Making real our yearn­ing for unity in di­ver­sity

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

This week, the State Se­cu­rity Ser­vice held a Na­tional Sem­i­nar on the theme - Unity in Di­ver­sity: Se­cu­rity and Na­tional De­vel­op­ment. In his key­note ad­dress, Act­ing Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo lamented the fact that so many Nige­ri­ans who had been born shortly be­fore or af­ter the 1967 civil war are making hate speech, es­pe­cially in the so­cial me­dia, that is dis­rupt­ing the peace. He made the ar­gu­ment that: “We must guard what comes out of our mouth. It is a big mis­take to link free­dom of speech with hate speeches”. Os­in­bajo also added his pow­er­ful state­ment he had made ear­lier that: “We are greater to­gether than apart”, a mes­sage we must con­tinue to strive to con­vince the younger gen­er­a­tion about. He also crit­i­cised the at­ti­tude of the elite who make ar­gu­ments about the marginal­i­sa­tion of their peo­ple sim­ply as a strat­egy for seek­ing ap­point­ments.

I was priv­i­leged to be a dis­cus­sant for Gen­eral Martin Luther Ag­wai’s ex­cel­lent pa­per on a re­view of Nige­ria’s na­tional se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture and the im­per­a­tive for peace and sta­bil­ity. The fact of the mat­ter, he ar­gued force­fully, is that we have ad hoc se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture and the core of the Nige­rian prob­lem is the lack of re­spect for the rule of law and the to­tal dis­re­gard for pri­or­i­tiz­ing the de­vel­op­men­tal needs of the peo­ple.

The mo­ti­va­tion be­hind our se­cu­rity crises is frus­tra­tion, es­pe­cially amongst the youth, he con­tended. For their part, the elite is fo­cused on cap­tur­ing power and for them the util­ity of se­cu­rity is for the sole pur­pose of in­su­lat­ing, pro­tect­ing and en­rich­ing them­selves. He added that in their lack of wis­dom: “the elite have at­tempted to pack­age and sell the il­lu­sion that once they them­selves are se­cure, then by the tran­sient prop­erty the pub­lic is se­cure. This mis­con­cep­tion how­ever is quickly dis­si­pat­ing un­der democ­racy and the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia with the at­ten­dant re­sults be­ing the re­course to vi­o­lence and calls for sep­a­ra­tion.”

With the nu­mer­ous se­cu­rity chal­lenges Nige­ria is fac­ing to­day, rang­ing from resur­gent se­ces­sion­ists, Niger Delta mil­i­tants, re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ists, and Gen­eral Ag­wai points out that threats came from both sides, Boko Haram ter­ror­ists and so on, the coun­try now finds it­self at a junc­ture in its his­tory where there are very few uni­fiers as op­posed to the plethora of bar­ri­ers to na­tional unity. He made the point that the fact

Since In­de­pen­dence, the Nige­rian State has evolved from a fed­eral polity char­ac­terised by three po­lit­i­cally strong re­gions, each con­trolled by the elite of a ma­jor­ity eth­nic group - Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, to a highly cen­tralised sys­tem in which the so-called fed­er­at­ing states have no real au­ton­o­mous pow­ers and are at the beck and call of a strong cen­tre in which enor­mous pow­ers are vested in the hands of one per­son and one in­sti­tu­tion, the Pres­i­dent

that Nige­ria has not im­ploded un­der the pres­sure of the afore­men­tioned se­cu­rity chal­lenges can ac­tu­ally be counted as a pos­i­tive in its favour and pro­vides grounds for op­ti­mism.

