Editorial Team

Emmanuel Udom-Managing Editor, Stephen Dijo Philemon-Deputy Editor, Janet Udom-Senior Correspondent, Precious Udom-Senior Correspondent, Williams Ita-Bureau Chief(Akwa Ibom/Cross River), Fabian Idoko-Senior Correspondent

    Manufacturer's Representative Import Export General Merchandise Contract Adress: Araromi Quarters, Owode Area, Ifo, Ogun state, Nigeria P.O.Box 2632, Oshiodi, Lagos Telephone: 2348166719412

    Sunday, 22 September 2013

    The role of governance in ensuring peace and security in Nigeria

                      By Anele Douglas  

    Governance is a very demanding vocation that requires the best qualities in humans to ensure peace and security in the society. Moreover, given the peculiar nature of human beings as the most highly evolved bipedal primate with intellectual, emotional and spiritual attributes qualitatively different from what obtains in the rest of the animal kingdom, the necessity of living in well-ordered societies is incontrovertible. Long before the British philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, postulated a hypothetical "state of nature," Aristotle had argued that a person who does not need the society of others is either a god or a beast. Therefore, the problem of determining the nature of governance and the most suitable form of political arrangement for the fullest development of human potentials in a peaceful and secure environment is coeval with the emergence of civil society in antiquity. Consequently, political philosophers, political scientists, jurists, theologians and others have formulated theories about the best form of governance for the ideal state. Essentially, these theories seek to identify and explain the origin and nature of civil society and the foundational principles for constructing utopia on the basis of both implicit and explicit assumptions about human nature and the appropriate values and social conditions that promote optimum human development. Accordingly, while political philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke presume that humans in "the state of nature" were benign and prescribe democracy as the most suitable form of government, others, typified by Thomas Hobbes and G.W.F. Hegel, believe strongly that totalitarianism is better given the egoistic and fractious nature of human beings. In spite of different theoretical perspectives on "the state of nature" and on the origin and necessity of organized society, there is unanimity with respect to the conviction that as social animals human beings must live together in organized groups.

    However, societies cannot function unless there are individuals to govern them. This is where the complex problem of identifying the nature of leadership and the qualities - physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual  - which those aspiring to lead or govern must possess in order to do so effectively and responsibly. Next is the question of institutional framework necessary for social development, given that well-organized institutions, as carriers of traditions and values, are indispensable for effective leadership. In an effort to establish standards for governance, philosophers usually answer the question "Who should rule?" by enunciating character traits and educational programmes for good leadership. Plato's conception of the ideal state and his recommendation of guardians or philosopher-kings to lead are typical in this regard. Since then, different schools of thought on the subject have crystallized each with its own area of emphasis and prescriptions for handling the complexities of social life.

    Atrocities committed by the dictatorial regimes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Benito Mussolini among others and increased recognition of the crucial importance of democratic institutions for safeguarding human rights and individual freedom within the ambit of just laws have tended to make totalitarianism loathsome in contemporary times. The consensus all over the world now is that democracy is the most appropriate form of government despite its shortcomings. Having said that, experience from established democracies like the United States of America and Britain indicates that for democracy to work there has to be a robust democratic culture which depends largely on continuous improvisation and compromise among key political actors in the community. This requirement is yet to be fulfilled, especially in emerging democracies like Nigeria where democratic culture and institutions are yet to take root.

    Given the background sketched above, this paper examines the role of governance in ensuring peace and security in Nigeria. It starts by explicating the idea of governance and other concepts associated with it. The paper identifies essential characteristics of peace and security, and deploys historical analysis to assess how governance has affected both in the country during different administrations at various times. In conclusion, the paper recommends ways of improving security and peaceful coexistence among Nigerians through good governance. 

