How to Foster Security, National Development in Nigeria #Realnews4thAnniversaryLecture

Fri, Nov 18, 2016
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Ibn Chambas, special representative of the secretary general of the United Nations for West Africa and Sahel, advocates dialogue as an essential pillar for peace, security and development, pointing out that Africa is weak at early warning, early intervention and action in preventing conflict from breaking and spreading

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Nov 28, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

IT was a day of great expectation. And from the look of things, Ibn Chambas, special representative of the secretary-general of the United Nations, UN, for West Africa and the Sahel, and the discussants met the aspirations of more than 150 men and women from all walks of life including security experts, ambassadors and academics who came to listen to them. Chambas, the guest lecturer at the Realnews fourth anniversary lecture thrilled the audience as he spoke on “Security and National Development in a Plural Democratic Society”. This concerns the challenge of how to create an enabling environment for national development and democracy while ensuring the security of the State and its citizens, according to Chambas.

He shared some reflections with special reference to Nigeria and the West Africa sub region.  In his view, today, Nigeria maintains the position of Africa’s largest economy. The diverse character of its population of over 170 Million, its youthfulness and multi-ethnic and religious composition make the country a peculiar mosaic. “While others may see this as many mouths to feed, it is also good to point out that this population is a formidable market force and an asset to economic development, particularly if you take into account the entrepreneurial nature of Nigerians”, he said.

Commending the tangible achievements of Nigeria in promoting national development and human security, Chambas cited President Muhammadu Buhari’s End-point Report 2015 on the Millennium Development Goals to buttress his point.

“The experience of Nigeria presents a bag of mixed results. On the positive side Nigeria improved its hitherto very poor health indices and low-gender parity index, among other indicators.  This translated into the reduction of maternal and child poverty and getting Nigeria on the way to eradicating polio through effective national and international partnership.  These efforts aided the reduction in the spread of malaria and HIV and AIDS; and achievement of higher net enrolment rate in basic education and gender parity in the primary school. They also led to improved access to safe drinking water.

“On the negative side, Nigeria still has a lot to do to improve access to good sanitation facilities and curb the menace of climate change and other environmental challenges such as pollution, desertification, erosion and flooding.”

“Maybe most important was the renewed commitment of Nigeria, reiterated by the President, to pursue the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), so as to lift many Nigerians out of poverty and deprivation.”

The new development framework provided by the SDGs adopted by the General Assembly last year, reflects a new thinking on the linkages between development and security. The goals related to achieving peace, security, development and the rule of law can, and should be pursued simultaneously, he said. “They are interdependent, in fact mutually reinforcing; – there is no development without peace, security and the rule of law.  On the other hand no peace can be long lasting without development”.

The UN special representative was very sad to read: “The net enrolment rates in primary and secondary schools which had registered commendable progress in the past have, however, been halted by the effects of insurgency in the North-east geopolitical zone.

“This is an example of a situation where the absence of security has a direct impact on development. The ability of the State to provide education to its citizens and prepare the next generation to enter the labour market is compromised.  Citizens are deprived of their right to education.  This is reflected by Chambas’ visit on Wednesday, November 16, to Bornu State where the UN is scaling up so as to meet the human crisis that is emerging as a result of Boko Haram insurgency”, he said.

Deputy Corps Marshal, Ojeme Ewhrudjakpor receiving the Investiture Plaque
[L-R] Deputy Corps Marshal Ojeme Ewhrudjakpor receiving Investiture Plaque from Mallam Wada Abdullahi Maida during the 4th anniversary lecture and investiture into the Realnews Hall of Fame in Abuja

This made him to reflect on the critical challenges governments are facing in delivering services to their citizens and which may constitute obstacles to achieving the SDGs. “These are the challenges we face and which we must collectively address in order to maintain the rule of law, ensure peace, security and national development,” he said.

However, Chambas is optimistic that progress is being made even though the picture of the situation on ground seems bleak – all because of the resilience of Nigeria. “An interesting example is the Bring Back our Girls movement, which united Nigerians across ethnic and religious lines to fight aggression by Boko Haram against the nation…

“In the mist of all these challenges, what has stood out most conspicuously is the determination of the Nigerian people to overcome the challenges confronted.  We must not forget the entrepreneurial spirit and prowess of Nigerians, the innovative zeal of its youths and intellectual capacity. These are indicators of a promising nation.  I remain, therefore, always hopeful that the best is yet to come,” he said.

Chambas said Nigeria set an extraordinary example in the general elections of last year, with a peaceful transfer of power. “All the odds were against it. All the countries of the region were watching with keen interest. The outgoing and incoming Presidents were true statesmen, placing the security of the nation first. They refused to use Nigeria’s security challenges as a pretext for compromising the election results.

“This is a lesson for West Africa but also for other parts of the continent where we see security concerns being manipulated to undermine democracy.  And in my work in the region I always cite the good examples of Nigeria.”

