National Security Adviser (NSA) Gen. Owoye Azazi ruffled feathers with his statement that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cannot wash its hands of the Boko Haram menace. Since then he has come under attacks. RAHEEM ABDULSALAM examines the implications of the general’s comment on the polity.
NOTHING hurts like truth. And nothing drives this fact home than the reactions generated by National Security Adviser (NSA) Gen. Owoye Azazi’s candid assessment of the prevailing security situation. Speaking at the Second South-South Economic Summit in Asaba, Delta State, last month, the NSA said elements within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) helped create the environment that created the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
“The issue of violence did not increase in Nigeria until when there was a declaration by the current President that he was going to contest. PDP got it wrong from the beginning. The party started by saying Mr. A can rule, and Mr. B cannot rule, according to PDP convention, rules and regulations and not according to the Constitution. That created the climate for what is happening. Is it possible that somebody was thinking that only Mr. A could win, and if he did not win, he could cause a problem in the society?”
Azazi was quoted as saying
Expectedly, the reactions were mixed. Some praised Azazi, others lashed him. In the maze of reactions, there seems to be an attempt to bend logic. In some cases, the truth is being rejected even by those who should appreciate it the most. These developments notwithstanding, some have counselled about the need to look critically at the import of the message, even without giving credit to the messenger for his penetrating perceptions.
For instance, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) urges Nigerians to look beyond politics in considering Azazi’s comment.
Addressing reporters in Lagos, AYCF President Alhaji Yerima Shettima said rather than crucifying Azazi, the security agencies should look at the fundamental issues he raised. “Azazi’s office is not political. He owes a duty to Nigeria. The security issue makes the survival of the nation more important than a political party. Nigerians are all aware of comments made during elections by some politicians who felt that because they lost their chances for the presidency, they would make the nation ungovernable. “We cannot continue to run the nation like a banana republic. In other climes, people who make such inflammatory political comments would be the first to be picked for investigation and questioning,’’ Shettima said.
Rather than castigate Azazi, he said, the security agencies should go back to the drawing board to tackle the root cause of the problem. “Azazi was appointed by a PDP-led government. For him to boldly make such allegations knowing the implications is enough reason for the nation to support him in doing whatever it takes to bring those involved to book,” Shettima said, adding that Azazi’s responsibility is not to wage war but to advise.
Assistant Secretary-General of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states and Abuja, Rev. Cornelius Fawenu, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to dismiss calls for Azazi’s removal over the issue.
Azazi, he said, should rather be commended for being forthright and sincere in his opinion, adding: “The cure to any ailment starts with proper diagnosis and doctors need not to be afraid of telling their patients the causes of their problems. Azazi should, therefore, be commended and not condemned for his forthrightness. It is the lack of Azazi’s kind of forthrightness, to call a spade a spade, that continues to allow impunity to thrive in the nation. All honest Nigerians should appeal to Jonathan to resist any attempt to remove Azazi on account of his courage to speak the truth.”
But former Kaduna State Governor Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Campaign for Democracy (CD), among others, are calling for Azazi’s head. The PDP too is not happy with the NSA.
However, former chairman of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Mr. Denzil Kentebe, said those calling for Azazi’s resignation are pursuing selfish and ethnic agenda.
According to Kentebe, Azazi’s statement confirms President Goodluck Jonathan’s comment that Boko Haram has infiltrated the government.
“What then has the general said that has made the demand for his resignation a common talk? The President himself said early in the year that there are members of Boko Haram in government. Are members of government not also PDP members?”
He said nobody would deny that the sophistication, boldness and level of violent attacks in the country had increased since Jonathan became President. He described Azazi as a professional, noting that the NSA’s job is to advise the President on security issues concerning Nigerians and not to be a partisan PDP member or make pronouncements to satisfy the party.
Was Azazi wrong in saying PDP placed its conventions above the Constitution? To millions of Nigerians, he appears to be clear and unambiguous about the undemocratic practices of PDP and the consequences. Last month, former President Ibrahim Babangida rated PDP undemocratic after its convention which produced national officers. Although the party is only toeing the path it has followed since inception, there are indications that a continuation along that line may be disastrous.
All hope is not lost as some people are still working towards resolving the current security situation. At the South-south Economic Summit, the NSA explained the multidimensional challenges involved in tackling Boko Haram. “The situations that created the problems are not just about religion, poverty or the desire to rule Nigeria. I think it is a combination of everything; except you address all those things comprehensively, it would not work. It is not enough for us to have a problem in 2009 and you send soldiers to stop the situation, driving all those involved underground. You must look at what structures you need to put in place to address the problem holistically,” he said.