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Nigeria: Kidnapping, banditry beyond government’s capacity — Prof Falola – Vanguard

  • November 17, 2021
  • 9 min read
Nigeria: Kidnapping, banditry beyond government’s capacity — Prof Falola – Vanguard

“Nigeria’s Federal Government lacks the capacity to deal with kidnapping and banditry which are the two problems currently militating against the security architecture of the country.”
This position was made known by the distinguished teaching professor of African Studies and the Jacob and Francis Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, USA, Toyin Falola. The university don stated this while delivering a lecture titled: ‘Is Nigeria on the brink?” during a symposium held in honour of the late Chief Theophilus Adeleke Akinyele.
“For Falola, “Kidnapping and banditry are not matters of a few years ago; only that they have grown beyond the capacity of the state to stop them. Agitations for disengagement from the Nigerian entity did not start twenty years ago—all ethnic groups had threatened to secede. Neither is it true that agitators are only just recently meeting their waterloo—Isaac Boro and Odumegwu Ojukwu were visited by state violence.
“All these things have been playing out from the onset, and they keep doing so in an endless loop, in a seemingly wash, rinse, and repeat manner. If we wish to make any tangible progress in solving Nigeria’s problems, it is essential that we first study the Nigerian situation. Thus, it is pertinent to ask ourselves: What is Nigeria?
“Nigeria is the “afterthought” of a British commissioner, Lord Frederick Lugard. At the allocation of entities on the African continent following the 1884-1885 Berlin conference, the different entities that currently makeup Nigeria fell into the possession of Great Britain.
“These entities consisted of distinct kingdoms which shared geographical boundaries—Hausa, Jukun, Ebira, Tiv, Nupe, to mention a few of them, in what is now called northern Nigeria. These kingdoms had their distinct languages, cultures, and people. The kingdoms in the Sokoto Caliphate had their relationships cemented by Islam.
“They traded, exchanged ideas, and fought wars. Some groups interacted outside the framework of how the colonial government-defined “states” and “power.”  For the benefit of the colonizers, the entities which make up present-day Nigeria were grouped along geographical lines. The first was the grouping into Northern and Southern protectorates, laying the foundation for solid divisions.
“The earliest seeds of the fully grown and malignant Nigerian condition can be traced to this epoque, when peoples of different orientations, cultures, value systems, and beliefs were broadly zoned into two protectorates.
“However, the seeds were not fully germinated at this time because most of the kingdoms still operated on some degree of autonomy as they still had their fundamental monarchy-based system of governments. All the kings had to do was report back to the commissioners and district officers.
“This meant that before 1914, there was nothing known as Nigeria as a country, and the differing cultures had not been fused in the cauldron of a faux unifying culture and identity. At that time, there was no need for the peoples of those different cultures and kingdoms to present themselves as one, and there were no conflicts of interest, all of which make up the Nigerian condition today.”
He fingered ethnicity and ethnic loyalty as part of the Nigerian conundrum. “Since its inception, Nigeria has been faced with corruption, a warped sense of national and uniform identity, and nationalism deeply punctured by ethnicity and ethnic loyalty.
“These are endemic problems caused by the fact that Nigerians have never entirely accepted the sense of being one nation—we are too apart in our notions, beliefs, social formation, and cultures. The narrative about Nigeria is tied to the region where it is created. People think first of their ethnicity before they think about Nigeria.
“During elections, parties permutate along religious and ethnic lines rather than ideological ones: “We have a Muslim Hausa as the presidential candidate, let a Christian Yoruba man be his vice, and an Edo woman his campaign chairperson. The Igbo did not vote for me!”
There is nothing for the Igede, and nobody remembers the Esan. “The Edo can wait to produce the chairman of the party!” It has never been about ideologies; it is always about the best ethnic conjunctions producing concoctions that produce constipation.
“At the core of the Nigerian society is a problem of internal division. From the inaugural days of the amalgamation down to the challenges of the 21st century, people have been at loggerheads with their affiliation.
“Rather than be branded Nigerians, a name that confers fellowship with other ethnic nationalities, many defend their ethnic roots while the nationality is saved for international passports. Attitudes that prevailed in the days of Nigeria’s infancy have been passed down through generations.
“Differences along religious and ethnic lines are at the forefront of any political consideration. In Southern markets and communities, Northerners are glared at with suspicion, and in the North, a slight misstep by an “outsider” is all the precedent for crises. This tense relationship and dissonance from a sense of nationality make it challenging to prompt Nigerians out of the Nigerian condition the right way.
“When agitators like Nnamdi Kanu, Omoyele Sowore, and Sunday Igboho take up the challenge to call for a revolution or seek the disengagement of their ethnic groups from the Nigerian entity, millions applaud them for the courage to challenge a sitting government. Yes, it is well to applaud them for their one minute of fame.
