IF President Goodluck Jonathan obeyed Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs, he would do more to ensure that Nigerians have a sense of safety. The Hierarchy of Needs is a theory in psychology developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. It is a theory of human developmental psychology focused on describing the stages of growth in people.
Maslow suggests that people are motivated to fulfill fundamental needs before moving on to more advanced ones. According to Abraham Maslow, security of body, property and resources are the most basic of human needs.
Therefore, it is only when people have a good sense of safety and security that they are motivated to pursue other goals. Even in this day and age, Maslow's theory remains valid in any discussions about human developmental psychology.
In fact, this is why the primary duty of any government is to protect the lives and property of its citizens. When a government fails in this primary duty, it lacks the moral legitimacy to continue in other aspects of governance. As such, a state is characterized as having failed when the government fails to protect its citizens, or when a sense of relative safety is no longer felt by its people.
While it may be an exaggeration to argue that Nigeria has become a failed state, in May of 2011 the Fund for Peace, a Washington DC-based non-profit research and educational institution, issued a stern warning indicating that Nigeria is on the verge of being a completely failed state based on safety issues.
Yet many Nigerians presume that Nigeria is as safe as any other nation in the world. This presumption seems valid if you consider events like September 11, 2001. On this day, al - Qaeda succeeded in killing more than 3000 Americans in a single attack. Consider also that on July 7, 2005, Islamic home-grown terrorists detonated bombs, in three quick successions, aboard London Underground trains.
A fourth bomb was detonated on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. Fifty-two people were killed, 700 others were injured. Since these attacks, many more terrorist attacks have happened in other parts of the world. The United States and Britain also struggle with domestic crimes, just like the ones we see in Nigeria. So, terrorism and crime are not peculiar to Nigeria.
Perhaps, it is under the same presumption that President Jonathan announced to the world that Nigeria is a safe place for travel and business. He made the announcement in the wake of a Boko Haram attack on December 25, 2011, in which more than 42 Nigerians were killed in Madalla near Abuja. Even after the President's announcement, the world still does not perceive Nigeria as a relatively safe place for travel and business. In fact, the CIA continues to issue alerts to American citizens travelling to Nigeria.
In saying that Nigeria is safe for travel and business, President Jonathan assumes that safety is exclusively the absence of terrorism or crimes. It makes me wonder if President Jonathan actually knows that a collective sense of safety is primarily a measure of trust in the system. For instance, a sense of safety exists in the United States and Britain because people trust that the emergency systems are well-equipped to work in cases like September 11, 2001 and July 7, 2005, respectively.
For the world to agree with the President that Nigeria is safe for travel and business, there must be well-equipped emergency response systems put in place. For instance, the hospitals should be equipped with modern infrastructures and well-trained personnel. The police and fire services should also be ready to respond with precision and professionalism to emergency situations. But the irony is that no country that is as corrupt as Nigeria can afford modern infrastructures for hospitals, police, and the emergency response system required to deal with sophisticated terrorist plots. This is why the world sees Nigeria as unsafe for travel and business, despite the President's appeal.
If we dig deeply into the security issues Nigeria faces as a nation, it is more meaningful for Nigerians to have a sense of safety. Only then can anyone make the argument to the rest of the world that Nigeria is safe for travel and business. The high walls around houses and the personal use of the police by those who can afford it is an indication that Nigerians do not feel safe. In fact, these are the first things that any visitor to Nigeria observes. The reason Nigerians build high walls and use the police as a private security force is the same reason they are inclined toward jungle justice. It is because the police have failed in their duty to protect and serve, and the courts have failed in dispensing justice.
While it is important to stop crimes before they happen, protecting citizens is not necessarily the absence of crime. Protecting citizens extends to what happens after a crime is committed. When the police take bribes and fail to solve a crime, when Nigerians are being kidnapped without any serious effort by authorities to get to the root of it, and when judges fail to dispense justice without bias people's sense of safety is eroded.
Americans have a sense of safety not because they live in a crime-free society, but because they are confident that when a crime is committed the authorities will get to the root of it even if the crime is committed against the most deprived citizen. They also trust that the justice system will take its course.
To sum it up, in today's world when no country is immune from terrorism and crime, fulfilling the need for safety - the most fundamental human need - means having a rapid and well- equipped emergency response system. It also means the ability to solve crimes and dispense justice.
Mr. HAMILTON ODUNZE, a media consultant, wrote from USA.