A former Secretary to the Anambra State Government, Mr Oseloka Obaze, speaks with TONY OKAFOR on the rising insecurity and the need to establish regional security outfit in the South-East, among other issues

Why do you think the South-East governors are delaying the establishment of a central security outfit for the region?
From the outside, it might seem that the South-East governors are not doing enough, but I am aware that they are fully engaged. I also know that the South-East people, as well as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, are pushing them to be overtly proactive to reassure the Ndigbo that Igbo land is secure. The South-East Security Committee is also at work. From a policy perspective, one-size security arrangement will not fit every regional need. The South-West, North-East, South-East and South-South regions all have their respective security needs and peculiarities. As such, each zone must fashion out what works best for them to secure their respective zones. Whatever the states or regions plan to do, must, however, be done in partnership with the Federal Government to ensure synergy.

How would you assess the regional security challenges of the country?
The core tenets of security are universal. Security is about collaborative teamwork. The South-West governors have teamed up to do their bit. The North has come up with its model. Now it’s up to the South-East governors to do their part, taking into account peculiarities and needs of the south-East region, but they cannot do so unilaterally under the present circumstances. Ultimately, the South Eastern states, which by the way have their respective state vigilante outfits, will have to rally together. What might be different is that they will have better inter-state command, coordination, as well as agreed response modalities. The way I see it, since there are no regional legislatures to pass the enabling laws, whatever the South-East states decide to do on security, must be state-based. I envisage that they will agree on a common name, nomenclature and operational template.

Do you think setting up of security outfits by geo-political zones will solve the problem of insecurity in the country?
Perhaps not, but it will enhance the overall security and give the local population peace of mind. The goal is to undertake measures that will enhance the efficacy of existing security architecture and solve existing problems. Whatever security arrangements we have in place presently are not working efficiently. But if improving on them means each geopolitical zone or each federating unit being allowed to pick what works best for them on security, then, so be it. I believe that some form of decentralisation will enhance the efficient delivery of security services across the board.  The ultimate and holistic answer to our national security challenges is regional policing, state policing or community policing, then each federating unit must be allowed to pick what works best for them.

What are your concerns over insecurity in Anambra State?
The long-standing security regime and foundation laid in Anambra State has been improved on. Comparably, Anambra is safer than many other states, but you can never be ambivalent about security. Insecurity is very dynamic; it can be spontaneous or creeping. What matters most, is sustainability and eternal vigilance.

Your party, the Peoples Democratic Party, is mobilising to recover the governorship seat of Anambra that it lost to All Progressives Grand Alliance in 2003. Do you think this can be realised in the 2021 governorship election?
An Igbo adage says you ‘don’t cut your nose to spite your face’. Another says that when ‘an aged woman trips twice, the village children will count the contents of her basket’.

So, how ready is your party for the 2021 governorship election? 
The PDP in Anambra is not factionalised, I don’t think so. We have one chairman. Chief Ndubisi Nwobu and one state executive members. And as far as I know, Anambra PDP is not due for a state congress until the last quarter of 2021, actually after the governorship election. I must admit, however, that there are some people within on the fringes of the party, who like to create uncertainties that give impetus to ‘mercantile politics’. Such persons believe that we are yet in another ‘trading season.’ But my personal view is that the party is supreme and must ensure discipline within its rank and file. Those who undermine the party ought to be disciplined. We witnessed such disciplinary actions in the recent past.

