Between Legitimacy and Insecurity in Nigeria

In politics, legitimacy ultimately resides in the people because political power is exercised through the ballot box. Democratic governments legitimize themselves by the consent of the governed and conceptualize the polity as the body of the people, or a nation, making laws and governing itself through its representatives. The mode of political legitimacy defines the identity of the polity.

Political legitimacy is conceptualized and contested through the medium of political culture. The term "culture" refers to the shared knowledge of rules and norms that determine the mode of transmission of power in a democratic system. The body of rules and norms are grounded in political legitimacy. Thus political legitimacy recognizes and defines how a system accepts political authority, as a critical component of political power; because a government is perceived as illegitimate by its own subjects will have more difficulty mustering the resources for international competition than a legitimate one.

Nigeria is now synonymous with a nation haunted by the misdeeds of her past leaders and not many Nigerians are happy with the present state of the nation. Since 1960, Nigeria has been wrestling with the challenge of under-development occasioned by good governance. Some Nigerians outside the shores of the country are not proud enough to introduce themselves as Nigerians because of the nation's stigma as one of the most lawless and corrupt nations on earth. Nigeria is a country where no public establishment is working. Most Nigerian roads are death traps because of government's insensitivity; our refineries are not working in spite of the billions of Naira purportedly voted for Turnaround Maintenance and most hitherto vibrant industries have closed shop because of corruption. This has precipitated mass unemployment. In the emerging scenario, only the oil trans-nationals can survive the harsh weather.

Our universities have been reduced to the unenviable status of “glorified Secondary Schools” while the mainstream of the public educational system is at the last stages of decadence ostensibly because of cumulative mismanagement and obsolescence. The political system is even most suffocating. The macabre dance led by the PDP and the musketeers have turned politics into a horrible game where a few appropriate the wealth at the expense of the masses. Similar investments were made in some real sectors of the economy without dividends. The probe by the National Assembly is not likely to yield any dividends and Nigerian is not curious about the outcome.

The world over, progressive, democratic countries have emphasized the practice of good governance as a practical imperative for accelerated development. Good governance is a capsule term used to designate a government that is transparent and accountable - a government that has legitimacy in the sense of popular mandate through free and fair elections. It also implies a government anchored on the rule of law and popular participation. Of the eight pillars of legitimacy arising from people participation is central to the definition of democracy as “a government of the people by the people and for the people” This in turn is inextricably tied to the mandate principle.

The mandate principles posits that political power is entrusted to elected officials by the people, but ultimately power in the sense of decision making at elections belongs to the people. Primarily, the most fundamental way government can establish its legitimacy is through the conduct of free and fair election. It is lack of this fundamental legitimacy that has led most African countries to tread the path of chaos, interminable conflicts and cyclical instability. This is the tight rope Kenya and Chad are walking presently. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Somalia are war weary because of protracted internal crises in those countries.

Most countries in the Less Developed Countries (LDCs) in Africa, Asia and Latin America are wrestling with the problem of legitimacy. Lack of legitimacy is one of the characteristics of a failed State. The case of Nigeria is peculiar because Nigeria is the only oil producing State that cannot provide the basic infrastructure for a meaningful living. Nigeria is the only OPEC country where more than 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty threshold of less than a dollar a day, and the leaders are happy to parade such dangerous development indices to declare excess crude oil money.

It is stating the obvious that the present administration will continue to be burdened by the problem of lack of legitimacy in the sense of popular mandate. When the ideology of a political party commands mass appeal in terms of policies and programmes, it can gain some measure of legitimacy. In the same vein, when individual candidates are articulate enough to canvass manifestoes that are people-oriented, and programmes that can bring about positive impact on the greatest number of people in their constituencies, such candidates also earn some respect and give some stamp of legitimacy to the existing order. The moral weight of such candidates coupled with their track records of service also enable them wield influence, command acceptance and legitimacy.

Under the Jonathan Presidency, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has again emerged with no clear cut ideologies and programmes. There was no interest aggregation or articulation of ideas on matters concerning governance. Whereas the general conduct of the elections may be satisfactory, the emerging phenomenon christened Boko Haram and its suicide mission poses a huge security challenge to the Jonathan administration. From all indications, it does appear that the President may not be decisive in his actions to cut off the hydra-headed monster. He lacks the ability to take swift decisions or invoke his presidential powers even though the security of the nation is at stake.

Following the spate of bombings in Abuja and the inability of the Nigerian Security agencies to prevent such dastardly acts, the Niger Delta Integrity Group has cautiously evaluated the situation in the country. In an emergency meeting held in Uyo on Sunday 19th June, 2011, the Group believes that any further bombing in Abuja will clearly demonstrate that the President cannot be protected. If that happens we advise Mr. President to administer the country from Otueke. If oil money was used to build Abuja, why can't the same oil money build a place where our President will be safe to concentrate on issues of good governance?

After all, Abuja was sometime occupied by the people of Bwari. Why can't we begin to build another Abuja if our President is not safe in the present Abuja? What is wrong about that? After all, it was our oil money that built Abuja for the nation. I am indirectly saying our people may not be safe in Abuja in the nearest future, so we should be ready to build one for ourselves. When Lagos was Capital, the idea of moving to Abuja sounded awkward, but now all Nigerians are used to it. We shall be used to Otueke when such a projects is started.

