BusinessDay

Nigeria’s local decisions are affecting its national security

A few days ago, a good friend, Mr. Ejike Okpa, highlighted something profound. He said, “No nation will emerge to a level of respect until they adjust and align their domestic interest with their foreign interest.” This powerful statement is the basis for the discussion of the week.

I have keenly observed how Nigeria makes local decisions that affect the immediate community and the country’s national security, and it is time for this to stop.

I will be using the Ifewara community as a prime example.

This scenario is playing out in different parts of the country. If this continues, what will be left of Nigeria in a few decades? The government cannot continue to expose people because of profit

I spent a good portion of my formative years in a little town in the South Western part of Nigeria called Ifewara. Ifewara is a historical Yoruba town between Ile-Ife and Ilesa, just about 10 miles southeast of Ile-Ife. My first exposure to supply chain management, history, Nigerian art and culture came from many places but majorly from my deep roots in my culture, especially in Ifewara.

My first understanding of agriculture, procurement, farming, and strategic sourcing originated from watching my grandma, who was a cocoa farmer, buyer, and middleman during the cocoa season.

Ifewara is known for many things – its rich culture, hard-working people, and products like cocoa, breadfruit, palm oil, and gold. During my last visit to Nigeria, I was heartbroken to discover that Ifewara was losing its essence. Farmlands have been destroyed, and farmers are helpless because of the illegal gold mining activities in the community. A community that took pride in hard work, farming, culture, and its people, is gradually being reduced to nothing but a gold mining site.

Even my mother’s inherited properties are threatened as this illegal gold mining continues. The mining process has also exposed numerous people to harmful chemicals. Rivers that serve as a source of water are contaminated and mostly drying up.

The famous Owena and Emukoje rivers that served the community and other surrounding villages and farmlands are now polluted with mercury and drying up. How is the community expected to drink from a source that is contaminated? For a premier river that has sustained and provided some form of entertainment (people used to swim here as well) to the community for decades, this is unacceptable and poses a grave health hazard.

Are health organisations not consulted in the mining process to ensure this doesn’t happen? Now that it has, what are the steps to find a healthy alternative and clean the mess up?

Now, several communities have to drink water contaminated with mercury and use it for cooking, bathing, and much more. We may not be able to fully understand the implication of ingesting polluted water for years, not only to Ifewara but the whole of Nigeria. Yet, one thing is clear – the result will be deadly as numerous diseases can emerge from this singular act. There are ways to mine gold without japanizing a community’s livelihood and health.

This brings us to another question. Why are the chiefs, obas, and government officials allowing this to happen? Are they comfortable with whatever implications this decision will cause? Is the profit from this mining the only thing that matters?

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How does this tie to the overall discussion, you may ask? The answer is simple. Through the government’s decisions on local matters, they have exposed the security of the people. In a bid to profit from what belongs to the people of Ifewara, farmlands have been destroyed, and the community’s production of products like cocoa, palm oil, and breadfruit has reduced drastically. Gold is mined in the most unacceptable way, and people have been sold out. The Chinese and Northerners are taking over lands, polluting water, taking over resources, and nothing concrete has been done to stop this.

This discussion is so much more relevant because Ifewara is only an example. This scenario is playing out in different parts of the country. If this continues, what will be left of Nigeria in a few decades? The government cannot continue to expose people because of profit.

I understand that a small amount of money is given to the people in exchange for their land, hence they try to call it a business transaction, but this is not the case. This is taking advantage of people’s poverty and ignorance. If you will take their gold, give them something worthy in exchange.

A country’s national security strategy is connected to the health and welfare of the people. A solid security strategy will think locally first. If the people are not protected domestically, the strategy has failed. Dazzling foreign security plans are only practical when domestic priorities have been taken care of. We must realise that Nigeria’s national security is dead on arrival if it ignores local interests.

To fix this, the government must remember its primary responsibility – to protect its people. The government must enact laws that stop illegal mining, and health organizations must assess the situation and determine solutions to avert a health crisis.

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