By Chukwudi Nweje
Anthony Kila, a Jean Monnet professor of Strategy and Development, is the Director at the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS). In this interview, he speaks on failure of governance, 2023, insecurity and other national issues
How would you react to ongoing developments in the country?
I think we are presently in a very confused and bad state, where there is widespread insecurity; there is very little you can talk about because a land that is not secured does not allow for planning, development and economic prosperity. Insecurity in Nigeria has been left to fester for so long and it appears there is no holistic plan to deal with it. Unfortunately too, it appears the Federal Government is not liaising well with the state governments. Lately, we have seen that the Zamfara State government and monarchs were not on the same page with the Federal Government on what to do and how to go about it. You can also recall that when the governors of the South West states were about to flag off the regional security outfit Amotekun, out of no where, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice came out with a declaration trying to stop the launch of the security outfit; this tells you that there is no communication and deliberation among the arms of government and public offices in Nigeria; that is very bad.
How do you see President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy of no more dialogue with bandits and the shoot-on-sight directive on those carrying AK 47 and other firearms illegally?
I think the President’s intention is to show that he is serious about the state of security in the country, but that is not exactly a presidential statement to make. It smacks as if he has not been in the country for a long time. Nigerians have been talking about herdsmen and bandits carrying AK47 around. President Buhari is giving the impression that he is just waking up to it and it is very dangerous.
However, I stand with the government’s posture on no more dialogue with bandits. It is bad for the government to always show itself as willing to negotiate with bandits; bandits are criminals. When it comes to criminality, the state has to be seen to have legitimate and superior force; legitimacy in terms of action, communication and connection with the community and force in terms of ability to roll out foot soldiers, personnel and other logistics on land, sea and air; nobody can argue that the bandits are more powerful than the government’s forces. The question is whether the government is willing to deploy its personnel and resources to fight banditry. Negotiating with bandits encourages existing bandits and motivates others to take to banditry; so you have an industry of banditry because they will know that if there is negotiation, there is also money to be made from it.
There is a sudden surge in the number of non-state actors that want to provide security?
I think this says more about the Federal Government than the non-state actors because the key thing is that these private people are doing what the government cannot do. We should focus more on the inability of the Federal Government of Nigeria to do what private citizens can do. It has become a trend in the country that non-state actors are more influential and have more impact than the state institutions; that is why we feel the effect of bandits more than the police and feel the effects of non-state actors more than the government; these are symptoms of a failed state, because the state cannot reach where non-state actors can reach; the state has no influence, no power and no force or moral authority to step into the situation.
What dangers does this portend?
In the ideal world where things work, bandits should be afraid of government and law abiding citizens should be reassured by government, but because people don’t feel the impact of the state which has shown inability to absorb its role as government, non-state actors have taken over. If the government is serious, it needs to take two steps; the first is to admit that Nigeria is at war; war does not have to be only when we are invaded by an external country; anybody threatening the peace and stability of a society is at war with that society; Nigeria should declare war on the bandits. Secondly, the state should roll out all its might against the bandits, we have seen the Nigerian state roll out its might during elections, the same should be done with the bandits.
How do you weigh in on the dispute between the Federal and Delta State governments over ownership of the funds the United Kingdom (UK) recovered from associates of former Delta State governor, James Ibori?
I think the position of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice is based on an argument that Delta State did not collaborate with the case and that James Ibori is still powerful in Delta and could easily take back the money if it is given to the state. These assumptions are wrong and not intellectually sustainable. Look at this scenario, assume that Nigeria is a residential estate and money is stolen from House 4 and taken outside the estate, if the custodian of the stolen money decides to return it to the estate manager, should the estate manager return it to House 4 or say he will use it to patch roads within the estate? The money in question is a proceed of crude oil sales and the day Delta State was given its share, other states of the federation also got their own share. So it will be depriving Delta State of what is rightfully due to it if the federal government takes the money.
Delta State consistently said nothing was stolen, how come it is now laying claim to recovered assets?
We must understand there is a difference between politicians and the citizens. The person who allegedly stole the money is a politician and the people who said nothing was stolen are politicians, so chances are that the alleged looter is closer to the custodians than to the people. The Federal Government should indict them for lying. It should also investigate the source of these funds because it maybe something more dangerous. It is an indictment on our auditors that we cannot do an audit trail to know where the money came from.
There are hopes that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), will be passed soon, what are your thoughts regarding the oil bearing and impacted communities?
Oil exploitation always comes with damage to the environment and those who live in the place tend to bear more of the damage, so the impact of oil exploration and exploitation is greater on somebody in Delta State for example than somebody in Lagos. So, I believe a greater part of proceeds from natural resources should go to where it comes from. I actually think the dividends from oil exploitation should be by proximity, those nearer to the source should benefit more. I actually believe that the owner of the land where oil is found should be the owner and then pay taxes to the government.
The Land Use Act vests ownership of all land in the state governor who holds it in trust for the people?
I think we should prioritise private property ownership. It is fundamentally wrong for the government to just take over people’s property at will, the progress and prosperity of government comes from private ownership, Moreover, it is easier to manage my thing than our thing and the nearer power is to the community, the better it is managed. We need to bring power responsibility closer to the people. We need to turn our current structure of government upside down; government has to be brought closer to the people. The state government should be in-charge of liaising interstate while the Federal Government should liaise inter country; they should be looking outwards not inward.
2023 is generating some level of concern, what are your fears?
There is the risk that if there is no security and no trust, Nigeria may crumble, but we are a people of miracle. I think 2023 for now is a game of politicians. I think what Nigerians should be worried about now is security, employment, the level of their well being. I think the arguments on 2023, zoning or no zoning is because we don’t trust each other. Our politicians when they are charged to court don’t talk about zoning, they look for the best lawyer regardless of his zone. What Nigeria needs now is citizens rebellion, we need 3Rs. The citizens need to rebel, they need to be responsible and they need to be reactive to what is going on. Nigerian citizens need to rise up now and say this has to change, Nigerian citizens need to show that they are employers of politicians not followers.