Citizens’ education has, for long, been a necessary ingredient lacking in the way Nigeria has carried on since independence. Even with loads and loads of university degrees and other academic attainment, citizens’ participation in governance has been dismally poor.
The elite class has therefore leveraged on this apathy to further widen the gulf between the people and all that should matter to them.
However, circumstances of the last seven years have brought us, the leaders and the led, to a stage where it can no longer be business as usual.
We are faced with a security problem the magnitude of which no one could have foreseen a decade ago. Since the civil war ended in 1970, Nigeria’s corporate existence has never been threatened the way terror and sectarian attacks have done these past years.
And the country has been in the eye of the world for this wrong reason. It is no longer news, the devastation which the terror group, Boko Haram, has caused in the North East sub-region and many other parts of Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has slaughtered innocent Nigerians – men, women, girls and boys – with hideous cruelty. The group has declared war on western education with emphasis on discouragement of girl education. Educational infrastructures have been razed down while male and female students have either been killed or abducted.
Interestingly, till date over 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram on the night of 14–15 April 2014 from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State are yet to be released.
2015 Global Terrorism Index indicates that deaths from terrorism increased by 80 percent in 2014 to the highest level ever. Boko Haram and ISIL were jointly responsible for 51 per cent of all claimed global fatalities in 2014. 78 per cent of all deaths and 57 per cent of all attacks occurred in just five countries namely; Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. Surely, not a good company to keep. Nigeria experienced the largest increase in terrorist activity with 7,512 deaths in 2014, an increase of over 300% since 2013. Added to the blood-letting by Boko Haram, are the alleged herdsmen’s vicious attacks on communities across the country. The heightened tension which the renewed attacks on farming communities by herdsmen, has brought on the nation is giving every patriotic Nigerian a cause for concern. In addition to this, is the emergence of a new militia called Niger Delta Avengers who have been bombing oil installations in the Delta region, causing untold dislocation on the already lacerated economy.
It is therefore not surprising that there has been a flurry of activities in the mould of summit, talks, conferences majorly spearheaded by government on how to put an end to the orgy of violence which is pushing the country to the precipice. However partnership between government agencies, local and international, and the local citizenry may just be what is lacking in the approach to put an end to the carnage. Such trusted partnership is achieved and nourished through meaningful and regular dialogue that create a shared sense of the current state of affairs of the nation’s safety, its level of intelligence-gathering, and pressing priorities.
This is the new spirit and understanding that will be the focus of a Summit on National Security with the theme: “Confronting and Containing Threats From Terrorism and Sectarian Insurgency” being jointly organised by the Council on African Security and Development, University of Wisconsin Research Park, USA and the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Slated for May 25-26, 2016 in the nation’s capital Abuja, the two-day summit will bring together globally acclaimed resource persons as principal speakers.
The summit is designed to serve as a forum for substantive and impactful exchange of information, and discussion of acquired knowledge on domestic security strategies, protection of civilian populations and critical national infrastructures, and how the private sector can assist government in intelligence gathering, and deterrence. Focus will also be on the future of education and skill development in the cyber domain to protect critical data in financial and commercial sectors. The vulnerability of financial institutions and industries reliant on modern communication technologies to terrorism is now more pronounced than ever. The need to develop cyber-security as a multi-disciplinary body of knowledge with academic curriculum will also be highlighted.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Secretary-General of the NATO, who also served as Prime Minister of Denmark, and President of the European Union; Professor Ibrahim Gambari, former Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister; Dr James Stavridis, a retired four-star Admiral of the United States Navy who served as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO; and Dr John Campbell, former US Ambassador to Nigeria will headline the summit.
Notable experts from the allied fields of national security and development who will provide depth to the summit as panelists and discussants are; General T.Y. Danjuma (Rtd), former Nigeria’s Defence Minister; Lt. Gen. Greame Lamb (Rtd), former director of United Kingdom Special Forces and Commander of British Field Army, and now a fellow at Yale University; Ambassador Emmanuel Imohe, former Director-General of Nigerian National Intelligence Agency; and Dr Kalu I. Kalu, former Nigeria Minister of Finance.
Other invited participants include; Chief of Defence Staff, National Security Adviser, Sultan of Sokoto, governors of Northern states who have first-hand knowledge of the deadly consequences, other state governors and policy makers. President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Defence, Mansur Muhammed Dan Ali and Minister of State (Foreign Affairs), Hon. Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim are expected to grace the summit.
Professor John Ifediora, director and editor-in-chief of the Council on African Security and Development (CASADE), co-organiser of the summit, stresses that the quality of education offered the younger students is also a factor in determining how fast we realise the desire to restore peace to the country.
“The summit will foster discussion on how to change the educational outlook and how to incorporate younger students into apprenticeship programs that facilitate the acquisition of marketable skills. This approach recognises the importance of investing in human capital early on and the need to build partnership programs that offer meaningful employment opportunities for youths vulnerable to radicalization,” Ifediora, an economist and attorney at law, who has lectured widely for over 20 years at various universities in the United States, Europe and Africa, explained.
Oladipo Sanusi is a Communication strategist and writes from Abuja.