    Key words: governance, peace, security, power, authority, politics


    Chambers 20th Century Dictionary defines the verb 'govern' ' as "to direct: to control: to rule with authority...to exercise authority: to administer the laws" (Chambers, 1985, 543). Thus, "to govern" is necessarily related to 'government,' which denotes a "...system of governing; the body of persons authorised to administer the laws or to govern a state..." (loc. cit). To govern a given geopolitical entity means to exercise authority over it, to administer extant laws therein in the best interests of the citizens. It follows that in order to govern there must be authority. The term 'authority' connotes different things depending on the context in which it is used. For instance, when someone is described as an authority in a particular subject, it means the person in question has special knowledge or special access to information on that very subject unavailable to those who accept the person's status as an authority. Nevertheless, the sense of authority relevant to our discourse is "the right or the capacity, or both, to have proposals or prescriptions or instructions accepted without recourse to persuasion, bargaining or force" (McLean & McMillan, 2003: 30-31).

    In every geopolitical setting, holders of authority are entitled to their status and offices by a system of rules and conventions, particularly legal regulations, which enables them to make decisions or issue instructions. These officials have authority conferred on them by the rules and practices that constitute the relevant activity (loc. cit). Briefly stated, then, to govern is the capacity to exercise authority in a given political space within the framework of laws and conventions accepted by the community. Governance entails the totalising concept of government, which constitutes the framework for legitimate exercise of authority. Hence, every discussion of governance dovetails into analysis of government, because to govern is to be part of a particular government that exercises power within a political community.

    Wherever there is governance or government, there is power, or more precisely political power. Consequently, governance and politics are inseparably connected. Politics is a "social process characterised by activity involving rivalry and cooperation in the exercise of power and culminating in the making of decisions for a group" (Bluhm, 1965: 5).  Power exists in practically all human endeavours and institutions. However, political power is a special subset of power. It deals with state power and all other forms of power in the society yield to it or are controllable by it. Because political power involves authoritative allocation of resources in a given geopolitical space, the struggle for it by individuals and groups has been intense since ancient times. Love of political power is the major reason for coup d'états in Nigeria and the sight-tight mentality of several African leaders. In general, politicians worldwide usually resort to bribery, electoral malpractices, intimidation, blackmail and violence to secure and retain power.

    In his work, Introduction to Politics, Okwudiba Nnoli defines power as "all human activities that concern the use of state power, the consolidation of state power, and the seizure of state power" (Nnoli, 1986:80). Remi Anifowose, relying on the authority of Reinhard Bendix, avers that political power derives from established authority that allocates the right to command and the duty to obey (Anifowose, 1999:108). Power, he says, is essentially a relationship among human beings, an asymmetrical bilateral relation between the influencer and the influence. Wise leaders, while exercising political power, take into consideration the needs, desires and well-being of the citizens, whereas incompetent leaders such as the ones that have been governing Nigeria since independence use power to achieve narrow selfish interests especially primitive accumulation.


    Having clarified some of the key concepts relevant to our discourse, the role of governance in ensuring peace and security will be taken up straightway. It must be pointed out at the outset that peace is not merely the absence of war, although absence of violence and war is a necessary condition for peace. Genuine peace involves the presence of political, economic and social conditions conducive to individual freedom and voluntary participation in different aspects of private and public life. This implies that a peaceful society is one in which members of that society are free to be what they can be within the ambit of reasonable laws. Justice, fairness, good laws and security are indispensable elements of a peaceful society that depend heavily on good governance. Furthermore, ensuring security of lives and property is one of the fundamental reasons for the existence of government, without which human society will easily degenerate into anarchy, confusion and brutality. Security is the condition, feeling and means of being secure, the assurance that one can carry on legitimate activities without undue let or hindrance except in the exercise of lawful duties by those authorised to enforce the law. In all countries, the state controls instruments of coercion and is obliged to deploy security agencies such as the army, the police and paramilitary organisations to maintain peace and security.

    Contrary to popular belief, having reliable and efficient security agencies does not necessarily guarantee peace and security, because the possibility of mistake or failure can never be ruled out completely in the activities of human beings. Again, if the leadership is mediocre such that the existential condition of people deteriorates below a certain level, no amount of policing or military presence would automatically bring about real peace - at best, it can only lead to peace of the graveyard. Therefore, the best way to ensure lasting peace and security is good governance predicated on knowledge, emotional intelligence, creative imagination, selflessness and determination to do what is right.

