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Educational collapse as Nigeria’s main national security challenge

The news emanating from the North East, especially Borno and Yobe, may be heart-warming. We get the impression that things are improving for the better.…

The news emanating from the North East, especially Borno and Yobe, may be heart-warming. We get the impression that things are improving for the better. All the signs are positive and we cannot praise the security agencies enough. Clearly, the change in tactics from the overly aggressive, purely militaristic one which antagonises and punishes whole communities collectively, to one where precise military might is combined with community involvement has helped to turn the tide against terror and hopelessness.  Life is gradually returning to normal and Boko Haram is, if not on the run, at least appears severely weakened.
The so-called “civilian JTF” was the first manifestation of the determination of the citizens to contribute to the fight against terror and take back their lives. Last two weeks brought the best news of all; schools in Yobe State are reopening even though under very tight security. These had been closed following terror attacks on their structures, teachers and pupils over the last year or so. It is my firm belief that we are turning back from the very dangerous precipice we got to, and hopefully we would soon defeat the forces of destruction, death and despair. At least this time around.
However, after defeating this current insurgency what guarantees are there that another group would not emerge to again terrorise this nation and test the fragility of its very existence? What are the current and emerging threats to our nation’s security that we must start addressing to avoid future recurrences? How do we make sure the low-level insurgencies of the Niger-Delta of MEND and similar groups do not metamorphose into more serious threats in future, especially given the sabre rattling we are witnessing  from the “Jonathan-or- disintegration” forces around Edwin Clark and his co-travellers?
To address these issues we may need to revisit the very concept of national security enshrine in our laws. As things stand, we define national security so narrowly that we risk ignoring new emerging threats that could spell doom for our very survival as a nation.
The Nigeria Police Force is charged with “the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them ”The National Security Agencies are:  The Defence Intelligence Agency shall be charged with “the prevention and detection of crime of a military nature against the security of Nigeria and the protection and preservation of all military classified matters concerning the security of Nigeria, both within and outside Nigeria”, The National Intelligence Agency charged with “the general maintenance of the security of Nigeria outside Nigeria, concerning matters that are not related to military issues”, and The State Security Service responsible for “the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria.”
While all these duties are vitally necessary for preservation of our peace, security and territorial integrity they do not go far enough. True, we are broadening these concerns to encompass drug trafficking, smuggling of small arms and fighting terrorism but other threats are off our radar.
National security is now much more broadly defined and one of the best simple summary I have seen came from Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, the “Chief Servant” of Niger State in a public lecture at the Obafemi Awolowo Institute of Government and Public Policy last September when he adopted the modern definition of internal security as; “the physical protection and defence of our citizens and our territorial integrity, … but also the promotion of the economic well being and prosperity of Nigerians in a safe and secure environment that promotes the attainment of our national interests and those of our foreign partners”. He went on to add, quite correctly in my view, that “the concepts of economic prosperity, peace and social justice are germane to our contextual understanding of national security in Nigeria for, without economic stability and social justice at individual and societal levels, there will not be sustainable peace and without sustainable peace national security will be undermined”.
Broadly speaking then, the protection and preservation of our lives, our communities, our nation and its’ assets as well as our values and collective interests are all legitimate concerns of our national security and in these knowledge driven times we need to rethink our educational priorities as the single most important challenge facing us. Too many are out of school and without the requisite preparation for life. We are not building enough schools nor are we trainning the required teachers. Even those with degrees and diplomas are mostly functionally useless, yet they feel entitled to so much even without working for it.We encourage them to get certificates at all cost and get rich by any means. All this is breeding poverty, inequality, crime and dissatisfaction.
Energy security, environmental security, terrorism are all real and pressing dangers yet none is as critical as an inadequate and dysfunctional education sysstem fast collapsing in our face. A generation fed daily on a diet of English Premiership Football, Africa Magic, Rap, Big Brother Africa, gambling and ethnic jingoism is a power keg waiting to explode. When this is combined with disdain for law, order and due process because of the massive corruption and impunity they witness daily we can be sure that the shit will soon hit the fan.
We need a rethinking of education for sustainable development and internal security. We must hold schools, the parents and the policy makers accountable. A few kids in good private or foreign schools just would not do; we need good, affordable and productive public schools. Otherwise Boko Haram will be just the beginning. The current state of emergency in some states must be followed by a state of emergency on education. Nothing less will do.

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