Lagos — Civil disturbances often leave a bitter taste in the mouth. In extreme cases, it causes extensive social disruption, loss of jobs, death and property. To this end, stakeholders gathered in Lagos recently to discuss strategies for effective institutional approach and solution to violence in the country. Funmi Ogundare writes
In the recent inconclusive election in Ekiti, it was said that while the hoodlums had a field day harassing people and even beating journalists who were performing their duties, policemen and other security agencies stood by and watched. Unconfirmed reports said that some of the leadership of the police said that only when the police are attacked they will respond. What this meant is that for all they care every other person can be attacked and not the police.
Actions like this from the police and other security agencies have continued be a source of concern to Nigerians and other security professionals. At a recent conference on security with the theme "Curbing Political Violence in Nigeria: The Role of the Security Professional," Prof. Isaac Ayinde Adalemo said the role of security agents is to ensure maintenance of peace and order. For security professionals to work effectively, he appealed to all stakeholders to help set up endowment programmes to promote security and safety awareness in Nigeria. The gesture, he said would go a long way in enhancing the quality of life through improved security of persons and properties. Adalemo stressed the need for an improvement in the electoral process so as to enhance people's confidence. "The theme is topical and timely giving the current interest in the country about reforming the electoral process or system with a view to making it more responsive to the aspirations of the populace."
The university don noted that elections should 'come with less disputation, flaws and devoid of bloodletting, adding that in most cases elections culminate into near war situation characterised by killing, maiming, arson and unrestrained brigandage.
"The brigandage referred to include ballot stuffing and snatching, falsification of data and outright rigging. In some cases, results of so-called elections were available before the actual exercise," he said. Security agencies, he said have roles to play in ensuring transparency and fairness.
Former Chairman of Mushin Local Government, Prince Bayo Osiyemi said experience has shown that overtime peace and security reigns supreme in societies where the ruled and the rulers maintain a high degree of trust and confidence in each other. Curbing political violence in the society, he said is a joint task of politicians and security conscious leadership, adding that discernable efforts should be made by all authorities to evolve seminars and workshops to discuss, analyse and proffer solutions to the problem of political violence in the polity.
"It is completely erroneous for anyone to presume that security can be enforced by excessive use of naked and brutal power as it has been proven overtime that no raw power can match the tenacity of either refined or crude idea which is buried in the sub-conscious mind of the people," the former local government boss said.
Osiyemi affirmed that once politicians realise that the power they seek is merely held in trust for the people, the country would be on its way to eliminating political violence. He added that "once political security-conscious leadership realise that the oath of allegiance sworn to by service chiefs in the armed forces and the police is to the nation and not to individual political office holders, they will be less attracted to wanting to use the security operatives to advance their personal and selfish interests."
He said there is a need for security personnel to be exposed to sound training and skilled in the art of negotiation. "We must always remember that aggrieved individuals or groups have certain or specific grievances being pursued, empathising with them and convincing them to pursue a different option than the violent route, has most times been found most effective. It takes intelligent, educated and very skilled security officers to achieve this noble objective and completely eliminate a violent option," Osiyemi noted.
For security officials to succeed, Osiyemi advised them to avoid the display of master-servant relationship in their dealing with the populace, as well as overzealousness in carrying out the orders of their political masters.
"It is foolhardy, for example, for security operatives who are most times out-numbered by the populace, to ignore certain imperatives in dealing with political violence either on the street or within an enclosure," he said.
Chief Lanre Razak said the political class in Nigeria should strive to put nation above personal or party consideration, by eschewing the culture of political violence, lawlessness, intolerance of opposition and politics of material inducement.
The parties, media, non-governmental organisations, community leaders and civil societies, he added should also strive to educate politicians and the general public on the democratic culture of political competitions and the need to practice politics by the rule of the game. "It is hoped that politicians will put our interest before their personal interest. Therefore all hands must be on deck to halt and reverse this negative and destructive trend which now prevails in Nigerian politics in the overall interest of our dear nation", he said.
Commandant General of Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), Dr. John Abolurin advocated for the continuous investment in the human capacity development and upgrading of the information network of the law enforcement agencies for joint utility, intelligence sharing and mapping; sectoral reforms of the security apparatus towards swift and dynamic organisation structure.
Represented by his Deputy, Mr. Evans Ewurum, Abolurin whose paper was entitled, "Managing Civil Disturbances and Crisis: The Role of Law Enforcement Agencies', said this would ensure effective and timely management of civil disturbances and crisis in the country.
"The stability of Nigerian economy depends on the political stability which must be guarded," he emphasised.