All students of security start from or acknowledge the premise that security is not an objective thing but a question of power, a question of who is seeing a threat, from where and how. So, when President Buhari says the insecurity in the Northwest and Northcentral is disturbing, he is automatically raising the question of security as seen by who, when and how. Interestingly, the president doesn’t disagree with this because, in his Sallah interview yesterday, he promised to raise the resources for the security operatives confronting bandits and terrorists in the spaces of violence across the region: Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, Birnin Gwari and the one that has become the most complicated, Southern Kaduna. This is to say that, as far as the president is concerned, the generalised insecurity would be a thing of the past if adequate resources had not been part of the problem.
The implication is that he either doesn’t know of or doesn’t accept the contrary argument that lack of resources is not such a fundamental part of the problem. Those who hold such view argue that a military formation lacking adequate resources could not possibly be all over the place engaging in what are considered police duties.
In the event of the two competing narratives, the president as well as the purveyors of the counter narrative, are confirming that security is a standpoint issue as each is looking at it from very subjective lenses. It doesn’t mean either of them is telling lies. It only means each is parading a partial truth and to overcome the partiality there, some more questions are needed.
Given the premise that security is a question of power, one of such questions would be why the president selected inadequate resources out of the many competing analogies of the insecurity crisis. One such competing narratives worth attention is the claim that there is insecurity at all because the president is personally implicated in it. And that the current level of insecurity would not be possible if that were not the case. The classic argument here is the view that if a sitting president wants his IG of Police to get at any criminals or militia incursion, it would be done. Those who subscribe to this view mean that recurring militia incursion anywhere is not possible unless the president is indulging his IG of Police. This is the more sophisticated variant of this argument which produced the theorising of current insecurity crisis in terms of Fulanisation.
How a President Buhari with conceptual and health challenges would go into a complicated business of renting militia to operationalise Fulanisation is the puzzle but it is also the president’s military colleagues who took over and popularized the Fulanisation narrative. And, these are people who should know although someone who is also a critic of the Buhari thinks it is stupid for anyone to believe that the Fulanis are out to wipe out other Nigerian populations four, five times the size of Fulanis.
None of these is right or wrong because, as discursive efforts, theories are always for someone and for some purpose, to borrow that universal phrase on that. The settled claim that every theory is for some purpose would have been enough to throw out the theory of Fulanisation. But that would have only been possible if the president himself has not strengthened the Fulanisation theory with his concentration of headship of security agencies on one ethno-religious identity in a highly pluralistic polity.
Meanwhile, the evidence continue to give Fulanisation theorists thick grounds. How else would they not celebrate if the following data is the security line-up in Kaduna State where the conflict has gone civilisational, for instance?
- Governor (Chief Security Officer): Ahmed El-Rufai, Muslim
- Deputy Governor: Hadiza Balarebe, Muslim
- Speaker: Yusuf Zailani, Muslim
- Chief Judge: Mohamed Lawal Bello, Muslim
- Attorney General: Aisha Dikko, Muslim
- Army GOC of Kaduna: Maj Gen. Mohamed Usman, Muslim
- Commanding Officer 313 Artillery Regiment, Kaduna: Lt. Col. A.K Muhammad, Muslim
- Air force Air officer command Kaduna: Air Vice Marshal Musa Muktar, Muslim
- Commander BSG NAF Base Kaduna:Group Captain Hadi Ahmed, Muslim
- Kaduna Naval Command: Rear Admiral Tanko Pani, Muslim
- Commissioner of Police: Umar Muri, Muslim
- Director DSS Kaduna: Idris Ahmed Koya, Muslim
- Commandant civil defence corps Kaduna: Babangida Dutsenma, Muslim
- Controller correctional service Kaduna: Sanusi Danmusa, Muslim
- Immigration Command: A.A. Bauchi, Islam
- Corps Marshall / CEO KASTELEA: Garba Rimi, Muslim
As true as it is that governors in Nigeria do not control the security system and should never control it in the foreseeable future, that does not make it true that any governor who doesn’t want conflict in his state cannot be successful. Any such governor can be successful even up to 90%. We have seen this not too long ago, including a state where even the insurgency was blocked. And the Nigerian security system not only sought to study how this was done, they studied it. It is power that decides security because, security, like truth, or beauty, is the eye of the beholder.
