…to ensure adequate security in every part of the nation, the governor believes we must think of the solution not just for now, but for the long term. We must provide for the economic needs of our people, which will help them flourish, we must educate them for the future and we must remain militarily prepared for any eventualities of tomorrow.
The year 2020 has been a notorious year for every state, every nation and every race in the world today. The COVID-19 pandemic plunged many countries into immense health, economic, and security challenges. Riots broke out in many nations of the world, including the U.S., France, Belarus, and Nigeria. In the midst of all these, a number of States, prominent among which is Kogi, remained stable – economically, healthwise, with a robust security outlook, unlike many other states across Nigeria.
Based on data from the Nigeria Security Tracker, about 7,052 lives were lost in 2020 to Boko Haram attacks, communal clashes, farmer-herder crisis, and other pockets of violence across the nation. Insecurity has been a recurrent decimal in our national history. Before flagging off the new Confluence University of Science and Technology in Kogi, the governor of the state, Yahaya Bello, sought a small study to see where the institution would best fit, what challenges the 21st century will pose, and what problems it would accurately solve in the near future. While doing this, he was said to have found papers dating back to the early 70s speaking to insecurity in Nigeria. This emphasises the fact that the problem is an age-long one needed to be solved to make Nigeria great.
Recently, the United States, in its advisory to its citizens warned against travel to Nigeria, with the country’s embassy saying: “violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, and rape – is common throughout the country”. It asked it’s citizens to “exercise extreme caution throughout the country due to the threat of indiscriminate violence”. This is another challenge for Nigeria’s global outlook, and a dent that could get bigger in the future, if we do not rise to the occasion.
As the governor says, there is no problem too big to solve and there is no mountain too high to climb. The lesson he has learnt from governing a state like Kogi, which is a gateway location between the North and South, is that to solve these insecurity challenges, we need to take multiple steps at a time. These steps may not yield immediate results, but in four to eight years, we would begin to see the fruits of calculated, well-thought out attempts to end insecurity in Nigeria.
In Bello’s experience and study of insecurity in Nigeria, there are three major items to focus on at all levels of governance in the country. He believes this multi-pronged approach is the way to begin to address the problem. The approach includes economic freedom, education, military might and a reorientation of the values of the nation as a family.
Infrastructure and Economic Freedom
He believes that if we look at the spate of crime and violence activities in Nigeria, we may find out that the most common denominator is economic. In other words, money. The kidnapper abducts a key figure in society and asks for ransom. The armed robber strikes to get some financial gains. The terrorists are mounting roadblocks and asking for tax, which also means money.
The Federal Government, through the National Bureau of Statistics, found in 2017 that 134,663 cases of criminal activities were reported in the country for the year. Kogi, Kebbi and Bauchi States had the lowest crime rates in the country.
In the states with the highest levels of crime and insecurity, a few things were obvious: First, most of the crimes were engaged in for money. Secondly, crimes with economic benefits ranked the highest. Finally, there was collusion with law enforcement authorities. A longer look at the problem also shows the answer.
For example, while Kogi State had no reported case of burglary in 2017 due to some of the governor’s proactive steps to ensure the people are economically in a good place, the State with the highest level of crime had 1,213 cases. As states work on economic freedom for their people, there is a bigger likelihood that they would not be motivated to participate in violent crimes.
In Q3 2020, Kogi overtook Lagos as the State with the highest inflow of investment. According to the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), the State received about $1 billion in various investments. Most of these investments are aimed at improving the state of infrastructure within the State. This, in turn, will no doubt improve the economic realities of the people and strengthen the State’s record as a location of low crimes. If this is the case across the nation, the case of insecurity will be grossly reduced, and this is achievable now and in the near future.
Equity and Education For the Future
In December 2015, Yahaya Bello became the first Nigerian who went through the 6-3-3-4 education system to become governor of any state in the country’s history. Understanding this reality, there has been a burden of responsibility on him to ensure that many other young people in the country get quality education, become gainfully employed, and go on to become assets for the country. This is why he is said to have continued to invest in education at all levels in the State. This has been one of the reasons for the low crime rate in Kogi.
UN human development indices have shown that the regions with the least levels of education in the country for an extended period of time, go on to have high levels of crime and violence. Nigeria needs to further incentivise education to ensure more people within the country have the skills to attain the economic status they dream of. Some need not be encouraged to send their wards to school, they would do it automatically because they know the benefits of education. But the sad reality is that many more Nigerians need a push, a justification, some encouragement to get their children to school. It is the duty of government – and in the spirit of equity – to get every young person to school. A fair and just system not only caters to the strong but even the weakest in society. A system that embraces all classes of people and help them become better is a system on its way to drastically reducing the propensity of its citizens to get involved in violent crimes for the sake of money.
Let it be emphasised that the education that would solve this problem has to be the kind that is tailored for the future. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of software developers is projected to grow 22 per cent from 2019 to 2029 – much faster than the average for all occupations in the country. Data on migration to Canada also shows a high demand for technology driven jobs.
The harsh truth is that Nigeria currently does not have enough jobs to meet the demand for jobs in the country. But as the country solves the problems by creating more jobs, we must also educate young people for jobs of the future and opportunities beyond our shores. If there is anything COVID-19 has taught us, it is that the world is no longer a global village but a tiny home for all humans. This is why Bello has allocated 20 per cent of the State’s budget to education in 2021, and he has promised that will be the trend from now till the end of his tenure as governor and anywhere else he finds himself in the future. With the rise of remote cross-border work, we must also see a rise of young Nigerians trained to serve the world.
Military Might and Preparation
Sun Tzu, one of the greatest military strategists to ever live said “ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting.” The U.S. military, regarded as the greatest military in the world, believes the latin adage, which suggests that “If you want peace, prepare for war”.
While we would not be battling numerous security challenges if we had economic freedom and quality education at all levels, we must always prepare for the worst. To be at peace as a nation, we must be ready for an offensive. Since the inception of the UN post-1945, the world has not seen any major global war involving the military of numerous nations. There is only one major reason for that: continuous preparation for war.
In a local sense, the war should be against the kidnappers, the terrorists, the marauders who consistently seek to undo our peace as a nation. Kogi State has known peace for the past five years because the security agencies are always ready to go.
Finally, to ensure adequate security in every part of the nation, the governor believes we must think of the solution not just for now, but for the long term. We must provide for the economic needs of our people, which will help them flourish, we must educate them for the future and we must remain militarily prepared for any eventualities of tomorrow. We can not do this one at a time – we have to do all of these together, and this is one of the leadership facets my State has produced thus far.
Idris Mahmood, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.