•North has no moral justification to complain about nepotism under Tinubu

A foremost security expert, Dr. Ody Ajike, has said that the neglect imposed on the Nigeria Police Force by successive regimes in Nigeria starting from 1984, was the major reason for the escalation of insecurity in the country.

In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the legal luminary and socio-political commentator opposed the calls for citizens to bear arms for self defence.

What is your view on the state of the nation?

Nigeria is a country and not yet a nation. Nigeria will someday transit from a country to a nation. Nigeria is a contract state constituted by nations that propagate their own values and take their chances against the rest. There still exists an underlying disharmony between different groups in Nigeria and that remains one of the classical issues in Nigeria. The inter-ethnic rivalry and social disharmony are the banes of our development and progress as a people.

In Nigeria, we tend to forget that the political economy of power is not acquisition of political power by any means for purposes of prestige but acquisition of political power to increase the level of our productive power or capacity of the people and the country. There is a positive correlation between economic development and social cohesion and a negative relationship between trade, social harmony and conflict.  People who trade together and live in harmony have their economies develop and grow and do not go into conflicts. This is because trade and social harmony promote interdependence and social harmony is a constraint to conflicts.

Today, we are experiencing internal disharmony and negative peace, though more suppressed than in the Buhari years. But it does exist. Our leadership should find solutions on how to ensure social cohesion, security and economic development by grossly avoiding the tenets of crony or disaster capitalism.

Crony capitalism breeds asymmetric socioeconomic relationships and disharmony which revolves on the influence by a dominant over the dominated. We cannot reasonably have some as dominants in a society like ours and allow it to flourish because it ignites conflict between private benefits and social purpose.

I want to see a Nigeria with huge moral credits for egalitarian distribution of wealth, rapid economic development, social cohesion and economic justice. We are a polarised society and there are few cogent opportunities for effective collective action against repression or deeply entrenched socio-political forces. 

Government must confer a benefit to the people. It is either they confer poverty or prosperity. Currently, the people are pacified with hardship leaving no choice of means and no moment for the people.

The orgy of killings in the country is escalating, as witnessed in Plateau and other parts of the North. What could be the reason for this? How can it be halted?

The spate of internal killings shows a government that has no capacity in protecting life and property within their territory. No government actually has that power or capability of protecting every inch of their territory, but ours has become very disgracefully. Integrating the Nigerian society has been a huge challenge for every government and this has made it difficult to protect the people without the process being politicised.

Nigeria operates a threat-based oriented military and security system. This system does not work in an environment where defence and security are politicised and there is multiplicity of security agencies with overlapping activities. Politicisation of defence and security adds nothing to mission readiness.

However, the main reason for the decadence is the neglect imposed on the Nigeria Police Force by successive regimes in Nigeria starting from 1984. The police are best equipped and positioned to handle these issues of crime prevention and internal security management but their roles have been taken over by the military that does not have capacity for curbing such violent armed conflicts.

For 23 villages to be sacked and over 200 people killed show a failure of law enforcement, failure of national intelligence and absence of an early warning system. Our government must ensure national integration for all groups to live in harmony and exercise freedoms in economic pursuits. These conflicts are influenced by competition for scarce resources and self-permitted inequities that exist within our socioeconomic and political space.  Let’s recalibrate, retool and reposition the police, drive economic development, promote efficient distributive economic justice and equal opportunity and we shall see a decline in internal insecurity.

Arising from this ugly development, the quest for citizens to bear arms resonates. What is your take on this?

Our society has changed profoundly within the last 16 years and these changes are deep and paradigmatic and not just shallow or superficial changes. Therefore, any transformational development must be outside existing paradigms in terms of leadership, ability to demonstrate credible power and ensure national integration. What is the structure of our internal security? The state owns the monopoly of power and use of force and that is settled, but we must ask what the state has done with these powers for the benefit of the people and there is simply nothing to show for all that power.

We already have the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, an ineffective police system and socioeconomic injustice as challenges. If we allow citizens to bear private weapons, we shall experience an escalation of armed violence. This is because we do not have the structures for effective management of private arms ownership. And even in climes where they do have such managed structures; they are battling with private gun use violations.

