16 September 2011

Nigeria: Challenges of Social Security


Towards the end of the 1990s, internal dynamics and international pressure and persuasion combined to push Nigeria towards embracing a political system that is based on global principles of democracy.

The attempt was initiated in May 1999 and renewed through the democratic process of electioneering in May 2003.

Hence, questions and challenges central to sustenance and maintenance of democracy via social security. This involves managing internal tendencies, especially security issues and problems that could impinge on the survival of democracy. This calls for concern of all stakeholders in the Nigerian state and one that requires comprehensive and committed contribution of all groups and interests that make up Nigeria.

For us to sustain democracy in Nigeria it is important to consider social security issues and problems that have affected or capable of affecting the attitude, confidence and cooperation of all groups, associations and segments that make up the Nigerian federation. It is also pertinent to consider national constitution lacuna that are responsible for various problems and crises and how these gaps can be addressed.

Unarguably, political and electioneering conflicts, socio-economic agitations, ethno-religious crises, ethnic militias, boundary disputes, cultism, criminality and organised crimes are some of the major social security problems currently confronting the nation. These problems individually and collectively constitute threats to the peace, security and development of the country. Thus, they have implications for the continuity and survival of the nation's democracy.

In almost Fifty-One years of our independence, Nigeria was under military administration resulting from military takeover of the democratic and constitutional structures of the state. This is a security breach resulting from a wide range of reasons, sometimes a culmination of a number of security and political developments. The security, political and sometimes socio-economic developments are security concerns that were not addressed or managed by the existing state structures at that period.

Apart from military coups there are other security issues that have challenged, and indeed, rattled the democratic political system. Among which is civil or organised rebellion resulting from a number of socio-political developments including ethnic disagreements and national resource contentions. The Nigerian civil war is an example of such security breakdown as a result of failure to manage ethnic and social problems.

Even international debates have also identified security as the struggle to secure the most basic necessities of life: food, fuel, medicine and shelter.

These are important for the attainment of physical and national security and overall peace and development as social unrests arising from the absence of such basic human security can indeed lead to security problems and conflicts.

This shows by recent social unrests in various African countries that have manifested due to the failure of government policies to provide or manage the basic human needs of their citizens. Especially since the commencement of the present political dispensation, Nigeria has witnessed increasing number of security problems and developments that constitute threats to the maintenance and survival of its democratic political system. These security concerns are diverse and complex, ranging from political disagreements to criminal activities with alarming dimensions and consequences.

It is an unarguable fact that democracy implies the interplay of various interests and shades of opinions in the mode of political parties and pressure groups. This interplay must be undertaken in an open, free and fair atmosphere with adherence to such fundamental principles like tolerance, freedom of expression and freedom of choice. Intolerant and ruthless contests among political leaders and their followers have often resulted in violence, security breaches, and killings and destruction which threaten the very democracy that they seek to partake in. Historically, the violent and desperate politicking among political parties was the cause of the problem in the Western Region in 1965 that set in motion developments leading to the unravelling of the First Republic.

Nigeria is a political unit made up of over two hundred ethnics and diverse religious groups. The consent and cooperation of these ethnic nationalities and religious groups is important to the existence and continuity of Nigeria as a nation. There have been several ethno-religious conflicts in the history of Nigeria, but in recent times, these problems appear to be escalating at an intolerable scale. Ethnic and the foregoing problems and criminal activities individually and collectively create insecurity and breach of the peace that are likely to or indeed affect legitimate social and economic activities Nigeria. These problems also have very damaging consequence of giving signal to the rest of the international community that Nigeria is not a safe and secure place and as such not suitable for economic investment and activities. This is particularly important in view of the efforts being made to create the desired atmosphere to attract foreign investment.

Apart from the effects of security concerns on the economic fortunes of the country, the nature of the security challenges facing the country also have implications for the country's political system. Social cohesion among various groups and interests is important in the process of national political development. Therefore, the constituent parts of the country must be and indeed feel that they are being carried along in the process of national governance. It is worthy to note that widespread discontent and loss of confidence in the system have ways of affecting national political stability. Thus, continuing escalation of violence and crises across the country will impinge on the survival of our democracy.

There is the need to rethink and improve on policies and institutional means of dealing with security concerns arising in our country. Politically, governments should engage in programmes of cultural and political education and orientation that seek to enthrone the fundamentals of democracy so that the political contestants as well as the generality of the citizens imbibe principles and practices essential for sustainable democracy.

The programmes must also address specific tendencies that create security breaches and concerns in our country.

Sijuade is head of political research at Korki and Associates

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