Security: Labour Strike and Discerning Three Security’s National Security

Posted on November 28, 2023


President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s National Security Adviser (NSA) has been busy since his controversy-trailed appointment into the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). They included the National Security Adviser’s attempt to burnish the credentials of the administration in the way he saw his job as adviser on security and/or national security adviser to the president.

Others included his reaching out to members of the military and commending them in their fight against the four ills of Nigeria’s so-called “insecurity” each of which he described as capable of grounding the country; to leading the so-called security agencies in the interaction in preparation for the off-season elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states; to addressing a conference in Uyo urging Nigerians to be patient with the administration as the administration inherited a broke treasury and; to intervening and brokering the deal in the short-lived organised crime version of the latest labour unions strike.

While it may be too early to draw conclusions on the activities of the NSA, it is worth noting that the NSA is not only travelling where his predecessors did not and would not have factored into their schema of what was “security” and “national security”. It can and should be argued that his activities particularly the image laundering and intervention in the labour dispute represented a breath of fresh air in the affairs of the ONSA and the President’s NSA.

The latest foray of the Nuhu Ribadu led Office of the National Security Adviser into the resolution of the labour unions strike offered yet another platform to put Nigeria’s “security” theory and practice on the political agenda. This is in the bid to expose the deficiencies of the long outdated “security in the image of the military and military rule”, advance the need for the now long overdue construct of “security in the image of civilian, civil rule system and governance frameworks” and generally provide perspectives and education to Nigerians on what should be security, whose should be security, what should be security issues and how should security be achieved in Nigeria within the civil rule and governance frameworks.

As the title suggested, three security’s national security can be discerned in the affairs of President Tinubu’s NSA’s the ONSA. The first of the security’s national security emanated from the etymologies, history and philosophy of security in its original founding state. The second security’s national security represented the type in Nigeria which I described as undefined, uncharted and ungoverned and exclusively associated with the worldview of the military. The third security’s national security is the type unfolding under the watch of President Tinubu’s NSA. I call this police and thus law enforcement-type national security.

The title was conceived within a framework of security, the operational word or the independent variable, in the two words making up national security i.e. national and security. As I have argued repeatedly and in different platforms, unless we know security in Nigeria first, the knowledge of national security is not only immaterial. National security is the myth-enclosed esoteric transient world of Nigeria’s policy levels organised crime syndicates that portended and portends nothing good for the wellbeing of most Nigerians.

It is part of the attempt to farther the thesis that Nigeria’s security is undefined, uncharted and ungoverned on the one hand and thus required defining, charting and governing and on the other hand, it is time – indeed long overdue – to retire “security” in the image of the military and military rule and begin the construct of security in the image of civilian, civil rule and the peoples to whom sovereignty belong.

In the heat and the ensuing debate over Mr. President’s nomination of Mr. Nuhu Ribadu as Mr. President’s and NOT Nigeria’s national security adviser and/or security adviser, I argued that the development did not portend or contain any useful departure from the function long associated with the Office of the National Security Adviser. This was in the context of the representative rule framework in place beginning in 1999 and specifically within the perspective of security associated with this framework.

However, I also noted that in line with the conception of security that would work for most Nigerians as opposed to the prevailing conception of “security” and/or “national security” as the elite of the legislature and the executive and their military, intelligence and law enforcement own version of organised crime, the development might be the beginning of the departure from what was the norm of “security” in Nigeria under representative rule system.

For most Nigerians socialised within the framework of the prevailing “security”, the appointment of Mr. Ribadu was putting a square peg into a round hole. They, particularly the “security” experts and pundits amongst them including the large colony of retired military personnel and the active service personnel that worked through the former and through paid lackeys had reservations with Mr. Ribadu’s credentials for the appointment.

Of the reservations was that he was not a member of the military particularly the army and to this extent he knew nothing of “security” let alone “national security” – the genre regarded as the exclusive preserves of members of the military. There was the reservation from the point of view of partisan politics. Those in this school argued that as the founding chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and now a partisan politician, he might leverage on his EFCC credentials and the Office’s own to benefit self and other fellow travellers.

For those in the first school, their security education began and ended with what they learnt from the military and military rules on the one hand and on the other hand the civic side of security popularised in the media particularly international media in the age of the Cold War, the post-Cold War worlds and in the affairs of the poster grandparents of security – Europe and the United States. Beyond this education, they possessed no other qualification for making their assessment of the capacity and capability of Mr. Ribadu. They did not differentiate security conceived by few executive agencies of the military, intelligence and law enforcement in their illegal and immoral time in politics and governance and that conceived by the state under representative rule system and anchored on the constitution.