He also said that a very positive development in the region is the strengthening of democracy.  General elections have been held peacefully in a number of West African countries in the past year.  In addition to Nigeria, elections were held this year in Niger, Benin and Cape Verde.  Elections in Ghana next month are expected to run smoothly.  West Africa can serve as a model to other regions.  We must also recognize the role and contribution of ECOWAS, particularly in monitoring elections.

This is first and foremost a reflection of political commitment to the respect for the rule of law, consensus building, and recognition that peace and security are fundamental to development.

“Regional organisations such as ECOWAS are playing a critical role in tackling cross-border challenges in West Africa, both through the adoption of normative frameworks and through operational partnerships with member states and regional and international entities.

“Governments are working closer together to counter the threat to national security.  Nigeria has played an important and critical role, dating back to the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia. And today, its leadership of the Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF, fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, is decisive.   We at the UN are very pleased with the partnership we have established with the four countries countering Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin.”

He referred to a landmark development in the region with regards to security and development:  Military coups d’états, or self-appointed leadership, to call things by their names, have become a phenomenon of the past in West Africa. “Empowered by social media, citizens are increasingly speaking up for democracy, against protracted regimes associated with the past. This is good news.   In our region we have a zero tolerance for non-constitutional regime change.”

Another important opportunity for national development in Nigeria and the region is the role of civil society in promoting a pluralistic society. West Africa has an exceptionally vibrant and well-organised civil society with broad exposure to and knowledge of democratic governance. In many ways, Nigeria could perhaps be seen as the ‘cradle of civil society’ given the multitude of strong voices and advocacy here.

“Engaging civil society in our efforts to find peaceful solutions to national and trans-national security challenges lead to building societies based on the rule of law and peaceful coexistence. We must embrace all our constituencies, including teachers, shopkeepers, medical personnel, religious leaders, farmers and herders, women and youth.

“The developmental solution to today’s challenges lies in the hands of entrepreneurs operating in key economic sectors.  They are the drivers of growth and prosperity upon which Nigeria depends.

“It seems very relevant therefore, to listen to what the business world, and the private sector in particular, has to say about the current development opportunities in Nigeria. An environment of peace and security is essential for business to thrive and for the private sector to make their contribution to the creation and distribution of wealth.  While the private sector play a key role in poverty reduction through the creation of wealth we must make sure that the prosperity that is created in all-inclusive.  When the creation of wealth leads to the concentration in a few hands we undermine our long-term security,” he said.

He said that national dialogue is a critical process to rebuild societies after conflict. Nigeria has organised a number of such national conferences in the past to promote national unity around key issues.

“I am a strong proponent of such dialogues. At the same time, we need to invest more resources and new thinking into making national dialogues more inclusive and representative.  We must address the unmet grievances of populations at the periphery.

“We have to deal with the source of decades-long crises and conflicts, often manifested along ethnic, religious and cultural lines.  This is essential to securing the nexus of peace, security and development.

“Dialogue as an essential pillar for peace, security and development is championed by the United Nations. The healthy dialogue which has upheld and sustained Nigeria all these years should be harnessed and strengthened. But we must also build the courage to act on the outcomes of national conferences and consultations.   What we are weak at is early warning, early intervention and action in preventing conflict from breaking and spreading.

“There is an increased awareness today in West Africa of the importance of promoting women’s leadership and participation in governance.

[L-R] Mallam Wada Abdullahi Maida, Chairman Board of Directors Peoples Media Ltd, Don Awunah, Deputy Commissioner of Police Representative Inspector General of Police, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of United Nations, Chief Mrs. Edith Mike Ejezie, Senior Adviser to the Governor Anambra Laisson Office Abuja, Mr. Alex Cummings Presidential Hopeful Liberia, Deputy Corps Marshal, Ojeme Ewhrudjakpor, Head of Department Operations and Maureen Chigbo Publisher/editor of Realnews during the 4th anniversary lecture and investiture into the Realnews Hall of Fame in Abuja

“Without inclusivity and women’s participation, development will be skewed and that will undermine democracy. It is no longer tenable to lock out more than 50% of the population from critical leadership positions across all sectors. I have been impressed by efforts of several governments in the region to prioritize the participation of women in governance.

“Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Cabo Verde, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Niger have provisions in place to increase women’s participation in national parliaments and electoral processes. They have quotas and gender parity laws for this purpose. Most of these countries have a 30 percent quota for women’s participation in parliament. Senegal has a 50 percent gender parity law; Togo has gender parity provisions in its Electoral Code. However, merely having these affirmative action provisions is not enough. They must be implemented to truly empower women.  Both Ghana and Nigeria are lagging behind and we must do a special effort to catch-up.

“As head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, I am working with ECOWAS and key UN partners to promote the participation of women in the political process as critical pillar for the strengthening of a democratic and plural society.

“We engage in advocacy around elections to encourage national electoral commissions to embrace gender-responsive electoral laws. We support gender-responsive constitutional reform processes. We have done this in Liberia (2011) and Sierra Leone (2012) for example,” he said.

