REMODELLING SECURITY IN NIGERIA: HISTORICAL LESSONS IN THE LIGHT OF GOVERNOR UGWUANYI’S EMPIRICAL DYNAMISM.
REMODELLING SECURITY IN NIGERIA: HISTORICAL LESSONS IN THE LIGHT OF GOVERNOR UGWUANYI’S EMPIRICAL DYNAMISM.
“To replace the old paradigm of war with a new paradigm of waging peace, we must be pioneers who can push the boundaries of human understanding. We must be doctors who can cure the virus of violence. We must be soldiers of peace who can do more than preach to the choir. And we must be artists who will make the world our masterpiece.” —Paul Chappell
The unbridled violence bedeviling the world is a scar on the conscience of humanity and Nigeria appears incapable of insulating herself from the rest of the planet.
About two months ago, we witnessed a re-escalation of the decades-old conflict between the State of Israel and Hamas, Palestine’s armed militias. The media was awash with images and clips of missile fireworks; giant towers reduced to rubbles, non-combatants mired in collateral anguish, blood scrawled across the faces of innocent children, and of course the ironic wonder of the Iron Dome – Israel’s mobile all-weather air defense system. Regardless of the varied accounts, sentimental propaganda, historical antecedents, international complicity, and the blame games, Israel and Palestine have been locked in years of territorial and perhaps religious battle over rights to Jerusalem and the Gaza strip, amongst other subjects of contention, at immeasurable cost to human lives and property.
In Kabul, the Afghanistan Taliban has returned with a devastating venom, overrunning military bases with the ease of ancestral demons. In Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, it has been a story of ceaseless aggression by the Huthis in Myryb Governorate. In Myanmar, atrocities against the minority Rohingyas have simply reached its crescendo. In Eswatini, anti-monarchy protests broke out as demonstrators clashed with security forces; reportedly leaving scores dead. In Burkina Faso, suspected jihadists lunched the deadliest attack in the country since 2015, killing 160 persons. In Mali, violence has continued in the North, largely occupied by the Tuaregs and the capital Bamako, following a military coup that enthroned Assimi Goita as the transition president on the 7th of June. He was nearly stabbed to death on the 24th of July. In Ethiopia, amid looming famine, the Tigrayan separatist forces are slugging it out with the federal troops in Tigray region. The scenario in Tunisia also took a dramatic turn this month, as President Kaid Saied of Tunisia sacked the country’s Prime minister due to Covid-19 controversies.
The world no doubt is fast becoming a theatre of unrestrained conflicts, riddled with bullets and deafening sounds of improvised weaponry. Yet, it appears that the violently catastrophic conditions in Nigeria have eclipsed the world’s hugely profiled and chronicled security crisis; both in volume and reoccurrence.
The Southeast observed the Biafran Remembrance Day, May 30/31, solemnly reflecting on the heinous disaster and humongous devastation of the Nigerian Civil War fought between 1967 and 1970, for which *””ozo emena””* has become a fitting mantra. For the first time also, on May 31, America’s annual Memorial Day commemoration, the Biden-led White House acknowledged the Tulsa race massacre of May 31 and June 1, 1921, when a white mob, deputized by authorities and armed by city officials attacked and burnt Tulsa’s Greenwood district, killing over 300 Black Tulsans, and ending the geometric ascendancy of what was regarded as the Black Wall Street.
The common denominator in all of these historical events is insecurity; mankind’s greatest undoing and a plague that has consistently wreaked havoc from the origin of man through the entire course of human civilization. The elusiveness of peace and the recurrent resort to the devices of violence in total disregard of humanity, mutual understanding, dialogue and compromise, are both a philosophical and psychological puzzle. “Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.” — MARTIN LUTHER KING.
Nigeria has seen a resurgence of violence and insecurity in recent times, from heightened sectarian agitations to the hijacked #EndSars protests; from murderous, rampaging gun-totting herdsmen and banditry to Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism; from gruesome assassinations to barbaric robberies. From the unfettered arms-running via the Sahel to sea piracy, and from the kidnapping/ritualistic menace to human trafficking across our guarded borders. Years of operating on obsolete socio-political models for sustainable unity and security; conscienceless corruption and injustices; and playing the strings of religious bigotry and tribal jingoism, have brought the nation to her feeble knees. Unless we begin to rethink the terms of our co-existence as a multi-national entity, and inject newer perspectives and more comprehensive parameterization into our security architecture to account for emerging dynamics, we risk swerving off the precipice into irredeemable mobocratic anarchy.
