BY MUHAMMAD ZAYYAD
Political and economic leaders were the first casualty of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Disheartening videos and images of Afghan political leaders, billionaires, industrialists, technocrats, etc fleeing the country filled the internet, while on the other side, common people on the street cheered and welcomed the Taliban. This is an ominous signal to leaders of countries facing similar challenges as Afghanistan’s. At the same time, a kind of inspiration to non-state actors wanting to overrun governments. Nigerian political and economic leaders need to re-think their strategy towards addressing the current insecurity in the country.
Nigeria is facing three ‘wars’ at three different points in the country. Boko Haram and ISIS in the north-east, bandits and terrorists in the north-west, IPOB violent secession movement in the south-east. They may not be big wars as in Afghanistan, but they pose similar threats and have some treats– the fight against the state.
If any of these groups were to overrun any part of Nigeria – we would see a scenario similar to Afghanistan. Political leaders and rich people would flee and leave everything they have, while the many common people will come out to the streets to cheer and welcome the invading force.
With our strong army and committed security agencies, such occurrence may be a long shot in Nigeria but the leadership should wake up. Afghan political leaders fleeing their palace, the businessmen leaving behind their businesses, the technocrats and academics running away through any means are a clear message to the Nigerian political, economic, social, cultural and academic leadership that the current insecurity in Nigeria is not only their war; they must also fight it with all hard and soft arsenals available.
Of particular interest should be the south-east region- with its relatively good number of businesses, industries and rich people- any chaos and social disorder will be a calamity for the business class in the region. The sit-at-home directive declared by the IPOB on August 9, 2023, got reasonable compliance in many communities in the region. The compliance was due to support and fear- many youths see IPOB as a fight for social justice, while its method of coercion and violence has forced many to obey it out of fear.
Apart from using bullets and boots on the ground to fight the wars, Nigerian leaders should also use politics and policies as part of its strategies. The forthcoming 2023 election is a good opportunity for the leaders to fine tune the country. The first solution on ground is the involvement of the youths. The youth are catalysts, they are the driving force and the targets through which non-state groups propagate their ideologies.
All major political parties in Nigeria, especially – the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) should as a matter of need, fill in young people as vice presidential candidates for the 2023 elections. This is not just for political device, but a survival strategy for the aging political class. The government of President Buhari Muhammadu should be desirous of improved youth political participation and engagement in governance at this critical moment, the president should appoint 12 young people ages from the late 40s downwards, two from each of the six geo-political zones, as senior special assistants with full cabinet status. This will greatly impact the youths’ perception of the government and give the Buhari administration the bragging rights that, youths are adequately represented in the government. This will also create a strong link between the government and the youths, who form more than half of Nigerian voters and represent a significant percentage of the Nigerian population. Though, there are some youths currently occupying positions in the Buhari government, an addition of 12 youths will be an added 27 percent more representation of the youths in the cabinet.
What happened in Afghanistan is a lesson for all of us.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Abuja, 08036070980, firstname.lastname@example.org