The security of lives and welfare of citizens of a country is the most important function of government. Even the Bible says that a living dog is better than a dead lion. Once there is life, there is hope but when a man dies, his thoughts perish. No one knows the child that is bearing in his destiny the restoration of Nigeria, so the protection of every life without exception is important. This is why Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. The dictionary defines primary as first or highest in rank or importance; chief; principal. A government that succeeds in all things, but fails in the protection of lives is a failure because there is a proverb which says that when you abandon the protection of life to secure property, your enemies will inherit your property.
Nigeria is a country with a vast land of about 923, 768 square kilometres. The circumference or total boundary length of Nigeria is about 4, 900 square kilometres out of which the land borders is 4,047 kilometers while the coastline is 853 kilometers. It is bordered by Cameroon on the East, Chad on the Northeast, Niger on the Northwest, Benin on the West and Atlantic Ocean on the South. It is important to note that the four countries surrounding Nigeria are neither technologically advanced nor are naturally endowed with minerals of worldclass demand and quantity. Most of them depend on Nigeria for sustenance, so securing our borders with such neighbours will always be a herculean task because there is no reception to theology when a man is hungry.
With the advent of democracy, we must recall that most of the terrorist insurgencies, militancies, banditries, kidnaping, robberies in our modern Nigeria have their roots in armed thugs groomed for elections by heartless politicians and discarded after elections were lost and won. The Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast was born out of disagreement between their leaders and the politicians who used them for elections and abandoned or betrayed them after the elections. The same was the birth of militancy in the South-south that has suffered many years of neglect, but couldn’t summon enough resources to confront the Federal Government until the return of democracy which empowered some of the agitators with military hardware, through thuggery for elections, with which they used to fight for the emancipation of the South-south.
The solution to this security challenge posed by thuggery is free and fair elections. The government must ensure that it empowers INEC to evolve a system that will guarantee free and fair elections and make the use of thugs unnecessary. Thugs are used to rig elections by force and the government must deal ruthlessly with both the thugs and their sponsors. When we have free and fair elections, politicians will devote their time and energy towards formulating great and convincing manifestos to ensure being elected and when elected, they will render selfless service to the people as a means of remaining in power thereby jettisoning the services of thugs.
Our neighbouring countries in modern times have added to the security risk to the lives and welfare of Nigerians. With the fall of Muamar Gaddafi of Libya, guns, grenades and bandits became the highest unauthorised imports from the Northern borders of Chad and Niger with their governments looking the other way. The insurgency in Cameroon has also made the movements of unauthorised arms and fighters roam in and outside of Nigeria through our eastern border. The Republic of Benin on our Western border has become experts in exporting expired rice, poultry, bandits into our country. During President Obasanjo’s regime, a notorious robber came from Republic of Benin to rob his daughter and killed one of the little children with her. It took the closing of the Benin border before the country could hand over the robber for trial in Nigeria. Today, President Buhari closed all the land borders and this has reduced crimes, banditry and insurrections to the minimum. The border must remain closed until the neighbouring governments commit to ensuring that unauthorised movement of harmful goods and criminals are stopped completely. The fight against alien criminals can only be successful if we have accurate records of the citizens of Nigeria. There is an urgent need for a national database of the citizens of Nigeria to enable the government monitor the movement of foreigners and their activities in Nigeria when the borders are opened with a view to repatriating criminals who breaches our laws.
Unemployment and lowering of our moral values have contributed in no small way to our security challenges. Government must intensify efforts towards getting every employable person engaged with a job, skill or vocation. An idle man will always be a devil’s workshop. It is easier to convince a hopeless poor man to donate his life to the killing of others for a better life in paradise where he will be allocated seven virgins with pointed breasts than you can convince another person that is gainfully employed with very bright future to indulge in suicide attacks. Idleness also leads the youths to hard drugs, which lead to mental instability that leads to violent attacks on others.
Our moral values need to be re-orientated. The idea that whoever comes home with money should be idolised is not in line with our traditional African values. As children, we were taught that you cannot bring home what does not belong to you. Our parents took us to school and admonished our teachers to flog us very well if we misbehaved. Those actions of our parents developed a sense of contentment with godliness in us and built us into men of integrity who came into maturity with an avowed attitude of uprightness despite the temptations around us.
Contrast this with a recent instruction by a man from a certain state. He told his son to make money at all costs and from any where and anyhow. That no matter how hot the money is, immediately the money crosses his gate, the money will cool down instantly. The son went out with that mindset and eventually came back to his father in a coffin and the effect never cooled in the man’s heart till date. The idea of celebrating thieves and bandits with chieftancy titles, honorary doctorate degrees etc should stop. Nuhu Ribadu once said, “your uncle is not an international businessman, he is a 419ner period”. Let’s call a spade a spade, name and shame culprits in line with our ancient African tradition
From the foregoing, it can be seen that securing our nation is not the responsibility of the government alone. It is the duty of everybody including parents, teachers, communities, both local, national and international. We must all join hands to build a better society where crimes will be reduced to the barest minimum and where honour and integrity will govern our lives rather than primitive accumulation of resources to the detriment of our moral and physical wellbeing.