Friday, August 18, 2006

Who's Going to Get Nigeria Out of its Security Jam?

The greatest threat facing Nigeria today is the insecurity of life and property. Sometime in May 2005, the United States National Intelligence Council made a prediction - based on some assumptions, and anchored on past and current national events - the Nigerian state may fail within the next 15 years (around year 2025). My opinion about the report were well discussed on this blog then: I believe the prediction isn't out of place and makes a lot of sense then... and still does today!

It is on record that the presidency and national assembly, and many of the self-acclaimed opinion leaders in the nation, went to town - in blind rage of patriotism - disparaging the authors of the report.

Those who remember would know that the 'prophecy of doom', as it was tagged then, was made before the Niger-Delta became this chaotic - hostage taking, oil installation attacks, armed confrontation and killing of federal soldiers, bomb blasts, etc - are all new phenomena.

The report came before the failed third-term agenda that threatened the national integrity in no small ways- the aftermath of which the nation still grapples with, and certainly before political-motivated killings / attempted assassinations became the order of the day (take a look at this compilation of assassinations with political motives published by the Nigerian Guardian).

Likewise, the Movement For Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MOSOB)- a socio-political organization with an armed paramilitary unit in the Eastern Nigeria- wasn't this vocal and daring prior to the report.

These are historical events that have consolidated the veracity of the prediction. It's obvious that the 'prophecy' is not the imagination of some sleep-deprived analysts locked-up in a Washington suburban basement and tasked to conjure some fairy-tale scenario. The present day events in Nigeria suggest that the prophecy is indeed more real than ever.

It certainly holds a lot of water, and here are additional and troubling instances to chew on if still in doubt:
Some oil-serving companies in the Niger-Delta are packing-up their gears and pulling out of the area because they have had enough of the violence - Julius Berger is the latest to pull the plug; electricity generation and supply is at an all time low in Nigeria because of the violence in the Niger-Delta; and the top cop in the nation - the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) went on prime time TV saying all his interventions to revive the force have failed.
The disintegration of the national security is being fueled by a combination of factors that seem to feed off each other:

  • The Nigerian society is wasteful, poor, and lack any form of safety-net (health and general welfare programs) for its vulnerable population. From the multitude of area boys (street urchins), unemployed university graduates, retrenched civil servants, 'pensioners without pensions'; Nigeria has the perfect milieu to nurture criminals.

  • A greater proportion of its intellectual capital that could make positive and practical impact have relocated overseas, while the few affluent elements in residence are ostentatious and generally disconnected from society - Nigeria is unmistakably brain-drained!

  • An overwhelmed justice department that has become corrupted, out-of-date, and operates without authority and independence. A nation without an independent and vibrant judiciary is in trouble. The judiciary isn't called the third arm of government for nothing!

  • The nation operates under an archaic centralized law enforcement system that has grossly become redundant as it's disgraceful to its nationals.

  • An administration that lacks the will power and vision to implement drastic reforms that are required to empower the NPF to deal with newer challenges and execute its ever increasing and complex responsibilities. After a high-powered committee spent months examining the NPF and pondering on ways to turn it around, it's findings were recently approved by the Federal Executive Council: all roadblocks nationwide be dismantled and replaced with observation posts, and the current centralized system of the Police Force will be maintained! These are hardly innovative and drastic measures that the security situation in Nigeria demands.

  • It is certain that there are no silver bullets that could fix the security nightmare in Nigeria, just as it is clear that the current administration has run out of viable solutions. One can only hope the situation don't get worse before the 2007 elections because it is of high importance that the Obasanjo administration transits smoothly come 2007.

    Nigeria needs an infusion of renewed vigor and fresh ideas. The vision of a 70-year old man (President Obasanjo) will suffice for a while and can only carry Nigeria up to a certain point; this administration has simply run out of steam. Nigeria is at a point where it's not only necessary to continue, but translate the multitude of implemented economic reforms beyond mere statistics on paper to measurable actions that wil positively impact the people, with special attention to the marginalized and those who have fallen through the cracks in the system.