If all citizens are to defend themselves, why do we need the state? By Jibrin Ibrahim

News Diary Online

For over a decade, Nigerians have been contemplating the desirability of self-help against growing violence all over the country. The logic is simple and compelling. Armed insurgents, bandits, militants and separatists have acquired weapons and are attacking, killing and raping members of communities. Persistent calls on security agencies to do the work they have chosen and are paid to do has not yielded results. The irony is that the security agents of the Nigerian State are increasingly being attacked and killed as well. They have failed woefully in performing their constitutional role of protecting citizens. It is in this context that Nigerians, individually and in their communities, have been contemplating and indeed acting to provide for their security needs.

The culture of self-help has been growing in the country over the past thirty years. In general, Nigerians have grown to accept that State no longer provides public utilities for the most part. The State has not been providing water and electricity so citizens provide for themselves. Then most public schools failed and parents had to seek private provisioning for the education of their children. Communities contribute to fix neighbourhood roads and so on. Nigerians have come to accept the State does nothing for them and in response they make sure they do not support the State by paying their taxes. The gulf has continued to widen between the State and the people. Security has been the last service the State has sought to keep as its preserve and it has essentially failed.

According to Max Weber, the existence of a State is contingent on its capacity. The modern State, he says is:

“A compulsory political organisation with continuous operations will be called a State in so far as its administrative staff successfully upholds a claim  to the legitimate use of physical force.”

When the State no longer has a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence, it essentially disqualifies itself from the achieved status of statehood. Current estimates are that private citizens in Nigeria have in their possession and are using over six million small arms and light weapons for insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping citizens for ransom, settling inter-community feuds, seeking to separate from Nigeria and so on. Essentially, the existence of the Nigerian State is in question. What is the answer to who or what will tilt the balance?

Maybe the answer is coming from Zamfara State, whose claim to infamy is that it is the State with the largest number of armed bandit/terrorists in the country today killing people, raping their wives and daughters, kidnapping them for ransom and…

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