The cost of insecurity is unimaginable. The First World Wars saw the annihilation of empires, caused the death of millions of people, and led directly to the rise of Hitler, who was a major protagonist of the Second World War regarded by history as the deadliest military conflict. By the time it ended, 3% of the world’s population at the time were dead mostly from mass-bombings, diseases, massacres, starvation, and deliberate genocides. Nazi Germany systematically killed over 11 million people including 6 million Jews, in what is today sadly remembered as the Jewish holocaust.
On the continent of Africa, the Congo War, otherwise known as the Great War of Africa, which lasted from August 1998 to July 2003, left some 5.4 million people dead and over 2 million displaced. During the Rwandan Civil War, over a million members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group, as well as some moderate Hutu and Twa were slaughtered by armed militias. Somali is still battered by a Civil War which was triggered in 1991 by the ouster of dictator President of the Republic, Mohammed Siad Barre, by a coup. Series of failures to negotiate a truce between the Somali National Movement in the North and the United Somali Congress of the South, has caused the death of over one million Somalis. In Nigeria, the Biafran Civil War (1967 – 1970) led to the death of millions of Ndigbo and set the Southeast region several decades down the spiral of retrogression, from where they continue to agonizingly claw back to respite and reckoning.
It is apparent that no lessons have been learned from history. Even after such landmark peace initiatives as the declaration of the United Nations charter to *“save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”* and maintain international peace and security, nations remain at each other’s throats, defying intellectual boundaries and morality, to manufacture highly sophisticated weapons of mass destruction; the likes of submarines, navy destroyers, the Mother of All Bombs, weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and nuclear warheads. The rest of the world is perhaps one button on the Nuclear Football, wielded by the United States President, or one flick of a switch on Putin’s “cheget”, away from complete nuclear damnation. Countries like Syria are embroiled in brutal conflicts with millions of men and women cut down in their prime and children blown by missiles into smithereens.
But do those in the South East have any genuine reasons to voice their concerns? Perhaps, years of systemic and systematic inequities, apparent political ostracism, underrepresentation, deliberate economic strangulation and a lost sense of identity have led to the reanimation of the sentiments that fanned and fuelled the Biafran secession movement. It is not down to the permutations of chance or random happenstance that no Igbo man has been at the helm of Nigeria’s political leadership as head of government since independence. Secessionist agitations, the Nigerian military’s “python dances”, alleged indiscriminate extortions at checkpoints, indefensible marginalization of the Southeast, lopsided appointments, rape and unprovoked annihilation of farmers and indigenous people by marauding armed herders and the activities of unknown gunmen have all contrived to turn the southeast zone into a hotbed of violence, endangering lives and the investments Ndigbo had in defiance of all odds toiled to accumulate from ’20 pounds’. We as true sons of our ancestors must however, realize that compounding our woes by instigating destabilization within our confines is not only counterproductive and self-defeating, but idiotic and profound foolery.
What do we stand to gain from the incessant violent confrontations beyond courting an apocalypse? It is time to take a strong stand against the monstrous yearnings by some unscrupulous elements for complete degeneration into lawlessness. The killing of policemen, burning of police stations, and the decimation of the same public infrastructure that serve our people and oftentimes built through community efforts, is antithetical to the Igbo character of tact and does not in any way honour the memory of Biafra’s fallen heroes. Worse still, Ndigbo are constantly the victims; leaving their children fatherless. We don’t want our territory unguarded, paving the way for hoodlums, armed robbers and common thieves to make the lives of our Kith and kin miserable and our civil space ungovernable. The average hardworking, irrepressible, indefatigable and tenacious Igbo man or woman wants nothing more than a normal life; the serenity and socioeconomic opportunities to earn a living and take care of his family and community. Ndigbo are simply egalitarian, industrious, capitalist and the cynosure of all eyes. They do not need a disruptive violence that impedes their daily toiling. Therefore, there is nothing possibly worse than a people being the architects of their own misfortune, or their own enemies of progress; smothering the bright prospects of their younger generation, even as their posterity is sabotaged and eventually truncated. Let us not squander the gains of the tailored and sacrificial efforts of Chief Nnia Nwodo, Prof George Obiozor, Elder Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Sen Enyinnaya Abaribe and a host of other Igbo leaders, on whimsical and impulsive gratification of exuberance. Ndigbo must now prove that leaders/elders still exist and function in the Southeast. Let them be allowed to logically and intellectually canvass the Igbo interest.
Despite the fact that the people are expected to play a deliberate active role in pursuit of peace, resolving conflicts through dialogue and partnering with the constituted authority, security otherwise remains the primary duty of an elected government. Now that insecurity is taking on new guises and assuming an increasingly dynamic character, there is no better time to rethink our outdated models and re-jig our security architecture than now.