    For a realistic appreciation of the role of governance in ensuring peace and security in Nigeria, it is pertinent to highlight some of the defining moments in the country's evolution as a geopolitical entity. This is because only an attentive analysis of selected crucial events in Nigerian history can throw light on how the processes of governance in different dispensations have influenced peace and security in the country. Like virtually every modern state, Nigeria is an artificial creation. In addition, like most African countries, Nigeria owes her existence to a European colonial power - in this case Britain. Now, the idea of establishing Nigeria through the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 was guided and dictated by existing unities ranging from the geographical and historical to the economic and socio-cultural. Yet, it is incontrovertible that the decisive factor in Lord Frederick Lugard's imperialist calculus was the desire to accelerate economic exploitation of his new creation to serve British interests. The main plank of colonial amalgamation policy in Nigeria was the Indirect Rule system of native administration based on an undemocratic hierarchical mode of operation (Akinyele, 1997:284-285, Nigeria's Golden Book, 2010:44-48). The model was very successful in Northern Nigeria with its highly centralised emirate system. In Western Nigeria, it was partially successful. Lugard mistakenly thought that Yoruba states headed by Obas who traditionally owed some allegiance to the Alafin of Oyo were analogous to the Northern emirates under the Sultan of Sokoto. But the Alafin did not wield as much power as the Sultan. Moreover, attempts to extend Indirect Rule to Egbaland failed because the British government had already signed a treaty in 1893 granting a quasi-independent status to Abeokuta where an influential class of western-educated elite had emerged which was suspicious of British intentions. The resentment that followed the imposition of the system there led to Egba riots in 1918. Indirect Rule failed woefully in Eastern Nigeria. It was an inappropriate system of governance for a people that had lived for millennia under complex systems of acephalous republicanism in micro political units (Nwaubani, 2006:2-23). Hence, the Warrant Chiefs appointed by the British and vested with arbitrary powers hitherto unknown in Igbo society were very unpopular - most of them became tyrants who oppressed the people. The use of these unpopular chiefs for taxation led to the Aba women riots of 1929, and the principal targets of the attacks were Warrant Chiefs and the native courts.                                  

    A landmark event in the governance of pre-independence Nigeria, with implications for peace and security, was the political reform of Donald Cameron, Governor of Nigeria from 1931 to 1936. Indirect Rule, as we have seen, was a flawed response to the difficult challenge of adapting colonial rule to the imperatives of entrenched indigenous socio-political and cultural systems. Thus, even in the North where it was applied successfully serious shortcomings in governance were noticeable. For example, Indirect Rule did not encourage the evolution of genuine modern system of governance. It was too narrowly focused on tax collection and accentuated the separateness of Northern Nigeria from Southern Nigeria. Still, Cameron improved the native administration by reforming the antiquated emirate system to bring it in line with modern governance. He checked the independence of Emirs, curtailed the jurisdiction of the Alkali courts, and introduced a policy whereby Emirs were encouraged to travel abroad and visit the Western and Eastern regions. In the West, Cameron halted the move to elevate the Alafin of Oyo in Yorubaland and appointed educated indigenes as members of Native Authority Councils. In the light of reports on the Aba riots, efforts were made to evolve a system of local government harmonious with the traditional socio-political organisation of the people.

    Cameron also carried out significant judicial reforms nationwide. For example, he abolished the provincial courts and replaced them with an independent High Court for the entire Protectorate and magistrate courts where lawyers could practice. Cameron's reforms clarified the constitutional relation between the central government and the native administration. Finally, the posts of Lieutenant Governors for the Northern and Southern Protectorates were renamed Chief Commissioners to emphasise the unity of Nigeria.

