwhelmed by the country’s security challenges. They need to prove to sceptics, who believe that governments are part of, or even, the problem, that this is not so. The Federal Government may seek for external help, if need be, keeping its eyes on the ball and bearing in mind that free meal is now scarce.
Andrew A. Erakhrumen, PhD
Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management,
University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria