We at Selonnes Consult, mindful of political developments in Nigeria, and concerned on the need for greater introspection and circumspection, do hereby associate ourselves fully, with the concerns and views expressed in the 16 August 2018 press statement below, issued by our partner and interlocutor in nation building, Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD). We urge all well meaning Nigerians and stakeholders to lend their voice in urging caution and moderation as we head into the 2019 general elections. The full text of the SCDDD statement is reproduced below. ~Selonnes Consult Management.
The Nigerian State has entered yet another election cycle in our journey of democracy. As we approach the general elections of 2019, the country has begun to see activities largely consistent with democratic norms yet full of aberrations that threaten democracy itself and our collective aspiration for a stable and progressive nation. If the path of development through democracy is to be guaranteed, recent developments in the polity portend dangers that all men and women of goodwill must strive to avert. In 2014, elements of the nation’s security agencies invaded the sanctity of our National Assembly without consequences. Not long ago, the houses of some of our judicial officers were invaded at will. Only last Tuesday (August 7, 2018), some DSS operatives repeated such a brazen act of invading the National Assembly. This time around however, there were consequences: the removal of the DG, DSS and an on-going investigation to unravel, hopefully, the true circumstances behind such an act to permit appropriate sanctions to be taken against all those found culpable to avoid future reoccurrence.
2. The background of these two separate invasions of NASS is similar: re-alignment of forces by the political actors, jostling for elective political positions in the 2019 elections whose lack of ideological and transparent internal democracy by Political Parties threw up the issue of massive defections in the different political platforms. The resultant outcomes of such acts, including the fear of the possibility for leadership changes in the two chambers of NASS, are at the core of current events, which have heated-up the political temperature across the country.
3. Related to the foregoing, is the pervasive insecurity across the country. Leading this basket of challenges, is the resurgence of insurgency in the Northeast, accompanied by banditry and related criminal activities, horrendous attacks and killings as a result of the herders/farmers conflicts and cattle rustlings in Zamfara, Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Katsina and Sokoto States. The pervasive restiveness in the South-South is another. There is also the rise of armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom across the country. The astronomic rise of IDPs as a result of these acts, remain worrisome as these cumulative security challenges portend great threats not only for the 2019 elections but national cohesion, safety and survival of our dear country .
• CALL TO ACTIONS:
I. Security Agencies
4. In the face of all these challenges, the acrimonious relationship between and amongst the security agencies is most disturbing, requiring most urgent attention by Government. It is imperative that the Security Agencies see themselves as national institutions whose acts and conducts must reflect national concerns and not unduely attached to the Government of the day. Consequent upon this, it is of utmost necessity that the Security Agencies conduct themselves within the limits of Nigeria’s Laws and the Constitution, including their subordination to the democratic institutions of the land. The penchant for their being drafted into constitutional matters must be halted except in such grave circumstances for which the constitution provides appropriate levels of responsibilities. The seeming lack of “command and control, indiscipline, poor attitude to duty, poor kitting and welfare among the personnel of the security agencies in the field”, as confirmed by the Minister of Interior, requires drastic attention by Government, for which both the Executive and NASS must urgently work in concert with one another to resolve speedily in the interest of providing the dividends of democracy to the citizens. They owe this to the nation that is badly in need of confidence-building as well as peacebuilding measures, that the collective security of Nigerians, Nigerian State as well as those of foreigners and investors, domestic and international, are guaranteed, at all times.
II. Political Class, Parties And Candidates
5. Events at the political party levels have shown lack of lessons learnt from the past experiences hence needed restraints to prevent recourse to serial upheavals that impact on the larger national spheres. Poor conduct of party primaries, lack of common organising principles as well as of internal democracy and lack of probity, have become the hallmarks of political management and thus very worrisome. It is incumbent upon party leadership to uphold high standards of civility in their conduct to inspire confidence in their followership. Statements emanating from political party leadership must be devoid of brazen acts of insensitivity, tantamount to hate speech that now dots Nigeria’s political landscape without minding their destructive consequences in Rwanda, Cote d’ivoire and Kenya in recent times. Savannah Centre urges all political actors to be mindful of demeanors that would set this country on the path of firestorm. Political actors must also note that “politics and election will be meaningless if they do not translate into meaningful dividends to the electorate”. These are the practical ways to deepen and strengthen our democracy and not acts that constantly seek to address the welfare and general wellbeing of the political class to the exclusion of the electorate. The Political Parties must also address the leadership selection process that works for the electorate rather than some group of elites, in what Dr. Alex Otti referred to as “Blood Tonic”
III. The Media
6. The non-partisan role of the media in a democratic regime is very crucial to political stability. As purveyors of news and information to the general public, what they choose to disseminate and the language adopted can either make or mar efforts towards national cohesion and unity hence negative impact on the safety and survival of the country. Savannah Centre once again, draws attention as it had done in recent past, to the dangers of our media becoming politically inclined and purveyor of hate speech, inflammatory language and inciteful conducts. We call on the National Broadcasting Commission and all other regulatory bodies to be up and doing in ensuring that no media outfits (including social media users) cross the red line of constitutional limits to freedom of speech and expression. The media outfits and owners must necessarily come to terms with the absolute necessity to demonstrate responsibility to nation-building efforts to defend and protect national interest, through tougher sanctions on non-conformists of their various platforms, and encourage them to self-censor, in public interest. The media must necessarily be at the vanguard of crusading for national unity, cohesion and development through understanding of our differences rather than latching onto them to create more divisions and chaos.