In the case of the above line up, the governor of Kaduna State cannot be successful even if he were determined to. It is not that Muslims are inherently incapable of being fair. It is that security commanders operate in a hierarchical, top – down arrangement and local commanders must bow to instructions from above. In the end, it is the President and Commander-in-Chief who is speaking since he is the one on top of the pyramidal structure. It is in that sense that he is being evasive if he dodges his self-implication in insecurity by his blatant exclusionary practice in his security appointment.
Although the Centre for Inclusive Governance and National Development which released these details is a little known actor, that does not undermine the data even as data do not make any sense in themselves. In the context of the plenitude of actual and potential interpreters of this sort of data, it is safe to say this data is at the heart of Southern Kaduna, for example, because the natives cannot see any distinction between the colonial state as used by those privileged by the colonialists to run the state and the current instrumentalisation of rented militia for what has been called vengeance missions.
And there is nothing chauvinistic in that because it is the same frame game that compelled the president to lead a protest team against the killing of herdsmen somewhere in the Southwest some 20 or so years ago. Then he was an ordinary citizen. Yesterday, it was the incumbent president who did that. Today, it is Southern Kaduna. Tomorrow, it could be any other place. The world is ruled by paradoxes. Perhaps, it is too long ago that the president can no longer put himself in the shoes of those who are feeling the same pain that led him to lead that protest, even as a former Head of State.
Added to that is this. When Southern Kaduna natives label any other identity groups as settlers, they are right because they are going by the logic of the Nigerian constitution which privileges indigeneity over any other claims in terms of property rights. That is the folly of the constitutional provision to that effect against which foresighted elements such as Bala Usman and Segun Osoba protested at the Constitution Drafting Committee in the mid 1970s.
The most progressive option would have been to open up the space to any Nigerians to live and enact their citizenship anywhere of his, her or their choice provided they pay tax. Instead of that, the Nigerian establishment fixed qualification for appointment on indigeneity. A ministerial appointee, for instance, must be an indigene of the state he or she comes from. And that is why every round of ministerial, ambassadorial or board appointment is greeted with protest about the indigeneity status of one nominee or the other.
The option for Nigeria is to be bold enough to go for gold by revisiting the issue and courageous reverse itself in favour of citizenship code that allows anyone to live anywhere. Already, Nigerians are living among themselves beautifully as exemplified by Lagos, Kano, Portharcourt and, until recently, Kaduna, Maiduguri and Jos. Places as Lagos and Kano that admits of everyone are the ones that develop into megacities as opposed to spaces of cultural exceptionalism that have problems with difference.
To reverse the current invitation to conflict called indigeneity is a task for leadership, power and governance but which are areas in which Buhari has been found wanting by his exclusionary practices. As such, he is not even in a position to even enter anything that can be called innovative such as Obasanjo’s idea of overcoming indigeneity in political appointment by allocating extra seats to each geopolitical units and thereby being able to appoint anyone without formally violating the constitution.
Instead of President Buhari to think in terms of options that cannot be denied the status of innovativeness, the president and his minions revel in charging at anybody who raises this argument with trying to whip up sentiments. The president who claims to have been popularly elected but decides to concentrate such appointments does not see himself doing anything wrong or fueling ethnic activism but finds it easy to see mobilisation of identity sentiments by others. And he has never sanctioned any of his aides for doing so. Perhaps, he chides them secretly but since they have not stopped, it makes sense to say he didn’t at all, implying that he personally endorses what they are saying.
And hence the ‘silence’ that it amounts to when the president talks about inadequate resources, leaving aside the more fundamental issue. That presidential silence is where the insecurity crisis lies. Imagine the difficulty of framing the insecurity crisis as Fulanisation if the appointments were not concentrated. Fulanisation is not true simply because it is asserted. It is true because those who believe it will be guided by it. After all, there is no universal truth.
‘Silences’ are dangerous because they are louder than voice. The president should get himself out of structuralist reasoning that misdirects him to look for answers in resource inadequacy and military fortification. Military fortification will always be important but military capability is just one form of power. There are other even more powerful power resources in the toolkit. It is only by doing so that all forces for creative resolution of stalemates can be mobilised.
It is not everyone on either side of violence in Southern Kaduna who subscribes to the ideology of ‘fight to finish’ because fight-to-finish is an ideology of frustration and unimaginative destruction. So, peace work can still work. But peace work cannot work where power itself is belligerent and asking people to learn to live together when what is at stake is a question of power or of security by who, threat from where and security by whom.