Why the North wants to the FGN to Negotiate with BOKO HARAM is that the Niger Delta Youths protested because their commodity -crude oil was mined without a fair treatment to host communities. The North has Islam as a commodity, which the Federal Government has to buy as a prerequisite for peace. Without peace, President Jonathan's agenda is doomed. Anyone who encourages the FGN to negotiate with BOKO HARAM is a fool. BOKO HARAM with its accompanying brutality and terrorism under the guise of Islam, unlike crude oil, is not a marketable commodity.

The oil-style insurgency in the Niger Deltas has been contained, which appeared to be the only legitimate struggle has been contained. Prior to the April Polls 2011, the Niger Delta Integrity Group, NDIG – a not-for-profit organization had warned that the spate of crises in parts of the country pose a looming and growing danger to the peace and security of Nigeria. The seemingly interminable crisis in Jos has become a festering sore on body politic of the nation. The State's inability to deal with highly localized conflicts has created room for suicide bombing. It is regrettable that suicide bombing has become a past-time of some criminally-minded elements that orchestrate mayhem, instigate a climate of fear and spread terror in the land.

A few of such security breaches and bomb blast are highlighted here. On Friday of December 31, 2010 there was bomb explosion detonated at a part of the Mammy market located inside the Mogadishu Cantonment Barracks in Abuja where people sell roasted fish. When the dust finally settled, four people, including a pregnant woman and three others were confirmed dead, while 24 others who suffered various degrees of burns and injuries were rushed to the General Hospital, Asokoro and National Hospital, all located in the Abuja city centre. For example, the Boko Haram sect, who is a strong suspect behind some of the blasts, had consistently denounced the Nigerian state and western education.

On October 1, 2010, which marred the Independence Day anniversary celebration and sent over 18 people to the great beyond, in addition to the hospitalization of several other victims of the explosions? The recent bomb blast occurred just as the nation was yet to recover from the Christmas eve's bombing in Jos that killed dozens of people. This is why observers are still at a loss on how the supposedly tight security around the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, was easily breached and demystified by those behind the blasts.

The Boko Haram in attacking the Bauchi prison to free some of their members, also similarly served notice of their intention, the timing of their action and the target. They arrived an hour late, but the target as pre-announced was the Bauchi prison where after overwhelming the authorities, they freed over 700 prisoners; and subsequently they disappeared into thin air, leaving many casualties behind. As in almost every case the state was unable to deal with the situation. It was the same effrontery that was demonstrated in Abuja on October 1.

Thirteen people died and forty were wounded in a recent bomb attack at the Shadawanka Barracks in Bauchi, two children were injured in a Zaria bomb blast, while in Maiduguri a bomb was targeted at a military patrol vehicle. Another bomb explosion that killed two people was reported at Zuba near the Federal Capital Territory.

NO fewer than three people were confirmed dead while 14 others were seriously injured, when unknown persons threw a locally made bomb into some beer joints on Sunday, at about 8.30 p.m., in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Mike E. Zuokumor, addressing newsmen on Monday in his office, said that in the incident at Tudu, a beer joint in Maduganari, those who threw the bomb which killed a police corporal and two others, came on a motorbike. According to the police commissioner, terrorists had specific targets but the killings in Borno did not indicate whether the people behind them had some targets they were following or were only killing people for the sake of it. He said the same group went and threw a bomb at the policemen at Kasuwan Shanu area of Custom, but there was no casualty, adding that the police would come out to deal with violent crimes in the state to ensure the protection of life and property of innocent citizens.

On 29 May 2011, two explosions in rapid succession, within the recreational area of a military barracks, killed at least 10 people and wounded over 25 others in Bauchi, capital of Bauchi State. Only on June 16th 2011, the bombing of the Police Headquarters Abuja has increased the stakes of the criminals. Nigerians cannot tolerate this wanton carnage, destruction and terrorism in the land.

Mr. President should acknowledge the failure of the security agencies hence there should be a complete overhaul of the Security Agencies in the county to preempts these security breaches. In particular, the failure of the intelligence services to contain the recurring security breaches. The spate of bombings has once more brought to limelight the need for Sovereign National Conference. Until these structural distortions and anomalies are addressed, the monster of insecurity will loom large and Nigeria will once more be listed as a terrorist nation. Mr. President has to act decisively to execute his Office, and this can be achieved by implementing the anti-terrorism law and punish culprits of such heinous crimes capable of causing instability in the nation. This will vitiate the implementation of Mr. President's transformational agenda. The long-term effect is that the on-going terrorism will discourage potential investors in Nigeria.

Crises of legitimacy that are temporally extended tend to be chronic, whereas crises of a more immediate nature tend to be acute. Chronic crises are those in which legitimacy deficits remain severe, but where the compensatory use of material inducements, or short-term legitimation strategies stave off disempowerment without recalibrating the social bases of legitimacy.

President Goodluck Jonathan now faces a crisis of legitimacy arising from acute insecurity. He has an option to nip the crisis in the bud and save Nigeria the trauma of the Iraqi and Afghanistan experience. His transformational agenda is at stake, and now, it may be at a very high risk of success. This is time to correct the mistake of 1914. Nigeria is an odd amalgam of ethnic nationalities and only a Sovereign National Conference or a referendum on separation can enable us all live in peace. Sudan just had a referendum to separate. Nigeria can do same now.

Idumange John, is Deputy President of the Niger Delta Integrity Group

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Articles by Idumange John