Of 2023 polls, insecurity and politics

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, prominent Nigerians including a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abdubakar 111, have raised concerns over the rising insecurity in the country; TOPE SUNDAY writes.

At the recently held 19th Daily Trust Dialogue, serious security concerns were raised ahead of the 2023 general elections by prominent Nigerians who attended the annual event. Leading the debate, a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, said Nigeria is at the crossroads, and identified insecurity as the major problem confronting the country’s existence.

Security overstretched?

Abubakar, who chaired the occasion, said the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, violent secessionist agitations, kidnappings and abductions of travelers across many states, had overstretched the security forces, lamenting that the epicenter of insecurity in the country had shifted from the northeast to the North-west.

 He said the insecurity in the country is worsened by the dire economic situation, stating that over 80 million Nigerians were still caught up in needless poverty.

“Nigeria is once again at a crossroads. Insecurity remains the single most difficult challenge for our country today. The Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, banditry in the northwest, violent secessionist agitations in the southeast, kidnappings and abductions of travelers across many states all continue to fester in the land.

“Add to these, ethnic, religious and communal conflicts are rearing their ugly heads again in many parts of the country. All of these have greatly challenged and overstretched our security forces. These challenges have caused thousands of deaths and millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria over the past 13 years. 

 “According to the Global Conflict Tracker compiled by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), some 350,000 persons have been killed and three million displaced directly or indirectly in the conflict in the northeast since 2009. Also, a report by Beacon Consulting, a Nigerian security risk consultancy here in Abuja, Nigeria recorded 574 cases of kidnappings and 431 confirmed fatalities in security incidents that cut across 29 states and 96 local government areas in December 2021 alone. About 75% of the kidnappings and 57% of the fatalities occurred in the North-west. 

“This is clear indication that the epicenter of insecurity in the country has shifted from the northeast to the northwest. A major cause of the insecurity in Nigeria is the proliferation of all calibres of weapons in Nigeria in particular, and in the West Africa sub-region generally,’’ he said.

Atiku’s view

In his remarks, a former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, who spoke extemporal, at the event, called on the leadership of the various ethnic nationalities across the country to watch their utterances and actions as the 2023 general elections approach.

Atiku, who also said all issues could be solved through dialogue and understanding, added that “this is a delicate point in the history of this country.”

He said, “Again, let me also comment on the issue of the ethnic nationalities who try to put obstacles, like Baba-Ahmed said, making it ungovernable in certain parts of the country. I think what we need to do is definitely as he recommended, there is a need to lower the temperature. And what is so disappointing about this, all these ethnic nationalities are being headed by people who are supposed to be very well educated. And this is the disappointing part of it.

“I also believe that it is solvable. It is solvable only through dialogue and understanding. So, this is a delicate point in the history of this country. And we must be very, very cautious on how we actually approach these issues, particularly in an election year between now and the 2023 elections. So, let me pause here and say that I have actually been ambushed to make those comments.”

Sultan’s admonition 

In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who was the father of the day at the event, said politics and national development “are too important to be left to politicians alone.”

He said all well-meaning Nigerians must come together and find solutions to their numerous problems, as nobody has all the answers to the world’s problems.

“Let’s close ranks and come together to see what we can do to move this country forward in peace and prosperity. I am one of those who so much believe in dialogue and I believe there cannot be too many dialogue sessions not only in this country but across the world because people see us everywhere talking to one another. That is the best way of resolving issues,” he said.

Govs versus competence

In his contribution, the spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, raised a poser that bothers on the competence of the governors, arguing that the country’s democracy is not working.

 “What qualifies the current class of governors to become governors? How does a country of 230 million to 250 million people end up with the kind of people with so much power as governors? There must be something really broken about our political system, our democracy that isn’t working. It is throwing up the wrong people to occupy and carry huge powers.

“Ninety per cent of our governors have no business being anywhere near power… They don’t have the preparation, the background, the competencies to be governors, and yet because of the democratic processes they won the elections… We have the wrong people wielding power over people that are desperate for new and effective leadership,” he said.

On the 2023 polls

Despite various allegations and suggestions, Abdulsalami called on the politicians to guard their words and deeds ahead of the 2023 general elections, and cautioned that the 2022 “is very crucial as the year preceding the 2023 general elections,” and urged Nigerians to embrace peace at all cost.

“…All of these developments make 2022 a very crucial year for the country and its people. This election year calls for statesmanship and patriotism. It calls for restraint among all politicians in words and deeds. And above all, it calls for serious social and economic programmes that would help pull Nigeria out of the woods,” he said.