By Chukwudi Nweje
Dr Olukayode Ajulo, Founder and Principal Partner at Kayode Ajulo and Co Castle of Law is the former National Secretary of the Labour Party. In this interview, he speaks on why the government must restore the confidence of citizens in its ability to guarantee their security and welfare.
What is your perspective on the insecurity that has overtaken the entire country?
Simply put, the insecurity situation in the country from my point of view is alarming. I could recall growing up, that issues of insecurity were remote; you only heard on the radio of denotation of bombs, terrorism etc in other climes like Bangladesh, Lebanon, Palestine, Cairo and sometimes in Southern Africa. Later, we had Liberia, Sierra Leone crises in which Nigeria was the leading force to quell them. Sadly, Nigeria today is the theatre of arms struggles. The incendiary and incessant banditry, kidnapping, and terrorism in recent times have left the mind riddled. Many desire a precipitate of time to 2023 in order to change the present government, hoping that a Messiah comes to the rescue at the next general election.
One can easily read on every face, consternations, something deeper than disappointment, more dreadful than disillusionment and many have dared to question the safety and future existence of our dear nation. Not a few are apprehensive of the gradual slide down the valley of anarchy, in what appears to be a fast forward towards the predicted doomsday. As we ponder on the terribly sad state of affairs in Nigeria, one thing is quite lucent: the manner in which the present government is handling the issue of insecurity in the country leaves too much to be desired. Rather than addressing the issue frontally, it has chosen to be diplomatic and playing politics with the lives and safety of the citizens of the country. Like a toothless bulldog, the government keeps warning bandits to desist from their acts without any strategic reprisal or assurance of change to calm the nerves of its citizens. At no time has the country been under such perilous uncertainty as this period. Let’s be clear on a point, any government worth its calling must live up to the mandate and aspirations of the electorate, the owners of sovereignty in a democratic dispensation such as ours. A government, at any level in the Nigerian federation, will be found wanting in its social and constitutional duty if it fails to provide the needed clement atmosphere where peace, progress, harmony and security will reign supreme. No electorate will desire and relish in an environment fraught with rift, rancour, upheavals, chaos and insecurity which may snowball into anarchy. The welfare of the people is the paramount law that every government in the Nigerian sovereign state must strive to achieve.
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration came to power on the promise that it will tackle insecurity then localised and concentrated around the North East but six years down the line, the entire length and breadth of Nigeria is unsafe, what do you say to that?
President Muhammadu Buhari was elected on the promise to tackle rising insecurity and grand corruption. There is no gainsaying the fact that Mr. President has relentlessly accelerated policies to ameliorate the menace of corruption in Nigeria; even persons believed to be untouchable were prosecuted and convicted for corruption. The report also has it that, in Africa, President Buhari’s anti-corruption war has become a brand and a model to other African countries, hence the African Union (AU) recently acknowledged President Buhari as the champion of anti-corruption fight in Africa. However, the fact still remains that the spate of insurgency and insecurity in the country is worrisome and a far cry from the desire of the electorate. There is a need to declare a state of emergency on insecurity in the country; as indicated earlier, the lackadaisical attitude of the present government has contributed to the rippling increase in the crime rate in the country.
As you pointed out, the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the citizens. President Buhari’s government has not lived up to these obligations. How do you react to the calls for his impeachment on that account?
The central pillars of Nigerian national security is the safeguard of the Nigerian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the state as contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Section 14(2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution states that: The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of any government, and the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. Essentially, this concern over the security of the state has remained the defining feature of a democratic state and its relations with the individuals in their interaction and any state which fails to ensure the security of its citizens is said to have failed completely and therefore faces great challenge in governance. By the provisions of Sections 214 and 217 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the duty to ensure adequate security in the country has been placed on the Nigerian Police and the Armed Forces contemporaneously with the overriding power of the President. However, in the face of the security agencies’ inability to stem surging crime waves, it is imperative to set in place, legal and political apparatus to curb the menace of insecurity in the country. Section 143 of the Constitution makes provisions for the impeachment of the President in cases of gross misconduct. I do not agree with the quarters that call for the impeachment of the President, however, beneath this agitation is an underlying truth for the need to tackle the menace of insecurity in the country. This is no time for red herrings and prevarications. Impeachment of the President may lead to another breakdown of law and order. Efforts should be intensified to tackle the bane of insecurity in Nigeria.
A recent Chandler Good Governance Index (CGCI) report ranked Nigeria the third-worst governed country in the world, what is your take?
It is imperative to note that the index raking was based on seven pillars, which included: leadership and foresight, robust laws and policies, strong institutions, financial stewardship, attractive marketplace, global influence and reputations as well as helping people rise. Interestingly according to the report, in leadership and foresight, Nigeria scored 0.24 out of 1 point (being the highest point) which indicated that the country has been beleaguered with bad leadership and lack of foresight both at the federal and state level. Evidentially, parochialism, nepotism, kindred favouritism and sentimental disposition have become the order of the day in all ramifications.
It is succinct to note that by virtue of Section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies. Needless to mention that the constitution made provisions for varying sections that emphasize the necessity of ensuring ethnic integration in the government. Similarly, Nigeria was ranked 0.35 in Global Influence and Reputation. No doubt that as at present, Nigeria’s reputation in the international scene goes for a little less than a penny. The country has gathered notoriety as a den of 419, con-men and fraudsters who live big and high on fortunes duped from other people. Expatriates, immigrants and investors are now wary to come into the country as a result of the spate of banditry, kidnapping and abduction.
What are your concerns ahead of 2023 many fear that the insecurity and separatist agitations may spell doom for the country?
Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble Nation and the corporate existence of Nigeria as a united, harmonious nation is paramount and greater than any person’s right to secede from the country. Now, it should be clear to everyone not scared of thinking that ubiquitous fear resides in the country and the government must take the bull by its horn by protecting its sovereignty while curbing these unprecedented spates of lawlessness and not attempt to sweep them under the guise of amnesty or continued payment of ransom. These measures include prompt commencement of community policing in every state of the federation and deployment of drones and other technological solutions across the forests and other dark spots of the country. The existing security framework cannot maximally deal with the rising wave of insecurity. Government should engage the expertise of retired veterans both from the military and paramilitary. While it is clear that the efficiency of the Nigeria Police and other security apparatus is still a far cry from what is desired, community policing becomes very essential which concept is based on police officers and private citizens working together in creative ways to help solve contemporary community problems. Nigeria is not in lack of veterans, both security and civil service, great men and women that have shown their mettle, courage and competence when they were needed most. We have the likes of Gen Yakubu Gowon, Alani Akinrinade, Ibrahim Babangida, Salihu-Muhammed, Gusau. I’m sure many of these gentlemen could be contacted based on their experiences to help the nation in an advisory capacity with this insecurity situation.