What are Africa’s Security Challenges in the 21st Century?

1069 views | Jideofor Adibe | November 30, 2020

It is quite humbling when a distinguished academic you read his works as an undergraduate asks you to review his book. That was exactly what happened when Professor Tunde Adeniran asked me to review his book, Africa’s Security Challenges in the 21st Century: Power, Principles and Praxis which was presented to the public on November 24 2020. And when he told me I would have just 15 minutes to review the book, a tome of 478 pages, I remembered Professor Robert Chambers, the British academic and development practitioner.

Professor Chambers in one of his works tried to make a distinction between development practitioners and social science researchers. According to him, if you ask a development practitioner to, for example, do a -two-page report on why a project is working or not working, the development practitioner, he argued,will most likely do so within the stipulated page or word limit. He posited that if you give the same instruction to a social science researcher (such as a political scientist like me), the person will most likely write ten pages or more, and if you question why he or she has not been able to keep to the required page limit (or word count), the social science researcher will most likely write another 20 pages accusing you of trying to muzzle freedom of expression and asking you cynically what you are trying to hide by imposing such an ‘impracticable’ page limit.

I was determined to disappoint Professor Chambers by making good efforts to conclude the review within the allotted 15 minutes. I believe I succeeded, or almost succeeded.

I organized the review around four rubrics: (1) Introduction (2) Organization of the book and possible reasons why the author chose the theme (3) Why the book deserves a conspicuous place in our libraries (4) Some quotable quotes from the book.

It was the late Professor Ali Mazrui, the celebrated Kenyan political scientist, who made a distinction between ‘intellectuals’ and ‘ex-intellectuals’. According to Prof Mazrui, an intellectual is someone who is fascinated by abstract ideas and has acquired some capacity, often through formal education, for handling such ideas. He also defined an ‘ex intellectual’ as an intellectual who has ceased to be fascinated by abstract ideas or has lost the capacity for handling such ideas.

The general belief is that academics, who ventured into politics, especially if they stayed too long in the political space as gladiators, often become ex-intellectuals in the Mazruian sense. In other words, they begin to behave like traditional politicians – talk in sound bites, become obsessed with the next elections and political offices, use phrases like ‘the governor or party carrying everyone along’ and ‘if it is the wish of my people that I should serve them in some capacities, who am I to say “no”’. Following from this, Professor Tunde Adeniran who retired from the academia as a Professor of political science in 1998,and has held various political offices including being Minister of Education, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany, Chairman of the Directorate for Social Mobilization (MAMSER), aspirant for the national chairmanship of the PDP and Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, ought to be an ex-intellectual according to Professor Mazrui’s definition. If the book were written by an ex intellectual, what one would expect would be at best an addendum to his two-volume memoirs published in 2015( entitled Serving My Fatherland) or a journalistic reflection on some issues in Nigerian politics such as his campaign to become the national chairman of the PDP in 2018, his subsequent decision to defect to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) the same year and the crisis that also engulfed the party.

In this nearly 500-page tome, Professor Adeniran showed he remained an intellectual, not an ex-intellectual – as Mazrui would define the concepts. In writing the book, he adopted the methods and procedures of social science inquiry including operationalization of concepts, review of extant literature and allowing conclusions to flow logically from analyses.
So the next logical question for me was what really prompted the author to write this book. I think he anticipated that question so he decided to provide the answer in the preface to the book: According to him, the book “was conceived to expand and push the scope of inquiry into a new direction in strategic thinking. It was designed to examine various issues that are related to the security of Africa as a sub-system within the international system.
“The venture was prompted by the fact that most of the previous and ongoing research in the area of international security has tended to focus largely on non- Africa related security issues.”

