Sunday, July 10, 2016

Citizens’ role in Nigerian security

The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government – Section 14 (2) (b) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

Globally, the greatest danger faced by many countries is not the much parroted economic recession but insecurity. Many hitherto safe havens are now faced with the monster of terrorism. Just last Monday, July 4, 2016, Saudi Arabia was hit by wave of terror attacks which claimed four lives. Not even Medina, one of the holiest sites in Islam – was spared.  Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Belgium, France, United States of America, Ukraine, Niger Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and our dear Nigeria are some of the countries that have in recent past been faced with terror attacks. Indeed, I can say without equivocation that insecurity is one of the top three problems facing Nigeria at present. Since 2009, insurgency has been plaguing the country with about twenty thousands lives lost to the Boko Haram challenge alone. Alongside are the soaring incidences of kidnapping for ransom, banditry, herdsmen attacks on farmers, cultism, rape and other sundry acts of criminality.

Annually, Nigeria defence budget ranks among the top three in terms of allocation. Yet the country is less secure. This is in spite of the creation of many security agencies. Today, apart from the traditional security outfits constitutionally established such as the Police and armed forces – Navy, Air force and the Army; Para-military agencies such as the State Security Service,  the National Intelligence Agency,  the Defence Intelligence Service  as well as  the Nigeria  Security and Civil Defence Corps have been established by the Acts of  Parliament. Many private security companies have also been licensed to operate in the country. The question is, in spite of all these plethora of security agencies, why do Nigerians still feel unsafe and insecure?

After much brooding, I found that the missing link has been the citizens of this country. We are the ones that have made the country ungovernable.   I concede that it is not all of us, but a significant number of my compatriots. How? When the Nigerian Constitution placed the burden of security and welfare of the people on the government, the grundnorm simply asked us to take care of ourselves. Government is not a person. It is an impersonal noun. People run government, isn’t it? We, electorates, who are part of the citizenry, elect our leaders to secure our lives and care for our wellbeing. It’s a form of social contract. The point is that, the leaders we have elected or appointed as the case may be are part of the citizenry. Now, if the leaders will serve us well and not engage in rat race for personal aggrandisement, this country would have been a better place to live.

It all starts from the basics. Take our electoral process for instance, according to George Jean Nathan, “Bad officials are the ones elected by good citizens who do not vote.” Many of us fail to exercise our franchise at elections. We refuse to take interest in dispassionately assessing who become our leaders. Instead of following political debates, we are busy following English Premiership Football or Telemundo. On the day of election, we complain about the weather and refuse to participate in the voting process. We fail to join political parties and never bothered to contest elections even when we are convinced we could do better than the present crops of political actors and gladiators. We prefer the appellation of social critics and human rights activists. So when the clueless and brainless get voted into office, we increase our wailing. 

When the dishonourable citizens get into political offices either by election or appointment, nothing noble could be expected of them. That is why we see all manner of atrocities being committed by our so called leaders.  A case in point is the unfolding drama about the mind-boggling N2.1bn meant for the purchase of arms and ammunition to fight insurgency in the North East Nigeria which was allegedly diverted by our former National Security Adviser. The immediate past NSA in cahoots with some top military brass as well as their civilian collaborators reportedly used the money meant to buy sophisticated weapons to fight insurgency to partly illegally fund the elections of some political gladiators while the remaining was used to purchase some archaic military hardware. Anyone following the revelations from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at the court proceedings where some of these looters are at present being tried would be shocked at the gargantuan and humongous sums of money reportedly stolen and now partly recovered from some of these scoundrels in government.  Just picture in your mind how the unpatriotic acts of the accused citizens have led to the death and displacement of thousands of their fellow citizens.

The people who are engaged in pipeline vandalism, cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery and other sundry crimes which have made this country insecure are mainly compatriots, fellow citizens.  There are those of us who are guilty by association. Take for example those in charge of our armoury either in the military or police who sell or loan weapons to criminal elements to perpetrate crimes on the rest of society.  There are also those of us who are fifth columnists and saboteurs who leak information to criminals on how they can go about their evil business without being caught. We aid and abet the criminals by not giving vital information which could lead to their arrests to security agencies.  In many neighbourhoods where the resident associations decided to hire private security guards to protect them, there are some tenants and landlords who often refuse to pay their security fees as at when due. That is wrong!

Our salvation lies in our hands as it concerns security. We need to collectively change our nonchalance attitude to safety and security. As a good citizen, if you see something, say something! As rightly observed by Andrew Jackson, “Every good citizen makes his country's honour his own, and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defence and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it.” Let us be the change we want to see. Let’s be good citizens in our own right and see whether all these hullaballoo about insecurity  will not be reduced to the barest minimum. We are the world, we are the government, we are the ones that will make Nigeria secure.