    Although Cameron's reforms improved governance throughout the country, nationalist agitations for abolition of colonial rule created problems for British colonial administrators who, understandably, opposed the independence aspirations of pioneer nationalists such as Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and H. O. Davies among others. The Richard Constitution of 1946, Macpherson Constitution of 1951, and Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 provided roadmaps for the evolution of regionalism in Nigeria, but the input of Nigerians in the process did not satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the nationalists. Moreover, the colonial policy of separateness was inimical to the emergence of governance on a nationalist platform principally because of fear of domination by different ethnic groups. Thus, conflicts among Nigerians in the 1940s and 1950s, epitomised in the Kano riots of 1953, were due to the inability of political leaders to come together, make genuine compromises and promote unity-in-diversity. As the movement towards independence gathered momentum prominent leaders of Northern Nigeria wanted the process delayed mainly because of its very low representation in the bureaucracy occasioned by the region's backwardness in Western education, whereas their Southern counterparts wanted it as early as 1956 (Akinyeye, 329). Eventually, the day for independence was slated for October 1, 1960, after several constitutional conferences in the late 1950s (Nigeria's Golden Book, 86).

    The problem of governance in Nigeria entered a new phase with the attainment of independence, an occasion likened by Yomi Akinyeye to "the birth of a newborn baby with no apparent defect [and] greeted with great jubilation and high expectations" (Akinyeye, 327). The First Republic inaugurated shortly afterwards adopted the British parliamentary model of governance. There was a Prime Minister with executive powers, a ceremonial President and a bi-cameral legislature consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The judiciary consisted of a Supreme Court, High Courts and Magistrate Courts. In the North, Islamic judicial system existed side-by-side with the judicial system introduced by the British.

    Political independence meant that for the first time Nigerians were fully in charge of the country. Nonetheless, the political atmosphere, already polluted with unnecessary ethnic bickering arising from overemphasis on ethnicity at the detriment of national interest, was ominous with clouds of uncertainty and unease. Dominant political parties of the First Republic, namely, the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (which was later renamed National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC), the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and the Action Group (AG) wasted too much time squabbling over power at the centre instead of working hard to provide effective governance in regions they controlled. A splinter group, Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), was formed from NPC by Aminu Kano, while S.L. Akintola pulled some members of AG to form the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP). The crises that followed the controversial census of 1962 and federal elections held in 1964 led to the breakdown of law and order, especially in the West where the regional government which claimed victory in a massively rigged election could not govern effectively due to violent protests.

    To be candid, Tafawa Balewa's government lacked strategic intelligence, political will and stamina needed to govern a fractious, pluralistic country like Nigeria. Hence, as the world-renowned novelist, Chinua Achebe correctly observed:

    Within six years of this tragic colonial manipulation, Nigeria was a cesspool of corruption. Public servants helped themselves to the nation's wealth. Elections were blatantly rigged. The subsequent census was outrageously stage-managed; judges and magistrates were manipulated by the politicians in power. The politicians were pawns of foreign business interests (Achebe, 2012:51).

    Given the grim scenario painted by Achebe, it was not completely surprising when some young military officers staged the first military coup on 15 January 1966. According to its mastermind, Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Nzeogwu, the intention behind the move was to "rid Nigeria of corruption, nepotism and all other forms of wrongdoing..." (Quoted in Iloegbunam, 1999:3). During the coup, Prime Minister Balewa and some prominent politicians and military officers from the North and West were assassinated. On the other hand, the relatively low number of Southeastern politicians and military officers who lost their lives triggered bitter resentment in other regions. In the pogrom that followed thousands of Ndigbo were killed and their property destroyed, particularly in the North and to a lesser degree in the West (Achebe, 68). When the First Republic collapsed, Maj. Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi became the military head of state. In order to restore peace and security, Ironsi suspended the 1963 Constitution, abrogated the regions and instituted a unitary government on the platform of territorial areas called provinces (Iloegbunam, 122). His efforts to unify the country, calm frayed nerves and govern effectively were vitiated by vitriolic ethnic rivalry and hatred against the Igbo, who were blamed for the coup of January 15. On July 29, 1966, some Northern elements in the army, motivated by the need for revenge, staged a counter coup. Ironsi and several military officers of Igbo origin were brutally murdered. Afterwards, the political situation in the country deteriorated very rapidly. Yakubu Gowon, took over power despite stiff opposition from the military governor of Eastern province, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