I referred to poster grandparents of security as Europe and the United States because the whole idea of security, if you call idea etymologies, history and philosophy of security, began from these places. It is only when we appreciate security’s etymologies which carry security’s history and philosophy that we can comprehend the three security typologies that formed the basis of this article in the context of few developments with one in particular since the appointment of Mr. Ribadu as the President’s national security adviser. These are security’s national security, ‘security’s” national security and police national security. These are constructs from my security and security studies’ frameworks of analysis which itself derive from security’s etymologies, history and philosophy.

Let’s begin with the founding idea and ideal of security from which the genre called national security developed. The place to open conversation on security is the etymologies of security. The etymologies of security also contain security’s history and philosophy.

Security began as a word. As a word, security is a European creation or invention. The Latin language etymologies of security are securus and securitas. The English language etymology is secure. Securus, Securitas and Secure mean free from care, something which secure or condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension.

S e c u r i t y, the now famous and famed word in the world, began life from securus, securitas and secure. Arguably, security is one of the most important words, if not the single most important word, in the world today. Security’s founding meaning permeates every endeavour of human being. Security’s founding meaning is central to the idea and ideal of humanity and being human. Security is the vision and mission of each and all of human enterprise.

There is a HISTORY behind the emergence of Securus, Securitas and Secure or “Free from Care”, “Something which secure” or “Condition of being secure” and “Feeling no apprehension”. The history began in 500AD. This history ended in 1500AD. The period was called the Middle Ages or Dark Ages. Europe entered the Middle Ages or Dark Ages following the collapse of Roman civilisation. With the collapse, darkness enveloped Europeans and Europe for the next five hundred years.

In the words of Thomas Hobbes, life and living, for Europeans and Europe, turned nasty, brutish and short, in the five hundred years of this development. Europeans and Europe returned to the state of nature where the mantra is the survival of the fittest. Consequently, Europeans yearned for the return of civilisation which will free them from care, provide them with something which secure or condition of being secure and reduce or eliminate the feelings of apprehension in their lives and affairs.

There is a PHILOSOPHY or nature, meaning and purpose of securus, securitas and secure. The philosophy is the desire of Europeans and Europe for free from care, something which secure or condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension in all spheres of their lives. These terms embedded the aspirations of Europeans of the period. They continue to embed their individual and collective aspirations as peoples, cultures and countries. These were the conditions that gave birth to security.

Security is the aspirations of Europeans for free from care, something which secure or condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension. Since the emergence of this security philosophy, Europeans, in their individual countries, and as Europeans in different community platforms, have concentrated in working to fulfilling these aspirations in every sphere of their lives.

Europeans have used and are using platforms such as the European Union to drive freeing their people from care, providing something which secure or condition of being secure for their people and reducing or eliminating the feeling of apprehension in their quality and quantity of living. Europeans have used and are using other transatlantic alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to moderate and restrain their propensities for internecine quarrels with destabilising potentials for their peoples and cultures.

This foundational meaning embedded in the etymologies of security – free from care, something which secure or condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension – remained unchanged even as these have developed country-culture-specific context in the perspective of security found all around the world. Thus there is a history, experience and reality (HER) to the perspective of security in each of the countries of the world. Of this, the national security of the United States of America represented one of the oldest and the most copied genre of security in the world.

Security’s national security is the construct that adhere to the all-embracing focus of security as free from care, something which secure, condition of being secure and feeling no apprehension in the lives and affairs of the people. Security’s national security seeks to accomplish security in each and every sphere of the lives of the people. In the choice of the term national security to describe its security, the United States aggregated its needs, the areas of its needs, the places where these needs can be sourced and the instruments to sourcing these needs and delivering them to the homeland into what it called national security.

Of the strategies to attaining national security, the military, intelligence and law enforcement represented one, out of the many strategies, in the kit-box of the United States’ national security. The role of the military, intelligence and law enforcement was boldly enshrined in the 1947 National Security Act, the Congressional act creating and establishing national security. America’s national security is scattered all over the world and in an international system of anarchy, it takes the military, intelligence and law enforcement logistics to advance, protect and defend national security resources for delivery to the United States of America.

The National Security Act became the poster child of national security for the copycats countries of the world including and especially Nigeria under military rules. This is even as the Nigerian enabling environment did not buy into this philosophy. This is the beginning of the baptism and canonisation of national security as the exclusive preserves of the members of the military. Beyond this, nothing else matters as security to the military and military rules. Not so for the United States of America, the originator of the national security philosophy.

