I read somewhere in the print media a story attributed to the Chairman, Chief Executive of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) whereby he blamed the pervasive public sector Corruption for the unprecedented insecurity in Nigeria.
I think he said the correct thing except he never thoroughly weighed in on the larger picture of the consequential effects of corruption to societal well being.
Perhaps, the only person who actually saw the future of Nigeria and captured it in one of the tiniest books to have been authored by such an Iconic globally ranked author was professor Chinua Achebe in his “The Trouble with Nigeria” which he panned down in the eighties.
What Achebe wrote as the fundamental societal issues that may trigger the collapse of national security as far back as the 1980’s are the exact problems that have threatened the continuous existence of Nigeria as a sovereign entity one amongst which is the pervasive state of insecurity.
The nature of failure of security in Nigeria has evolved catastrophically to such a dangerous dimension that school children no longer feel safe to go to school to learn because of the terrorism that has escalated especially in Northern Nigeria whereby school children in their hundreds are kidnapped by terrorists and detained in the thick, lawless and unsafe forests in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger States for months and the central government has shown non-challant attitudes to rescue these children and to bring the terrorists to trial.
Worst still the federal government is working around the insane policy of releasing and reintegrating the terrorists who have destroyed schools and kidnapped school children. This can only happen in a Country whereby governance has collapsed. This was what Achebe projected in his prophetic essay tilled “the Trouble with Nigeria”
I have decided to use few citations from that book to demonstrate my conviction that failure of government to protect Nigerian school children is emblematic of a failed Nation State.
Achebe wrote thus: “Social Injustice and the Cult of Mediocrity; The major objection to the practice of tribalism is that it exposes the citizen to unfair treatment and social injustice.
Less advertized but no less damaging to social morality is the advantage which tribalism may confer on mediocrity. ‘But that is not all. Let us take a hypothetical case where two candidates A and B apply to fill a very important and strategic position. A has the right qualification of competence and character but is of the “wrong'” tribe, while B, less qualified, belongs to the “”right” tribe, and so gets the job. A goes away embittered. B throws a party and then messes up the job. The greatest sufferer is the nation itself which has to contain the legitimate grievance of a wronged citizen; accommodate the incompetence of a favoured citizen and, more important and of greater scope, endure a general decline of morale and subversion of efficiency caused by an erratic system of performance and reward.”
Achebe wrote also that: “Social injustice is therefore not only a matter of morality but also of sheer efficiency and effectiveness. “We will buy, hire or steal technology,” said one of our ministers. He did not seem to realize that technology was not an assemblage of artefacts stacked conveniently for ease of lifting, but a particular attitude of mind. And it probably never occurred to him that the people from whom he proposed to steal got where they are because they will never hire a man to perform an important task unless he is the best they can find. Nigeria, on the other hand, is a country where it would be difficult to point to one important job held by the most competent person we have. I stand to be corrected!”
Achebe proceeded to assert that: “We have displayed a consistent inclination since we assumed management of our own affairs to opt for mediocrity and compromise, to pick a third and fourth eleven to play for us. And the result: we have always failed and will always fail to make it to the World league. Until, that is, we put merit back on the national agenda.”
He then pointed out that in recent years (as it then was) an editorial in New Nigerian could write mockingly about “God-knows-what-merit.” Ironically it is our new “intellectual” elite who today debunk merit for immediate sectional advantage, just as some “nationalist” leaders in the 1950s forsook nationalism in favour of the quick returns of tribalism. But whereas tribalism might win enough votes to install a reactionary jingoist in a tribal ghetto, the cult of mediocrity will bring the wheels of modernization grinding to a halt throughout the land, he stressed.
Achebe then summed up the consequences of corruption and mediocrity as follows: “Look at our collapsing public utilities, our inefficient and wasteful parastatals and state-owned companies. If you want electricity, you buy your own generator; if you want water, you sink your own bore-hole; if you want to travel, you set up your own airline. One day soon, said a friend of
mine, you will have to build your own post office to send your letters.” (THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA CHINUA ACHEBE).
As I alluded at the beginning, the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, identified corruption as the most potent factor responsible for national security challenges in the country today.
