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Published On: Tue, Jun 24th, 2014

As national security takes on local politics

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President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

By Hamid Hendrix

The unprecedented nature of the security challenges posed by the Boko Haram insurgency has heightened public concern and interest in the usually detached issue of overall management of national security. The apparent difficulty of sustained conventional defence and security operations against the insurgents coupled with the unimaginable massacres and wanton destruction of property and other terrorist atrocities swayed public perception and understanding and triggered frenzied criticism of the military operations. However the radical response of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, comprising a candid dissection and comprehensive appraisal of the new challenges as a launch pad for the acclaimed Soft Approach to Counter-Insurgency, significantly restored public morale and enthusiastic support.

Of particular interest was the priority rightfully accorded the innovative approach to checking the social and economic factors that tend to create enabling environments for insurgency and terrorism to sprout and thrive which is a major thrust of the Soft Approach. Expectedly, Nigerians have witnessed re-assuring reversals in the murderous rampages of the terrorists as the military engagements yield desired results even as the vulnerable segments of the society get carried along in the on-going subtle strategy of keeping idle minds away from the devil’s workshop.

Further evidence of the vitality and resourcefulness now powering functions of the office of the NSA came in the form of the recently concluded All Nigeria Political Parties and Political Stakeholders Summit held on June 12, 2014 in Abuja. The summit was not the jamboree usually associated with parley of politicians but a serious meeting of political leaders convened just as the political temperature was rising with 2015 election fever and inordinate ambition beclouded nationalistic passions on the political arena. That the NSA was able to bring leaders of opposing political parties together in a cordial environment for sober reflection on the salient issues beyond the mundane issues of crass competition for “lucrative” political offices and settling scores, was no mean achievement in such circumstance.

The importance of the meeting and the level of endorsement it earned from the nation’s political leaders and other stakeholders was personified by the attendance list, which was topped by President Goodluck Jonathan who declared the summit open and included former heads of state, such as Generals Buhari and Abdulsalami Abubakar(who chaired the occasion), representatives of all the major political parties and stakeholders , INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega, members of the diplomatic corps, international development partners, security, military and law enforcement agencies, academics and civil society community. The keynote address by Professor Jega was aptly focussed on “Interparty Collaboration, National Stability and Democratic Consolidation”.

The Summit which was organized in collaboration with the Special Adviser to the President on Interparty Affairs, Senator Ben Obi to provided a forum for political parties to freely express themselves and interrogate the contentious issues that heat up the polity but more importantly, it was designed to facilitate strengthening of the institutional and other basis for collaboration among Nigerian political actors and parties and reinforce the key ingredients of the all but forgotten Code of Political Conduct subscribed by all political parties in 2011 and re-committing politicians to its guiding principles.

The renewed focus on the desirability of the conduct of politicians and parties being in compliance with the Code of Political Conduct was a timely and necessary reminder against the prevailing perception and practice of politics as an all-comers-anything-goes vocation for position-seeking politicians without the slightest regard for the national interest. It is pertinent to point out that it has taken the patriotic zeal of the NSA to initiate such a precautionary process to apply the brakes on the politicians’ rollercoaster of unbridled partisan antagonism already posing additional hazard on the peace and stability of a nation reeling from terrorist insurgency. The extreme extents of subversive activity by politicians in the name of “opposition” and “pressure,” especially in connection with the on-going efforts to counter the insurgency is truly getting out of hand.

The Summit proved to be another successful strategic outing of the office of the NSA to isolate and highlight major aspects of the issues impinging on national security today for an all-inclusive interactive public discourse aimed at corrective consensus building to check the unsavoury impact of the issue at stake. Among the significant outcomes were the endorsement of interparty collaboration among all political parties as an Inclusive mechanism for political stability and consolidation of democracy, exposure of total disregard by all parties of the Code of Political Conduct and a felt need to resuscitate commitment to upholding its guiding principles henceforth. An appreciation of the essential role of political parties as vehicles for political socialization for enlightened citizens requiring broad constructive engagement and deliberate efforts to make politics noble and trustworthy and counter the “dirty game” public perception was also stimulated.

The Summit articulated well-thought out recommendations distilled from an appraisal of the germane initiatives stemming from interactive discourse on five sub-themes taken up in lead papers ably presented by Ambassador Dele Cole, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Monsignor Obiora Ike, Professor Oshita Oshita and Dr Abubakar Sadeeq. They included a call on political parties to recognize and acknowledge their immense responsibility in a democracy, renewed emphasis on democratic consolidation through interparty collaboration as a condition for national stability and the dire need to regard succession and leadership recruitment process as an effort to bring in the best to lead and not for incumbents to insist on choosing for the electorate.

The Summit also charged political parties and stakeholders to act and speak as one and pool resources together to forestall breach of national security while complementing government efforts to counter terrorism. It also enjoined them to uphold the principle of according due honour, protection and respect devoid of partisan or primordial sentiment to an elected and sworn-in President who represents the symbol, heart and soul of the nation.  Hardly any dimension to the political problems that constitute formidable challenge to the stability of the nation escaped thorough analysis and diagnosis in the context of its implications on preserving national security.

In the run up to the 2015 elections, the necessary advisory for positive contribution of the political class towards ensuring peace and success could not have come at a better time and it is hoped that the politicians will remain as committed and patriotic back in their arena as they were during the Summit. The office of the NSA has served them a timely sensitization session on the crucial role assigned to them in a democracy to place the nation’s interest above their personal partisan agenda. The generality of Nigerians anxiously look forward to a departure from do-or-die and nihilistic opposition politics typical of election fever periods.

Hamid Hendrix is a public affairs commentator in Kaduna

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