RISING INSECURITY – Governments fail, Labour must act
Urgent Need for Non-Sectarian Communal Defence to Halt Killings and a Program of Struggle for Socialist Transformation
One of the cardinal campaign promises of the Buhari/APC government is to end insecurity in the country. Not a few Nigerians believed that Buhari’s background as a former Military General would rub off on the country. However, almost six years into the Buhari administration and almost two years into the second term, the security situation in the country has worsened. While before the 2015 elections, the main focus of insecurity in Nigeria was the Boko Haram insurgency, the last six years have seen other seemingly unpronounced security breaches become prominent, alongside the Boko Haram insurgency.
By Kola Ibrahim
Currently, no part of the country can be considered to be secure. From Boko Haram insurgency, which has claimed more than 30,000 lives in the last 10 years, and more than 5,000 under the Buhari administration, to banditry in the north-west, fast-rising kidnapping business across the country, herdsmen-farmers’ conflicts, communal crises, street hooliganism, cultist attacks, and extra-judicial killing, the country seems to be under permanent siege. The worst part is the extra-judicial killings and crimes committed by the security agencies and the governments at all levels. According to National Security Tracking (NST) report, between 2015 and 2019, more than 25, 700 lives have been lost to extra-judicial killings, of which over 4,000 were due to herdsmen-farmers’ conflict and another over 4,000 due to extra-judicial killing by the security agencies (including over 1,000 Shiites, and several hundreds of IPOB members). Obviously, these figures would have shot up since 2019.
All of these situations have undermined the integrity of the civilian security agencies like the police, such that in virtually all the states of the federation, the military is now carrying out the responsibility of the regular civilian security agencies. This is a dangerous trend as it tends to send the signal that the civilian authorities cannot ensure internal security or administer the country. This can become a potent tool for military takeover at a period of sharp class conflict, or serious social tension.
While it is true that many of these security problems predates the Buhari administration, the fact that they not only persist under the regime, but have also worsened in many respects, despite the large popular support received by the Buhari government at its inception to tackle these challenges. For instance, the herdsmen-farmers conflicts have worsened under Buhari government, not only because the government failed to tackle or address the underlining and immediate causes, but also through body language and comments of its officials, which show a bias towards parochial and sectional interests.
Also, the Boko Haram insurgency predates the Buhari government. But one of the basis of the existence of the Buhari government is the quest to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency. Yet, mounting body counts, including those of rank and file soldiers, who have been made the sacrificial lamb for the mismanagement of security funds, has shown the utter failure of the Buhari government. Moreover, the mass killing of hundreds of Shiites members of the now-proscribed Ibrahim El Zakzakky-led Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and those of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the security agencies under the direct order of the government, has shown that Buhari’s government is becoming the major threat to the citizens. The EndSARS protests, where genuine and peaceful protests of young people against police brutality and poor government response to it, was drowned in sea of blood, has shown that Buhari’s government cannot be expected to address the myriads of security breaches across the country.
Behind the various security crises in the country are unresolved nationality questions, poverty and want, and most importantly, the neo-colonial capitalist system being superintended over by the Buhari government, state governments, the APC, PDP and other bourgeois political parties. It is a known fact that poverty, joblessness and inability to meet basic needs, are drivers behind rising cases of crimes especially kidnapping and robbery. In more than twenty years of civil rule, living standards have fallen drastically as majority of the citizens cannot meet basic needs. Social services like education and healthcare have been priced out of the reach of the majority, while where they are available at all, the quality is poor. This has meant that a significant proportion of the income of the working people and poor goes to paying for these services that should ordinarily be social, good provided and adequately funded by the government. This coupled with lack of opportunity for the majority of young people in terms of jobs and ability to fend for themselves has led people to seek desperate means to meet basic needs of life. We have heard several cases of people who go into crimes such as kidnapping and robbery, just to meet basic economic and socio-cultural needs such as paying for medical bill of family members, paying for school fees, feeding, getting married, etc.
