“The Bureaucracy in Security Sector Governance…” Issues Arising on “Security” By Dr. Adoyi ONOJA

A friend of mine sent me the link to be part of the webinar organised by the Whiteink Institute for Strategy Education and Research in Nigeria (WISER) nearly one week before the event slated for the 29th August 2020. Among the speakers were Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Dr. Ahmed Yayale, Senator Abdullahi Yahaya, AVM Mohammed Ndatsu Umaru (RTD), Dr. Marks Downes, Professor Habu Galadima, Dr. Temitope Toriola, and Lt Gen CI Obiakor (RTD.

I missed part of the presentation since I had to struggle with my devices in order to connect to the programme. This was partly the result of not been information technology savvy and partly because of weak information communication technology infrastructures. I had attempted to connect with my Galaxy Tab S and when that did not succeed, I turned to my phone where I finally joined the programme. I joined over twenty minutes after it commenced and exited rather early when AVM Umaru was making his presentation. Thus I listened partly to the presentation by Dr. Baba-Ahmed, AVM Umaru and the moderator before the network intervened and disconnected me.

A day after the presentations, I got a mail from the organisers requesting me to submit my questions or comments. Of course I had wanted to pose some questions and make some contributions before my devices and the network intervened. I therefore welcomed the opportunity to present my questions and make my comments.

Security was the matter before the panelists. Of the theme for the panelists, the word security is the independent variable. The rest are the dependent variables. Obviously, the panelists were assembled to address that which the Nigeria government described as “security” challenges bedvilling Nigeria. The “security” challenges have been particularly virulent and intractable in the last eleven years and for me personally for almost the entire lives of most Nigerians and Nigeria since independence. Again for me, the last eleven years of the last twenty years beginning from 1999 and most of Nigerians and Nigeria’s lives since independence represented the two divergent views on “security”.

The first of the views is the popular one that sees “security” in the work of the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE). It is clearly one of misrepresentation and blind borrowing of realities without indigenisation that has characterised the affairs of successive leadership in the country. It is also representative of the imprimatur of the military in the history, sociology and politics of Nigeria since it became the dominant ruling class until 1999.

Clearly what the governments, the MILE authorities and most Nigerians referred to as “security” challenges falls within the purview of the military, intelligence and law enforcement (MILE) duty schedules. They are, on the strength of the Constitution and other enabling legislations, the responsibility of the military comprising the army, navy and airforce, intelligence comprising the Department of State Services, National Intelligence Agency and Defence Intelligence Agency and law enforcement comprising police, civil defence, customs, drug enforcement, immigration etc. It is, first and foremost a law and order issue or public order that can be handled by the police, civil defence, customs, immigration, drug enforcement etc. It is, secondly and occasionally, the type where the resources of the military with the support of the intelligence, can be deployed to aid civil authorities.

The so-called “security” challenges can also be referred to as defence issue particularly with the element of externalisation of the last eleven years. For the fact that everything is described as “security” without the distinction for law enforcement and defence categories is a product of military socialisation on the one hand and on the other hand the convenience that goes with the use of security. The use of “security” as generic name was internationalised by the Cold War and post-Cold War developments. However, for discerning countries and cultures, this is where the convenience in the use of “security” to describe issues of law enforcement and defence ended. For these countries, the use of “security” carries the weight of their peoples and communities history, sociology and politics.

The second view of “security”, as I noted, has existed in the lives of Nigerians and Nigeria since independence. This view only sharpened and heightened with the return of representative rule in 1999. This strand of “security” which is universal is embedded in security’s etymology, epistemology and philosophy and, in the comparative assessments of countries and cultures construction of their “security”. This “security” is innate to the sojourn of human beings on planet earth.

If the first perspective of “security” failed and is failing in Nigeria necessitating the repeated interventions of the authorities and pundits – itself failed and failing – it is because there is something philosophical wrong with the “security” and/or with the interventions. Nigerians rejected the MILE type “security” for the universal “security” when in their mass they voted to drive the military back to the barracks in 1999.

In the last twenty years of civilian rule, we have witnessed the foisting of the MILE type “security” on Nigerians without regards by the civilian leaderships for the decision made by most Nigerians in 1999 and even in spite of the repeated successful failure of this “security”. The elected legislatures and the numerous pundits in their interventions on “security” did not see anything wrong with this “security” to begin to ask questions on security’s etymology, epistemology, philosophy, history and country-comparisons. The elected legislatures and the clan of pundits did not see the need to comb the 1999 Constitution and other legislations to discover if there was ever a policy provision for security.

