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BEGINNING THE SECURITY CONVERSATION

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...the Future of Nigeria's Initiatives

Adoyi Onoja teaches history in the Department of History and is a resource person in the graduate programme of the Security and Strategic Studies Unit of the Institute of Governance and Development Studies, all in the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria. A recipient of the 2009-2010 American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) African Humanities Program (AHP) fellowship award, he has participated in several academic programmes at home and abroad. He was laureate in a number of CODESRIA Institutes including the 2006 Governance Institute, visiting Coimbra Fellow at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA) at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium, 2011 and American Studies Association (ASA) Presidential Fellow, 2011. He was part of the UNDP team that consulted for the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) in 2008. His research interests are security, governance, policing, media and Central Nigeria.

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Most if not all Nigerians know a thing or two about security. Indeed, most if not all Nigerians have an opinion about security. This is because security is trending nationally and globally. Security has been trending for over three decades not only in Nigeria but in the entire world. What is trending in security reflect concerns of a peculiar character for each of the country’s involved but draws from one central concern that affect all countries: power.


In the last three decades that security gained national prominence, its central focus is power. It is about the state and its ability to get, keep and use power. Getting and keeping power has been the focus of security in the last three decades to the extent that security has come to be associated with power only. For Nigerians, this is disputable. This is because there are other concerns that getting, keeping and using power did not attend which resulted in elevating security into the political burner. The concern in question is giving meaning to the lives of Nigerians.


This is what getting, keeping and using power entails for society with purpose. This is the focus of security. Security secures the lives of people. Putting food on the table is security’s first priority for human beings. In the last three decades, Nigerians’ ability to put food on the table has receded tremendously that Nigerians fight one another to be able to access the few opportunities available. This is what brought security to the political front burner first for the power elite and by extension for the rest of Nigerians. In focusing security on power and the state, the power elite chose to address the symptoms and not the cause of the threat to power. This resulted in conflating the meaning of security to the point that it lost its originality for Nigerians.


We can identify four categories of Nigerians with opinion on security in this order of priority. They are the military class, the political class, the intelligentsia and other Nigerians. The Nigerian military elite led the way in propagating the discourse and practice of security in their capacity as government and as guardian of security in the realist tradition. The military’s entry into government was quite early, in 1966, and since then they emerged as the foremost socialising agency for Nigerians. They have dominated thought and practice, in most Nigerian endeavours, until their reluctant disengagement in 1999.


As far as security is concern, their imprimatur came with the turbulent period from the mid 1980s. It was not only turbulent for Nigeria. It was turbulent for the world. This was because events would elevate security of the type that the military was created to safeguard into international and national dominance. This would, in effect, justify the ahistorical tradition of security foisted on Nigerians and Nigeria. In Nigeria, the military was unable to separate its political role of government and its professional role of defence. Indeed as it turned out, the professional role of defence became pronounced in all its affairs to the detriment of the political role of government. This is the beginning of the discourse and practice of security as defence. Security, from a government and governance perspectives, lost its political meaning and took on a defence orientation. In imitating the reality of the developed world, the Nigerian military forget that the military, in the developed world, was not the political elite and did not play judge and jury in matters of security.


In pursuing security, the military government’s primary concern was not to provide for the material wellbeing of Nigerians. Their primary concern was to safeguard the state and thus their hold on power from the fury of Nigerians dissatisfied with their material existence. The Nigerian military as government failed in this fundamental function of governance to Nigerians. Thus was elevated for the military, politicians, intelligentsia and Nigerians, the view of security as the protection of the state.


The first two – military and political class – reached a blind consensus in that this view serves their desire to get, keep and use power, for their own interest. The third and a section of the intelligentsia shared in this blind consensus particularly those from political science whose focus is on propagating the art of getting and using power to students. In this, they sacrificed their role to the community – that of using knowledge for the liberation of Nigerians – in their perpetuating a security views that is off the Nigerian history, experience and reality. Their view did not derive from a study of security as an independent discipline with the history, experience and reality of Nigeria in context.


Security as an independent discipline is in its infancy in Nigerian universities and even this is endangered as they prevailing defective view of security formed the core of its curriculum. The political sciences’ exposure to security is secondary and only in relation to International Relations and elective courses. For the other section of the intelligentsia, their view derived from what obtained from discourses and practices perpetuated by these groups – military, politicians and political scientists - which they assumed to be correct.


The conversation of these groups is right in its own right only to the extent that it is not saying everything about security. This conversation a Nigerian synergy; it is imitative and self-serving and above all else, it is devoid of the content and context of Nigeria’s history, experience and reality.


This blog set out to put this view of security into context in tandem with Nigeria’s history, experience and reality. The blog’s aim is to begin a conversation about security that will evolve a philosophy of security for Nigerians and Nigeria. Among its many and mostly evolving objectives are: one, to evolve a Nigerian definition of security; two, to evolve a consensus on the content of national security; three, to canvass for the evolution of a national security policy that will embody Nigeria’s security philosophy and by extension serves as the policy document that will guide the security objectives of all national policies.


All these and many more are lacking in the security discourse and practice prevailing in Nigeria today. Thus the prevailing security discourse and practice is exclusive in that two third of Nigerians are outside its protective umbrella. Nigeria needs an inclusive security philosophy. Nigeria celebrated its centenary in 2014. If Nigeria is to have a future and if Nigerians are to celebrate another centenary intact and inclusive, it is necessary to revisit previous conversations geared towards repositioning Nigeria including the 2014 national conference and commence the future of Nigeria initiative by starting the conversation on security, governance and leadership.


Security is when every Nigerian has economic chance to fend for self. Governance is when human and material resource is put together to produce the most chance for most Nigerians to achieve this security in the short, medium and long term basis. Leadership is responsible for providing and creating the enabling environment in the attainment of security through governance. Nigeria cannot and will not have any type of security when most Nigerians cannot put food on the table.