If, in Nigeria and under representative rule, we pursue security’s national security as wellbeing and welfare in all of its forms, the development in the labour sphere should come under the purview of the pursuit of wellbeing and welfare in all of its forms. The development has the potential of affecting every sphere of Nigeria’s economy, society particularly if Nigeria’s security carries the metaphor of a forest. Nigeria’s undefined, uncharted and ungoverned security under civil rule and governance frameworks is yet to see security and thus national security in this light.

It was the military under military rule that birthed “security’s” national security in Nigeria. For the military during military rule, security and national security was the noun/name and verb/work of the military and to some extent the intelligence and law enforcement. Although the military was constituted to defend Nigeria’s land, air and sea borders from external aggression, Nigeria’s military did not distinguish itself in wrestling Nigeria’s external adversaries since there were few or none. Nigeria’s military’s turned their attention to wrestling political power from elected authority and from the Nigeria police saddled with governing law and order inside Nigeria in order to create spaces for itself.

In the absence of the military’s “national security” concerns, the military took over “security” concerns which were prevalent on account of the military’s inability to govern effectively and efficiently the human and material resources of Nigeria for the benefit of most Nigerians. This was in order to keep military relevant in the scheme of affairs.

With the return of civil rule in 1999 and with the deliberately declining capacity of the elected/appointed officials at all levels to govern effectively and efficiently Nigeria’s resources to provide for most Nigerians, “security” concerns quadruple. The period also coincided with developments outside the shores of Nigeria including the 9/11 attacks, the launch of the wars on terror by the United States and Europe and the Arab springs that would serve as springboards and the chance for Nigeria’s military post military rule to grow the “national security” angle of its business enterprise.

Beyond the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration that kept a tight rein on the military, a new crop of political leaders emerged from 2007 that had the best part of their all-round governance experience under military rules including been socialised into the military’s “security” and “national security” culture. This leadership had not overcome the psychological hangover of the ever present threat the felt the military present to the continuation, survival and thriving of civil rule. The way to go for this crop of leaders was to buy into the military’s strategic plans post war military rule which was anchored on the 1999 Constitution.

In the matters called “security” and “national security”, the leadership would always beckon on the military to provide advice and to manage the conditions. Thus was born the enterprise called “security” and “national security” under civil rule. The latter or “national security” was the preserve of the military and in this the Office of the National Security Adviser which had been zeroed to former military personnel of the army clan presided over matters. The Office dealt strictly with matters it deemed threatening to “national security” defined in its worldview and these included the matters of internal dimension.

In the reckoning of the Office and in tandem with the character of the military, its interpretation of matters in the purview of “national security” did not include labour strike and/or burnishing the image of the administration. For these crops of old school national security administrators, in the Office of the National Security Adviser, in the matters of “national security”, the stakes were too high to be trivial with the issues to be dealt with. Thus they go for bigger, heftier, cavalier, esoteric matters that have the potential of eliciting the financial response of the political leadership in terms of mitigation. This is because beyond finance nothing else matters in their “national security” remediation. This disposition for making the simple complex falls into my thesis of organised crime. This is “security’s” national security in Nigeria.

The new national security adviser’s choice of issues to include in his repertoire of national security would seem like a disappointment to the old school national security administration. This is what I called police perspective of national security. This is police’s way of seeing “national security” from the point of view of law enforcement and within the larger construct called the military, intelligence and law enforcement. This is the law enforcement dimension of security’s “national security” led by the police.

The National Security Adviser has not yet come to the conclusion that there is everything wrong with the prevailing security in the image of the military in its conception of what is security, whose security, what is a security issue and how can security be achieved. The National Security Adviser has not yet seen the need to begin the construction of security in the image of civil rule and governance frameworks in its conception of what should be security, whose should be security, what should be a security issue and how should security be achieved.

Perhaps, the National Security Adviser’s choice of taking on labour matters and going on charm offensive on behalf of his principal may yet begin the making of a different security. However, security’s cardinal etymologies, philosophy and history of freeing most Nigerians from care, equipping most Nigerians with something which secure, creating conditions of being secure for most Nigerians and eliminating and/or reducing feeling of apprehension of most Nigerians is the only way to go. This is the mandate most Nigerians regularly entrust their representatives to create for them. This construct must be anchored on this philosophy and cloth in legislation.

Only governance or the effective and efficient utilisation of human and material resources for the benefit of most Nigerians in all spheres, at all levels and on the short, medium and long term basis can unleash this security and thus create national security. This is security and national security in the image of civil rule and governance framework.

– Dr. Adoyi ONOJA is of the Department of History, Nasarawa State University, Keffi

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