One fundamental question that has not been asked by the legislatures and pundits since their interventions on the “security” is: 

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 and 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?”

It should be noted that the difference between military rule “security” if at all it should be called security and elected civilian rule “security” is that the former preside over a subsystem called defence and the latter preside over the entire system including the defence subsystem. This is the reason that prompted my using the metaphor of security is forest for elected civilian rule and security is a tree for military rule to distinguish the two.

To this extent it is absolutely essential for the legislatures to provide policy legislation platform addressing what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved in tandem with the mandate they received from the people to govern the entire Nigeria beginning with securing their livelihoods and lives in this order. The type of security the people voted for is a repudiation of the security type that represented the worldview of the military.

At present, neither the Constitution nor any law contains this policy provision on security. Indeed one of the deficiencies of the 1999 Constitution and the basis for the continuation of the defence-grade “security” in the country is the fifteen mentions of “security” with Chapter II Section 14 2b as the linchpin. According to the section “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government”. It is important to investigate and interrogate the reasoning behind the statement.

Above all else it is important to investigate and interrogate the powers behind the drafters of the Constitution, their strategic objectives, the ideological reasoning in the insertion of “security” in Section 14 2b, the context of the fourteen references to “security” in the Constitution and Sections 214 and 217 respectively. This should be place side by side with the type of “security” most Nigerians voted to install in 1999. There goes the security policy legislation lacuna behind the failed and failing “security” in place. Nigeria’s representative rule establishment beginning with the legislatures failed to construct its vision and mission of security in tandem with the wishes of Nigerians.

The preceding preamble has partly addressed my worries to the organisers. The panelists on the webinar failed to establish what security is and therefore what should constitute security sector governance in Nigeria to provide the basis for evaluating the roles of Nigerian civil and public services and political institutions.

What is security in Nigeria? What is security since the establishment of representative rule in 1999?

The panelists interventions only succeeded in appropriating the history, sociology and politics of other countries and cultures in tackling the “bureaucracy in security sector governance: evaluating the roles of Nigerian civil and public services and political institutions”. There was little of Nigerianess in their contribution on “security”.

The concept of security sector governance (SSG) is an offshoot of the Development Agenda, the one-size-fit-all solution packaged by western development agencies, for developing countries coming out from armed conflict and/or experiencing armed conflict. As a development agenda, security sector governance prioritises the benefactors’ interest – and these benefactors have their indigenous conception of security – above those of the recipients. The panelists’ interventions assisted in promoting the security objectives of these benefactors and not Nigeria’s because they have no idea of Nigeria’s security.

I say this because the key and central word in the topic and panelists’ discourses was/is SECURITY.

I will cite two examples to support my assertion. The first is that in 1947, the United States of America introduced the word national security, its preferred term for security, into its political vocabulary. National security went global as it was subsequently appropriated by different countries of the world. This followed the passing by the Congress of the National Security Act which was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. This was barely two after the Second World War that announced the birth of the American Age.

National Security is quintessentially American as it carries the HISTORY, SOCIOLOGY AND POLITICS of the United States. Since then there have been several national security strategies drawn up by different administrations as their mission for the attainment of the vision called national security in America. America First National Security Strategy is President Donald Trump’s mission to attaining national security in America.

What is Nigeria’s equivalent of security act or vision and security strategy or mission? Where is Nigeria’s equivalent of security act or mission and security strategy or mission?

The second example derived from the newest and latest addition to policy legislation on security. It is the national security law passed by the Peoples’ Republic of China. Again this security policy legislation bears the history, sociology and politics of China. One of China’s recurrent geopolitical headaches is the interference in its affairs by outsiders. In the 19th century, the persistent interference would force China to develop strategies for managing that which it described as the menace of barbarians. With the law in place, a policy platform defining what is national security, whose national security, what is a national security issue and how can national security be achieved exist for engagement between the authorities, its peoples and others.

What is Nigeria’s equivalent of the national security law passed by the legislatures addressing that which Nigeria identify as security based on its history, experience and reality (HER) or derived from its history, sociology and politics?

