Let me start by stating that my original intention this week had been to write on the quest for genuine, broad based, socially inclusive national transformation; and why the Nigeria ruling class cannot and are not suited to lead this process. But this was before being ‘rudely’ but also pleasantly interrupted by the National Broadcast of President GEJ, and the declaration of state of emergency in three states of the federation. The implication of this interruption is that the write up on the transformation of Nigeria would have to wait a few more days.
Having stated this, it is important to clarify my position on the state of emergency declaration, and its role in the quest to combat insecurity and restore peace. From the way I have phrased the title, three core issues and processes are explicit; First the declaration of a state of emergency is welcomed, and should be supported; second, this welcome and support is qualified, and contingent on how it is to be implemented; and third; tackling insecurity at its current threat level and intensity, requires much more than the ‘law and order’ restoration objective of a state of emergency.
For once, the president has acted like the Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces, which role and function is constitutionally conferred on him as the President; and not as he has acted with respect to tackling the cabal in the Oil and Gas sector – the subsidy and crude oil organised crime empires; nor has he continues to act with respect to tackling the cankerworm of corruption that is at the root of the paradox of economic growth with increasing poverty levels, joblessness and homelessness. It behoves on citizens, and in particular active citizens to put greater pressure on this president and his regime, to act with equal determination against these other ills plaguing the nation.
Back to the state of emergency discourse; A state of emergency, like an amnesty program in response to armed insurgencies, are by their nature, short term, interventionist processes, aimed at mitigating the impact of the crisis, by reducing, or temporarily eliminating acts of (armed) violence; in order to create the room and space to tackle more medium to long term issues at the heart of the crisis.
So whereas a state of emergency declaration and its implementation, with increased security response, is aimed at reducing the level of violence and mitigating its impact; it cannot, and will not of itself lead to the achievement of peace, just like an amnesty program; and this is regardless of how long you prolong the emergency status or an amnesty program. Without tackling and addressing the root causes of the crisis, which is ultimately a failure of governance and leadership; one can only buy time for a while longer! And the danger is that the mere superficial elongation/prolongation of the emergency status or amnesty, without tackling the real issues, provides a matrix or substrate for the root causes to and real problems to hibernate incubate and fester, waiting for a more auspicious time to re-emerge in a renewed and more intractable orgy of violence. This is more like the parable of the incomplete casting out of a demon, which then returns with a coalition of demons to posses the person.
I will use the Niger Delta amnesty program to illustrate the point being made here, before going on to address other issues. So for instance whereas at no time in the entire history of the Niger Delta insurgency could more than a combined figure of 5,000 persons have been under arms; the amnesty program today has covered more than 30,0000 youths, supposed repentant ex-militants! This figure is the size of the army of some countries! And it not only flies in the face of reality, it also flies in the face of history! No where in the world has insurgent armies waging a rebellion [we are not here speaking of a civil war pitching units of a recently single armed forces command] numbered in their tens of thousands! Not the PKK, not FARC, Not the Cuban Castro led 26th of July Movement; not Umkonto We Sizwe [the armed wing of the ANC], not SPLA, not any armed rebel movement past or present! The implication of this is that like everything touched by the Nigeria ruling elite, including its emergent wings, this amnesty program has been corrupted and bastardised, and has been turned into conduit pipe for dispensing patronage.
Secondly, we have a situation, where combatants that are supposed to be not only disarmed, but demobilized and re-integrated, are effectively being kept and tied to their commanding officers, thus effectively not only keeping the formations and their command structures intact, but also helping to recruit and grow the formations. So you have a situation, where stipends [a gross misnomer considering the fact the amounts being paid are in the region of 300% more than the minimum wage] being paid to repentant militants are paid through their commanding officers! But not only this, commanding officers are awarded various quantitative and qualitative contract packages, at various tiers of government, in a manner that ensures that those to be recruited to benefit from these contracts are the boys and girls attached to these commanders! The implication of all these is that the structures and loyalties of the various militant factions, are being kept and nurtured by a program aimed at discouraging militancy.
What makes these first two observations worrisome and counter-productive is the third fact; and this is that no real, concerted, planned, focused, strategic intervention to address the underdevelopment of the region, the grand scale of poverty and joblessness particularly among the youths; the sorry state of basic infrastructures and service, is taking place or ongoing. The annual budget of the amnesty program for example rivals, and is even more than the annual budget of the Niger Delta Ministry; and according to a recent report of the presidential monitoring team on NDDC projects, more than 33% of projects have been abandoned, with a further 40% still undergoing prolonged implementation; while only just about 20% have been completed. The report did not touch on the quality and or effectiveness in terms of utilisation, of the completed projects.
