AT THE STAKEHOLDERS ENGAGEMENT ON INTERNAL SECURITY AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN NIGERIA, HELD IN LAGOS ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2020
LAGOS IS THE DESTINY OF OUR RACE
I must thank the government and the good people of Lagos for accepting to host us on this important stakeholders’ parley on security. This meeting is not an afterthought. We had planned to hold it months ago as part of our nationwide engagement with Nigerians on the critical issue of security. This meeting had held in Maiduguri and Katsina with Lagos, Calabar and Owerri on the card last month.
The Lagos and the other engagements had to be postponed in light of the #EndSARS protest that gripped Lagos and other cities then. It is reassuring that we are holding this meeting and hopefully we will all have many positives to take home.
Our interest in security is actually self-interest. Security is the first condition of life. No development – political, economic and social – can be undertaken outside of security. Our right to life can only be guaranteed in a secure environment. The government, economic activities and social life can only be possible where there is security of lives and property.
There are countries that are going through conflicts where the governments have been reduced to a few people and some soldiers loyal to them holed up in a little space and whose authority is no longer beyond where they are holed up. Outside of that, it is an Hobbesian state of nature where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
We may not have attained the most secure state at the moment, but we should not take what we now have for granted, notwithstanding our present challenges. Nonetheless, the main purpose of the ongoing drive is to seek ways of attaining the most secure state for our country.
Permit me to do a brief appraisal of the importance of Lagos to us as a people. Lagos is not just a city in Nigeria, it is the symbol of the black race and the city most representative of our people. It is the city wholly built by the labour, intellect and capacity of the indigenous people of Africa.
I think ‘black’ will not even be an appropriate description of our race or the pigmentation of our skin colour. Black does not represent anything good in any culture. It is a derogatory term in all human cultures. No deity, to the best of my knowledge, is represented by the black colour. We are not even black sensu stricto. The darkest member of our race is not even close to the black colour. If in doubt, check your skin now.
Rather, I prefer to refer to us as the ‘First Race’, because anthropological and genetic studies have confirmed that we are the first people to emerge on the face of the earth and that all others migrated out of Africa. Hence, the “Out of Africa” theory of human dispersal. But I digress!
With a GDP of circa $140 billion, Lagos would be the fifth largest economy in Africa, if it were a country, just as California in the United States would be the fifth largest economy in the world, if it were a country. By 2040, it is projected that Lagos will be the third largest urban conurbation in the world, with 39 million people, following Tokyo in Japan and Delhi in India.
The influential London based Financial Times describes Lagos as a success story within the Nigerian paradox, crediting the successive state governors since 1999 with phenomenal transformation of the state.
Security challenges are of global concern and, therefore, not peculiar to us. The world is increasingly facing insecurity whose main causes are armed conflicts, terrorism, banditry, organised crime, food shortages, epidemics, natural disasters and extreme political contestations, among others.
Armed conflicts and terrorism alone have devastated large parts of the globe, with 17 countries going through one form of armed conflict or the other as we speak, leaving in its wake thousands of dead bodies, ruined landscapes and a large army of internally displaced persons. In recent times, more than 100 countries have experienced more than 1,500 acts of terrorism across the globe. By the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) account, there were 45.7 million internally displaced persons scattered around the world at the end of 2019.
Banditry is also a major security challenge especially in Africa and other parts of the world. Bandits continue to menace the Horn of Africa, East and Central Africa and the Trans-Saharan route, from Niger Republic all the way to Libya. Bandits have for decades imperilled parts of Chad and around the lake Chad. These criminals also have significant presence in Southern Africa.
In Nigeria, the security challenges we face include terrorism and armed conflict, insurgency, armed banditry, cattle-rustling, cybercrime, kidnapping for ransom, herdsmen-farmers clashes, vandalism and theft of critical national infrastructure, crude oil and refined petroleum products theft, carjacking, ritual killing, extreme domestic violence, arson, road accidents, natural disasters (of flooding, drought and fire incidents) and epidemics, including Cholera, Lassa fever, HIV-AIDS and more recently COVID-19.
Lagos security challenges include, but are not limited to, armed robbery, carjacking, burglaries, pipeline and public infrastructure vandalism, frauds and white-collar crimes, cybercrime, road accidents, ritual killing, land and property theft, murderous armed gangsterism, cultism, piracy and theft of intellectual property, extreme domestic violence, gender violence and natural disasters, such as rain and flooding.
A dangerous new dimension was added last month with prolonged protests dovetailing into an orgy of killings, looting, vandalism and arsonist attacks on public and private property and, bizarrely, cannibalism.
We must all pause and reflect on how this came upon us. The youths are the pride and glory of any people. We must understand that the youths are a unique demographic. People under the age of 25 constitute 46 per cent of global population while they are 60 per cent in Africa and the Middle East.
Today’s youths are a peculiar breed. They are a new generation, the generation of the social media and the power of ideas and intellect. They appear more intelligent and far more enterprising than previous generations. The deployment of their intelligence is a different matter, which we must all seek to re-channel through positive modelling and gainful employment.
According the United Nation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, the digital revolution has increased young people’s capacity to bring about positive social change. ICT gives them the tools to learn new skills, to share knowledge, and to nourish human capacity. As information flows seamlessly around the planet, young people can more effectively act as catalysts for change — locally and globally.
They must therefore be commended for the courage to start a movement that shook the foundation of this nation in a way that has never been done before.
However, much as they are a great asset, they also can be a great risk – to themselves and to the society – if their energy is not positively channelled.
The time has come then to rouse the
consciousness of their leading lights to confront the charlatans among them. These charlatans are the elements capable of dragging down society, because their activities are destructive to society as well as to themselves. These are the nihilists, arsonists, bandits, cultists, drug peddlers and addicts, fraudsters, rapists and other criminally-intentioned youths.
This call is to the best among the youth, those representing the best of morality, dignity, decency and behaviour, to take upon themselves to purge their ranks of these undesirables, since they cannot dictate the pace of society. If they do, it will lead to the ruination of everyone. In their current state, they themselves need help. It was Socrates who said ‘Let him who would move the world first move himself’
We all, especially the youths, owe Lagos a critical and solemn attention. For the youths, it is their future that is at stake. As we have regrettably seen in the past one month, all the efforts of a century can be wiped out in a day, which will require not less than 50 years to recover from. That is why the issue of security in Lagos should be paramount. Conflict is the precursor to conflagration and consequent instability. Conflict prevention and quick resolution are therefore prerequisites to stability and security of lives and property and development.
I am therefore calling on those present here to bare their minds on how we can make Lagos that haven of habitation, commerce, economic development and the showpiece of our own civilisation and the best that the First Race can offer humanity.
Lagos is for all of us to celebrate, build, nurture, promote and enhance because we shall be defined ultimately as a people by what we make of Lagos and Nigeria.
I cut my political teeth in Lagos under Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu School of Governance and Leadership before serving for two terms as governor in Osun. I am privileged to be at home in both states. Lagos must therefore be made secure to be the home for all.
We welcome your observations and views and can assure you that they will be well received and acted upon.
I thank you all for your kind attention.