By Kayode Komolafe
In the last few days, the National Assembly has appropriately captured the mood of the nation.
The legislators have truly represented their respective constituencies by making insecurity the issue of the moment.
From the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), came the call for the resignation of the president, accusing his government of failing to ensure security of lives and property. That may sound as an extreme reaction depending on which side of the partisan divide you stand. Even then, members of the president’s own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the legislative chambers could not help but call for the change of service chiefs at least.
The two main parties in the National Assembly are only giving expression to the anxiety prevalent in many helpless communities about insecurity.
After a flurry of activities in the parliament, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila have held meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari on the worsening state of insecurity in the land. The legislature and the executive have reportedly resolved to collaborate in order to stem the tide of insecurity. There would be a periodic review of the progress made in this respect.
Now, no less a response is expected from Abuja given the gravity of the issue at hand; the lawmakers have only done their job.
Recent killings, abductions and other forms of violence have provoked unusual reaction from many unlikely quarters. As more lives are lost, more of the living are wounded and displaced in parts of the country. The bloodletting is generating legitimate anger in the land. The confidence in the ability of state to provide security is being severely tested.
Some leaders of faiths who are otherwise tempered in commenting on public affairs have resorted to staging protest marches, bearing sober placards to make their point clearer to the authorities. Recent killings in parts of the north especially have brought sharply to the fore again the fault lines of ethnicity and religion in a grim manner. The images of the bereaved families are doubtless images of anguish and despair. People feel terribly unprotected by the Nigerian state.
The people certainly live in desperate times.
In reflecting on how the Nigerian state under Buhari tackles insecurity, some fundamental points must always be emphasised even at the risk of sounding repetitive.
It was probably because the framers of the 1999 Constitution were conscious of the fact that insecurity is the surest path to national disintegration that security has a central place in the Chapter II of the basic law of the land. It is clearly stated in Section 14 (2b) that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The government is daily being reminded of this constitutional duty not only by its usual critics. There are now visible elements of internal criticism within the APC as evident in the debates on the floor of the National Assembly.
In addition, the president should always remember that in the campaign for the 2015 presidential election one point made in his favour was that given his background he would be the best man for the job of the commander-in-chief. Perhaps some persons voted for him not because they thought an APC government could manage the economy better than the PDP government of President Goodluck Jonathan. But not a few must have developed the confidence in Buhari to tackle insecurity better than his predecessor. In fact, one interesting moment on the hustings in early 2015 was when the PDP mocked Buhari as being “too old” to lead the battle against Boko Haram as he once reportedly vowed to do. Even at that, the opponent could not question Buhari’s credentials as a retired general and a one – time famous General Officer Commanding (GOC).
Indeed, Buhari made the pledge of excelling in matters of security not only to the Nigerian electorate; he made the promise before the world.
On February 16, 2015, Buhari assured his audience at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London, United Kingdom, that he had a formula for keeping Nigeria safe and secure.
Among other things he said: “I as a retired general, and a former head of state, have always known about our soldiers. They are capable, they are well-trained and patriotic and always ready to do their duty to the service of their country”.
“You can bear witness to the gallantry of our military in Burma (Myanmar), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur and many other parts of the world, but in the matter of the insurgency our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to tackle this problem.”
Security was one of the three items that Buhari sold to the electorate during the campaigns towards the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections. The other two items were the economy and fighting corruption.
In a way, it would seem that the problem is how to translate whatever policy the government has articulated into action.
Only two months ago, the president launched the reviewed National Security Strategy.
The strategy is essentially a focus on human security, a great departure from the old era of equating national security with the security of those in power. As it is done in many organised societies, the organic link between physical security and social security is well drawn in the strategy. Hence joblessness, mass poverty and misery are all ultimately matters of security in addition to manning the borders and checking illegal arms flow. Physical security cannot be sustained without food security, shelter, education, health and other basic needs of the people.
Besides, the capacity of the police should be enhanced by way of the welfare of personnel, equipment and orientation. The police should be developed as the agency primarily responsible for internal security.
Beyond changing the leadership of the armed forces, the government should take the advantage of the reviewed strategy to improve the welfare of the soldiers while providing adequate equipment and technology to fight the insurgents.
All told, what the public anxiety of the last few days in the legislative chambers and on the streets alike suggest is that the president and commander-in-chief should implement the security strategy already put together by his administration.
It is in Nigeria’s interest that Buhari must not fail on his promise to make security a priority.
Kayode Komolafe is a Public Affairs Analyst.