Also, the inability of various generations of Nigerian capitalist political class to resolve existing nationality issues generated and left behind by colonialism, more than six decades after political independence, has made the existence of Nigeria to increasingly be mere marriage of convenience, with various sections of the country, ethnic groups and rival elites always in continuous conflict with one another. Every social crisis assumes a form of ethnic and nationality colouration, especially when Labour is silent or does not act. Coupled with unprecedented poverty and want, the unresolved national question is a major recipe for social crisis and of course, insecurity. It is worth noting that all the so-called efforts of the bourgeois class at resolving national questions since independence have been centred on resolving disagreements among various sections of the corrupt political class, and promoting parochial political and business interests of bourgeois politicians. It is thus not accidental that most of the various national conferences have been undemocratically convened, while their outcomes have been less effective at addressing the fundamental issues affecting the country.
Worse still, capitalist politicians and big business classes are manipulating the national question to further their political and economic interests. It is not strange to see politicians and capitalist political parties, under the guise of so-called political zoning system, divide people on the basis of ethnic groups and nationalities. Furthermore, bourgeois politicians have mastered the art of using ethnic jingoism to seek for political power or hold on to it. Those, who are sidelined from the control of political power usually hide under the banner of ethnic marginalization to seek for their own share, while those in control of political power, mobilise their ethnic or clan support as the primary base of support. They go to the extent of arming their supporters or even sponsoring ethnic militias to promote ethnic agenda, which at the end of the day turn out to be pecuniary agenda of the political class.
For instance, the issue of herdsmen-farmer conflict has seen politicians manipulate debate along ethnic agitations in the south, while the Buhari government and its officials usually defend the narrow interests of the Fulani herdsmen without addressing the basic issues that are the underlining causes of the conflict. However, when politicians resolve their political and economic disagreements, they leave the mass of poor people they have mobilised with ethnic jingoism to sort themselves out. This, coupled with limited resources, lack of access to social services and opportunities, usually result in social crisis.
A genuine effort at resolving national question will require the convocation of a sovereign national conference comprising the elected representatives of workers, peasants, artisans, market men and women, professional groups, communities and ethnic nationalities. Such a conference will have the power to not only resolve the basic questions about different nationalities live together, but also the economic and political arrangement upon which the country is to be based. Socialists argue that ending all forms of oppression must be a key foundation as must be a programme that can develop the country and end poverty and scarcity. Capitalism has shown that it cannot achieve this and Labour must argue that the solution lays in socialist economic programmes, which will involve putting the mainstay and commanding sectors of the economy under public ownership and democratic control and management of the working people, communities and the government. It is through this arrangement, implemented by a government representing working people and the poor, that the huge wealth of the country can be mobilised for the long term development of the country and ensure better living conditions of the majority of the population.
The fundamental basis for the rise in insecurity is the iniquitous neocolonial capitalist system superintended over by the corrupt and inept political and big business classes in Nigeria. Given that Nigeria, just like many other neo-colonial third world countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, is a latecomer to the orbit of global capitalism; a product of legacy of colonialism and imperialism. However, in more than sixty years, various generations of Nigeria’s bourgeois capitalist class in politics and big business have not been able to resolve just one of the problems left by colonialism. Basic social infrastructures and minimum programmes that can even allow capitalism to function properly in Nigeria cannot even be guaranteed by the bankrupt capitalist system.
Even, modernization of the security structure with adequate manpower and modern technology cannot be carried out by the capitalist class. It is so terrible that the meagre fund allocated to the security sectors have been looted by various sections of the capitalist politicians in power. Despite the fact that the number of security agents is grossly inadequate, more than a quarter of the officers of the police force are serving as bodyguards to moneybags and banks, overwhelmingly most Nigerians do not have any form of security. But even if this is done, on the basis of the primitive nature of Nigeria’s capitalist system, which has ensured more and more poverty and misery for the majority of the population, it is only a matter of time before these security agencies are overwhelmed. Worse still, a modernized security situation in the hand of a bankrupt political class will only become a grand tool of unprecedented repression, subjugation and criminal profiling of the population. The key to security lies in both ending poverty and establishing a democratically control security service that defends ordinary people and not exploiters.
