Reign of villains: Ruin of society
The goal for the institution of law is not merely compliance with its provisions. It is rather the establishment of certain conditions such as peace, order, stability, equity, justice, security, etc which are sine-qua-non for the development and sustenance of any nation. As crucial as these conditions are to the wellbeing of any nation, those who hold sway over her affairs and resources matter even more.
A narrow description of power is that which restricts it to the political authority that leaders possess or wield. The neglect or tolerance of negative forces in the polity poses great danger and eventual doom for any nation. The state of a nation can therefore be viewed as the incline or balance between legitimate and illegitimate forces; between establishment and anti-establishment.
When state authorities are lowered on the tilt of this power distribution, it implies that negative forces occupy the elevated end of it, wielding more power than the state. A balance of power can be seen when state authorities sit on the same horizontal plane with negative forces, both parties being in either a tight tussle or a warm cuddle. However, when state authorities are positioned at the top, it shows that they are in charge of the system, holding negative powers in check and neutralizing them.
It is at the backdrop of the above scenarios that power distribution in Nigeria can be evaluated, especially amidst security challenges, with a view to ascertaining whether it is rightly concentrated within state authorities or wrongly filtering into the reins of villainy.
Note must be taken that as kidnappers, for instance, continue to receive ransoms, they become emboldened to take more hostages, thereby acquiring more resources and adversely affecting human behaviours in terms of carrying out decent activities freely and securely. Perhaps, this is the underlying notion of the recent motion at Nigeria’s Senate which sought to criminalize the payment of ransom to kidnappers - an action which must be matched with the deterrence, apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators by appropriate authorities.
In the same vein, while killer herders and bandits dissolve into thin air unchecked or unpunished, they are also emboldened to perpetrate more killings, looting and destruction. It is the same outcome with insurgents who subject communities to terror and taxation or gunmen who assail state institutions and kill their personnel. They (among others) are the villains of the Nigerian society who unfortunately become more powerful if tolerated or indulged, influencing and affecting adversely socioeconomic and political activities in the country, leading to loss of lives and property and disruption of peace and order.
But the scope of this villainy does not end with such regular criminals. It extends to bad officials and operatives who, in their actions and inactions, aid advertently or inadvertently, such acts of criminality. They are also moles who whittle downstate powers by joining forces with criminals to undermine their ability to appropriate or apply the law purposefully. Though they don the cloak of state authority, they are on the side of villains, since their activities reinforce criminality. Their silhouetted and often immune nature makes them as dangerous as their non-state counterparts, if not more.
On the other hand, the scope of villainy does not extend to legitimate non-state actors who constructively hold dissenting views on state affairs; whose olive branch may be mistaken as subversive by state actors. They are in fact, a prop to state authorities for staying on top of the situation and addressing systemic anomalies where they exist.
While isolated incidents of criminality may appear insignificant in terms of whittling downstate might, gradually and cumulatively they take away a good chunk of it. This is more so with the resultant public distrust that usually arises when citizens feel they are not protected by the law, since legitimacy issues from the trust. Further degeneration may plunge the nation into a reign of villains, no matter how uncoordinated they may be, spelling doom for the Nigerian society. This is obviously not the kind of risk that any well-meaning leadership is willing to accept if its intent or responsibility is to create conditions of peace and stability in the country.
For leadership to sustainably enthrone these desirable conditions, assert its authority over the system and retain public trust and support, it must make genuine efforts towards profiling crimes and criminals appropriately and deal with them objectively; partnering robustly relevant legitimate non-state actors within and outside the polity to combat crime effectively; rethinking its amnesty programmes with a view to ascertaining whether they undermine or support the state in the long run; developing and operationalizing effective strategies which create socioeconomic conditions that make crime and violence unattractive, especially to Nigeria’s teeming youth population; ridding its institutions of any traitorous elements and tendencies; painstakingly managing all Nigerian stakeholders with inclusiveness, fairness, equity and justice.
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