Chambas stressed that “it is so important to invest in education and income-generating activities for youth. This is because it is a sure investment in development and peace building.  It is an investment in the future.

“President Buhari has repeatedly emphasised the need to boost the education of youth as a counter-balance to Boko Haram’s appeal to them.  Unemployed youth are vulnerable to joining violent and extremist groups. Involving youth in the development process, consulting representatives of young women and men, is critical in ensuring their participation in development initiatives,” he said.

“In order for these appeals to be reached the targeted audience, the media must play a strong role in the promotion of peace, security and development. This is because terrorist thrive on their distorted narratives.  We must be aggressive in presenting counter narratives to the terrorists.

“The kind of mobilisation required to reverse the current security threats in Nigeria requires a committed, dutiful and vibrant media which places national interest and social cohesion above all sectional concerns. Freedom of expression equally implies advocating for nation-building, national development, the defense of the values of pluralism, and accountability of public officials,” he said.

He said that a new vision and thinking has led to the adjusting of the UN’s current peace, security and development toolbox to a changing global environment.  First, there is a common understanding that military and law enforcement responses alone are not adequate to counter terrorism, prevent violent extremism, and ensure peace and security.

Alternative approaches addressing the conditions conducive to terrorism; respect for human rights; building strong institutions for development and promoting the rule of law are equally essential.  In other words we must tackle the root causes of terrorism.

“In this regard, we need to think harder about how to tackle security threats without hampering social and economic development and without infringing on fundamental human rights.  The new approach also highlights the important contributions of women to peacemaking and development.

He cited the address on the 2016 International Peace Day in September of the Ban Ki Moon, secretary general, during which he called for a new paradigm shift on how we approach peace. He qualified the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as pillars for peace.  In this way, peace becomes the centerpiece of all development endeavors.

He said that countries emerging from conflict and investing their resources in nation-building have also to address the ruthless threat posed by organised crime and terrorism. “I have also expressed to you my assessment that we are making progress in spite of the challenges that we face and we have to acknowledge.

“The nexus between democracy, the rule of law, development and peace is getting clearer and the efforts to achieve them more holistic. We are making progress.  I have also mentioned some of the key ingredients for our success, such as the involvement of civil society, the full participation of women, the private sector, the media and youth in the development process.  I have also mentioned the resilience of Governments of the region, particularly Nigeria, in ensuring the development of their people and their efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.  These goals need to be embraced at all levels, just as we did for MDGs in measuring progress towards development.  A meeting with the private sector and Secretary-general last year provided us with the opportunity to gauge how the private sector was supporting Government in addressing the Goals. The implementation of the SDGs will be equally important as a comprehensive framework for initiatives in the North-east of Nigeria in countering the social and development damages resulting from Boko Haram insurgency.

“While we need both visionary leadership and the active participation of a robust civil society to ensure continued national development in a plural democratic environment, I would like to insist that we all have a role to play as citizens.  This is well enshrined in the Constitution of Nigeria that starts with the words: “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

“Each Nigerian has a role to play and each has a stake in our democracy,” Chambas said.

Contributing, Alex Cummings, presidential hopeful, Liberia, and former chief executive officer of Coca Cola, Africa, who was a discussant at the lecture,  said that national security starts with economic security. ‘’I believe that without economic security national security will never be. When we have a situation of very high unemployed men and women, when people don’t have something to protect; something to believe in; they are very susceptible to violence, to ideologies that are not conducive to their values. So, unless we proactively, aggressively and systematically address the issues of economic security, national security will not be dealt with properly.

‘So our priority as we think about economic security is one that surrounds job creation, creating jobs for millions of young people who are unemployed and underemployed. We will do that by providing vocational training, addressing infrastructure, by refocusing on opportunities to create jobs, teachers training, all of these things will help us address the issues of security,’’ Cummings said. He added that investment in infrastructure is critical to providing national security.

Also, Don Awunah, Force public relations officer, who represented Ibrahim Idris, inspector general of police raised posers that will engender national security and development, stressing that there will be a new in policing in Nigeria to create the right atmosphere for development to thrive.

‘’We need to take a general concept of what we mean by security. Do we use our diversity as strength? How do we make Nigeria great again? Do we use the tribes, ethnicity to elect yourself to an office or do we use the diversity as a strength? Our democracy, they say, is evolving. How are we evolving it? Is it traditionally or nationally? We must make a distinction between security, national development and democracy. For us, in the police, our stand is in the democracy where every other security agencies collaborate and complement one another,’’ he said.

In her discussion, Ojime Ewhrudjakpor, assistant corps marshal, who represented Boboye Oyeyemi, corps marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, said : ‘’When there is no security democracy suffers’’.

Some of the people at the lecture, who spoke to Realnews, were unanimous that both the lecturer and discussants fulfilled their expectations. As Tajudeen Kareem said : ‘’I was elated and felt that the whole lecture was elucidating and all encompassing. He showed deep knowlegde from the point of a dilpomat, who has the grasp of the challenges of Africa as epitomises by Nigeria’’.