The history of man is essentially a story of his attempt to secure himself. For those who accept the Bible literally, man has been stalked by insecurity since leaving the Garden of Eden, For those who prefer to follow man and his struggles by other routes, it is obvious that he has been faced with the spectre of insecurity since his very beginning. Virtually all the great and small wars have been fought to assure or maintain territorial integrity so that man could eat and live peaceably, within the geographical boundary which providence has placed him, with some degree of assurance of security. Michener’s fascinating novel, ‘The Source’, traces a single family through thousands of years and shows its civilisation beginning with a quest to guarantee its domestic security. Sabloff, in “The Patient Earth”, attributes the fall of the classic Maya civilisation to its inability to recognize and deal decisively with the root and the source of its domestic insecurity which was the pressures of over-population on the available food supplies. The great potato famine in Ireland in the 1800s resulted in millions of the Irish emigrating to the United States while those that stayed behind continued to foment trouble that almost brought the entire country to its knees.
Ironically, in man’s efforts to assure himself security, he does not only fail to identify the specific root of its insecurity but also formulates and pursues policies which mitigate against the very solution he seeks. The situation has also taken a radical turn in this contemporary society as relatively minor deviation from the mass-oriented economic policies today may result in widespread disharmony and be a severe drain on the already worn-out security garment of the nations concerned. In this case, Nigeria is certainly not an exception.
It is no longer news that world and Nigerian leaders are concerned about the high spate of bombing and the level of insecurity in Nigeria. These concerns are expressed in various, but to this time, ineffective ways. Various Headlines in Nigeria’s newspapers indicate the concerns of every stakeholder in this country. In addition to this, hundreds of learned papers and books have been written; numerous organisations have been formed, foreign human and financial aid have been given directly and indirectly to combat insecurity in the country while in the 2012 budget alone, #921.91 Billion is accrued to Defense (the largest of all the sectors) and in the proposed 2013 budget, over 13.5 per cent of the budget is dedicated to Defense.
Ironically, however, despite amplified appropriations in the years gone by, the security position continued to worsen by the day as can be witnessed in the incessant killings and astronomic rates in which crimes are being perpetrated across the country in recent years. Consequently, what is required to enclose the security pressures is not an increase in funding but the consecration of more attention to the neglected areas which happened to be the roots of the insecurity.
The high level of insecurity in the country is an highlight of the deep social and economic crisis in Nigeria’s society. Despite her riches in human and natural resources, my country is classified among the poorest countries of the world. The 2011 UN Human Development Index ranks Nigeria 156 out of 187 countries. Water is good for health but Nigeria is ranked 3rd on the world list of countries with inadequate water supply and sanitation coverage globally. Accordingly, the 2012 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business’ report ranks Nigeria 133rd out of 183 economies, implying that the country lags behind 132 others in terms of how easy the regulatory and physical environment permits the start and conduct of a business. In the area of health, the country has the highest maternal mortality/morbidity rate and the second highest infant mortality rate in the world.
More than 10 million Nigerian children of school age are out of school, according to UNICEF while the National Bureau of Statistics survey that was released in May 2012, revealed that 112 million, which amount to 71.5% of Nigerians, are living below poverty line. The country’s illiteracy used to be about 49% but recent estimates indicate that the figure has risen to about 65%. In addition to this is a crisis of social infrastructure: erratic power supply and a failed transportation system. All the above factors have succeeded in raising the level of unemployment among Nigerians especially the youths. In a recent stunning revelation by the Minister of Youths and Social Development, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, 28.14 million youths in Nigeria are unemployed in a total population of 67 million youths. This is 42% youth unemployment!
Not surprising, the average life span in my country is a tragic 49 and 59 years for male and female respectively. Meanwhile, all these are at variance with the life of opulence and corruption of members of the ruling elite and political office holders whose take home pay alone is about 40% of annual government budget for the outgoing 2012 fiscal year while the situation remain the same in the newly proposed 2013 budget. This coupled with a deep gulf between the rich and the poor manifested in a tiny 1% laying hold of the oil wealth of Nigeria while over 71% of Nigerians exist on less than $1 per day has created, totally ignitable materials for social discontent.
This series of attack and the rising death toll that always came at its heels also exposed Nigeria as a country that has abandoned the development of its health sector. Rather than develop this all important sector, government would rather spend money on security while the health sector which serve as a major tool of securing and saving the people’s lives are neglected. In 2012 budget for instance, only a paltry sum of #282.77 Billion was allocated to health sector which contrasts sharply with the #921.91 Billion. In the proposed 2013 budget, only a paltry per cent of 5.68 is allocated to the health sector which is too meager especially when we considered the need for resources to meet the targets set nationally and internationally for the health sector requiring at least 15 per cent of the entire budget. The most ridiculous being the 1.65 per cent accrues to the Agriculture and Rural Development.
Finally, the Labour Movement needs to act as a social force that can lead Nigerians out of the mess and created by the government. it is their duty to show government the link between welfare and security. If Nigeria is to be saved from the imminent peril, the trade unions have the responsibility of putting themselves at the head of workers, unemployed youth, students and all oppressed strata who desire a fight back for education, jobs, living wage and a change in the economic structure of the society. The more people government put in jobs, the less security problems it has. They erroneously believe that security is about procurement of more guns, war jets, and expending these collections is how to solve the problems. How to solve the problem is to follow what the constitution articulates: cater for the common good of the people. Put more people in jobs: give more people houses, let them have an unfettered access to free and qualitative education and let them be able to afford sound healthcare facility. When the government does that, there will be less people who will want to take to crime. There are criminals everywhere in the world but when you have a social system that provides for the people, when you have a state that cares about citizens welfare, then you don’t have to bother about crimes because there will be fewer people to deal with.
The Labour unions can play a significant role in this life or death drama, which will be written, directed and acted by Nigerians.
Department of History
Obafemi Awolowo University