Organization of the book

The book is divided into 12 chapters: in chapter 1, the author examined the global context of Africa’s security challenges such as her colonial past and the security perspectives of some key players on the international scene and how these impact on the continent’s security. Chapter 2 examines the dynamic factors of regional security including Africa’s resource base, the use of modern technology and the orientation of the continent’s leaders. In chapter 3 the author examined the nexus between human rights, democracy and security in Africa, noting that the laws of the “land would amount to arbitrarily imposed dictums if rights are not central to it”. Chapter 4 examines Africa’s underdevelopment challenges and how this impacts on its security concerns. Chapter five looks at the shortage of energy for production and for meeting human needs in Africa and how this in turn impacts on the continent’s security. Chapter six deals with oceans as crucial factors in shaping Africa’s security. According to the author, no matter “how powerful a nation or a regional bloc could be, and no matter how strong it may desire to shape the entire international system in accordance with its own values, it will not succeed unless it has relative control over the oceans around it”.

In chapter 7, the author discusses the nexus between the environment, (including a sustainable management of natural resources) and Africa’s security and noted that “Africa’s environmental challenges have assumed more frightening challenges in the 21st century due to inadequate framework, institutions and policies to effectively tackle them.”
Chapter 8 discusses how the internal conflicts in various African countries impact on Africa’s security and observed that in “each country, political leadership succession is a particularly sensitive issue and provides potential for a breakdown in stability, especially where there is a mismatch between socio-cultural consciousness, economic development and political modernisation.”

Chapter 9 examines the impact of international terrorism on Africa’s security and contended that for the continent, it calls for a “compelling need for a security plan, an agenda that takes the dangers of terrorism very seriously.” In Chapter 10, the author discusses the impact of alliances and international organizations on Africa’s security while in chapter 11, he discusses the link between food availability and African security and posited that the “security of Africa is largely dependent upon the ability of the inhabitants to feed themselves.” Chapter 12 is an examination of how external interventions impact on Africa’s security. According to the author, while “many nations attempt to intervene in the affairs of others in pursuit of their national interests, there appears to be an epochal record of one powerful country pursuing the goal of shaping the international system in accordance with its own values.”

Why the book deserves a conspicuous place in our libraries
Apart from its very impressive packaging and the fact that it was written by an eminent Professor of Political Science who was also a practitioner, there are other reasons that I feel make this book a compelling addition to our libraries:
One is that the book is a very detailed examination of the sources and drivers of security concerns in Africa, with in-depth conceptual and historical discussions of each driver.
Two, is that it is more than a book in a classical sense of the word but more of a reference material. This also means that readers need not be intimidated by its volume.
Three, is that scholars in the social sciences and security studies are bound to find the book unique in the sense that it approaches its discourse from a strictly Africanist perspective. Essentially the book seeks to fill a very important gap in the literature –Africa’s security challenges in the 21st century articulated unabashedly from African perspective.

Quotable quotes from the book
A good story is not just about an exciting storyline (like the exploits of the tortoise that we cherished as youngsters) but also – or even more importantly- about the manner of its rendition. This is why one of the indices of a good book is what people can take away from it in the form of quotable quotes. Africa’s Security Challenges in the 21st Century is extremely rich in quotable quotes, with almost every page generating at least one quotable quote.

Let me give some examples:
“It is one thing for resources to abound and it is another for them to be available. The resources will have to be mobilized, marshalled and utilized for the purposes of ensuring security” (p.41.).

“In the attempt to balance where imbalance existed, greater imbalance occurred. For Africa, this meant greater super power rivalry for influence and control. They had gone beyond the use of naval skills, airlifts and other military capabilities to place Africa firmly under their control as potential proxies and surrogates” (p.15)

“An issue that has been serially underplayed in the determination of security imperative is human rights. When secured through institutional and practical protection, there is justice and a vital source of insurance against national and regional insecurity is guaranteed (p.58).

“With regards to the ever changing tastes of Africans, this phenomenon has imposed another burden which has to be resolved either through a change in the eating habits and tastes of Africans or through the effective involvement of Africans, at whatever cost, in the production of those food items that meet the tastes which they have developed” (pp380-381).

Africa’s Security Challenges in the 21st Century: Power, Principles and Praxis by Professor Tunde Adeniran was published by Safari Books Ltd, Ibadan in 2020.
Jideofor Adibe is Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Nasarawa State University, Keffi, and publisher of Adonis & Abbey Publishers (www.adonis-abbey.com), a London and Abuja-based publisher of professional books, peer-reviewed and indexed academic journals and the online newspaper, The News Chronicle (www.thenews-chronicle.com)

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