Owasanoye stated this while delivering a goodwill message at the opening ceremony of a capacity building workshop for the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption, which has as its theme, “The role of the legislature in the fight against corruption,” organized by a German foundation, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in partnership with the House Committee on Anti-Corruption.
He noted that proper legislature, appropriation, oversight, and scrutiny of public accounts would have prevented the drift into the kind of insecurity that presently engulfs the nation.
Hear him: “Through legislation, appropriation, investigation, oversight, and the scrutiny of public accounts, the legislature implements a very crucial fundamental objective in fighting corruption of power and also by doing so, it prevents the drift into the kind of insecurity that we have found ourselves in.
“Corruption is Nigeria’s greatest challenge and a singular push factor of national security challenges, the expansion of poverty, the reduction of life expectancy, the high mortality rate we suffer, and the deteriorated livelihood experienced by our citizens.
He added that graft has also diminished the promotion and standing of democratic institutions and national accountability which has promoted the creation of unnecessary projects, and the funding of such, thus diminishing the funding of the necessary projects and to see them to completion.
Owasanoye emphasized that the role of the legislature ultimately is to ensure that “we do not go in that direction but to keep us on the path of restitution by promotion of good governance through their legislative process.
“Now the big question and the elephant in the room is how well has the legislature played this role over the years? There is a perception out there that the legislature is rather reactive, trying to put out fires rather than preventing the fires from going out and sometimes dramatic in its approach to oversight functions.”
According to him, “the legislature is increasingly stepping up approach in recent times. This a good thing even though some people say it is disruptive of work and uncomfortable but it is important to the value of the money that has been appropriated by the national assembly.
“The legislation has the power to investigate, expose and prevent corruption at all levels of government. The authority to determine the spending of public funds is the most fundamental power of the legislature. However, this power does not extend to fixing their salaries and allowances.”
Reading through the well though out submissions of both professors aforementioned, it is evidently indubitable that the unprecedented collapse of security and the rampant violent attacks targeting school children by a range of armed non- state actors Identified as armed Fulani militia, is caused by and large by nepotism, corruption and a disregard for merit.
Most of the above causative agents are birthed by lack of patriotism on the part of the political elites.
It would even seem that the Nigerian citizens abroad are as worried as we are locally regarding the deficit of patriotism amongst the ruling elites in Nigeria.
Onwubiko Emeka Cyprian, a Nigerian scholar who read a post- graduate studies at the University Putra, Malaysia penned down a very lovely work titled “understanding the meaning of patriotism amongst post-graduate students in Malaysia.”
His scholarly submissions are substantial helpful in understanding why President Muhammadu Buhari jetted out to the United Kingdom on personal medical tourism even when hundreds of Nigerian school children are languishing in the dens of terrorists whom the President only recognized as mere bandits.
A patriotic leader will ensure that security of schools are not frequently breached and he won’t travel abroad whereby there are pending terror related incidents in which children were plucked off violently from their schools and driven off deep into the lawless forests by terrorists and kept for months thereby putting the nation at the risk of being termed a failed state. Mind you, parents of these students are forced to pay huge ransoms, yet their kids are in the forests with terrorists.
Emaka Onwubiko Cyprian wrote thus: “In light of the above looking at the sense of belonging as an emergent theme, it was built on the issues of connecting to homeland, feeling of identity with the homeland. it was interpreted that there was a connection between some of the informants who felt they have sense of belonging to their homeland and those who reported “feeling of lost and disconnection”. majority (6 of 7) of the information addressed the importance of the sense of belonging. One of the informants expressed: “I am a Nigerian by heart, I was born in Nigeria and to me Nigeria is always going to be a home and nowhere else.
After I finished my studies, I will go back and join hands in developing my homeland (…)” (Ekaete).
More so, another informant maintained that it is a burning desire and interest for her to always strive to show sense of belonging to her homeland. Furthermore, she held the view that every patriotic citizen should be an ardent follower to her Country, in terms of showing sense of belonging She said, “I love my country and that is where I belong. for me as a teacher in the school home, I am passionately eager to go home after my studies, that is Where I belong” (Fulani). while, the warm affection from this other information could be captured when he said. “My blood has ‘nigerianess’ in it and it is what I am, I will never be a Nigerian because that is what I am and belong (….) (Bakassi).