The PDP has said it is not going to zone the governorship ticket for the Anambra 2021 election to any zone. If that is the case, will you be vying for the governorship slot?
Zoning is a red herring since it’s party-based. And what is applicable is what the party constitution says. If the operative words here are thrown open, it presupposes that the party is jettisoning its extant zoning policy, which is not the case. As far as I know, PDP is not into zoning. As to my disposition, since 2017 when I have been in the race: I remain in the race and will always be in the race because I have been proactively engaged in the process of engendering purposeful leadership and sustainable development change to Anambra State. Like most, I remain painfully conscious of Anambra’s need for a skilled leader that is committed to redirecting the state towards sustainable development and greatness. I am also mindful that Anambra has experienced huge missed opportunities and loss of time, financial and material resources. That ought to be redressed urgently.
The Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai recently called for a power shift to the south in 2023. What is your take on it?
I am sufficiently not to second-guess the esteemed Governor of Kaduna State. I don’t always agree with him, but I respect him. In this instance, he seems to have hit the right chord. But circumspection is called for when dealing with strangers bearing gifts. In reality, however, anyone talking about power not shifting to the south in 2023 cannot be deemed serious and indeed, does not wish Nigeria well. That said, the south as a collective, has to be strategic in handling this matter. Once you encounter an intra-south jostling and bickering, the  default option will kick in, which is to maintain the status quo. That will be utterly unacceptable. Now, let me be frank and categorical even at the risk of being controversial. If the northern elite want Nigeria to stay whole, they must voluntarily yield to reform and restructuring. Such reforms will benefit the North immensely in terms of poverty alleviation, enhanced education, and development. We have a large swathe unemployed and under-educated youth population in this country. The majority are domiciled in the North. That is a ticking time-bomb. These challenges must be addressed. If Nigeria, which has been ruled predominantly by the northerners, has not done so well even in the North, it becomes commonsensical to try other leadership alternatives. Routinely, the number one and two positions in this country will always rotate between the North and the South, yet any position allotted to the South will also rotate between the South-East, South-West and South-South. The upshot is that the necessary concessions will be made when the cost of not doing so outweighs the cost of doing so. As I see it, restructuring will be incremental rather than a one-off event. We already see that manifesting in the security sector reform and governance.

With the spate of killings currently experienced in the country, do you think the President, Major General  Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) still has a grip and control of this country?
National security is a joint and shared responsibility. The people, the federal, state and local governments have their respective roles to play in ensuring national security. But the security of the citizens is the primary responsibility of the government. And in a democracy, the buck stops on the desk of the President. I’m sure Mr President is fully aware of the huge outcry about the spiralling insecurity in the country. I believe he must have at his disposal, intelligence and security assessments, which we are not privy to. He alone can determine what scope of national resources he needs to deploy to mitigate the prevailing insecurity. From where I stand, I believe this nation has sufficient human and materiel resources, to dominate the national security environment. If the will is there, then the way is also there.

Are you nursing any fear that Nigeria is at the brink of collapse?
I wrote an op-ed recently titled ‘Nigeria is dying’, which elicited mixed reactions. While many applauded the candour and vehemence of the piece, a few considered it hysteric. I was not the one who made the intelligence assessment that Nigeria was on the brink and approaching its tipping point and might implode. Those of us, who do analysis or scream ourselves hoarse, do so to ensure that such apocalyptic assessments do not become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t personally know anyone who prays for Nigeria to disintegrate or collapse. But our people want true change and discernible reform, which falls under the broad rubric of restructuring. Yet it will be the ultimate fallacy, to be complacent or think that Nigeria is too big to become a failed state. There are nations, which remain nations and only so in name, but in reality, have been internally dismembered by internecine violence and visceral sectarian or ethnic conflicts. We must work hard to avoid such fate.

As a former diplomat, what impact will a travel ban on Nigeria by the United States have on the relationship between the two countries?
It has little or no impact, whatsoever, but that does not mean we should fold our arms and not react. Our international system promoted globalisation and still support its core values. Yet, each nation-state must protect its sovereignty, national interests and security. Once a country perceives that a counterpart nation has become a weak link in the collectivised security mechanism, it will have no choice but to resort to unilateral measures. That is what happened to Nigeria in this instant. In the post 9/11 environment, and proliferation of terrorism, we have to take our bilateral relations with the US seriously and not allow matters of mutual interest to fall through the crack. It is therefore incumbent on us to address the US security concerns in a multi-disciplinary way; which means we must look at the foreign, domestic and enforcement dimensions. We must look at how our relations with third parties might impact on the US strategic interests. In tackling the US concerns, we will invariably be addressing our security shortcomings and challenges.
Axact

ANAMBRA UPDATE

Anambra Update is an independent publication, established in 2012 for the purpose of presenting balanced coverage of events, and of promoting the best interests of Anambra and Ndigbo in extention. It owes allegiance to no political party, ethnic community, religious or other interest group. Its primary commitment is to the integrity and sovereignty of the Federation of Nigeria, and beyond that to the unity and sovereignty of Igbo Social-Cultural Race

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