So we are faced with a situation whereby a more than N350bn in combined allocations [that is combined annual budgets of NDDC, MNDA, PAP]; but excluding the combined annual budgets of the Niger Delta states which is more than a trillion naira; is being annually invested in the Niger Delta, without the core developmental challenges haven or being addressed! This is a recipe for disaster, a time bomb waiting to re-explode!
This is why it is important to learn from this potential misadventure in implementing the state of emergency and moving beyond it to actually begin to tackle and address the socio-economic issues at the root of the manipulation of religion and poverty by the elite in fomenting organised violence. All of the reports of official inquiries into organised and oftentimes armed violence outbreaks in this country, have been unanimous on one thing: the direct and indirect implication of highly placed elite elements, oftentimes utilizing and under the protection of state infrastructure and resources; the implication of these lots in the initial mobilisation and arming of grievance! What has always happened, in making this competitive accumulation of means of destruction, as opposed to means of production; become problematic and unmanageable, has always been the shift in the balance of power between the armed gangs, and their [political] elite sponsors and general overseers. This shift takes place when the armed gangs have acquired enough arms, to be able to become self sufficient and less dependent on their sponsors; and have acquired enough space to grow and consolidate under state the protection assured by their sponsors because of their control over or access to state power and its resources; that consolidated enough to be able to build new alliances and survive on their own. At this point they become a menace to society and the stability of the nation, the state and its institutions; as they begin to threaten and deal mortal blows on the security of ordinary citizens, as well as of their erstwhile sponsors!
Thus in the first instance in implementing the state of emergency, it is important to ensure that this does not provide the platform for gross abuse and violation of human rights of citizens; and that civil-military relations frameworks are put in place involving local communities; with representatives of local communities, citizens’ organisations, and elected state structures serving in Civil-Military committees that include representatives of the armed forces. It will be clearly important that such a framework through its representative committees are involved in decision making processes, and have some form of monitoring oversight on the implementation of security tasks. This should be combined with community policing initiatives; whereby the joint police-community committees are established and allowed to work.
In this way and manner, the emergency security operations become a means to fight the insurgents effectively, and protect citizens, while adequately involving citizens’ in their own protection and security. This will also aid intelligence gathering, it will help to build and restore trust and confidence, and will help to isolate the insurgents and extremists and their supporters and or sympathizers.
What is more, it is also equally important that elite elements linked with supporting or sympathizing with the insurgents be exposed and dealt with through effective justice delivery mechanisms. It is important to understand that the implementation of the emergency is not only a battle to win the war against insurgents; it is also the inception phase of the battle to win the peace.
Ultimately however, in this instance, as in the instance of the Niger Delta; what is important and will be decisive, in the medium to long term; is to begin a concerted, serious, genuine and focused effort to address the developmental challenges. This will require a collaboration and coordination of developmental efforts by the three tiers of government; with mass participation and representation of citizens in the decision making and implementation processes for development. This is a tall order, and will require zero tolerance for corruption, favoritism and nepotism; as well as conscious monitoring and oversight by citizens and their mass organisations.
Essentially this is a developmental formula and approach necessary for the whole country. However, there remains a huge challenge, a historical deficit of some sort. Can the Nigeria Ruling Elite [Class] be expected to undertake such a patriotic and selfless duty without seeking to undermine it with their competitive primitive accumulation tendencies; much less implement with vigor such a socially transformative agenda that will ensure that the basis for their patronage dispensing system, and their capacity to manipulate impoverished and powerless citizens are effectively undermined and curbed?
Unfortunately as with everything happening to us as a people, and defining our underdevelopment; we here also come up against the ‘Chinese wall’ of the unpatriotic, greedy and selfish pecuniary interests of our treasury looting, and thieving ruling class!
We must here too therefore also come to the inevitable self revealing conclusion that ultimately the far reaching solution that we require, is a political one at its base; one that involves transforming the nature and character of power, and power relations, in favour of citizens, and in a manner that ensures the collective removal from power of this ruling elite, and the ascendancy to power of citizen forces to organise a genuine transition to a socially inclusive, and socially just society, that meets the needs of all and the greed of a few, and serves the interests of all and not of a selfish and self centered few.
So we come again to the question of power, the exercise of power. The road towards transformative change begins now; and should culminate in a significant transfer of power in 2015, not to another faction of the ruling elites, by whatever name called; but to the citizens, victims of elite misrule, through new political platforms.
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