Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Good Governance as a Counter to Terrorism

For the umpteenth time, the nation’s security was threatened with the 16/6 bombing of the Police Force Headquarters in Abuja by terrorist group called Boko Haram. The Islamic fundamentalist group had, prior to the attack, raided many police stations, prisons and few other public institutions particularly in the North-eastern part of the country, killing and maiming people and destroying properties. The 16 June attack on Force Headquarters is significant in two ways. It was the first suicide attack on the shores of Nigeria. Second, the assault on the police head office is the first of its kind and exposes the docility of Nigerian police in counter-terrorism. I do not envy President Jonathan or the heads of the various security agencies in Nigeria. Truly, uneasy lays the head that wears the crown.

Terrorism has become a global phenomenon no doubt; however, not many countries have witnessed the kamikaze act of suicide bombings. It is regrettable that Nigeria mostly hugs international news for the wrong reasons. We are part of the PAIN countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria) where polio is yet to be eradicated. Now we have joined other PAINS countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Somalia) where suicide bombings have evolved. Prevention, they say, is cheaper and better than cure. Unfortunately, we could not avert our insecurity from escalating to suicide bombing. Truth be told, it will be a long drawn war. The good thing is that, with the right strategy in place, we can reduce the soaring crime and criminality to the barest minimum. In fact, the panacea to terrorism is good governance. How do I mean?

Society’s preference for democracy over and above any other forms of government is the expectation of better life. People believe that democracy is a social contract in which citizens elect their representatives to government in order for them to work for the common good. Citizens under democracy look forward to an egalitarian society where their rights to the good things of life are guaranteed. They envisage self actualisation. In the case of Nigeria, over twelve years of democratic practice have not resulted into better life. Since the Second Republic (1979 – 1983) when the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari introduced austerity measures, the hope of self actualisation for most Nigerians has dimmed. The nation’s austerity measures has been sustained by succeeding military and civilian regimes as subsequent structural adjustment programmes have led to unprecedented job loss, wage cut, inflation, unemployment and poverty. Unfortunately, while the political and military elites are urging the populace to imbibe belt-tightening measures, they were busy stealing and misappropriating our common wealth.

The upshot of the unending austerity measures is what we are witnessing today. Since our leaders reneged on the social contract which was endorsed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) in section 14 (2) (b) which reads: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government” it therefore should not come as a surprise that peace of our dear nation is under threat. To reverse this ugly trend, it is imperative that government at all levels make people’s money to work for them. Federal, State and Local Governments should initiate pro-poor policies aimed at alleviating the excruciating pains of Nigeria’s suffering masses. The good sign-post of these pro-poor measures is the eight millennium development goals viz. Eradication of extreme hunger and poverty, universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and women empowerment, reduction of child mortality, improved maternal health, eradication of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability, and development of a global partnership for development.

It is my believe that if our comatose education sector is revived with adequate and accountable funding, then millions of out- of- school children who pose serious threat to the country’s security would be taken off the street, become well groomed and developed into asset rather than being a liability on the nation. What I have in mind is affordable and quality education. It is discomfiting that in many public schools, particularly at primary and tertiary levels, pupils still study under extreme hardship. Nigeria needs what the famous author; Elizabeth Price termed ‘Education without tears’. Education is one of the strongest weapons to fight crime, ignorance, unemployment and poverty.

In the opinion of Nobel Laureate and Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw: ‘The evil to be attacked is not sin, suffering, greed, priest-craft, king-craft , demagogy, monopoly, ignorance, drink, war, pestilence, nor any of the other consequences of poverty, but just poverty itself.” Shaw also said that “Lack of money is the root of all evil”. There is no gainsaying that terrorism feeds on ignorance and poverty. A poor and ignorant fellow is easy to indoctrinate and brainwash to engage in acts of criminality because he or she has little or nothing to live for. On the other hand, someone who has attained self actualisation and have a lot at stake will not be susceptible to being recruited to engage in suicide bombing or any other acts of terrorism for that matter.

It has been said, time and again, that Nigeria’s army of unemployed youths constitute a major threat to national security. We have some employment schemes running. They include National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP). However, the impact of these agencies has been minimal. What the government need to do is create the enabling environment for private sector investment in the economy. One of such is the provision of basic infrastructures such as adequate electricity, good transportation network, potable water, credit loan scheme and good policy framework. It remains to be seen how government intends to disburse the N500 million earmarked in 2011 budget for provision of employment opportunity to teeming Nigerians. It is sad that six months into the year, the employment scheme is yet to take off. It is imperative for government to introduce welfare scheme for the unemployed and the poor. Nigeria has the resources to pay monthly stipend to the vulnerable people in her society.

Concomitantly, Nigeria’s security agencies need to redouble their efforts to make Nigeria safer than it is now. Intelligence gathering and counter insurgency measures need to be put in place. It is good that Nigeria now has an anti-terrorism act. This law must be put to good use. Our security agencies must work together, share information and be proactive. It is only a secured country that can enjoy foreign direct investment; peace is a prerequisite for development.