“Security” and Senator Emmanuel Yisa Oker-Jev’s Interview: Issues Arising for Nigeria’s Legislators and Legislatures”, By Dr. Adoyi ONOJA

I listened to Senator Emmanuel Yisa Oker-Jev’s interview on the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) 7am news of 13 August 2020. The focus of the question was principally “security” and other sundry issues bedeviling governance in Nigeria. I am interested in the part where Senator Oker-Jev spoke of the interventions of the National Assembly on “security” including convening national conferences to chart the way forward. In this the Senator recalled his tour of duty in the National Assembly first in the lower chamber and now in the upper chamber. 

This, no doubt, spoke to the Senator’s legislative experience in the making of new policy legislation, review, update and amend of old and archaic legislations and in the oversight of ministries, departments and agencies of the executive. These are to facilitate the executing and/or implementing work of the executive to enable governance of Nigeria.

I am of the belief that the task before the legislators and legislatures-national, states and local government councils-is enormous. Thus the making and marring of governance weigh heavily on their shoulders. This is because unless the legislators and legislatures do their work of producing and reviewing legislations and conducting oversight, the task of the executives-national, states and local councils-will be hampered and governance will suffer.

I am interested in the interventions of the National Assembly on “security” for the questions they have NOT asked. I am not interested in the solutions they have provided so far. The result of the solution is there for all Nigerians to see: failed and failing “security”. This is because if the National Assembly had asked and answered the right questions on “security”, we will not be on the now familiar merry-go-round, ever-increasing-appetite-for-fund and the no-result that “security” represented for conscientious members of the Assembly and to most discerning Nigerians.

The National Assembly would have created vision and mission of security to follow. Were there to have been vision and mission of security, the National Assembly would have been reviewing and evaluating the accomplishment of security in the short, medium and long term. However, the National Assembly and I dare say the states and local government council assemblies chose to join the executives’ bandwagon “tunnel security” as one critique put it. In this, they put the “security” cart before the “security” horse in the mission without vision that is “security” in Nigeria.

The executives have a long unbroken tradition of governance within its jurisdiction whether under the military and/or the occasional bleep that characterised representative rule until 1999. As a result of this the executives have developed a perspective of “security” that is constant, unchanging and characteristics of the instability of the dominant governance type. This has afforded the executives the luxury of claiming to know this “security”. Therefore, in their interventions on “security” and based on this knowledge they claimed to have, the issue with “security” in Nigeria is NOT about WHAT or vision anymore. The issue with “security” is about HOW or mission.

However, even with the successful failure of the one-off only strategy of tackling “security” that the executives adopted – a view borne by the repeated and successful failure of all their interventions – they have refused to stop and ask if their strategy was based on the right diagnosis of “security”. The executives failed to stop and ask if their diagnosis of “security” and the strategy they proffered that failed could have been because of the difference of the governing enabling environment in place. The executives forged on in replicating the failed strategy of “security” partly because it makes good economic and political sense and partly because unlike the legislatures the focus of the people is on the executives to provide solution to “security”.

This is a luxury that the legislatures cannot contemplate in Nigeria and within the jurisdiction carved out for them in the distribution of governance task. Of the executives and legislatures in the presidential system, the legislatures represent the will of the people more than the executives as every one of them is elected. When compared with the executives, only the president, governors and chairpersons are elected. Every other person working with the elected executives is appointed.

Thus unlike the executives, the legislatures have no tradition of unbroken history of legislative experience to fall back on and have had to learn afresh all that there is in the making of new legislation based on the needs and aspirations of their people; the review, update and amend of old and archaic legislations in order to make them functional to the needs of their people and; in the oversight of executive institutions to ensure the implementation of the policy legislations. By the very nature of their schedule, they have been provisioned in terms of resources and logistics to carefully study the needs of their people in order to evolve new legislation and/or review, update and amend old legislations and to conduct oversight of ministries, departments and agencies of the executives in order to enhance and strengthen governance.

The legislatures cannot follow the line of the executives in endorsing and pursuing their knowledge of “security” uncritically. They have the enabling environment – resources and logistics paid for by the tax payers – to sit back, study and ask the right questions on “security” in order to come up with the right legislative framework to addressing the issue. They are not under pressure like the executives since the overwhelming view out there is disposed to looking up to the executives for solution to “security” and not to the legislatures. Yet the legislators persisted in following the path of the executives and even competing with the executives for the essential reason that the path in question makes economic and political sense on the one hand and on the other hand because they ran out of idea, if ever they gave thought commensurate with their legislative task, on the way forward on this issue of “security” from the legislative perspective.

When I say there are issues arising for the legislatures on “security”, I am referring to the questions the National Assembly, State Assemblies and Local Government Assemblies have not asked of “security” within the representative rule enabling environment which the mandate from the people empower the legislators to ask and answer. This is different from what obtained under military rule enabling environment that shaped perception of most if not all Nigerians for the better part of post-independence Nigeria before 1999. 

Let me begin by making one clarification prior to delving into the issues arising for the legislators and legislatures on “Security”. These issues will require elucidation with facts and figures if and when the opportunity is provided.

The clarification I wish to make is to say that my intervention is not intended to use Senator Emmanuel Yisa Oker-Jev’s interview to impugn his person and capacity and those of his colleagues to do their works in all of the elected assemblies across all the levels of government. Democracy is a process. Democracy is not an event. Democracy is interaction between the elected and the electorates. As a process democracy comes with lots of hiccups. To this extent, building persons and institutions in the democratic way and growing democratisation among persons and institutions is also a process and an interaction. This takes time.

