By John Amoda
PROFESSOR Julius Ihonvbere, the Secretary to Edo State Government, provided an insight that is useful in the appreciation of the challenges confronting the President’s National Security Advisers. It is as C-in-C that a President is intimately involved in national security management through the appointment of his National Security Advisers.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the Vice Chancellor of Western Delta University, Oghara, Professor Ihonvbere said inter alia: “My foray into government and politics was to see how to move out of my theory and research in political science and socio-science into the practice of it but you will not believe my experience when I begin to talk about it.
Not one of the principles and rules of politics as a game operates in Nigeria. This is like walking blind-folded and inventing the rule by the hour depending on where you find yourself. There is no country in history that has succeeded in that way; you don’t like an organ and you create another one within that one. When people begin to operate in that pedestrian politics, you know they are not serious about governance and not interested in going anywhere”.
When my friend finds that Nigerian practice of politics is not an instance of the theory of politics as a game, I do not believe that the conclusion is to write off Nigerian politics. The problem is in Professor Ihonvbere’s assumption that there is generic politics that informs national practices of politics. The fact is that Nigerian practice of politics is Nigerian politics, not a case of the generic.
Nigerian practice of politics can be understood and its culture identified. American politics is both a practice and a field of study. American politicians, the authors of American politics have been studied and have submitted themselves to study without being transformed into theoretical concepts and normative ideals. From my shelves I pick up these text books on various aspects of politics in America that have become recognised by Americans politicians as American politics:
*Thomas E. Patterson; The American Democracy (1994 Edition)
*L. Earl Shaw and John C. Pierce, Reading on the American Political System.
*Judith Gillespie and Stuart Lazarus, America Government: Comparing Political Experience.
*Edited by Anthony King: The New American Political System
*Aaron Wildavsky and Nelson W. Polshy: The American Government Institutions: A Reader in the Political Process.
The foundation of these textbooks on the practice of politics in America are the historian’s studies of American society from its origins as colonial settlements. Oscar Handlin’s two volumes are illustrative of the conscious decision to make life in America subjects of study that the practitioners recognise as faithful mirroring of their practical endeavours.
*Oscar Handlin- Readings in American History 1: From Settlement to Reconstruction (1660-1870, second Edition)
*Oscar Handlin- Readings in American History 2; From Reconstruction to the Present; (1870-1970, second edition)
The first task of Nigerian intelligentsias is, therefore, to historicise the Nigerian practice of politics as a beginning of the professional study of political practices in Nigeria, beginning with the politics of state formation through which societies are determined and established. Because such is the beginning we must take the observation of Professor Ihonvbere as the fundamental question of Nigerian politics- and that is, why do Nigerian politicians act in apparent defiance and disregard of rules and logic in their political conduct? Why do they extend this behavioural pattern into the realm of the management of national security?
The urgency of the question is driven home by the way the tenure of security chiefs have been terminated. ThisDay Newspaper, December 9, 2012 highlights the import of its story thusly: “As Boko Haram Shapes Fate of Security Chiefs”. For the Federal Government, certainly, the rebellion has reached critical mass where something has to be done. But before Nigerians, what largely seems to be done is the frequent change of security chiefs in response to periodic bouts of Boko Haram violence”.
ThisDay drew attention to the termination on June 22, 2012 of the appointment of the late General Andrew Azazi as National Security Adviser and his replacement with Sambo Dansuki; also removed was the Minister of Defence, Haliru Bello. On October 18, 2012 new service chiefs were announced by the Federal Government: Admiral Ibrahim became Chief of Defence Staff; Rear Admiral Dele Ezeoba, Chief of Naval Staff; Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh, Chief of Air Staff; and Ihejirika was kept on as Chief of Army Staff. “Reports said President Goodluck Jonathan had planned a more sweeping overhaul of the services but he had to drop his original plan to avoid sentiments that might create sympathy for Boko Haram”(ThisDay, December 9, 2012). If the removal of security chiefs was to ensure greater level of effectiveness through their replacement, should expected performance of security chiefs not be related to the nature of the insurgency they were addressing? If this is the case, what is the argument that assures the C-in-C that change of Chiefs would result in superior performance? Answers to these questions cannot be conceptual.
For answers we have to go back to the origins of the Nigerian military and security forces, back to the course of the conquest and colonisation and defence of colonial Nigeria. Yes, we have had over half century of the post- colonial existence of the Nigerian Military. Why then go back to the origin of the colonisation of Nigeria to determine the present capability of the Military in Nigeria and the strategic competence of its leadership? We have to go back because militaries begin as the fighting wing of state formation parties.
During the course of state formation, the military conquer, hold the territory and pacify the population and contribute to the policing of subjugated populations. Thus was the origin of the Nigerian military and security forces in colonial Nigeria. At independence the military created to subjugate the populace was now the Military of a populace apparently liberated from colonial rule.