    Gowon, like his predecessor, was unable to stop the pogrom against the Igbo and restore peace and security nationwide. After several attempts to reconcile the East with the rest of Nigerian failed, Ojukwu, in consultation with the Eastern Assembly, pulled Eastern Nigeria out of the federation. The civil war that broke out as a result lasted from July 7, 1967 to January 15, 1970. The war is, unarguably, the worst period in Nigeria's history as a modern state. Like every war situation, governance was at its lowest ebb because enormous human and material resources were channelled towards the war effort. Compared to the areas controlled by Nigeria, Biafra was small and completely outnumbered and blockaded. Again, most parts of Nigeria were relatively peaceful and secure during the war, because Biafra did not have the military capability to mount effective attacks inside Nigeria. The leadership of Biafra under Odumegwu Ojukwu, notwithstanding tremendous odds while the bloody conflict lasted, tried valiantly to govern effectively. Unfortunately, the war situation made peace and security virtually impossible in the secessionist enclave. Southeastern Nigeria was devastated by the time Biafra surrendered in January, 1970. Gowon declared "No victor, no vanquished," and Inaugurated the programme of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation.

    Since the war ended over forty-three years ago, Nigeria has been more or less peaceful, except for occasional violent religious uprisings, inter-ethnic clashes and internecine conflicts. Because conflict is perennial in human affairs, conflict management and maintenance of peace and security has been a constant challenge across different administrations. Aside from religious and ethnic violence, military coups, poverty, unemployment, manipulation and outright repudiation of elections and election results, coupled economic and social injustice - all of which are caused by mediocre leadership - threaten the very foundation of a peaceful and secure Nigeria.

    The record of performance by the federal government with respect to good governance for peace and security is not impressive. Indeed, since 1970 the quality of governance in several areas has gone down, while violence and insecurity has increased in frequency, intensity, and destructiveness. These days public officials at all levels in the three arms of government are more greedy, corrupt, reckless and unpatriotic than their predecessors, just as the violence and destructiveness unleashed by Niger Delta militants and Boko Haram terrorists is deadlier and more widespread than what obtained in earlier decades.

    According to Achebe, bad leadership is the fundamental problem of Nigeria. Consequently, there is need for positive change in leadership to enhance peaceful coexistence and security in the country. However, since people in leadership positions were ordinary citizens before becoming President, governor, minister etc., Nigerians themselves must embark on critical self-examination to discover reasons for the terrible decline of governance in the country. Largely, the issue boils down to the challenge of identifying strong, enlightened and selfless leaders and letting them govern to ensure peace and security nationwide. It is also the question of strengthening existing institutions necessary for good governance.

    As already implied, the record of military rule is disappointing. A paradigm case is Ibrahim Babangida's government, during which some of the most horrendous acts of corruption at the highest levels of governance, shambolic economic management, and the ill-advised annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election (which generated pockets of deadly violence especially in parts of Yorubaland) occurred. Civilian administrations have also been profoundly disappointing, a case of hope deferred yet again. Corruption and financial rascality is rampant; several top government officials still act with impunity like military dictators. Bad governance which compromised peace and security when soldiers were in power continued in the administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua amd Goodluck Jonathan, except that in the civilian dispensation there is improvement in adherence to the rule of law and oversight of the executive by the legislature to check abuse of power. Unfortunately, members of the legislature at all levels of governance and many judicial officers are corrupt. Clearly, malignant corruption is the most formidable obstacle to lasting peace and security in Nigeria.