IIII. Civil Society And Non Governmental Organizations
7. The involvement of civil society and non- governmental organizations in ensuring good governance and democratic conduct make them partners in project Nigeria. As partners in the democratic process, Savannah Centre calls on them to be on their toes to ensure that sanity prevails in the democratic process. Their diligence in exposing dangers and the sounding of early warnings shall go a long way in putting the country on the right path of democracy. In similar vein, they must exercise restraints not to over- sensationalize, make sharp distinction between politics, religion and ethnicity as dividing fault lines of weakness, but rather, the advantages for which complete understanding of these differences, help the nation to unite and heal.
8. It is imperative that the INEC understands the sensitive nature of its national assignment and the need therefore, to constantly strive at carrying every stakeholder along. The political processes leading to the election must be transparent and inclusive and the ground rules through the interpretations of the Electoral Act be explicit to Political Parties, Candidates, the Electorate, Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders. Partnering with international and domestic election monitoring groups, would add value to the transparency of the processes which would invariably validate the outcome of the results. The Savannah Centre believes strongly that the use of card readers, would be indispensible to valid electoral processes and outcome and this must not be discountenanced with for whatever reasons. Efforts are also needed to insulate the political and electoral processes from undue militarization. The role of the security agencies, especially the Police, Civil Defence and the Army, must be distinctively explicit in order not to impede on the otherwise purely civic responsibility of citizens.
VI. The Government/ Executive
9. The Government bears absolute responsibility for the security of its citizens and territorial space. It must strive to do this through consultative and inclusive approaches that are collectively determined, owned and protected by all in the spirit of national cohesion and unity. Government’s actions must therefore, constantly seek common grounds for national unity and ensure that national institutions are not only broadly national in outlook but more importantly in the discharge of their responsibilities to the entire nation.
10. The current lack of coordination and prevalent discordant tunes within our security institutions must be immediately addressed through a thorough national re-assessment and re-invigoration and constitution of a new national peace, justice and security architecture that has the capacity to address Nigeria’s multiplicity of security and developmental challenges for more effective socio- economic, cultural and political cohesion that promote national unity where justice to all, would be a central consideration. Savannah Centre is willing to make appropriate contributions in this regard. Justice begets peace and lack of peace results into agitations, extreme and often violent responses, hence chaos and instability which necessarily impede on national cohesion, unity, development and progress. It is imperative that our democracy delivers positive values of dividends to the citizens and Government must bear absolute responsibility for creating such enabling environment.
11. It is also not out of place, for the Government, to constantly and deliberately seek collaborative working understanding with all partners in the delivery of good governance which is basic to sustainable development, growth and peace. The Government / Executive should, especially engage in a sustained dialogue with NASS, irrespective of political or other differences. Politics are by nature, about resolving differences and they are also necessarily, argumentative, but what is important is to seek common grounds that ultimately benefit the majority of the citizens. While the on-going bickering, are not unconnected with posturing for 2019 elections, the central Government’s commitment to a level-playing field for all political actors must not be in doubt. The Savannah Centre applauds the prompt action by Government, following the Tuesday 7, August infraction by elements of the DSS at the NASS Complex, an act that was capable of truncating Nigeria’s democratic dispensation. Government may urgently reconvene an expanded National Peace Committee to seek consensus around electoral matters. Again, the Savannah Centre is willing and ready to make contributions in this regard.
• OTHER ACTORS AND VOICES OF REASON
VII. Former Heads Of State, Traditional Rulers, Private Sector Operators And Religious Leaders As Community Stakeholders For Nation-Building Processes
12. The building blocs for nation-building process must necessarily be engrained in our Communities. The safety and survival of Nigeria’s nation-state is far too important to be left in the hands of the political class and security agencies alone. Our former Heads of State especially, and Traditional Rulers, must rise to the challenge of statesmanship and be clear and unbiased voices of reason and caution as the destiny of Nigeria continues to hang precariously on the balance on account of security challenges that require common voices of support as well as addressing political rascality that is inconsistent with the aspirations of Nigeria’s multitude of our population. Religious Leaders also have responsibilities for nation-building through preachings and in advancing religious views that seek inclusion and justice. As for the private sector operators, business must go beyond profit making to facilitating through effective partnerships with Governments the spreading of prosperity to all citizens. The Savannah Centre stands ready to work with other stakeholders who share this position to operationalize this concept.
VIII. The International Community
13. Savannah Centre appreciates the role and interest of the international community in ensuring that Nigeria’s democratic efforts, processes and institutions are not undermined by violence and even collapse. As the most populous country and leading voice in Africa, failure by Nigeria to attain the best democratic ideals, would necessarily impact negatively on the continent and would pose greater security and humanitarian challenges not only to Africa but the world at large. Nevertheless, undue and reckless interferences in the electoral processes of nations are incompatible with both the Vienna Convention that spelled out conducts of diplomats as well as the emerging lack of international support for such meddling in the civic responsibilities of nations that constitute the international system. It is important that such conduct be discouraged and respect be accorded to Nigeria, consistent with international best practices, especially on elections and related political processes.
14. In conclusion, Savannah Centre is committed to contributing to all efforts aimed at ensuring free and fair elections in the country and willing to do whatever that it can to deepen democracy in Nigeria to prevent its derailment. The nation may recall efforts of the “Council of the Wise”, an initiative of this Centre which contributed to the smooth transition of government in 2015 and its recent advocacy programme on the dangers of hate speech. The Savannah Centre would continue to work towards enhanced levels of engagements to ensure better democratic polity that can bring peace, development and progress to our country.
Amb. Abdullahi A. Omaki
Executive Director, SCDDD,
August 16, 2018.
Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.
Selonnes Consult Ltd. is a Strategic Policy, Good Governance and Management Consulting Firm, founded by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze who served as Secretary to Anambra State Government from 2012-2015; a United Nations official from 1991-2012 and a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer from 1982-1991.