My intervention seeks to provide alternative perspective of thinking-outside-the-box of prevailing “security” knowledge and practice to enable to members of the assemblies to accomplish their legislative task for the betterment of Nigerians and Nigeria. This is the reason I used the perspective of governance provided by the World Bank. The Bank defined governance as the effective and efficient utilisation of human and material resources for the benefit of the people and in our case most Nigerians. The focus on governance by the Bank is to support its timeless diagnosis of Africa’s development problem as governance oriented. In 1989, the Bank had argued that “underlying the litany of Africa’s development problems is a crisis of governance”.

If Senator Oker-Jev’s intervention and those of his colleagues particularly in the existential area called “security” for upward of two decades is not yielding security governance for most Nigerians, then it is important to stop and check the governance of security. Unless there is a framework and in this case a philosophy or nature, meaning and purpose of security wrapped in policy legislation framework for the governance of security, there will not be security governance.

The first of the issues is the use of quotation marks to denote “security” in Nigeria. “Security” is a practice. As a practice, it is a name and work description of the executive institutions of the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE). The military comprised the navy, army and air force’ the intelligence comprised the Department of State Service, National Intelligence Agency and the Defence Intelligence Agency and; the law enforcement comprised the police, civil defence, immigration, customs etc. “Security” is a convenient one-off description for these institutions that comes under defence and law enforcement and nothing else.

To use quotation marks is to denote this assertion as distinct from security deliberately constructed for its philosophy vis-a-vis a country’s history, experience and reality (HER). “Security” has no philosophy in Nigeria other than the sole meaning that it describes the institutions and work of the people in defence (navy, air force and army) and law enforcement (police, civil defence, immigration, customs etc.). This contrast sharply with that which obtains in other countries and cultures. The foremost examples are the United States of America and lately Peoples’ Republic of China.

The second issue is that “security” has not been studied in comparative perspective to enable the understanding of the Nigerian variety and the need to move it beyond the name and work description it connote presently to something driven by philosophy based on Nigeria’s history, experience and reality (HER).

The third issue is to investigate and interrogate the origin of the word security in the context of creation and/evolution of homo sapiens; in the first and original objective of homo sapiens on earth and; the changing country-specific culture of security over time to include the popular one that associate security with defence and law enforcement. This is because security is first a word before other associated meaning and philosophy were conceived for it by countries and cultures.

The fourth issue is to examine the philosophy behind the popular perspective of security as defence and law enforcement and the rationale behind the deployment of these logistics anywhere and everywhere in the world by those with the history, sociology and politics for this. It is the deployment of the logistics of security i.e. the military, intelligence and law enforcement all around the world that gave security its outward representation and thus for Nigeria the name and work type for the military, intelligence and law enforcement.

The “security” works the military, intelligence and law enforcement do is inside Nigeria. The search for security and the work of security for a country such as the United States that is known as National Security occurs outside the territory of the United States. The Nigerian variety is NOT found all over the world except in Nigeria. This is barring the military, intelligence and law enforcement participation in the United Nations, African Union and/or ECOWAS peacekeeping missions. There is an explanation for the United States variety and the Nigerian example.

The fifth issue is to compare the country-specific culture driving this perspective of security beyond the borders of the country and the one in practice in other countries.

The sixth issue is to examine the institutions put in place to govern this security in the countries with the earliest tradition of security and those of other countries such as Nigeria.

The seventh issue is to examine if the “security” is place in Nigeria is governed by the Constitution and/or any law and/or falls squarely within the theoretical knowledge that seeks to explain security in other countries and cultures.

The eighth point is to determine whether there should difference between security under different governance types – military rule, one party authoritarian rule, monarchy and representative rule. This is specifically for the institutions of the executives and the legislatures and the perception deriving from this “security”.

The ninth issue arising from the eighth issue is if this difference exists and whether this difference is responsible for the state of “security” in Nigeria since 1999. This is because:

             if military rule defined and justified  “security” within their job description of defence, how should elected political rule define and justify security? Should the elected political rule not define security within their job description of governance that encompasses most things beginning with the foundation of security, the economy nd including the subsystem called defence? Should the elected political rule not follow the security type advocated by Anthony Burke that ‘security should not be seen as one good among many. Security should be the good that guarantees all others’. Should the Nigerian political class persist in defining security in the context of their difficult experience in the hands of the military as the quid pro quo that security is today? Where is the difference between the elected political class rule and the military class rule in the matter of “security”? Of the political and military class today, who should own and drive security?”

This brings me to the crust of the unasked and unanswered questions for which the nine issues arising for the legislators on “security” revolves. These questions constitute what P.D. Williams described as the four fundamental questions governing security studies. For me these questions burrow into the heart of what is the problem with “security” in Nigeria that the legislatures have ignored in their interventions.

The failure of the legislatures to ask and answer these fundamental questions of philosophy, policy and strategy is the reason “security” failed and is failing and Nigerians lacked “security”. This is responsible for the absence of difference between security, defence and law enforcement amongst Nigerians whether lettered and unlettered. It is responsible for the lack security studies as distinct from defence and law enforcement studies in tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The lack of functional distinction between security, defence and law enforcement owe to the lack of security framework for the development of curriculum and thus the investigation and interrogation of security within the four walls of schools in Nigeria. The failure to ask and answer these questions and thus conduct bilateral and multilateral relation with members of the international community armed with Nigeria’s security vision and mission is the reason that we are laughing stock for discerning members of the international community for whom we exist to fulfill one of their security objectives.

Asking and answering these fundamental questions will fill the missing gap of security philosophy and begin the foundation for the governance of security and security governance of all spheres of public life in Nigeria

The four fundamental questions or that which I abbreviated as the 4FQs is: What is security? Whose security? What is a security issue? How can security be achieved?

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. He edits the website www.adoyionoja.org/stripping/buzzingintown/aoviews/adonostra and he can be reached through his email address onojaa@yahoo.com

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