Fortunately, a foundational template has been set by the Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi, a trailblazer, social innovator, political reformer, and a lifelong servant of the people. For 6 years now, his security policies and initiatives have portrayed an uncommon understanding of the interlinked complexities and the sociocultural imperatives underpinning modern day security challenges.
Since first entering into and subsequently renewing his social contract with Ndi Enugu, Governor Ugwuanyi has miraculously revamped many sectors and reformed flailing institutions in the state. His approach to security has been multi-pronged, cutting across re-engineering Enugu’s political psychology; engendering conciliation and goodwill across divides; reforming the judiciary; fiercely stamping out injustices and inequities; empowering young men and women; manifestly frowning at political thuggery and gangsterism and reinforcing the security agencies operational in the state. Governor Ugwuanyi has engaged his acumen, sagacity, and divine gift of diplomacy to close the chapter on political elitism, electoral violence and mindless killings resulting from desperate power tussles. Huge investments in the education and career of young people through the award of multiple scholarships and creation of employment opportunities have kept the youths positively engaged. Through socio-cultural sensitivity and attentiveness, the governor constantly feels the pulse of the people and justly addresses genuine umbrages.
On other frontiers, the Ugwuanyi administration procured and donated 100 units of Innoson (IVM) patrol van with communication gadgets to security agencies in the state. Enugu was the first to implement the Forest Guards initiative in the Southeast geo-political zone with Governor Ugwuanyi empowering the 1,700-personnel brigade with motorcycles, bicycles and other appurtenances. This and many more have inspired a new wave of united consciousness about Ndigbo security and spurred other southeast governors into making similar commitments. Cautiously aware that social justice flows from the estuary of Judicial activities than from the firth of religious crusades, Governor Ugwuanyi has uninhibitedly accentuated a Judicial system in Enugu state trademarked with inalienable independence, robust infrastructure and unflagging commitment to the rule of law.
“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” ~ Martin Luther King
We must find a non-violent means of restructuring Nigeria with emphasis on re-jigging our flailing security architecture with equity in mind, if we are to resolve the most repulsive part of the abnormalities in our leadership. Nigerian Leaderships at all levels need to project a brand of governance worthy of leaving behind for our innocent children. The parlance that violence begets violence, and each time violence wins, all of us are diminished is a truism. No wonder, the people of the Southeast are now suffering untold hardship blended with heightened anxiety due to the activities of criminal elements and the consequent militarization of the zone.
Hardly will any government, no matter how complicit, compromised or incapacitated, allow non-state actors to subvert her territorial integrity without a fight. Any violent agitation would usually be construed an insurrection. The fate of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Chechnya in Russia and Tigrayans in Ethiopia couldn’t have been more succinctly typifying. But the terrorizing bandits and marauding armed herdsmen should be called out for who they are and expressly, unapologetically codified as terrorists. Semantics should not be coined as an alibi to whittle down culpability. This without a hint of doubt will further enhance the credibility of the Federal Government and mitigate the yawning trust deficit with the electorates.
The good news is that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s resolve to protect the lives and properties of the citizens within the ambit of Enugu’s territorial integrity, irrespective of ethnic or religious leaning is dominantly unflappable. From inception, he consciously courted the path of peace as an indispensable tool for harmonious coexistence, responsive leadership and perhaps, an ecclesiastical easement to the kingdom of God. Cognizant of the fact that the highest office in order of protocols is the office of the citizenry, Governor Ugwuanyi places premium on the sacrosanctity of life and the inviolability of fundamental human rights. He has vowed to stoutly defend the people against any form of violations. In his calmness, humility, unassuming posture, unflinching temperance, tamed temperament, unimpeachable subtlety, disarming sensibilities and perhaps misjudged dovishness, lie the strength and courage of many lions in one. He is awake to his responsibilities. He vigorously but noiselessly defends the interest of the masses in perilous times like now.
The cost of violence is far more expensive than any sacrifice made for peace. Government at all levels must rise up to the rapidly mutating challenges of insecurity while the people must don the toga of vigilance, patience, restraint and understanding as they embrace dialogue for the resolution of inevitable conflicts of interests and opinions. Governor Ugwuanyi’s playbook should be a primer for the remodelling of how we think about security in Nigeria to integrate critical socio-cultural and historical variables. We all and posterity deserve a nation where we shall feel a sense of belonging and inclusiveness; where we feel secured and have the right incentives to dream. We pray that the foot of His Excellency, the Governor of Enugu State, remains firmly on the security pedal.
Steve Oruruo is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Enugu State on Information.
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