The Fourth Republic’s Unasked and Unanswered Security and/or National Security Questions in Dr. Yusuf’s Video Clip on the Raging Food Crisis in Nigeria

By Dr. Adoyi ONOJA

It was one amongst of the many trending videos going round different platforms. The burning issue of the day was the subject of the video clip. Nigerians are hungry and angry! There is food in the market. The food in the market is beyond the income brackets and thus the reach of most Nigerians. Dr. Usman Yusuf added his voice and his weight to the issue.

I listened to Dr. Yusuf’s widely circulated interview informing the government and Nigerians what has been public knowledge for quite some time now. Most of what he said was not new. What was new was that he added his voice in the growing list of important personalities voicing their concerns. The development had been gradual in the making. Its foundation deepened during the reckless, thoughtless and wasteful eight years administration of Muhammadu Buhari GCFR. It was taken to another level by the present administration’s ill-timed removal of fuel subsidy. The rest, they said, was where we found ourselves today

The little that was new in Dr. Yusuf’s trending video was the mention of national security and the fact that he drew the attention of Nigerians that in developed countries particularly the United States where he lived and worked food was a national security issue. The implication was that there was a portfolio called national security in that country. Nigeria is not the United States. Unlike Nigeria, the United States has a founding philosophy or nature, meaning and purpose. This philosophy has been tried, tested, sieved and added to in the unfolding question of nation building of the United States. The making of National Security in the United States was one such refinement and addition.

Nigeria has not one such philosophy ever since the British departed the shores of this country some 63 odd years back. Nigeria has been unable to create a philosophy to guide its growth and development. Nigeria has thus been governed on adhoc basis hence the prevailing conception of security and/or national security. It takes countries with philosophy or nature, meaning and purpse to have security and/or national security.

What was new, in Dr. Yusuf’s statement, was security from which the genre called national security emerged. In the developed world where there was security or national security philosophy, legislation, policy and strategy, food was one of the issues in the portfolio of security or national security. As the enlightened Dr. Yusuf noted, food in this part of the world, was not only a national security issue. Food was subsidised by the government.

Nigeria is notoriously known for the imitation of other countries ideas without the benefit of domestication. The idea called security and in particular the genre called national security was an imitation from the United States. Typical of the United States style, the country borrows ideas and domesticates these ideas. One of such idea is security. The domestication of security birthed national security which is quintessentially and uniquely American.

Security as an idea emerged from the ashes of the collapse of civilisation, for five hundred years, in the Middle Ages Europe. Security as a word came into being in the 15th century and security’s etymologies embedded security’s philosophy and history. Security which means free from care, something which secure, condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension embedded the aspirations of Europeans going forward never to allow the descent to such all-round anarchy in all spheres of their lives. With the birth of security thus began the hard work of ensuring this never happened again.

The United States took the European idea of security and birthed its own philosophy which it called national security. Americans (read Douglas T. Stuart’s Creating the National Security State: A History of the Law that Transformed American and Michael J. Hogan’s A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the National Security State 1945-1954 )did the hard work of constructing and resourcing i.e. providing philosophy, legislation and policy for their national security. Once National Security was resourced and legislated into law by Congress and signed by the executive in 1947, the question of strategy was left to the two political parties and their administrations.

The concept of National Security is thus indigenous to the United States of America. National Security is the highest classification used for any issue which causes the deployment of all of America’s resources to resolving the issue. One of the strategies albeit the last of the strategies used for defending, advancing and protecting any issue designated as national security is the deployment of the military, intelligence and law enforcement. Contrary to the practice in Nigeria, the military, intelligence and law enforcement, in the United States of America, is not national security. It is one of the instruments or strategies deployed to attaining national security.

What is the situation in Nigeria when it comes to the conception of security and/or national security? What is the situation of security and/or national security under representative rule system? Does the prevailing democratic system have its conception of security and from there the construct of national security? At what point would the food crisis get a national security classification under the prevailing security and/or national security narratives?

It is important to put on the political agenda the issue of what I called Nigeria’s undefined, uncharted and ungoverned security using the prevailing food and commodities crisis. I did this a couple of weeks back (see my Facebook post on on the article “SECURITY: Of What Use is the National Security Strategy 2019 and the National Security Summit Report 2021?). This was following the spate of attacks in different parts of the country which caused the beginning of what was arguably securitisation by those in authority. The theatrics that played on the floors of the House of Representatives by its Spokesperson when he addressed the issue that affected his constituency represented aspect of this building securitisation. The second aspect was when both the leadership of the Senate and the House moved to address the security issues in the country. The House Speaker called for the House to convene a summit on the matter. The Senate President summoned the leadership of Nigeria’s so-called “security” establishment beginning with the National Security Adviser and including the Minister of Finance.

In all of these developments, the issue before the leadership of the national assembly was never about the four fundamental constituent questions of philosophy, legislation and policy on security – what is security, whose security and what is a security issue. These were questions that have never been asked of security or national security in Nigeria whether by the military government or democratic government. Both systems of government agreed they knew this security. The question that has consistently bothered the managers of security was: how can security be achieved. The answers to this last question produced the National Security Strategy 2014 and 2019 and National Security Summit Report 2021. Yet these two documents have remained unused even by their makers making the search for how security can be achieved perennial and unending.

