Cultivating Peace in a Volatile Society

The establishment and sustenance of peace among the constituent parts in a volatile society can be a tall order. The challenge posed here is how to reduce or eliminate mutual suspicion or distrust among the various groups or segments in that society. Without peace and unity, the whole essence of governance and development will be defeated. Peace emphasizes security, and when there is peace, our security as a person is not guaranteed. Leaders at various positions of authority should be able to identify credible and respected opinion and youth leaders in various areas to pre-empt crisis situations and gain public confidence. The big challenge here should include how to forge an interface among the different groups with the primary objectives of establishing mutual trust and the culture of dialogue in setting differences.

The centrality of security and peace in the development of any society cannot be disputed. Security is a “cherished value associated with confidence in the physical safety of individuals, groups and state, together with a similar confidence in the safety of their other cherished values”. Security could also be described as being safe from harm”, adding that “what is indisputable is that the need to feel secure is a core value and a prerequisite for being able to live a decent life”. Security is also “a state of being secure or being free from dangers”, “a system of multilayered processes that protects the sovereignty of a state, its assets, resources and people”.

Development on the other hand is a state of being, derived from man’s interaction with his physical (and social) environment where man has been able to apply his skills and energies to get the benefits of well-being from his environment. A people need to be physically and mentally secure to carry out activities geared towards development. Where there is no such physical and mental safety, a people cannot afford to engage in development activities. In other words, where there is insecurity, development suffers. We may have to emphasise that development itself is a source of security. Development reduces human wants, and those who do not suffer deprivations are secure citizens in any community. Those who suffer deprivation live in a state of anomie, and provide fertile grounds for acts like violence, which undermine security. That is why the state of poverty as obtains in Nigeria is feared to be a source of insecurity.

There are many types of security. For us in this paper, we have conceived of security as having a simple bifurcation: State Security, and Social Security, as indicated earlier in this write-up. State security pre-occupies itself with safety of the means and tools of running the state. It places great emphasis on the application of state apparatus such as police, the judiciary and the administrative set up for securing obedience to the state. In post-colonial societies, it remains a heritage from the colonial powers who employed it to deploy imperial powers over subordinate welfare of the people, state security became the raison d’etre of the state itself. This type of security has had little room for social security. This is because State Security was highly suspicious of the power of the people. It thus, occasioned a social dichotomy in the colonies.

When we talk about security in Nigeria, it is common to count agents of security as including the Nigeria Police, Department of State Service, Customs and Immigration Services, the Correctional Service, the Federal Road Safety Corps etc. and the Armed Forces of Nigeria. For the State Security Services, State Security is actually uniformed security in Nigeria. This has its significance. Nigerians in uniform think of themselves as being especially equipped against the people. They are world apart from the people. This idea of the barracks further emphasized this separation. This uniformed security in Nigeria symbolizes many things to Nigerians, such as harassment, dishonesty, corruption, hatred and enmity.

For we cannot secure the state without the people. Indeed, securing the people is the state. This can only be achieved by turning this colonial creation – state – into a means of service to the people. Thus the state and its government must become properties of the people. Several years after independence we have not been able to run things around in Nigeria. It remains our major security challenge. Social security as explained above has not been pursued in Nigeria. Indeed, it has been negated, but which constitutes a major problem for the country. As human security, which we say is equal to social security, this is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Social security is derived from the deployment of national resources to meet the human needs of the society. Reduction in poverty or any form of deprivation is achieved of social security. Meeting the peoples’ needs is satisfying. A people so satisfied cherish the values of their society, which they can voluntarily choose to protect. Such as society reduces incidents of violence. Such a society is available for mobilization towards achieving national goals. In brief, such facts and conditions define social security. We have already argued that when a people’s confidence in their physical and social safety is not guaranteed, security has been undermined; under such circumstance, there is insecurity. We have also tried to show that the pursuit of state security rather than social security in Nigeria has been misleading. Inadvertently Nigeria, through wrong-footed policies and programmes, has undermined her security. But when people feel unsafe, when they lose confidence in the possibility of living a decent life, they cannot undertake productive activities. They are decadent and may take a crime and violence, and development eludes them. This is what has obtained in Nigeria. This is because high levels of inequality, especially as a result of youth unemployment can result to social unrest; crime is likely to increase, creating a climate that is unattractive to businesses.

The nagging question is how do we overcome these challenges of such insecurity prevalent in our country? This writer cannot pretend to have infallible answers to the question. But it will be dishonest not to invite us to think about the question. By this, we are even invited to evaluate what the government has been doing, as well as what groups and even individuals have been doing. Our governments’ inability to do something about the current state of security (insecurity) in the country has been loudest. The fear is whether action is also taken to address the fundamental problem – such as legislation to protect the people against the vagaries of petroleum exploitation, and/or exploitation of other resources in Nigeria. What is being suggested is that the government should do more than it is doing to alleviate the sufferings of the people, by ensuring that they suffer no such devastation or that there is rapid response to save them should they come into such difficulties, especially if they are not of their making.

Till date, the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists and bandits seen to have a free reign. For their unbridled violence, it is certainly a security problem that requires attention of the federal government. Many Nigerians worry about the inefficiency of the security agencies. This is because they worry about the effects of insecurity such as assassinations, kidnappings and ransom taking, robbery and bombings. These are symptomatic of the fundamental security situation. Moreover, these address only one aspect of security – state security. To argue that the security of Nigeria depends solely on the efficiency of the security agents is not honest.

The enormity of this challenge suggests that something more fundamental needs to be done. First, a rigorous and honest programme of development needs to be mounted. It must be youth-driven. That means that the youth must be mobilised but allowed to freely direct their energies to those undertakings they have chosen by themselves. That means the programme must be bottom-up rather than top-bottom as has always been the case. When the energies of the masses are usefully engaged, they will have no time to indulge in crime and violence, but instead will be more productive. This will serve the cause of national development. The recent appointment of Service Chiefs-Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of the Air Staff, and Chief of Naval Staff may bring in some relieve in our security architecture in terms of strategies, tactics, morale–booster, motivation and attitude. It is however, not yet Uhuru!

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