Taming the Festering Insecurity: Good Governance as Magic Wand

By Chidi Omeje

There is a community of people who believe that the only way out of the raging internal security challenges assailing this country is to deploy our troops to shoot their way out of our problems. For believers in such ‘militarist approach to internal security management’ (and they are found mostly among our political elites), the Nigerian military possesses the magic wand with which it can figuratively wave at the multifaceted internal security challenges and they vanish.

If you want to understand our political elites’ predilection for military deployment to deal with any security infraction, cast your mind back to when these current Service Chiefs were newly appointed and how state governors were trooping to the Armed Forces Complex in down town Garki Abuja for courtesy visits to the new military czars. To them (the governors), outsourcing the headache of the security challenge in their respective domains to the military was such an elixir that took away the pain of having to think outside the box. I mean, why worry coming up with smart governance ideas that could tame rising insecurity when there are willing, able and ready troops with magic bullets available to shoot down security challenges?

The curious irony, though, is that it is the same political elite who rely mostly on the ready-availability of the soldiers that are usually the harshest in thumbing down the troops whenever there is a slipup in operations and also loudest in amplifying such missteps using the instrumentality of the media. Very often, you see disgruntled or attention-seeking politicians pick on the military with the illusion that by attacking the military, they are getting at the Federal Government.

And so, the deployment of military troops for various internal security purposes has become so commonplace that it is now a reflex action for governments (federal and states) and even citizens to look up to the soldiers to take care of any reported security infraction. Even more telling is the fact that, owing to the Nigerian military’s subordination to civil authorities and its vaunted readiness to be deployed to flashpoints, some other security agencies have conveniently abdicated their responsibilities and are currently more interested in ‘comfort zones’ like VIP protection!

The systematic bastardization of our internal security operations architecture to the point that the last line of defence in internal security operations is now the first responders while the otherwise designated lead agency takes the back seat is a topic for another day, but nothing really disproves the grandiose expectations from the Nigerian military more than the unsavory reality on the ground.

The reality staring us in the face is that despite the indefatigable efforts of troops of the Nigerian military who are currently deployed to 36 out of 36 states to combat security challenges, insecurity is not only rising across the regions and states; it is appearing to be intractable. What does that tell you? It tells you that a military (kinetic) approach to internal security operations is not the cure-all solution to security problems. Relying solely on the military is akin to treating just the symptoms of an ailment, ignoring the root cause. Unless the disease that is the root cause of the symptom is treated, the illness will persist despite the efforts committed to addressing it. So are the internal security challenges confronting our country; if we don’t tackle the root cause, merely shooting at its manifestations is just scratching the surface, and that root cause is BAD GOVERNANCE!

Bad governance, especially at the sub-national level, is the chief predisposing factor in crime and criminality across Nigeria. Who doesn’t know that there is a correlation between bad governance (which breeds poverty) and spike in crime and criminality? Who doesn’t know that inept and corrupt leadership breeds poverty, hunger, misery, despondency, frustration, irritability, desperation, and ultimately, criminality in society?

Of course, nothing is more axiomatic than the saying that a hungry man is an angry man and that he listens more to the rumblings in his empty stomach than any sanctimonious preaching for patriotism or good behaviour.

In fact, the hungry man gets angrier and more fatalistic seeing how those entrusted with the common patrimony are coveting state treasury, living large and in mindless opulence with their families and cronies, at his expense. He becomes irritable and petulant as he is further deprived of social amenities and denied social justice; he turns desperate, daring and deviant as his endurance limit wanes. It actually takes exceptional self-discipline and the grace of God for anyone in such a perennial poverty bracket to escape the above trajectory. Therein lies the correlation between bad governance and spike in crime and criminality in society. Caveat: The above scenario is not an attempt to criminalize poverty but to draw attention to how bad governance predisposes citizens to anti-social behavior.

It is bad governance (read corruption, ineptitude and resultant malfeasance) that bred the army of hungry, restless unemployed youths across the country today; it is bad governance that manufactured 18.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria today; it is bad governance that ensures lack of institutional capacities, which in turn denies citizens social and economic rights. All these negatives, which are orchestrated by inept and corrupt governance, are what have ensured a steady stream of prospective conscripts into crimes and criminalities in our country. It is no brainer, therefore, that the only way out is a change of heart by our political elite, who symbolize inept and corrupt leadership. But will they?

Sadly, our dear country has never been in short supply of corrupt leaders who bequeath nothing but bad governance and dashed hopes. Not long ago, a bemused world was treated to the sickening paradox of how a federal ministry created for poverty alleviation and humanitarian initiatives was turned into a paragon of corruption and mindless looting of public funds. It was also in this country that, despite widespread public outcry, federal lawmakers went ahead to spend scarce public resources on insanely expensive exotic cars for members at a time when the masses are dying of hunger.

An ex-governor of one of the states is currently having a running battle with the anti-corruption agency over the allegation that he looted more than N80 billion belonging to his poor state. Another former governor of a state considered the epicenter of banditry in the north is accused of misappropriating N70 billion; another one allegedly diverted N10 billion for a non-existent airport; a former federal minister was accused of stealing billions to float an ‘audio’ airline; and the list from recent memory goes on. So, the indisputable truth really is that for Nigeria to decisively surmount the various internal security challenges across the country, we must begin to pay attention to the quality of governance at all the tiers of government.

With over 130 million Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty—in a country so blessed with both natural and human resources but blighted by bad leaders— it is only expected that it will be weighed down by its own internal contradictions. The military does not possess any magic wand to wave away insecurity, and in any case, military option alone has never stamped out terrorism and banditry anywhere in the world. Security is not only the responsibility of the security forces. Security is everybody’s business, which is why the all-of-society approach is often recommended.

No less a person than Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Christopher Musa, aptly captured the scenario when he addressed members of the House of Representatives late last year, and he said: “We have realized that the magic wand in addressing insecurity is good governance. Anywhere you have good governance, insecurity goes down. The security forces can only produce 30%. We can only provide an enabling environment. If other aspects are not addressed, it is a problem. People can’t eat. People are hungry. No matter how you tell them to keep the peace, they will not because they have to eat otherwise, they will be predisposed to criminality”. Incontrovertible!
Yes, it is imperative for the Armed Forces of Nigeria to have enough boots on the ground, steel in the waters, and eyes in the sky in order to defend our country from external aggression or internal insurrection, but the incontrovertible truth is that no country shoots its way into law and order. Law and order, peace and security are dividends of good governance and credible leadership.

As the late literary icon Chinua Achebe rightly identified in his little book, “The Trouble with Nigeria”, Nigeria’s problem is rooted in leadership, and unless we get our leadership right, we will keep groping in darkness.

President Tinubu must lead the way in engendering good governance, and hopefully it will be replicated in the states and local governments. That is the best place to start if we must tame the monster of insecurity in our dear country.

*Chidi Omeje is the publisher of Security Digest (www.securitydigestng.com) and Editor at Zagazola Media Network