The silver bullet to check this ugly development of insecurity remains the recalibration and retooling of the police. The Nigeria Police Force is the largest bureaucratic institution in Nigeria and our internal security equilibrium has collapsed because of the ineffectiveness of the police force. Let us get our police to work. We should be aware that our military has experienced tremendous transformational developments since the beginning of the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency. However, we need a large general purpose police force instead of the conventional military which is less appropriate for use in combating internal insecurity.

Betta Edu has been suspended as Humanitarian Affairs minister over corruption allegations. Some argue that those mentioned in the scam should also go. What is your position on this?

Betta Edu’s sack is a very deserving one and all those involved should be made to face the law. Corruption has remained an albatross against our national socioeconomic and political developments. The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs has always been in the eye of the storm. It is replete with corrupt acts, very annoying substantiated and unsubstantiated allegations. Cases of serious fraud abound from that ministry and it is all about the nature of the Nigerian state. What the government is doing in our name is unknown to the people. This is a time for proper house cleaning. We really do have a crisis at the ministry and it is so bad that it requires emergency measures, but I am grateful we have a government that reacts to public opinion, unlike in the past.

The major problem is the structure of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. We should understand that humanitarianism and affairs connected thereto is about the socioeconomic foundations of society via the provision of social infrastructure of a public merit nature. Infrastructure that is non-excludable, non-rival and accessible public merit goods that promotes growth, development, quality of life and national integration. It’s not about conditional cash transfers or school feeding which are replete with corrupt acts with no viable standards.

Every minister tries to outdo the other in corrupt acts. We have schools, health care centres and public highways that need equipment, resources and facilities. We have out of school children that should be realigned into the school system. We have children, mothers and aged people who need accessible public services to improve their quality of life and sustenance. What will few pennies do for them? That ministry should be restructured and made to focus on critical aspects of our development levels and not sending conditional stipends to people while the stipends cannot afford health care or food after the day of receipt.

The ministry is a fraud shop and should be restructured while we take urgent steps to punish Betta Edu and her predecessor for gross misconduct and what I will call crimes of despair because some of these people may actually require psychiatric evaluation.

The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs is one that should ensure egalitarian ownership of means of production and enhancement of human capabilities to spread wealth and prosperity and not to enrich a select few.

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There are fears in some quarters that by 2027, Nigeria may emerge a one-party state. What is you view on this?

Nigeria cannot emerge a one-party state because of our heterogeneity. Though we have mismanaged our heterogeneity, it still remains the binding force for our survival as one indivisible entity. Every political or social system possesses an inherent coping mechanism that resets it and also makes it resilient. 

At the appropriate time due to how dynamic events are, we shall begin to see changes and realignments for power. The system will ordinarily correct itself and no matter the power available to leadership today, we must not forget that power is on a rapid decline due to the dynamic nature of every society and globalisation.

In considering the political economy of power, there are two vital elements required. Firstly, is a political leadership that will set the strategic objectives for securing and advancing the interest of the people and secondly, a coordinating policy infrastructure that will comprehensively integrate and apply resources in service of public interests.

Here in Nigeria, we have no collective national interest because of group acts and group thinking. This makes it difficult to have an appropriate and acceptable strategic national objective and this will make a one-party state impossible. Our heterogeneity makes it difficult to have a strategic national objective that will suit all groups and different ethnic groups have different objectives for power. These separate objectives for power ranges from prestige to economic development to progress for all. Yet all these separate objectives hinge on the propagation of ethnic superiority. So, how will the one-party state emerge?

Our national security priorities are regime protection, protection of energy sources and enforcement of national unity.  Until we engage a paradigmatic shift of our national security priorities from regime protection to people-centric protection, from enforcement of national unity forced upon all to national integration and for national unity to flow from the love of country, social justice, freedoms and equal opportunity, we cannot have a one-party state.  There is unity in fear and enforced silence and this is unacceptable.

The federal government is talking of direct foreign investments. Don’t you think the security challenges in the country, as well as the poor performance of the naira would be a drawback?

Investment is a very shy product and it is influenced by random economic, social and political circumstances. Capital does not accept to be tied down in a country for so long, so capital goes from place to place where technology is high, laws are adequate, environments enabling and predictable, profits determinable and positive peace apparent.

Our security challenges will certainly affect investments, local or foreign. Our level of social disharmony will also affect investments, local or foreign. There are other factors that influence investments and this include the credibility of our Judiciary and nature of our legal system. For security, there are two dimensions which are negative (insecurity) and positive (security) and each of these dimensions has two sides. Insecurity means absence of security and the other side of the coin is violent conflicts and violent crimes. Security is not necessarily absence of insecurity. Security is development and prosperity or welfare.

