Could the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF), become a point of departure in understanding and resolving the defining features of contemporary northern Nigeria when it stages the summit on security in the north which it told Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo it is organising? It is widely believed that, from Ida in Kogi State to Illela in Sokoto State, from Baruten in Kwara State to Bama in Borno State, the north is in the grip of one, instrumental violence. Next is material poverty of majority of the peasants, the urban poor and the working class. The third is the absence of a regional conflict management mechanism that privileges transitional justice for the most glaring victims of the many forms of arbitrariness the system embodies. The implication is that this is a jungle floating on many spaces of insecurity, particularly structural violence.
As such a space, it has witnessed cross-cutting actors and players, from the UNDP to the IMF/World Bank, USAID, DFID, Oxfam, the CSOs, big powers and the overarching actor, the Federal Government of Nigeria, all struggling to put something on the table. One of the latest was the Northern Governors’ Form which appeared poised to add value to the management of insecurity in the north from a position of strength. In the end, it has not struck the chord. That is puzzling, given the degree of authority the governors control, individually and collectively. They were followed by an enlarged forum which incorporated the traditional rulers and regional choice NGO – this same ACF into the governors. Intervention, for example, feared “if they would not become too big and too solid to come out of the same door through which they entered the same meeting”. That expectation of overcoming difficulties through unity never materialised. In any case, they were only meeting after the horrors of the first segment of violence in Southern Kaduna. As this platform opined then, how wonderful it would have been if such a meeting preceded outbreak of violence anywhere in the region. Now, they are planning to meet again but, again, after the fact of Meningitis which has already killed over 800, a number which brings to mind the definition of security below or which shows that security is never a contested concept. Those who feel it know it.
It was in the context of this vacuum that the Emir of Kano’s voice came loud and clear. The cross-cutting nature of the reactions to his intervention shows that he has got a message and that he communicated. It also points to the constitutive role of discourse that a number of suggestions on how to practicalise his message. There is no threat to him and his message although there were people and interests who reacted uncomfortably but understandably. The threat, if any, resides in those who are reading the heroism of the gifted or brilliant individual into the emir’s intervention. Structurally, they risk making the emir vulnerable by denying his argument a social context, thereby de-oxygenating it altogether. For what Emir Muhammadu Sanusi 11 has done is the very anti-thesis of heroism but the product of a threat analysis that shows to him that the world around him could crumble and crumble on his privileges if enlightened self-interest was not deployed. The implication is that it is the members of the elite who should be grateful to the emir for safeguarding the system from what someone has called the ‘movements of rage’. Instructively, it coincided with the week in which governors, legislators and top flight members of the elite could not address rallies or move freely without being attacked by a mob that is getting restless. The emir’s voice could not have been better timed. The message should have sunk when rioters in April 11, 2011 stressed many emirs before Boko Haram added their own dimension in terms of specifically targeting emirs. Now, it has gone beyond emirs. Many of the elite have nowhere now beyond Abuja. They cannot go to their villages, many of those spaces having been taken over by new insecurity players who have the capacity to take the police head on, gun for gun. Alternatively, they co-opt the police. A frightening scenario is playing out in the rural areas and even in the urban areas. It is nationwide but it has a northern Nigerian specificity in terms of mob psychology being diverted into religious cum cultural violence.
Therefore, support for the views of the Emir of Kano is, for many, not a product of illusions about his ideological location. Even Adamu Ciroma who once said he “was in danger of making money” found himself getting highly connected to the corporate world once he became Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN). That is the nature of the job. So, a Muhammadu Sanusi who was Governor of the CBN for five or so years corresponding to the era of heightened neoliberalism in Nigeria must necessarily be in the inner circle of global finance.
