How Northern Nigeria American Spaces Can Bolster, Enhance Security In Region – By Abdullahi D Mohammed

PEACE and security are crucial in nation building. With peace, there is bound to be development, and tranquility. Consequently, these are achieved through robust intergroup relations. Such relationship includes right of existence, mutual respect, upholding the sanctity of life and dignity of fellow man. According to Johan Gaulten, a Norwegian academic and peace scholar, “concept of peace could be multidimensional, Negative peace, which is defined by the absence of war and violence, and positive peace, which is defined by a more lasting peace, built on sustainable investments in economic development and institutions as well as the societal attitudes that foster peace”.

Intrinsically, the absence of peace might not necessarily be a full scale war or conflict alone, but it laid the foundation and exacerbate other social vices. Eventually, this would lead to total collapse of cohesion, development and intergroup relations.

That peace had vanished in some parts of nothern Nigeria, is a documented and irreversible fact. With the exception of Kano and Jigawa in the northwest, Gombe and probably Adamawa in the northeast, and, Kwara in North-central, every other state, in the region is enmeshed in extirpating challenge, due to the collapse, or absence of peace.

One is compelled to inquire, the genesis of the deteriorating security in the region, especially the northwest, a region historically peaceful and tranquil. For some, it was the political elites, using as a vicious concept– banditry, where a few
marauding, disenchanted renegades caused mayhem, to achieve whatever goal they had. Those who subscribed to this anecdote, cited the way earlier bandit leaders were handled with kid gloves and given VIP treatment by some politicians. However, some were quick to point to a policy of foreign interest at both subnational and international level, adopting the concept or prevalence of non state actors activities.

Even the nomenclature, “bandits” in this context, is contradictory. Because, the Vocapture English Dictionary, defines Bandit as “One who robs others in a lawless area, especially as part of a group”. The “bandits” operating in northwest, does not only rob, but kidnap-for-ransom, and sometimes kill their victims in the most disgusting and gruesome manner. So, the armed men(bandits) terrorizing the northwest, and other part of the region, are basically terrorists, and should be treated as such.

What we refered to as banditry here, to the Americans, it would be apty regraded as domestic terrorism. Because, all indicative features linked with terror has been unleashed by the bandits. For, the most part, the bandits were even offered an undeserving opportunity for an amnesty and truce, negotiation, yet to no avail. This is a major shift from the US golden rule — never negotiate with terrorists.

But, given the circumstances and volatility of our predicament, one would however not overly disparage the peace efforts, or negotiation with the bandits/terrorists. Because, the stakes are excessively high, owing to the number of deaths as s result of their heinous activities and inability of security personnel to use brute force to halt or wade off such attacks.

The search for peace in the region had taken the Northern governors to far away America, to the United States institute of Peace, USIP. The trip, they claimed, afforded them a rare privilege to interface with experts, and attend a symposium on security and peace building amidst heightened insecurity in the region. As expected, the visit had received mixed reaction back home. While some commended the governors, others see it as what it is—misplaced priority.

Certainly, the fundamental theorem of peace are boundless. Of course, it doesn’t mean we have to trade, or undermine our values, cultures and freedom, in search of lasting peace in our vulnerable region. But such visit, especially at a time of severe economic hardship, due to the rising cost of living, is by all means uncalled for, especially since there are in abundance several options to explore. One of such options are the American Spaces in the region.

American Spaces are platforms for providing information and engagement through strong partnership with host country. They are cultural and information spaces with modern and state-of-the-art gadgets that help users grasp information about the US and its quest for the advancement of democracy, civic engagements, freedom, rule of law and security. It could be a person-to- person engagement or virtually, with professionals or experts in diverse fields, relating to insecurity, counterinsurgency and peace building.

Nigeria being the largest economy and largest democracy in Africa, is considered a natural partner for the United States. As such, it has more American Spaces than any other African country. There are about 27 locations in 23 cities, 4,400 programs reaching 100,000 Nigerians every year. Currently, there are 11 of such Spaces in northern Nigeria, which includes, Sokoto, Borno, Kano, Benue, Niger, Jigawa, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Gombe, Plateau, and Abuja. Except for Abuja, Kano, and Bauchi, all spaces are located and domiciled at the
the campus libraries of universities in the states, providing both the Universities and off-campus host communities equal access to the facility. And has the capacity bring in, and interact with security scholars in such institutions.

The northern governors, especially those whom the American Spaces are domiciled in their states should have leveraged on the existing partnerships with the space, in their bid to curb or bring to end insecurity in their respective states. After all, universities are usually centers of research, learning and innovation. For instance, the American Space Sokoto, which is located at the city campus of the Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University, would have been an alternative for the US visit by Sokoto and Zamfara governors. We need local solutions to mitigate or solve local problems.

American Spaces promote critical thinking and thoughtful discussion of issues important to the U.S. relationship with the host country and its global interests. Terrorism and it’s byproduct— insecurity, banditry and insurrection are all global issues with local solutions. Governors of Zamfara and Sokoto, since both shared same challenge, could have simply sought US technical support, using the American Space, to organize whatever security summit or symposium, physically or virtual. That could have saved money and precious time. It could have provided endless opportunities for locals, Community Based Organizations, religious and community leaders, and every stakeholders to brainstorm and provide workable solution to the issue of insecurity.

For American Space Minna, which is located at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger state, the governor could have collaborated with his Kogi state counterpart, in order to bolster security in their respective states. This could be achieved through fusion of local dynamics and technical expertise facilitated through the American Space. There are in abundance, experts in conflicts and peace building locally. With technical support from the space, the governors could simply organize their security summit right in the heart of the theater of the conflict.

There were reports that some repentant Boko Haram fighters in Maiduguri threatened to pick up arms again. Their grouse was hinged on the refusal of society to accept them. They emphatically stated their inability to forge acquaintances with the opposite sex, hence they could not have suitable wives for marriage. This is where the American Space Maiduguri come in handy.

It is located at the main campus of the University of Maiduguri. In stead of an all expense government- funded trip to the US, with a retinue of aides, there are exciting and educative program which suits the repentant fighters. Also, the process of reintegrating and accepting them into the society is an area which the state government should have prioritize. The governor could have explored the benefits of partnering with the space, to engage with experts locally, in a bid to chart a path for lasting peace in a post insurgency Borno.

American Spaces, in northern Nigeria, like elsewhere, exist for a purpose. It offered more opportunities for Nigerians of any age, any community, to learn a bit more about almost everything, for free.

From developing artificial intelligence, to entrepreneurship, to accelerating inclusive economic growth, to tackling all shared challenges, including insecurity. The nothern spaces, unlike the southern Spaces is underutilized and neglected by governors, stakeholders and local authorities. We must take proactive steps to correct this mistake.

Slothfulness and lack of job breeds and exacerbates insecurity and conflicts.
Northern governors, must unite and invest in skills that are essential, particularly for women and young people, which would fuel the tech revolution. For States without the presence of American Space, they could collaborate with the neighboring states to take dvantage of what the space has to over. And there are massive benefits for doing so.

– Mohammed writes from Kano and can be reached on [email protected]

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