The last two decades have left nothing in terms of improvements for the working people and youth. A child born when the civil rule returned in 1999 will be over 20 years, yet there is fundamentally nothing he or she can claim to have gained from being a Nigerian. Education and healthcare have been priced out of the reach of the working class families, with average school fees in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions increasing by more than 10, 000 percent in the last two decades. Between 2000 and 2015, Nigeria’s billionaire class increased in number from 5,000 to 15, 000. Yet, within the same period, poverty increased from around 50 percent to over 70 percent.
The capitalist class cannot even develop the economic system beyond production of primary products like food and some building materials. While looting the tax proceeds of crude oil exports the Nigerian capitalists do not even control its production. Most capitalists in big business rely on patronage and direct subsidy from the state coffer to rake in huge wealth and profits. In this kind of situation, the security situation cannot be better than the crude capitalist economic arrangement. It is thus not accidental that social crimes, communal conflicts, ethno-religious tensions, and terrorism have defined Nigeria in more than two decades of the current civilian experiment. It is more terrible that the election of Buhari in 2015, which was expected to improve an already bad situation, has led to disillusion as there is more insecurity now than before. And possibly this may worsen in the next dispensation if the fundamental factors driving insecurity are not addressed. Therefore, the worsening security situation, as terrifying as it is, cannot be resolved fundamentally unless basic infrastructure, economic development and resolution of the national question are sorted out.
Some people have canvassed for the decentralization of the security structure to allow states to have their security agencies, some have recently hailed the creation of a regional security apparatus in the southwest codenamed Amotekun whose example is being followed in other areas. While state police or regional security arrangement can make one or two changes to the existing structure, the fact is that there is the very possibility that they may be worse than even a federal security arrangement. The level of oppression and exploitation of citizens, and manipulation of state institutions for political and economic gains by state governments and capitalist politicians at state level shows that without direct community control and democratic supervision of such security apparatus, they will only decentralize the ineptitude, failure and crimes of the federal security agencies. The manipulation of state electoral commissions, exploitation of the working people and the poor through extortionate taxes, massive looting at state level, and deployment of security agencies and breeding of political thugs by ruling politicians at state levels for political ends, show that state police cannot be a solution to the current level of insecurity.
To begin to address the spate of insecurity in the country, there is a need for the labour movement to lead the struggle of the oppressed people for better living conditions such as decent jobs for all, better remuneration and pension, etc.; provision of free and functional education and healthcare; improvement in infrastructure, and industrial development. Such struggles must also demand for better working conditions for the rank and file police officers and the military. This must include better wages, decent accommodation, right to a police and military union, and community democratic control of police and other security agencies. Furthermore, there is a need for a democratic community/neighbourhood defence and security committees that will be run by communities and link up at local, state and national levels to fight insecurity, which can also serve as basis to build mass movement to demand for improvement in infrastructure facilities and social services at communities and localities.
Ultimately, the quest for a secured society is a struggle for the overhaul of the socio-economic system and political structure that breed insecurity. This system is the iniquitous neocolonial capitalist system. We need to replace it with a democratic socialist system where the huge resources of the society are put under public ownership with democratic control and management by the working people, communities and relevant pro-masses groups. With socialist planning, basic needs of the people will be massively funded such that the drive for crime will reduce and will be finally eradicated with the elimination of class society. Furthermore, the deadly struggle by capitalist politicians which often fuel the mobilization of ethno-religious forces, will also be eliminated, the society will be governed by the people themselves.
Therefore, we must begin the process of building the revolutionary platform to lead the mass struggle for the enthronement of socialist system. Rebuilding the labour movement with socialist policies and building a mass party of the working people, youth and the poor, with clear-cut socialist programmes are essential for this task.