Unfortunately, for his critics, he is in a position to securitise poverty. That is, to declare poverty a threat. He has the epistemic authority for that in having taken time to formally and academically engage Islamic Knowledge. Two, he is the incumbent emir. Three, he is connected to the global process, especially the security-development paradigm. Do we think the UN set up the UNDP for the fun of it? There is an element of defensive radicalism even in global governance and the unique element in the Sanusi advocacy is simply that idea in which the Nigerian elite is uniquely deficit – the idea of concessions to those who could transform into ‘movements of rage’ before our own eyes. The British failed completely in that regard. Or we should vary that to say that the military completely took that away from elite consciousness in Nigeria. That would, additionally, make Emir Sanusi a restorer.
It is within this context that the idea of a security summit by the ACF may derive legitimacy. Already titled “Recurrent security challenges and threats in Northern Nigeria: Implications for National Development” and coupled with the insecurity index in the region, the security summit would appear valid, apt and timely. The linkage between security and development in the title suggests that its masterminds are not part of those who believe that security is a contested concept, a thick signifier, according to a critic. Rather, the link suggests they buy to the emergent consensus that security does not have to be defined in terms of a universal meaning. It should simply “begin in the experiences, imaginings, analysis and fears of people living with insecurity, ill-health, or low status”. In this way, security is emancipatory, about the people, not one damned thing after another always starting and ending with security agencies even as they may still be part of it.
From the concepts, it has promise in terms of providing a point of departure although everything depends on too many other factors. In all cases, this should go more than dancing around problems, trying to solve them without first locating them in how they became problems. But, who knows, by hitting it off fine with the Vice-President this week, the ACF might pull it big. It hit it big in the sense that the VP not only agreed with them that Nigeria is better together than otherwise but also took the discourse war to those canvassing for decentering Nigeria. His intervention may look routine but there is a significance in his celebration of diversity and size. By implication, he was telling unclear advocates of unrestrained decentering that the celebration of differences is not incompatible with a big country. With that shattering of the advocacy for break-up by the post modernist turn which the VP has introduced into the arena, a more inviting Nigeria could, indeed, begin to emerge should the ACF summit successfully identify and boldly engage how the north would not always be about fear, violence and religious discord.
…Meanwhile, Thank You Immensely, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa
There is a journalistic, ideological and tendency sense in reckoning with Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, the Second Republic governor of Kaduna State for analytical exceptionalism in a society which has put intellect in a dilemma. In reacting to the intervention by the Emir of Kano, Balarabe Musa did not turn to Psychology for help or pose the Emir of Kano as a product of this or that school. Rather, according to The Nation, Balarabe Musa said “the Emir was right, pointing out that the former Central Bank Governor understands the nature of capitalism”. The paper quoted the Second Republic governor further as saying that “Uneven development is a direct impact of capitalism and it is inevitable because capitalism controls development in this country. It is the same all over the world. You find some areas are developed; some other areas are not developed. Inter alia, he said “Yes, I agree with the Emir of Kano that, if those states were to be nations, they cannot survive on their own. There are nations like that which depend largely on imperialist countries”.
When related to Balarabe Musa’s earlier analysis that poverty in the north is a national security threat, it brings to mind how capitalism functions in a way that always brings about war, especially the First and the Second World War and every other wars ever since, essentially through its defining feature called ‘combined and uneven development’. So, Balarabe Musa is leadership based on knowledge which is not just book knowledge but knowledge that is experientially arrived at, not mercenary and which he shares politically at no cost to anybody. In this particular case, he draws attention to a larger problem which we could become collateral damage, such as US-China security competition in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.
He shares many of these elements with Tanko Yakassai who educated himself outside formal schooling, developing an analytical verve that is something else. The draft version of his now published autobiography was a frightening read, going by the details of what they went through in the NEPU struggle in those days. In the Second Republic, he veered into the NPN but he has explained in details how it happened. Now, what is the purpose of the education we are celebrating if those who didn’t have that much, including the Sardaunas, the Balewas, the Abubakar Imams and the Joseph Tarkas as well as most of the governors in the Second Republic, have done better than the players now who parade Oxford, Harvard, Ibadan, ABU and so on?
May God preserve Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa for much, much longer! Amen!