Security – An Imperative For National Development


There are two key concepts that this paper will seek to unpack. These are the concepts of security and that of development. We will examine the way they play out in Nigeria, and how they interrelate.

There are many definitions of security but we will stay broadly with the one that refers to a state of being free from danger and injury. Although security is often understood in military and defence terms, this does not give the whole picture. Security from a military perspective may not necessarily coincide with human security.


Aspects of human security relate to access to food of the appropriate sort often referred to as food security and an array of rights including those of health, freedom of movement, land tenure and ownership of property. The security of life, for instance, does not simply mean absence of threat from violent action.

It has happened that because security has been largely used in military terms there are cases where purely “military” interests may even be elevated to the same pedestal of national interests. There are also situations whereby the energy security of a nation is used as a cover for waging war on weaker nations in order to grab the resources of such nations. Thus the quest for so-called energy security translates to utter misery for millions who happen to inhabit places where the desired resources are found.


Broadly speaking, security has to do with the quality of the state in terms of poverty levels and equality. The security situation in Nigeria is best understood by studying the statistics that show that while the nation is getting richer, Nigerians are getting poorer than they have ever been in recent history.

A situation where up to 70 percent of the population live on less than N150 a day is a clear picture of a state of insecurity. This is a universal truth. The lower the level of poverty, the less will be the inequality in such a society and the higher the security would be.


Writers and opinion leaders have held that security is the backbone of any society and that security ensures national development. From our introductory remarks, we can sum up that there cannot be security and genuine development without a fair level of equality and a minimised level of poverty.


Development, on the other hand, has a variety of definitions ranging from the one that refers to an event or happening and even biological changes evidenced in growth. We will be concerned here with the meaning in relationship to the act of improving, enlarging or expanding the scope of a people to enjoy an acceptable quality of life. When this is applied to a nation the sense could be of economic, political, socio-cultural or physical development among others. Development is not just about quantitative change but qualitative.


Measurement of development through mostly economic measures have led to wrong policies that end up pursuing what may be termed desktop growth while the people are left with the lowest quality of life. Such deceptive measurements include what is known as the Gross Domestic Product or GDP. One of the more useful measures today is the Human Development Index (HDI). The Nigerian situation today is that whereas the GDP keeps an upward swing, our HDI is battered to the ground.

The HDI measures changes using three key indicators: life expectancy (healthy life), access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. One of the measures that the UNDP uses is the Multiple Poverty Index (MPI) covering multiple deprivations in the areas of health, education and standard of living. Using 2008 figures, it was reckoned that 54.1 per cent of the Nigerian population suffer multiple deprivations with an additional 17.8 per cent classified as vulnerable to these deprivations. Adding the two gives us an alarming 71.9 per cent. Nigeria’s 0.459 HDI for 2011 placed her in the low human development category, securing her the 156th spot out of 189 countries or territories considered.

If we were to depend on orthodox economic measures of GDP, we would reach conclusions such as this:

“Nigeria is making progress with economic reforms that are delivering strong economic fundamentals. The government has maintained prudent macroeconomic policies, strengthened financial institutions and, albeit slowly and unevenly, is undertaking reforms to transform the economy structurally. The reform effort, aided by revenue from high oil prices, has led to significantly improved macroeconomic outcomes, including weaker inflation and strong GDP growth. Real GDP growth rose from 7.0% in 2009 to an estimated 8.1% in 2010. The robust growth in 2010, in the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis, underscored the resilience of the Nigerian economy and to some extent, the prudence of its economic policies. Medium-term prospects are also bright, with real GDP growth projected to remain strong and stable at 6.9% in 2011 and 6.7% in 2012.”



As we have already seen, measuring development with tools such as the GDP largely overlooks the quality of life of the people. This is why in the Nigerian context, the economy can be said to be booming whereas unemployment and poverty have not been higher in recent memory.

Other measures of wellbeing being used in the world today include the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index (coined by the king of Bhutan in 1972 and launched as a national policy in that country in 2008.

Bhutan has since enacted laws that reflect GNH values. Their laws stipulate that at least 60% of the country’s land must remain under forest cover at all times. They impose the tariff of $200 a day for each foreign visitor to control the tourist inflow and thereby protect the environment and culture. They do not permit sale of tobacco products. And although all Bhutanese are required to wear the national dress, and all buildings must conform to the national architecture to preserve the country’s distinctive culture, the people are not complaining.

We need to reflect on whether growth that means competition in a field of privatised commons is desirable over progress that is based on having all peoples living well and in solidarity. When we reflect on this, we must consider that living well connotes living in harmony with nature, defending the earth and understanding that our environment is our life. Ecological sustainability and social justice are thus key requirements for living well.

We have endeavoured to hint here that development is not just something done to build up statistics. It must be about the people and for the people and the planet. Not all physical development projects are desirous. Certain physical development projects, for example, can be destructive. Development without concerns and consent of the people is a recipe for insecurity, instability and disaster.

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