    In all the instances of insecurity and disruption of peace we highlighted in this paper the fundamental cause can be captured in a single word - misgovernance; that is, the inability of political leaders to selflessly harness the abundant human and material resources in the country for the wellbeing of all, irrespective of ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, socio-economic and educational status. The first condition for peace and security in every society is justice, followed by compassion. As we have seen, ethnic rivalry and distrust has led to the breakdown of law and order on many occasions. Incompetent leadership and Injustice exacerbate the problem. If Tafawa Balewa's government had tackled corruption, ineptitude and economic mismanagement, ensured equitable distribution of the country's revenue among the three regions, conducted credible census in 1963 and free and fair elections in 1964 and 1965, perhaps the first military coup of January 15, 1966 might not have happened. Supposing Gowon's administration was fair to the Igbo by taking firm and prompt measures against those perpetrated the pogroms in the mid 1960s and compensated the victims, probably the conflict that led to the civil war would have been avoided. In general, if subsequent administrations in the country since the civil war ended had governed in a disciplined, just, selfless, accountable and responsible manner, Nigeria would have been a much more peaceful and secure country than what it is today.

    The desire of Nigerians to live in a peaceful and prosperous society has been repeatedly disappointed by the leadership whose major preoccupation is self-indulgent materialism. Good governance depends on reasonable, emotionally intelligent, knowledgeable, enlightened and compassionate women and men with determination and iron will to do what is right. Of course, individuals with appropriate combination of attributes required for good leadership are rare. Such people, if identified and allowed to lead, will promote peace and security through good governance.

    Given the unpredictable political situation in the country and recurrent threat to peace and security by Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants, Nigerians should start reappraising their laidback attitude to politics because the quality of leadership is a reflection of the dominant social character of the society. Achieving a peaceful and secure society is a difficult and time-consuming challenge in which the leaders and the citizens as a whole must be involved. Therefore, if Nigerians really desire responsible governance, they should imbibe values and habits that promote it. In otherwords, they need to cultivate the values of honesty, discipline, responsibility, tolerance, selflessness, compassion and patriotism because the leaders of tomorrow will emerge from among themselves. It is ironic that vociferous critics of political office holders sometimes manifest the same negative traits they were criticising. Certainly, it is necessary to criticise leaders when they govern badly; it is equally essential to examine oneself to ensure that one does not have the same bad attitudes as well.
    The essential role of governance in ensuring peace and security in a pluralistic and immature democratic country such as Nigeria is beyond dispute. Good governance depends on justice, fairness, knowledge, compassion and patriotism especially in the leadership. It also requires strong social institutions run by selfless individuals dedicated to the maintenance and improvement of traditions that support such institutions. In the absence of good governance, society is bound to degenerate into lawlessness, chaos, insecurity and arrested development. Therefore, Nigerians must rise up to the challenge of creating an enabling environment for good governance. Peace and security nationwide is possible when leaders at every level and sphere of society, from the local government council and states right up to the presidency, shun selfishness and embrace patriotism and altruism. A good government takes maintenance of peace and security in its area of jurisdiction very seriously. The key to actualising that goal is responsible leadership founded on values for nation building reiterated in this paper. Without adherence to these values, governance will become a terrible burden on the people. Lasting peace and security cannot exist in such a situation.           
    2010. Nigeria's Golden Book, Lagos: The Sun Publishing Ltd.
    Achebe, C. (2012). There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, London: Penguin Books.
    Akinyeye, Y. (1997). "Nigeria since Independence," A. Osuntokun & A. Olukoju (eds.) Nigerian People's and Cultures, Ibadan: Davidson Press.
    Iloegbunam, C. (1999). Ironside, Great Britain: Press Alliance Network Ltd.
    McLean, I. & McMillan, A. (2003). Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Nnoli, O. (1986). Introduction to Politics, Lagos: Longman.
    Nwaubani, E. (2006). "Igbo Political Systems," Lagos Notes and Records, vol. XII.

    Douglas I.O. Anele Ph.D.,
    Department of Philosophy,
    University of Lagos,

    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    Google +

    Contact Form


    Email *

    Message *