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NSA and the politics of security challenges

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If there is any time the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, is unattractive and burdensome, it is now. No thanks to the insurgency of dreadful Boko Haram. In proffering solution to this peculiar security challenge in the country, several opinions and

 options have been proffered. The opinions include those asking the government to negotiate with the sect and those calling for outright military action to quell the insurrection. There are however those calling for the removal of the heads of our security outfits, especially, the NSA. But what we seem to gloss over is undercurrent of deep-seated politics involved in the reactions of those calling for the sack of the NSA.

The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, President Ayo Oritsejafor has consistently been opposed to any form of dialogue with Boko Haram because he said "there is no basis for such dialogue. What would be the terms of the discussion?" he asked. Earlier in 2005, Tony Blair, then as Prime Minister of Britain, in his speech over the bombing of London said it was insane to negotiate with the terrorists over their demands. "Neither is it true that they have no demands. They do. It is just that no sane person would negotiate on them. They demand the elimination of Israel; the withdrawal of all Westerners from Muslim countries, irrespective of the wishes of people and governments; the establishment of effectively Taleban State and Sharia law in the Arab world en route to one caliphate of all Muslim nations."

Back home in Nigeria, Boko Haram is demanding the total Islamisation of the country as a non-negotiable condition for cease fire. Also, they had earlier asked Southern Christians to vacate their northern territory as part of their cardinal agenda. At no time have they mentioned poverty, unemployment, political or economic imbalance as parts of their reasons for unleashing terror on the nation. Northern politicians are simply catching in on this precarious situation to launch themselves back into relevance by insisting on dialogue with the defiant group.

The issue of negotiation is even more difficult to toy with because they are propagating an extreme religious ideology. Both Pastor Oritsejafor and Professor Wole Soyinka had identified the import of an ideology based jihad like what we are experiencing now. Likewise, Tony Blair puts it more succinctly; "This ideology and the violence that is inherent in it did not start a few years ago in response to a particular policy. Over the past 12 years, Al-Qaeda and its associates have attacked 26 countries, killed thousands of people, many of them Muslims. They have networks in virtually every major country and thousands of fellow travellers. They are well-financed. Look at their websites. They aren't unsophisticated in their propaganda. They recruit however and whoever they can and with success...Those who kill in its name believe genuinely that in doing it, they do God's work; they go to paradise." So, how can we then convince them to abandon their `God's work' in the interest of the nation?

Realising the fact that we are squaring up to a global terror network which has its local fashion in Boko Haram, the members of the civil society especially in the north should join hands to tackle the problem frontally by volunteering useful information to the security agencies. Failure to do this would apparently hamper the efficiency and immediacy of response by the security personnel to Boko Haram's onslaught which came in like a wild wind unexpectedly.

The resolution by the Senate last Wednesday asking the Federal Government to quell the insurgent group "at all cost" has so far been the most plausible and courageous decision. That was how America and Britain have been handling the situation at their own end. And that is how we can win the war outright. Blair also acknowledged this when he said: "This is what we are up against. It cannot be beaten except by confronting it, symptoms and causes, head-on without compromise and without delusion. The extremist propaganda is cleverly aimed at their target audience. It plays on our tolerance and good nature. We must pull this up by its roots. Within Britain, we must join up with our Muslims community to take on the extremists. Worldwide, we should confront it everywhere it exists."

In view of the foregoing, it is necessary to take a cue from the nations that have experienced this kind of untoward aggression. Never have we heard from American or British public or media asking for the removal of their security chiefs when confronted with this kind of security challenges. Rather, they see it as a collective problem which must be confronted and solved decissively. They won't allow religious, tribal, political or regional differences to come on scene when serious security issues are involved. This goes to show the value placed on human life and their national interest far and above parochial sentiments we often display in our own case.

However, it is inexcusable to retain a non-performing security chief; and we can only determine that through glaring act of incompetence or proven case of bias or compromise and not by media campaign surreptitiously connected with political motive or interest. Unfortunately, this, more often than not, has been the case people use against our security chiefs especially the NSA.

General Owoye Azazi, an all-round Intelligence Officer, is the first southerner to occupy the office of the National Security Adviser since 1980 when the office was established. Azazi's co-ordination of intelligence and security apparatus in combating the insurgency has been unassailable, though superficially slow but steady. But this feat was rarely noticeable because many of the activities of security agents are not made public. No wonder that Blair said "Here and abroad, the times the terrorists have succeeded are all too well known. Less known are the times they have been foiled. The human life destroyed we can see. The billions of dollars every nation now spends is huge and growing. And they kill without limit."

I want to conclude by agreeing with all well-meaning Nigerians both Muslims and Christians that "we must be clear about how we win this struggle. We should take what security measures we can. But let us not kid ourselves. In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat. That means not just arguing against their terrorism, but their politics and their perversion of religious faith."

Therefore, this means that we must also champion "our values of freedom, tolerance and respect for others. It means explaining why the suppression of women and the disdain for democracy are wrong. The idea that elected governments are the preserve of those of any other faith or culture is insulting and wrong. Muslims believe in democracy just as much as any other faith and, given the chance, show it," Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

By Michael Awe is a Lagos-based journalist