The world over, it’s common knowledge that the primary duty of government is to secure the lives and property of the people it governs. Thomas Hobbes’s hypothesis of how governing authorities must have first come into being and the prevailing circumstances that necessitated them is worth a mention at this point. The revered British moral and political philosopher regales us with his “state of nature” theory of how in those days, man’s actions were driven solely by his unrestrained individual desires and there existed no body of authority to regulate man’s behaviour. If you want it, you take it. If you don’t, somebody else will and they will most likely take yours too. It was a case of eat or be eaten. Survival of the fittest. There was no prescribed or socially accepted standard of behaviour as society, in the proper sense of the word, didn’t yet exist. There was no limit to anyone’s rights as there were no rights. The name of the game was survival. “Might was right” and in Hobbes’s own words, life in those days was, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Some people may argue that these same adjectives aptly describe what life has become in Nigeria in the last few years; where the twin evils of poverty and the attendant state of insecurity hold sway and wanton killings project the unfortunate image of a society where life seems to hold little value. Hobbes went on to say that though man in his “natural state” only pursued his own selfish goals, he was still a little rational and it was this latent ability to reason that convinced him to cede some of his erstwhile freedoms and rights to a strong man or body of men; in exchange for this “leviathan” (as he called the strong man or body of men) taking up the responsibility of guaranteeing his safety. This, according to Hobbes’s social contract theory is why government is necessary. It is a constituted authority whose main duty is to both establish and enforce law and order. Hobbes concluded that the thought of what society would be like without one is too frightening to imagine. Present-day Nigeria offers us glimpses of the is and it’s not pretty.
No government that fails to protect lives and ensure the safety of its citizens has any justification to remain in power. There is little benefit in conceptualizing the best economic blueprints if the supposed beneficiaries won’t live to enjoy them. Chances that such economic policies will succeed are greatly hampered as needed foreign investments are not likely to flow in, due to unfavourable security reports. Before a foreign investor invests in any country, the first thing he or she considers is the prospective country’s state of security. No matter how attractive the return on investment (ROI) may appear to be, he will first ask himself if he and his investments will be safe and secure. This is why any government that is sincere about its development goals must first ensure it presides over a safe, secure and peaceful society. In the last six years of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, billions of dollars of foreign investments have been divested from the Nigerian economy and new investments have altogether stalled. A recent case in point was the announcement on April 12, 2021 by Twitter, the global news and social networking service company, that it had opted to open its first African office in neighbouring Ghana, even though Nigeria by far has the highest number of internet users (an indication of social media users) in Africa. Many Nigerians rued this lost opportunity to remove a few of our people from the ever-growing list of those unemployed. As at December 31, 2020 Internet World Stats recorded that Nigeria had over 154 million users which exceed the total of the next three countries, Egypt (2nd with 54.7m ), Kenya (3rd with almost 46.8m), South Africa (4th with 35.5m) combined. Ghana in fact came far behind with just 14.7m internet users. Investments, whether local or foreign, are solely driven by the level of confidence people have in the country’s government and these are determined by people’s perceptions of the country’s socio-economic policies and the government’s level of adherence to the rule of law which it was voted in to uphold.
Indeed, security represents a major cornerstone required for any society to truly flourish but no matter how good a country’s security apparatus is, its economic situation will to a large extent, determine how safe life will be for its citizens and how secure their properties will also be. A society ravaged by poverty automatically means its citizens will be more tempted to break the law and do just about anything to survive, as self preservation is the most primal of all human instincts and indeed of all living creatures. All manner of crimes now plagues the Nigerian state. Kidnapping, which was once limited to the Niger Delta area has now almost become a national pastime. As we wake up to the news of marauding criminals brazenly abducting children from their schools in Northern Nigeria so do we learn of expatriates being abducted in Ogun State. As bandits visit housing estates in the North and kidnap people from their homes, so do we hear of people being kidnapped in traffic in highbrow Victoria Island. Robbery on Third Mainland bridge, at Apogbon and even on the busy Admiralty Way in swanky Lekki Phase One have become commonplace. All these crimes and many others that currently bedevil our nation but are not mentioned here, have one thing in common; money. The perpetrators are driven by the desire to get money. As terrible as this is, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise in a society that has a 33.3% unemployment rate; the second-highest in the world and only breasted at the tape by Namibia at 33.4%. When coupled with the fact that it has one of the youngest populations globally (half of Nigeria’s population is 19 years and younger) and has the highest level of out of school children in the world at 13.7%, any person who expresses surprise at this outcome can rightfully be accused of burying his head in the sand. It’s a simple case of cause and effect. Government, if you’re sincere about improving the security situation in the country, you simply need to improve the economy and restore people’s hope for the future and things will begin to fall into place. It’s not rocket science. But I guess they know that already.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA. Author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.