Remembering President Muhammadu Buhari’s Address at the Nigerian Bar Association 2018 Conference that the “Rule of Law Must Bow Before National Security”: Issues Arising, By Dr. Adoyi ONOJA

The controversy over the withdrawal of the invitation of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the executive governor of Kaduna state, as one of the guest speakers at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference has further exposed the depth of the polarisation of Nigerians and Nigeria since this administration came to power in 2015. At no time in Nigeria’s recent history of the last twenty years are its people and country this polarised as indicative by extant policies and politics. Crucially for me, the controversy recalled similar platform exposing the many ungoverned public spaces in public legislation in the country. One of these is security and/or national security.

Governance or the effective and efficient utilisation of human and material resources for the benefit of Nigerians at the three levels – local, states and federal – has suffered due to incessant crisis and conflict that is largely orchestrated by the actions and inactions of the administrations functionaries at all levels. Nigeria is not only the poverty capital of the world. Nigeria is the most dangerous place to live on earth going by the state of lawlessness and disorder in most if not all the thirty six states of the federation.

These conditions are pointer to the degrading level of compliance with the rule and/or dictate of the law by agencies of the government particularly those of the executive saddle with the enforcement and implementation of the law. This is blatantly worrying because this is supposedly under a representative rule. It was this condition that informed the petition by group of lawyers against the invitation granted to Mallam el-Rufai. As one of the members of the executive fingered in the erosion of the rule of law, the petitioners wondered why the NBA would allow Mallam el-Rufai to use its platform to promote his views knowing that he was one of the leading promoters of the rule of the gun instead of the law.

In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari had used the NBA platform to canvass for the “rule of law to bow before national security”. Indeed if Mr. President’s view was coy directive, his lieutenants particularly in the Ministry of Information and others at other levels have used this directive to ride roughshod over the rule of law in the name of their personalised and ungoverned perspective of “national security”. What is of interest to me is Mr. President’s use of national security. Within national security, what is interesting to me is security.

Is Mr. President aware that national security unlike the rule of law is not universal? Is Mr. President aware that there is nothing like security in policy legislation and constitution in Nigeria? Where then did Mr. President get his national security? Can Mr. President tell Nigerians what is national security? Would Mr. President’s view of national security be the same with those of his cabinet members and the ministries, departments and agencies under his leadership, the governors and their cabinets, the local government chairpersons and their cabinets, members of the legislatures, members of the judiciaries, members of the fourth estate and the rest of Nigerians? Is the President aware that there are no “national” and no “security” in Nigeria and that there are two currents in national security – national and security – and that of the two currents, security comebefore national?

Is Mr. President aware that national security unlike the rule of law is not universal? I doubt if the President knows that national security has defined ethnicity and territoriality. I doubt if Mr. President knows that unlike the rule of law, national security’s ethnicity is in the United States of America. I doubt if Mr. President know that national security’s territoriality is the United States of America. Beyond the United States of America, there is profound limitation to the use and application of national security. The principle of the rule of law is universal. Any law made by the people for the people through their representatives’ should rule over the people. The use of national security is illegal and unconstitutional in this context in Nigeria.

Is Mr. President aware that there is nothing like security in policy legislation and in the constitution in Nigeria? I doubt if Mr. President is aware that there is nothing like security in policy legislation in Nigeria. I doubt if Mr. President is aware that the Constitution of 1999 as amended which he implements has nothing on security. The Nigerian establishment including the Office of the National Security Adviser did not deem it fit to inform Mr. President that there is nothing like national security in Nigeria. The reason for this is not farfetched. The Office is confronting a crisis of identity and knows no better.

Or else the Office would have informed Mr. President that national security is ethnically and territorially America; that there has not been the domestication of national security in Nigeria in policy legislation and/or in the constitution; that the use of national security is misguidedly an imitation of reality that is unsuitable to the Nigerian clime; that at best national security or security is the convenient name and verb referring to the executive institutions of the military, intelligence and law enforcement whose schedules from policy legislation and/or the constitution is defence, intelligence gathering and safety of persons and property and not security or national security and; that unlike in America where the military, intelligence and law enforcement is the logistics of security deployed in search for national security anywhere and everywhere in the world, in Nigeria, it is security itself. To the extent that there is no policy legislation on security and that the Constitution has nothing on security, the use of security and/national security is illegal, immoral and illegitimate in Nigeria.

Can Mr. President tell Nigerians what is national security? Beyond Mr. President’s backgrounds in the military and in politics and government, Mr. President cannot explain security or national security beyond the knowledge gained from these backgrounds. Yet if Mr. President’s understanding emanated from these backgrounds – a fact couched in his campaign promises and in the three agendas that characterised his administration in the last five years – he has failed to provide this security or national security, the first of his three point agenda. One of the evidence for this failure is the petition by section of the NBA to deny Mallam el-Rufai their platform to peddle his views on national issues. Mallam el-Rufai was axed because of the killings in the State where he is the so-called chief security officer. This failure demonstrated beyond any doubt that there is more in the word “security” and/or “national security” than what Mr. President’s backgrounds and those of lieutenants socialised them into knowing and practicing. From a philosophical point of view, security has more to offer Nigerians if carefully constructed than Mr. President and the establishments are willing to explore especially under the representative rule enabling environment. 

Would Mr. President’s view of national security be the same with those of his cabinet members and the ministries, departments and agencies under his leadership, the governors and their cabinets, the local government chairpersons and their cabinets, members of the legislatures, members of the judiciaries, members of the fourth estate and the rest of Nigerians? There is a sense in which Mr. President’s view of security and/or national security will be the same with the listed persons and institutions holding elected and political positions. It will certainly differ diametrically with those of most Nigerians that chose to send the military – the military supposedly the poster child of security – back to the barracks because they lacked security in their lives.