“However, they also remind us of Chukwuemeka Ojukwu’s Biafra, the Mid-Western region’s Republic of Benin, and other secessionist or separatist moves that have been made in the history of Nigeria. In the early 2000s, Afenifere and Ohaneze called for a national conference to examine the legitimacy and plausibility of a federal and united Nigerian state.
The years that led up to the country’s independence prove that the citizens have never for once seen Nigeria as a successful “United States of Nigeria.” The agitators for an independent Nigeria saw a failed state even before Nigeria got its independence. Since then, many Nigerians have always advocated for the country’s breakup, which has formed the basis for the Nigerian condition.
“Taking a tour through Nigeria’s history will reveal that the Nigerian condition is a phenomenon that has been with us since the first attempt to lump different peoples together to form two protectorates in 1900.
“The amalgamation of the two protectorates gave rise to the malignancy of the phenomenon, and it has seemingly become worse ever since then. The failure of the Nigerian state is rooted in the deep sense of commitment to ethnic and regional beliefs. And because the components have never been wholeheartedly invested in making the clumsy center succeed, the center does not hold.
“The citizens consider themselves first as Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Efik before considering themselves as Nigerians. This is why the quest out of the Nigerian condition cannot be fully quenched. It will rise, like the phoenix, in another form because the old and the young go through the baptism into ethnic-centric loyalty,” he stated.
In proposing a way out of the current imbroglio, the historian identified regionalism, state police and devolution of power as remedies that could trigger the desired change. He however stated that this should be done with caution. 
“A regional model shifts the bulk of the responsibility from an over-endowed seat in Abuja to half a dozen units across the country. The regions will control their resources and bear the developmental burden using the proceeds. They will also furnish the central coffers with a fraction of these proceeds. Hence, the prevalent state of marginalization is dropped, and people can finally manage their economies.
“However, the problem with this lies in a historical record of failure. It also negates the essential value of recognition that the present structure allows. In the past, regional administrations were known to focus solely on their seats of power. Development occurred mainly in political centers such as Ibadan, Kaduna, and Lagos, excluding large swathes of the regions.
“Therefore, the question is, if the system that should foster intraregional development once failed in doing so, why should it be implemented again? Also, subsuming states into regions leaves out the fundamental reason for creating those states in the first place. It contradicts the idea of representation which birthed the whole issue of restructuring.
“In places where states with a voting population no longer exist, and the administrators of those provinces are chosen, not elected, there is the possibility that minorities who once had a modest recognition will melt into the supervening idea of a region.
“Devolution brings governance to the people at the grassroots levels. It promotes engagement between the ruling class and the ruled. Also, there is better access to the benefits of a government than a system where the leadership exists only on screen. On paper, devolution creates room for states to control resources and manage these resources to develop localities because it cedes power.
“However, the question of capabilities still presides. Even with a steady stream of federal income in the past, some state administrations have been known for poor management practices. This connotes that while the structure itself may change, the management techniques remain the same. Thus, the problem continues in federating units.
“The Nigerian security structure is essentially a federal-driven one. Internal security lies within the precincts of federal administrators, and external forces mainly handle concerns within states. In recent years, the national military has acquired more police responsibilities.
“Codenames like Operation Crocodile Smile, Python Dance, Hadarin Daji, Harbin Kunama, and a seemingly endless tally of others now occupy the mainstream. Even non-combatant departments like the fire service are controlled by the federal government, depriving states of power over minor issues.
“This creates a delay in administering the security apparatus and, in many cases, a deterioration before an adequate response is received. For needs such as logistics and funding for the police and sister departments to be met, a long wait must first be endured.
“In the context of restructuring, therefore, the creation of state-owned police formations is crucial. Under this model, Nigerian states similarly administer their security to what obtains in the United States. The state police structure does not give inalienable powers to the state but provides exceptional instances where the federal government may interfere in internal security.
“All of these are provided under statutory dictates; yet, there is a likely problem. Governments in Nigeria are not precisely famous for administrative sanctity. The potential for the abuse of police powers remains an ever-present threat, and this is a kink in the whole arena,” he said.

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