In one of the platforms I listened to Dr. Yusuf’s clip, i left a note thus:

“The part (referring to the clip) on the inaccessibility of food as national security issue resonate and brings to the front burner the lack of philosophy, legislation, policy and strategy on security couched in the four fundamental questions of what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved within civil rule democracy and governance frameworks. Only in having this platform can the implications of the prevailing development register with those in government. However, I have my doubt whether the speaker (Dr. Yusuf) understands the state of security, let alone the conception of national security in Nigeria from the point of view of philosophy, legislation and policy. This much goes to those at the helm of affairs. Since we do not have any conception of security and/or national security cloth in philosophy, legislation and policy albeit under civil rule democracy and governance, we have no idea where to situate issues, including the inaccessibility of food to the generality of Nigerians on the security and/or national security classification beyond the traditional issues of the military, intelligence and law enforcement that affect the well-being of those in power.”

To the questions I asked and the reason food was not considered a security let alone national security issue, the answers would be found in the received wisdom of Nigeria’s imitative defence-confined security and national security narratives. This was occasioned by years of military rule and military rule socialisation of most Nigerians on the one hand and on the other hand the evolving and consolidating political economy of security that united the elites of politics and the military, intelligence and law enforcement since the enthronement of civil rule in 1999.

The situation in Nigeria when it came to the conception of security and/or national security was that Nigeria’s legislatures and executives were comfortable with this defence-inclined security tradition they inherited from the military which defined security and national security from the defence mandate of the military. The 1999 Constitution was Decree 24 prior to becoming the operating framework of the Fourth Republic. The contents of the Constitution were modelled along military tradition. The security mentioned in the constitution was premised on the military’s defence roles. This security was built in the image of the military and military rule. The order of the arrangement, in the 1999 Constitution, of this security made this clear.

The first mention of security was as national security in Section 5 subsection 5. The content was clearly in the domain of the military. The second mention of security comes in Section 14 subsection 2B. What is important in this Section is “security” which is about the name and work of the military, intelligence and law enforcement as the first line in priority terms prior to the much ignored and maligned “welfare”. Both references to national security and security were in the context of the military, intelligence and law enforcement.

These (Section 5 subsection 5 and Section 14 subsection 2B) have nothing to do with civil rule democracy and governance conception of what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. These questions have not been asked and answered in the civil rule democracy and governance image yet. Under these provisions (Section 5 subsection 5 and Section 14 subsection 2b) and philosophy (defence), the food crisis is not a security and/or national security issue because people have not begun killing themselves yet and/or threatening to the hold of those in power.

The situation of security and/or national security under civil rule system is that they – civil rule operators particularly the legislatures – have yet to lend their weight to resolving the issue in the tradition of civil rule democracy and governance. To this extent, they have continued to rely on the failed and failing narratives of security and/or national security they inherited from the military which was modelled along the line of the military’s own mandate in the constitution.

The legislatures in Nigeria have failed to see the need to construct security and/or national security in the image of civil rule democracy and governance and begin the process of socialising Nigerians to this security and/or national security. Nature abhors vacuum and the existing vacuum was filled by the military’s conception which has been outdated for nearly a quarter of a century. As a result, they have not any idea of where to put the raging food and commodities crisis in security and/or national security classification and thus put together the resources to advance, defend and protect the people against the crisis. They are waiting for the military to lead the way when the crisis must have spiralled out of control.

The ongoing food and commodities crisis will get the prevailing security and/or national security classification when it would have been out of the control of the civil rule authorities. The development is moving gradually in this direction as the government’s measures have not addressed the root causes of the crisis. One such measure was the release of grains from the strategic reserves. The development would not bring the prices of food down. As Lasisi Olagunju noted, the food crisis was not a demand and supply issue. The food crisis was fuelled by galloping inflation and the inability of the peoples’ wages to meet this inflation. The slow inauguration of the wage review committee by the government may not ameliorate the crisis.

For the managers of the prevailing security and/or national security narratives, the more the crisis moved in the direction of spiralling out of control the better for what I called the political economy of security. As I noted, until and unless people begin to fight, die and threaten the power bases of the power holders, the defence-inclined security that puts the military, intelligence and law enforcement at the centre of security and/or national security will not be activated. If and when it is activated, the treasury of Nigeria will bleed at all levels as it had in the last fifteen years of the emergency called security and/or national security. Nigeria will go the path of increasing the bill on “security” even as Price WaterHouse Cooper Nigeria revealed that in the last nine years, “security” cost the Nigerian treasury N14.8 trillion. This was money spent without results.

The food and commodities crisis present Nigerians and particularly the legislatures and executives with yet another moment to revisit the lack of philosophy, legislation and policy on security. Nigeria’s legislatures should not waste this opportunity to begin the hard work of resourcing security with civil rule democracy and governance ethos. This is in order to begin to distance most Nigerians and Nigeria from the failed and failing wait-until-Nigeria-explode military rule era security and national security narratives.

There is a growing clamour for military rule largely born out of the frustrations of most Nigerians with the performance of civil rule so far. The security that springs from security’s founding etymologies of free from care, something which secure, condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension represent the way forward and the aspirations of most Nigerians when they drove the military back to the barracks in favour of democratic rule.

The legislatures should listen to the yearnings of Nigerians by unleashing transformative governance or the effective and efficient utilisation of human and material resources for the benefit of most Nigerians at all level which will unleash security or free from care, something which secure, condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension for most Nigerians.

  • Dr. Adoyi ONOJA is of the Department of History, Nasarawa State University, Keffi

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