It was in this con­text that many par­tic­i­pants at the Sem­i­nar made the plea that more of us must be­come peace builders and ad­vo­cates for making real our yearn­ings for unity in di­ver­sity. In his con­tri­bu­tion, for­mer In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice Solomon Arase lamented the ab­sence of a com­pre­hen­sive threat anal­y­sis to peace­ful co­ex­is­tence and called for more proac­tive re­sponses that would nip threats in the bud rather than wait for the threats to over­whelm us. He re­minded the Sem­i­nar about the dis­func­tion­al­ity of the Nige­rian Po­lice Force, which he ad­mit­ted was not fit for pur­pose. He re­called that the Dan­madami Po­lice Re­form Com­mit­tee had made ex­ten­sive rec­om­men­da­tions that would have made the po­lice more ef­fi­cient, Gov­ern­ment in its Whitepa­per had ac­cepted the key rec­om­men­da­tions but noth­ing has hap­pened in terms of im­ple­men­ta­tion. He was quite forth­right in his com­ments that the role of the In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice is stan­dards and qual­ity con­trol but as more op­er­a­tional du­ties are cen­tred in the po­lice head­quar­ters, we can­not ex­pect things to work ef­fi­ciently.

Gen­eral Ag­wai had also ques­tioned the ra­tio­nal­ity of send­ing the Ser­vice Chiefs to Maiduguri to tackle the resur­gence of Boko Haram ter­ror­ism point­ing out that with the mil­i­tary en­gaged in oper­a­tions on 28 States, the so­lu­tion can­not be to be post­ing ser­vice chiefs with­out op­er­a­tion re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to the con­flict the­atres. Those with op­er­a­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties must be made to per­form cred­itably or lose their com­mands.

A par­tic­i­pant, maybe tongue in check, posed the ques­tion whether there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween loy­alty to the Pres­i­dent and loy­alty to the State. The re­sponse from for­mer Se­nate Pres­i­dent Ken Nna­mani and Gen­eral Ag­wai was cat­e­gor­i­cal; loy­alty is to the Con­sti­tu­tion and the laws of the land. Se­na­tor Nna­mani drew at­ten­tion to the re­cent rev­e­la­tions by Gov­er­nor Foyose that for­mer Pres­i­dent Obasanjo had said he should be dealt with for scut­tling the third term agenda. That is the crux of the mat­ter he ex­plained. No one should be loyal to a Pres­i­dent who has en­gaged on the path to vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Since In­de­pen­dence, the Nige­rian State has evolved from a fed­eral polity char­ac­terised by three po­lit­i­cally strong re­gions, each con­trolled by the elite of a ma­jor­ity eth­nic group Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, to a highly cen­tralised sys­tem in which the so-called fed­er­at­ing states have no real au­ton­o­mous pow­ers and are at the beck and call of a strong cen­tre in which enor­mous pow­ers are vested in the hands of one per­son and one in­sti­tu­tion, the Pres­i­dent. This po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion was car­ried out mainly un­der mil­i­tary rule in a con­text in which ex­ces­sive cor­rup­tion and pri­mor­dial is­sues of eth­nic, re­li­gious and re­gional po­lit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion have be­come cen­tral el­e­ments in the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture. The con­tri­bu­tion of the Forth Re­pub­lic to po­lit­i­cal cul­ture has been to trans­form State Gover­nors into despots and tin gods in their States. Nige­ri­ans have nowhere to hide, ex­cept in op­por­tunism.

As great op­por­tunists, the Nige­rian elite has be­come world cham­pi­ons in eth­nic, re­li­gious and re­gional mo­bil­i­sa­tion, not for the na­tional in­ter­est but for their own self­ish pur­poses. Pri­mor­dial iden­ti­ties have be­come prob­lem­atic in the coun­try be­cause they have be­come as­so­ci­ated with per­cep­tions of dis­crim­i­na­tion and the in­abil­ity of some groups to ex­er­cise cer­tain rights. As in­se­cu­rity con­tin­ues to grow, fear be­comes a ma­jor fac­tor. The phys­i­cal fear of vi­o­lence is grow­ing as more of the coun­try gets sucked into ru­ral ban­ditry, kid­nap­ping, mil­i­tancy and ter­ror­ism. There is also the psy­cho­log­i­cal fear that one’s group is be­ing played out of the po­lit­i­cal equa­tion and the fight for sur­vival has be­come nec­es­sary. We must all strive to push back th­ese fears and go back to the path of build­ing our unity in di­ver­sity.

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