‘Contest of all against all’: Beyond the blame game of insecurity in Nigeria

By Ismail Misbahu
“Absence of fear” is a phrase with only three capturing words used by Dr. Siddique Abubakar (of the Center of Democratic Development Research and Training — CEDDERT, Zaria) in defining the meaning of insecurity in Nigeria. It means that when people felt no guilty to commit any crime or violence, and (or) stand against, by whatever means, any criminal or violent act of terror, then surely there’s absence of security. In other words, it means failure to protect people from fear and anxiety arising from threats against their lives, their properties, their freedom, duties and obligations, and even against their mental functioning and psychological performance.
The phrasing in the above title, of “contest of all against all” has been captured from the keynote address delivered by Prof. Aliyu Yahaya, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria as a ‘generic encapsulation’ that stood the right description of the issues emerging at the faculty symposium on Insecurity and National Development organized by Ahmadu Bello University under the able Vice Chancellorship of Prof. Kabir Bala, yesterday, 11, February, 2021.
Sitting in the conference hall, were influential and experienced academics from various faculties of the University, guests of honour including the Vice Chancellor, as well as the respected dignitaries including the representative of the Chief of Staff Nigerian Army Depot, Kaduna State Commissioner of Police (CP), Umar Muri and the Commandant, Nigerian Legal Studies Zaria. The conference was significant even for the pleasure of these security officers who commended the efforts of the University, and promised to follow up with some of the recommendations to improve on the systemic efficacy of the security apparatus.
Through presentations of three academic papers, the conference has succeeded in bringing into focus new perspectives that needed to be considered in profiling and strategizing the seemingly unstructured patterns of insecurity, as well as the unorganized approaches to handling security situation in the country.
One of the three papers presented, titled “State or People’s Security: Paradigm Shift for the Containment of Security Threats in Nigeria” has demonstrated on the existing problematic in the binary variables — as to ‘who is responsible’ between the state (and its elitist security, political and bureaucratic apparatus), and the non-state actors — the mass citizenry that are all involved. The major issue raised in the paper is the question of ‘misplaced strategic thinking’ towards approaching the security dilemma in the country since the Westphalian state.
The second paper with the title “A Reflection of Security Implications on Small Arms and Light Weapons Proliferation on Insecurity in the North Central State of Nigeria” has shifted a focus on the more important but largely neglected discourse on insecurity in Nigeria i.e. the question of small and light weapons proliferation among criminals. It has paddled on the wheel to leverage the fight against insecurity with careful and thorough reconnaissance of such weapons — that had hitherto been underestimated but increasingly becoming dangerous to human security. It discourages too much concentration on the use of force against criminals while proliferation of light ammunitions among the latter has remained unabated.
The third paper, indeed the last one before the chairing committee, is “Barrels to Buttons: The Nexus Between Communication and National Security in the 21st Century”. The emphasis here is in the role and impacts of communication on security profiling, as well as on security consciousness and awareness among citizens. It suggested communication should be strategized to arrive at a proper security profiling through an effective organic linkaging between the security agencies and media towards making and monitoring tactful guidelines that may have impact on the security communication techniques. It suggested that beyond the NIN and BVN linking strategy, more effective tools (such as those of GPS trackers, Virtual Emergence Operation Center—VEOC, Data Mining and Database Tracking System—DMDTS, Intrusion Detection System—IDS, Unified Security Management System, One Push Emergency Management System etcetera), should be employed to detect sports with potential security threats as well as narrow down the widening gap of social media disinformation, fake news and hate speech.
All the three papers raised important issues of national security, and are commendable even for their admiring doggedness. But the last two papers have properly took up the gauntlet — the first in which emphasised on the proliferation of small arms could not be put better. Emphasis on sampling and quantification of illegally holdings of small arms and light ammunitions to sustain and promote crimes in society has been properly stated. The second, in which a new perspective is drawn from a strongly perceived assumption, maintains that communication should be an all-engaging assignment to both the media and security agencies, as well as to both the latter and the people of community.
In the two outstanding submissions, emphasis has been laid on strategizing effective community based partnership with the people, the state and the security agencies. Propositions are given in the apposite circumstance of the University which for most of the last quarter of the penultimate 2020 has been witnessing incidences of kidnappings within its community of 100 to 120 thousand — Samaru and the campus quarters combined. The travails against this backdrop however, has been the general lack of trust among the participating agents, as well as the intense and unjustifiable animosity that accompanies the desultory lifestyle of the concerned public. This has corresponded so much in the absence of cooperation and mutual engagement of the parties involved.
So many recommendations have been proposed beyond the University and its community — beyond Zaria—Kaduna and beyond the north, and they have ended in defining ourselves more than we define our ethnic, religious or regional/sub-regional identities; in defining what we are more than what we give to ourselves as “Hausa/Fulani”, Yoruba, Igbo, Urhobo, Ijo, Ogoni, Egba etc. Trust, as the ideal anchor of unity has been the greatest pursuit of the symposium. It is so expensive that it must be driven by rigorous and sincere soul searching and introspection. It is such a priceless one that hardly could any living soul afford to its mind. But it is also necessary, as our mother, Professor Binta Abdulkarim pointed out, in transforming our genetic mutation into proper psychological leanings and attitudes.
It is greatly inspiring and interesting to witness a seminal conference that eventually realizes nothing other than the pursuit of unity in diversity — one that erases the mundane and badly tempered nuances akin to “restructuring”, de-emphasizing and deleting the shamelessly noisy moves to secession in its formulations. A gathering of the big and small — of a student learning a lesson and his experienced academic teacher. Of a security agent and his security burdens — drawn from diverse conglomerates sitting together and yearning to interrogate each other, as well as call into question the corruption and injustice that has eaten deeper in the nerve center of our blood and has come to define the fashion that’s our today’s all lifestyle. It has come to define the fashion of our politics and ideals, the fashion of our economy and security, the fashion of our legal and judicial setting, the fashion of our profession and spiritual togetherness.
Education, the industry in which the University formed part of, could not be overemphasized. It is the greatest treasure the University upholds to bequeath, and has taken up the giant strides to push the spirit of academically based research undertakings that may have impact on national security, education and economy. It emphasizes on the need to adopt ‘sincere gentleman approaches’ as a mode of engagement to University community towards eradicating any form of security threat. Absolute use of force could not help matters in addressing security situations among communities such as the ABU’s. There’s an insatiable demand for the community based partnership that should go along with a routine exercise on counselling and psychological mentoring withing the University community.
Still on education, the symposium points to the need for the introduction of ‘Survival Tactics’ in secondary school curricula that would surely help in making children develop ‘extra alternatives’ to conquer fears without tears and get rid of any threat of insecurity that may haunt on their lives. It is, as proposed by Dr. Siddique Abubakar, a recommendable syllabus to all secondary schools especially boarding girls schools as it sets to keep children abreast and conscious, as well as teach them the tactics of running away from danger.
On the whole, the solution to our real day security challenges, like the problems, should also become the ‘contest of all for all”!.
Mr. Misbahu wrote via