Sambo Dasuki’s Approach to National Security (2) By Sabella Abidde
Continued from last week. read part one: Sambo Dasuki’s Approach To National Security (1) By Sabella Abidde
As of last week, I did not have access to the complete speech the National Security Adviser to the President, Sambo Dasuki, gave. Well, that has changed: I now have the full speech. While securing it, however, I was told that the NSA’s “thoughts and ideas were researched and developed over a two-year period.” If you read the speech in its entirety, you will agree with me: It is insightful, encompassing and profound. This is a different type of adviser: a man who has come to terms with the prevailing realities of national security, and who anticipates future challenges.
In January 2005, I penned a little-known essay wherein I introduced readers to the changing nature of national security. My concern then was that while much of the world had come to recognise economic inequity, environmental issues, international migration, terrorism, shifting demographics and other transcontinental challenges as part of the national security equation, Nigeria stuck to a tired and outdated model. Other essays followed. However, my September 2011, essay, entitled, Why security may never improve in Nigeria, garnered more traction.
Dasuki has three unique advantages. First, he was a high-ranking member of the Nigerian Armed Forces and was trained at military institutions at home and abroad. As a result, he has a real-world understanding of national security. Second, he is well-schooled. Public records indicate that he holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations, and a graduate degree in Security Policy Studies from George Washington University, Washington DC. Third, his activities since leaving the military, and before assuming his current position, indicate he understands the calculations and intricacies of domestic and global politics.
Now, let’s get to his Abuja speech of March 18, 2014 – the speech where he laid out his vision for the next phase of our collective security. Now, I must warn you: This is not a summary of his speech. But rather I have decided to focus on certain lines and paragraphs and make enunciations. First, Dasuki tells us that “the globalisation of threats has widened the horizon of the NSA’s primary role of framing policy and security reform,” as opposed to a time when “the office of the National Security Adviser was largely seen as concentrating on the protection of regimes.”
Second, citing the case of the United States in a post-9/11 world, he tells us that “terrorism compels a nation to reform its laws and processes,” hence Nigeria now has the “Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 and the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act 2013.” The NSA went on to tell us that “Section 1(A) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 rests the coordinating role in matters relating to terrorism on the Office of the National Security Adviser.”
In pursuant of Section 1(A) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011, his office established a Counter Terrorism Centre which “houses the Joint Terrorism Analysis Branch and the Behavioural Analysis and Strategic Communication Unit”– both of which enable his office to “better perform a coordinating role that has ensured intelligence sharing and cooperation amongst agencies.” He asserts that “this new spirit of cooperation has led to the disruption of a plethora of terrorist cells and prevented attacks across the country.”
He also allowed that “in consultation with our international partners, experienced academics and practitioners in security, select non-state actors have developed a counter-terrorism strategy (otherwise known as NACTEST) which defines roles and responsibilities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, as well as the role that the civil society has to play in the fight against violent extremism. The strategy was developed taking into account the root causes of terrorism.”
This NSA seems to be suggesting that national security is a collective endeavour – an endeavour that concerns us all. He also seems to be suggesting that unlike his predecessors in the 1960s through the Yar’Adua era, national security will no longer be about projection of military force alone. Every tier of government, the private sector and the civil society will be courted and encouraged to get involved.
In particular reference to terrorism – which is one of the major scourges of the 20th and 21st centuries – he averred: “There is not one particular path that leads to terrorism rather there are many, often complicated paths… such as poverty, joblessness, prolonged unresolved conflict, social injustice, a growing youth bulge.” Other than the “pull factors,” Dasuki also recognises other paths, the “push factors.” These include “unfulfilled desire for self-actualisation, wanting to belong, individual grievances or an identity deficit, one that confuses and creates a situation of conflict in identities based on religion, tribe or region.”
And if no one has told us before, Dasuki tells us that, “It is this identity conflict that fuels the narrative of the Jama’atu ahlul sunnah lidda’awati wal jihad and has proved so attractive to some of our youths.” Here he is referring to Boko Haram – that national security blight that has claimed the lives, innocence and convenience of more than 5,000 Nigerians. But of course, Boko Haram alone does not drive the new strategy Dasuki has embarked on.
His focus “has been to first, build up the capacity of government institutions and relevant security and para-military agencies on global best practices…Second, counter extremist narratives through words and deeds while promoting national values. Third, engaging and partnering states, local governments, the civil society and communities to counter radicalisation…Fourth, work with federal and state agencies involved in economic development, job creation and poverty alleviation.”
This approach, insofar as Nigeria is concerned, is new. It is different. It is radical. It is innovative. It is forward-looking and timely. And it is without doubt, workable and tenable.
I have always believed that any nation that does not genuinely tackle issues of basic needs is likely to have its security abridged. Such a nation would be courting disaster.
And finally, there is the issue of nationhood. This is an area that is perhaps, outside of the purview of Dasuki. But really, unless we address the question of nationhood, no amount of ideas and paradigms will save Nigeria and its people. How often do we identify with our country? Too many of us exploit and weaken it. We collude with domestic and foreign agents in the fragmentation and collapsing process.
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