HeadlineDambazau Outlines Threats To 2023 Elections, Proposes Drastic Reform Of Entire Security...

Dambazau Outlines Threats To 2023 Elections, Proposes Drastic Reform Of Entire Security Sector


August 17, (THEWILL) – Ahead of the 2023 general elections, Nigeria’s former Chief of Army Staff, General Abdulrahman Dambazau, has outlined potential threats that may hinder the exercise.

Dambazau, who spoke while delivering a paper titled, ‘2023 Politics: National Security and Nigeria’s Stability’, at the Blueprint Newspapers Annual Public Lecture in Abuja on Tuesday, said the fears of insecurity among others posed a major threat to the 2023 elections.

According to him, security threats arising from the activities of terror groups in the North, as well as those of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South East, are not only the potential hinderances, but also issues of true federalism, state police and power devolution.

However, he expressed confidence in the ability of the Muhammadu Buhari government to ensure a free, credible and violence free election.

He said since 1960, when the country got its independence, Nigeria has gone through a chequered history, culminating into the Fourth Republic, adding that Nigeria has had more than 20 years of uninterrupted period of democracy, the longest in her history.

The former army chief said within the period, the country has recorded six general elections, while it is heading for the seventh in 2023.

Dambazau, who said every election regime comes with its own challenges, which revolved around national security and stability, however listed the factors that could influence the general elections.

He said: “So, what are the likely issues or factors that could influence the 2023 politics? Firstly, the politics of zoning the presidency between north and south, that re-emerged when the Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum insisted that for the 2023 presidential elections, the parties must produce candidates from the south, to which the Northern Elders Forum opposed.

“As a matter of fact, the zoning controversy was further reduced to the level of ethnicity with the agitation of what was termed “Igbo presidency,” meaning that 2023 was the chance of the Igbo ethnic group to produce the next president after Buhari.

“Next is the restructuring debate, which has been in the public space for a long time, an issue that will also feature in the 2023 politics, as it did in the past. The most extreme view in the debate is that the 1999 Constitution should be completely discarded for an entirely new one. In general, however, the agenda of the restructuring debate consists of such items as true federalism, state police, devolution of power, regional autonomy, ethnic nationalities, sovereign national conference, and resource control. These issues are likely to resurface in the 2023 elections campaigns and debates, as they did with the Obasanjo, Jonathan, and Buhari presidency.

“Identity politics, resulting from the politicisation of religion and ethnicisation of politics, is another factor likely to have far reaching consequences on the 2023 politics. The fact that religion and ethnicity are currencies for political mobilisation, is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria’s political environment. What is relatively new is its promotion by religious clerics, institutions, and organisations. The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), for example, fired the first salvo when they said that only a southern Christian should be elected the next President. The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) responded that only a southern Muslim should be voted to become the next President, arguing that since the first republic, no Yoruba Muslim occupied either the position of President or Vice President.

“The division along religious lines as it relates to the 2023 politics became intensified after the APC presidential candidate picked a northern Muslim as his running mate, even though religion was not a factor for the choice. If it were, he could have picked from the northwest, where about 90 percent of the population is Muslim. When strategising for winning elections, all factors are put on the table for consideration. Tinubu’s choice of Kashim Shettima could not be by chance. Kashim Shettima had in the past demonstrated leadership as a two-term Governor of Borno state under the stress of insurgency, violent extremism, and terrorism.

“We are also aware that Borno state is one of the northern states that has been hard hit by the impact of Climate Change, resulting in land degradation. With the insecurity challenge in Nigeria, including climate-related conflicts, the choice of Kashim Shettima to leverage on his crisis management experience was apt. At the level of personal relationship, it is an open secret that Shettima had shown loyalty and support for the presidential aspiration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. While it is not expected that everyone agrees with such strategic decisions, no one can also deny the candidate his right to make his choice, of course, after due consultations with party stakeholders, and this is applicable to all our fifteen or so candidates,” Dambazau said.

Dambazau also said it was apparent that the country has started 2023 politics with the mundane issues that brought the nation to the level of insecurity and instability it is today.

“We have more than enough challenges or issues confronting us. Rather than directing our energy on religious or ethnic controversies, we should be more interested in such issues as poverty reduction; food security; youth unemployment; improved power sector; quality and affordable healthcare services; and improved education system. The development of critical infrastructures is also a key area of concern, and although the APC government under Buhari has done remarkably well by completing many of the projects it met in 2015, in addition to new ones it originated, there are, however, approximately 60,000 abandoned projects in Nigeria, estimated to cost about N12 trillion. And what can we do to mitigate such waste? These are only a few critical areas the 2023 politics should focus attention on, not religion and ethnicity”, Dambazau stated.

Dambazau further said the nation’s immediate concern at the moment is the widespread insecurity.

He added that in more than twenty years, Nigeria has been dealing with emerging threats from non-state actors that have led to the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast; banditry and kidnapping for ransom in the northwest; and threats of secession and ethnic extremism in the southeast and southwest.

“As we are preparing for the 2023 elections, we are also thinking about the possibility of attacks or disruptions of the election processes by these violent groups. The security threats against the 2023 politics are not limited to the activities of the terror groups in the north, but also the proscribed IPOB in the southeast, which has not only been terrorising the people of the region, especially while enforcing their illegal sit-at-home orders, but also killing and destroying properties of northerners seeking livelihood in the region. The group had earlier threatened that there would be no elections in the southeast in 2023, insisting that all they want is to secede from Nigeria to form the Republic of Biafra. IPOB or any violent group that threatens democracy must not be allowed any opportunity to carry out such threats against the corporate existence of this country”, he also said.

Dambazau, however, called for the reformation of the entire Nigeria’s security sector, which he said, was overdue.

“Your excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we urgently need to reform Nigeria’s security sector for efficiency and effectiveness, if we must guarantee the nation’s peace, security and stability. The reforms would redefine, restructure, and re-professionalise the entire sector in a holistic manner, and would provide a security sector that is effective and efficient in matching contemporary and future security threats to Nigeria. I must draw our attention here that to be successful, the reforms of the security sector must also consider the importance of the welfare of security personnel, their salaries and allowances; medical backup; housing; education for their children; death benefits; gratuities and pensions; and any incentives that would boost their morale and make them sacrifice more in the interest of the security and well- being of Nigerians”, Dambazau concluded.

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