The conversation of the panelists did not benefit from any law on security in the country. The conversation of the panelists did not think outside the “known” yet undefined, uncharted and ungoverned box of “security”. Arguably, their conversation meant for the authorities first before Nigerians has no meaning for most Nigerians. The reason is that the platform – policy legislation – to engage in the conversation on security has not been created by the legislatures. This policy legislation platform should address the questions what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. Neither the 1999 Constitution as amended nor any enabling legislation has ever addressed these questions of policy and strategy on security. If the conversation of the panelists was meant to hold the authorities to account, what platform of “security” did they use to achieving this?

Again, there was no functional distinction and difference in their application of law enforcement, defence and security.  The persistent reference to defence and security leaves one confused as to the context of its use. While there is a constitutional and legislative provision for the use of law enforcement and defence to which there is no ambiguity, the case for security is different. Recall my reference to the forest to denote security and tree to denote defence. Security is the forest and defence is one tree in the forest which houses other trees. This prompted my previous assertion that the role of elected civilian rule is to construct the vision of the forest called security since they have the peoples’ mandate to govern the entire realm called Nigeria.

How can the “bureaucracy” or that which was described as “Nigerian civil and public services and political institutions” know “security” let alone “security sector governance” and their roles in it when there is no policy legislation stating what is security in Nigeria, whose security in Nigeria, what is a security issue in Nigeria and now to their roles of achieving security in their various schedule in the ministries, departments and agencies or the bureaucracies? This is because this security does not exist and/ or they have not been taught this security and their roles in its attainment.

To think that one of the panelists submitted that “security” cannot be defined, cannot be seen, cannot be felt, smelt and touched just goes to demonstrate the type of thinking out there in the official cycle on “security”. The “security” so described in this manner gulp substantial amount of money budgeted and extra budgeted constituting significant percentage of Nigeria’s gross domestic product annually. The panelist was yards away from spilling the popular yet misleading and unsubstantiated bunkum in the public domain that no amount of money spent on “security” can be considered too much!

There are so much myths out there being peddled on security that did not derive from government policy legislation on security. One is yet to determine the sources and origins of these myths on security in Nigeria. Security, far from these myths and falsehoods making the rounds in Nigeria, is a constructed idea tailor-made for cultures and countries. The examples of the United States of America and the Peoples’ Republic of China are two out of the many that exist. It is the one path that Nigeria has not taken yet.

If Nigeria had taken the path to constructing its philosophy of security enshrined in policy legislation, one can then attribute the myths and falsehoods out there as product of investigation and interrogation and/or interpretations based on one understood of what is security. In this sense we may assemble team to discuss the “bureaucracy in security sector governance” and we can have security experts all over the country engaging the government on the account of its declared security policy.

Without a constructed security philosophy enshrined in policy legislation, the knowledge out there did not emanate from government’s statement of policy on security and thus not representative of what is security. The assembled experts did not speak from schooled experience based on Nigeria’s security curriculum if there was one derived from policy legislation on security. The myriad of experts on security did not develop their expertise on the basis of the knowledge derive from Nigeria’s security policy legislation. Their expertise was based on what they learned and appropriated from the face of the globalised security that addressed the security worries of the globalising powers in their countries and regions. The preference for and purveying of the known colonised knowledge of security by these pundits, as I stated previously, made them tools for the attainment of the security objectives of the globalising powers and countries in their home country and region.

Security, the subject of the conversation, does not exist in legislation. This is because there is no governance of security and as such no security governance in Nigeria. It is therefore not surprising that security successfully failed, is failing and will continue to fail unless this policy lacuna is addressed. It is only in Nigeria that the security cart goes before the security horse. Thus there is security strategy or mission but there is no security policy or vision.

In the matter of security strategy, one agency of the executive, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) knows the strategy to attaining the undefined, uncharted and ungoverned security for every ministry, department and agency of government at the federal, states and local councils. The ONSA singlehandedly drafted the now revised and updated security strategy which public presentation Mr. President did in December of 2019. The ONSA-inspired National Security Strategy, first compiled and presented in 2014, was unilaterally written by the ONSA without the input of other sectors in Nigeria.

I will conclude with the words of Steve Jobs that “if you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution”. Nigeria has never travelled this path on “security”.

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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