In considering foreign direct investments, we should be concerned with approaches that will bring out the logic of the state, markets and security. We should focus on our productive capacity by promoting free trade, free enterprise, freedoms, security, social cohesion and governance to avoid disaster capitalism.

We have an economic culture of dependency but we can use political power to extract and achieve economic prosperity and economic independence because security is not achievable and sustainable unless it is accompanied by rapid economic development. We should make certain industries with superior growth trajectories and potential of providing positive externalities to the greater economy attractive to foreign investors.

A structure of incentives should be put in place to cushion the effects of other overriding influences that affect investments. Our foreign exchange policy is also not predictable and these are all determinants of the quantum of foreign direct investments and the immediate composition of our foreign exchange policy is a drawback to foreign direct investments.

A section of the North has accused Tinubu of nepotism in his appointments, and that all the juicy portfolios are for people from the South West. Do you share in their sentiments?

Tinubu is recruiting his own people and this type we have lived with in the past. That is how we mismanage our diversity in Nigeria where every political leader believes that once elected it is his turn and that of his ethnic stock. At the end, this will increase political struggle and illegitimacy, destroy political credibility and create more social disharmony. We need leaders who can see beyond their ethnic group and install an infrastructure for social justice and equity. The North has no moral justification to complain about these nepotistic actions of the president. Buhari started it and they enjoyed it so what is their justification for complaints now?

During the Yuletide season, South East is usually calm and peaceful, but from mid January, it starts experiencing security challenges. What could be the reason for this? 

Insecurity will continue to prosper in Nigeria because government is not addressing the socioeconomic and political root causes of insecurity. The root causes of our national insecurity are purely socioeconomic and political. Therefore, only socioeconomic and political tools can be deployed to ensure an equilibrium state of security in Nigeria. Hunger, poverty, poor education, unemployment, relative deprivation, political exclusion, vertical inequality and corruption are all socioeconomic and political issues.

We are aware that defence and security have become so politicised. However, it did not start with this government but, this government has continued with politicisation of all essential outfits of government from defence to security to national intelligence management and economic management. It is trite to say we need effective political action to curb insecurity but this political action must threaten entrenched social, economic and political interests of those who profit from insecurity.

Government must refrain from installing convenient fantasies and humanize merit in defence and security bureaucracies. Peace is not the absence of conflict. We certainly need to restore positive peace in the South East. To achieve this feat, we need aggressive interconnected development across all South East states, increased law enforcement procedures and a well-structured political solution to the issues leading to the insecurity in the South East. When we consider the intra-national insecurity prevalent in Nigeria, we must take note of the root causes.

For the South East, socio-political marginalisation and failure of law enforcement are at the root of the challenge. Government should adopt deliberate measures to address the perceived marginalisation of the people and grant political amnesty to disrupters of our collective peace in the South East. Grant of political amnesty entails an acceptance by government that they are the cause of the problem. An acknowledgment by government will certainly moderate government behaviour towards addressing the South East insecurity challenges. More so, we need to improve policing of the entire geopolitical zone. Empower the police more to root out the criminal elements who do not want peace in the region.

One of the errors committed by the government and the media is the identification accorded the criminals as ‘unknown gunmen’.  This has made the people fall for justified fear and government seemingly unable to do the right thing because of inability to identify the group correctly. These criminals are known by the police but the definition of “unknown gunmen” as created by the media and government forces only creates fear and more objective fear on the people and increases motivation for the unknown gunmen to continue to perpetrate violence on the people.

What is your assessment of Abia governor, Dr. Alex Otti?

One of the best things that happened in 2023 in Nigeria was the election of Alex Otti and Ikechukwu Emetu as governor and deputy governor of Abia State respectively. It is such a perfect team that has focused on the critical areas for the development of Abia.

The governor is focused on physical, social and service infrastructure. Our neglected cities are coming back to life; education is receiving adequate attention and the same with health care.

He has within a short time restructured the civil service and fiscal processes in Abia and made himself accountable to the people. This level of accountability has never been witnessed by Abians in history. A great future awaits us, but Abians have started enjoying the fruits of transparent governance and proper planning.