Therefore, majority of the informants reserved no doubts to insinuate that Nigeria will forever be home to them and that they always long to express their sense of belonging through loyalty to the country forever, as it has become an integral part of them.
On Symbols of Patriotism, the researcher wrote that: this Subtheme points to the national flag and anthem consciousness among the informants, these two symbols were deducted from the informants’ views that the feelings of awe and honour they have for these two symbols signify Patriotism and to them both have crucial roles to play in shaping the attitude of the citizens in showing ardent patriotism to their homeland. it can be infer according to the informant’s views that National Flag and the Nigerian national Anthem do awake fervour and sentiments as a show of patriotism as they narrated in the interviews. And above all, the Significance of these two symbols for the informants is tied to the fact that it unites all Nigerians into one chord and arousing sense of loyalty even if they reside in far off lands.
The informants’ responses implied that National Flag and the country’s National Anthem have been part and parcel of them especially when they were younger. Virtually all the informants affirmed that the idea of reverencing these two symbols, when they were back home and younger with the highest regard, loyal, love honour and patriotism to the country. In one of the informants’ words, she narrated her childhood experience and she felt that such experience has oriented her to respect these symbols of patriotism any day. While, another informant follows suits when he voiced the importance of these two symbols. as illustrated below: “Well, we are taught that national anthem and flag are two important symbols that we must uphold, respect and be loyal, because both symbolize Nigeria as one and to show our patriotism to my country. We did sing the national anthem but back then in the nursery. primary and secondary schools, it was fun even when most of us can’t sing it correctly, the stanza was too nice, and we did use flag to represent my school during Independence parade. As an adult that has left Nigeria for some time now, I don’t know if it is still the practice now, but l do feel these symbols are great, it instill in me thirst to be patriotic!” (Fulani).
“National flag is one thing that aroused my spirit when I was at home, even here when I watch football tournaments when my country participates. It reminds me of my strong bond and patriotism to my homeland just as the national
anthem does” (Abamade).
“I do feel that the flag and the national anthem have really impacted greatly in our consciousness, when I see the flag and sing the anthem it all reminds me that I need to be patriotic” (Bakassi).
it is interesting to note that these symbols are reverence by Nigerians as expressed by the informants above. It was vividly clear that virtually all the informants’ strongly believe that these two symbols represent their country ideals and they all agreed it play significant role in propagating patriotism message to all as they were taught when they were younger to respect it as part of patriotism.”
That much tells the story that even Nigerians schooling in foreign nations do have nostalgic sense of patriotism. The same can’t be said of the political leaders who have deliberately misgoverned Nigeria and allowed school children to pass through the trauma of being kidnapped by armed non state actors and these kids will be abandoned to their cruel fate.
Some measures can still be adopted to stave off these attacks on our schools.
Below is a list of ideas that schools in America have implemented successfully to improve their safety and security measures:
1. Limit entryways to school buildings. Clearly mark the main entry to the school and post signs on other entries redirecting visitors to the main entry. Lock outside access doors. Check periodically to make sure the doors haven’t been tampered with or propped open. The periodic inspections should include windows too.
2. Monitor the school parking lot. If possible, have a parking lot monitor who oversees people entering and leaving the campus.
3. Monitor and supervise student common areas such as hallways, cafeterias, and playgrounds. If possible, add video surveillance in these areas to record anything a monitoring person may miss.
4. Promote school-community partnerships to enhance safety measures for students beyond school property (police surveillance, Neighborhood Watch programs). There are willing community organizations that can help.
5. Consider the presence of school resource officers, local police, and/or security guards.
6. Monitor school visitors. Require that visitors report to the main office, sign in, and wear visitor badges. All staff should be trained to report strangers not wearing a visitor badge to the school office. (www.thresholdsecurity.com).
Nigeria must either safeguard the schools and our school children or the nation state would be assumed to have FAILED.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.