This fact calls for the reexamination of security under the prevailing representative rule environment as opposed to that which was learnt under military rule environment. There is a line of security and/or national security that would unite Mr. President and others in political and appointed leadership position. It is national security as the whim and caprice of the ruling elite riding roughshod over the rule of law. Mr. President’s view of national security is a moving target. Mr. President’s view of national security or security lacks Nigerian ethnicity. Mallam el-Rufai’s view of national security is equally a moving target ethnically Kaduna and desperately in search of a Nigerian ethnicity hence his angst over the withdrawal of invitation by the NBA. Security and/or national security are relative to so many indices including power, religion, region, ethnicity and politics.

Is the President aware that there are no “national” and no “security” in Nigeria and that there are two currents in national security – national and security – and that of the two currents, security come before national? Mr. President has no sense of nation beyond its everyday use in speech and in politics. Nigeria is not a nation. While nation building is a process, in the last five years of this administration more steps along the line of discouraging the emergence of nation from nationalities have been put in place in policies and politics.

President Buhari and Mallam el-Rufai have been instrumental in deconstructing nation in their policies and politics. Thus Nigeria is a state merely surviving on the juridical sovereignty that it enjoyed from the international community. Nigeria does not enjoy empirical sovereignty as demonstrated by nationalities challenging its sovereignty in the last five years. While the state may have physical base and institutions – arguably the two bases for the juridical sovereignty it enjoyed – the idea that should govern the institutions and thus the physical base is lacking since the foundation of Nigeria and more so in the last five years. To speak of nation and thus national is to indulge in wishful thinking on the one hand and on the other hand to exercise ones favourite vocabulary in the circumstances. As a reality, nation and national do not exist in Nigeria.

If there is a nation, there is security and the symbiosis of national security would be appealing in Nigeria. In the absence of a Nigerian ownership of security based on policy legislation and/or constitution, even if one is to use other cultures conceptions of security and/or national security to explain the Nigerian situation, there is blatant absence of security in Nigeria. We pride ourselves as one country that imitates a lot and the United States of America is one country we copy enormously. One example is the use of national security. National security’s origin is the United States of America.

The legislation creating national security was passed into law by Congress and signed by the President in 1947. There are circumstances that shaped the creation of national security in America beginning with the laying of the first foundation stone in 1607 for the Republic and that which designated the military, intelligence and law enforcement as instrument for the procurement of national security anywhere and everywhere in the world in 1947. One word that explained national security in America is the search for economic and strategic resources for the wellbeing of Americans anywhere and everywhere in the world. This is national security in America.

If one reduces national security and/or security to the popular perception that fascinate the establishment in Nigeria i.e. the military, intelligence and law enforcement, any harm to one American in America or anywhere in the world is enough to mobilise the entire military, intelligence and law enforcement resources to protect this individual. Is there anything in the Nigerian national security and/or security remotely resembling this reality in America for Nigerians? NO.Is Nigeria’s enterprise abroad governedby the search for economic and strategic resources or national security to better Nigerians back home? NO. Does Nigeria use its military, intelligence and law enforcement resources to protect Nigerians inside and outside Nigeria? Hell NO.

Let me use a Third World country that has a version of national security to situate the popular practice that characterised security and/or national security in Nigeria. The popular practice is the equation of the military, intelligence and law enforcement as national security and/or security. The country is Iran. Modern Iranwhich was created by the revolution of 1979 comes from a long historical and unbroken chain and tradition that goes back in time to thousands of years. Iran is an ancient civilisation and certainly not in league with Nigeria that was created in the last one hundred years by the British to serve their security interest. What Iran and Nigeria have in common is that they are both Third World countries. This is where the similarity ended.

There is more sense of security and/or national security in Iran than in Nigeria if security is the safety of nationals and interests. Iran caters for the security of its people inside Iran. Iran defends the interest of Shia Islam in the Middle East and in the world including in Nigeria. Iran holds its flag high in the geopolitics of the Middle East in the face of the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia individually and combined. Iran holds the banner of Shia Islam in the world. Iran is hell bent on having nuclear bomb or what analyst called the Shia bomb to defend itself and its interests. This is the equivalent of the Sunni bomb in the possession of Pakistan. Are Nigerians safe in Nigeria if national security and/or security is safety of persons? NO. Are Nigerians safe in the sub region if national security and/or security is the projection of its power abroad in the interest of its nationals? NO.

The merit of the petition against Mallam el-Rufai’s invitation carried weight to the extent that the prevailing lawlessness in the country have been traced directly and indirectly to the actions and inactions of Mr. President and his lieutenants including Mallam el-Rufai. The President’s address to the NBA advocating that “national security” takes precedence over the rule of law may have emboldened the conducts of persons and institutions in Nigeria.

The furore over the withdrawal of the invitation of Mallam el-Rufai as one of the speakers at the NBA conference should be an opportunity to reflect on the issue raise by Mr. President using the same platform in 2018. Security and national security is one of the never raised and never investigated and interrogated issues plaguing governance in Nigeria’s representative rule system in the last twenty years. It is an opportunity to examine national security and/or security beyond the known perception of security as a word, the backgrounds that socialised most Nigerians into security knowledge and the prevailing representative rule enabling environment of the last twenty years.

In view of security and/or national security’s failure in the last twenty years, security and/or national security is definitely different under military rule and under representative rule. What is security under representative rule?

This is the question before Nigeria’s legislatures.

About the Author: Dr. Adoyi ONOJA teaches history and security courses in the Department of History and in the graduate programme on Security and Strategic Studies in the Institute of Governance and Development Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi. 

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