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Beyond Physical Security: An agenda for development

By Mike Ejiofor

The 2011 elections have come and gone. It is time for agenda-setting. Suggestions are rife about what priorities the government should set for progress and development. Many would be of the opinion that the government should improve security.

The implication is that efforts should be made to enhance the country’s capability to stem physical harm to the people; provide more security agents on the street; show physically-armed personnel and equipment on the major roads etc. This way, most citizens and residents will believe the government is doing so much to protect them.

But security has gone beyond this level. Gone are the days when armed preparedness and exhibition of physical strength are strictly the measure for a country’s ability to protect the populace.

This, however, counts when security is viewed from the perspective of the state. State and regime security, as important as they could be, no longer determine stability in countries. This has been exemplified in the Arab states where violent demonstrations have become the order of the day despite the success of the governments in providing basic infrastructure in those states.

Security, no doubt, is key to the survival and stability of any government, especially in the modern world view. This is because the legitimacy of any government is comprehensively determined by the people’s confidence in that government. A reason like this has taken security beyond the physical protection of humans and materials. In the modern times, it (security) is inclusive of good governance.

The major ingredients for good governance include but not limited to accountability, rule of law, independent judiciary and respect for the general principles of democracy. This culminates in the security sector reform that is vigorously pursued by the states. The single idea is that the common people become important in security planning and implementation. A further implication is that the safety of the populace is considered significant for the survival of the state and the government in power.

If asked to highlight the basic areas this government should concentrate on in the next four years (2011-2015) for the well-being of the citizenry, Nigerians—home and in the Diaspora-will choose in order of importance: security, energy, health, education etc. All of these are undoubtedly important and for sure, critical to the good of the Nigerian state. But because these are changing times, it is imperative that the government refocuses its attention to the relevant areas of need. Security could be important but one will not believe that it is the most.

In the field of peace studies, conflict arises as a result of the pursuit for incompatible goals by parties. Basic causes of conflict emanate from primordial factors such as ethnicity, tribalism, structural and psychological violence, disputes over resources and breakdown in communication. Solving these mean that parties and stakeholders involved in the conflict have to address them completely and endeavour to eliminate the root causes of same.

The co-relation between security and development is imperative. None can stand without the other. Security is to development what development is to security. In other words, there is no security without development just as there won’t be development without security. By this, security is subsumed in the wider meaning of development. Both are, however, important to the survival of the state. Security is all- encompassing and need be seen so. Development challenges lead to security problems.

To achieve the desired level of security, it means that government will have to concentrate on such developmental issues as promoting good governance, eradicating poverty, providing infrastructure and enhancing accountability. Nevertheless, such incidentals as rule of law and free speech considered germane to the survival of the state  should not be neglected. Latest developments in the Arab world have indicated one major scenario. It is to the effect that despite the positive level of infrastructural development as has been seen in Libya, citizens will still demand that they count in their own country.

Today, the national security of Libya and its critical infrastructure are in serious danger for obvious reasons. Therefore, amassing latest security gadgets and acquiring capacity in quelling riots may not really be what could be needed as approach to governance in the present times. One is not, however, canvassing for a weak military preparedness for the protection of the territorial integrity of Nigeria. Not at all!

For a developing country like Nigeria, it is imperative that the government sets an agenda for itself. For a definite direction, it is suggested that efforts must be made to promote good governance thus accountability and due process. Fighting corruption will close all the gaps that create room for leakages. It is expected that government gives attention to the fight against corruption.

Another is to confront the menace of poverty. The extant economic policies need to be reviewed. It is suggested that Mr. President sets up a committee for the review of the strategies for the implementation of such documents as NEEDS, 7-Point Agenda and Vision 20: 2020. This will strengthen the economic policies of government and enable it to make remarkable differences by 2015; the first four years of the administration. The suggested review will also enable the administration own the product as its own. This will build a high level confidence between the government and the people.

To achieve these, the government needs, and urgently, too, to establish a National Security Policy (NSP) that will be human-focused and intelligence-driven to spearhead the needed economic and socio-political development. NSP, when developed, will establish the framework and long-term strategies for execution of policies in the areas of energy, security, international relations, science and technology, agriculture, economy, defence and security, transportation and other infrastructures.

To impact credibly on governance, it is suggested that the government should concentrate on two major areas for intervention. These are power and infrastructure because of their multiplier-effects. For Nigeria, the ”giant of Africa”  to occupy its rightful  place in the comity of nations, its power sector has to be well- developed. At present, the country’s electricity requirement has not been met.

In comparable terms with other countries, Nigeria still has a low capacity for power generation and distribution. The advantages of improving the power sector are enormous. One, it will stimulate the economy through local and foreign direct investments. Above all, it will restore public confidence and consolidate government legitimacy.

Like power, the provision of basic infrastructure such as roads, transportation, hospitals and schools will impact greatly on the well-being of the populace. This is the crux of governance. It is expected that these, coupled with rule of law and free speech, will ensure peace, stability and reduce public discontent against the government.

Barrister Mike Ejiofor, Fellow, Security Institute,  a former Director ,SSS, wrote from Abuja.


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