General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, says a national conference to address Nigeria's structural problems may be the best way to tackle the Boko Haram challenge.
Anyaoku spoke at the golden jubilee lecture of the Nigerian Institute of Management entitled: Nigeria at 50: The Challenges of Nationhood.
He stressed that unless the country begins a quest to regenerate its values and the three tiers of government provide the necessary foundation for action, Nigeria may be on the edge of a precipice.
He emphasized that political players change their approach to political issues and power for the situation to improve.
The bombing of the police headquarters in Abuja, linked to Boko Haram, made Anyaoku to conclude that if the allegation of the suicide bombing was proven to be correct, the incident would compel people who thought that suicide bombing was not in the Nigerian character to rethink.
To curb Boko Haram, Anyaoku emphasized the need for the removal of the immunity clause from the constitution which restricts some political office holders from prosecution.
He noted that the prosecution of government officials would serve as a deterrent to other people who want to engage in the sponsoring a group like Boko Haram.
According to him: "When immunity clause is removed, all forms of security issues and corruption will drastically be reduced in Nigeria. Since the immunity comes from the top, other people will follow suit. The president and the governors should not have immunity from criminal offences. They should only have immunity for civil offences because constant law suits on civil matters will distort the day-to-day running of the country.
"Earlier on, the national concerns were the ethno-religious conflicts in communities in parts of northern Nigeria; and, following these, the conflictual situation in the Niger Delta region of the country.
"But as the federal and state governments concerned seemed to be succeeding in bringing these situations under control, the tragic post-elections violence occurred in some areas in the northern part of the country; and now there is the Boko Haram which is reported to claim responsibility for the murders in Borno State and the bomb blasts."
While harping on the need for a collective responsibility of the three tiers of government in curtailing the incessant killings, Anyaoku noted that good governance was the basis of the nation's security rejuvenation.
"Meeting these challenges that I have adumbrated is the collective responsibility of the three tiers of government: the Federal Government, and all the states and local governments in the country.
"If the allegation that a suicide bomber was involved in the police headquarters bombing is proven to be correct, this particular incident would compel those who thought that suicide bombing was not in the Nigerian character to think again."
He stressed that a national conference was necessary to tackle the issue of security, saying appropriately representative conference of the Nigerian peoples should be constituted to consider how Nigerian's present constitution can be reviewed and amended to reinforce progress towards the Nigerian nation.
"Our elections are still too expensive, and this puts them outside the reach of many good and honest politicians. This has bred the syndrome of what we now locally refer to as 'godfatherism' in Nigerian politics, a syndrome in which the rich hijack the entire political process and assume the status of pipers who dictate the tune.
"The struggle for political power has remained very vicious because politics has become a very lucrative occupation. The vast patronage network that adorns Nigerian politics has further aggravated the prebendal character of this politics and created a situation where the so-called 'godfathers' preside over a patron-client arrangement in the sharing of political offices,"the erstwhile Commonwealth scribe stated.
"This arrangement has also regrettably created the culture of inordinate lobbying that has consistently ousted good and honest people from political appointments, having made such appointments mere instruments for rewarding political loyalty, no matter how dubious."
Anyaoku explained that the continuing emphasis on zones and sections in the appointment to political offices, rather than on qualification and competence, "regrettably shows that, for a significant number of Nigerians, Nigeria is yet to arrive at the patriotic love for the Nigerian nation that is the driving force behind its political leaders and public office holders.
On the reason Boko Haram has survived for so long in its operations in Nigeria and is still succeeding, he stated that politicians are in the habit of using tribalism as a means of realizing their selfish interest.
"These days, it has been realized that in the pursuit of political powers, we fall back on primordial instinct to appeal to the people. To make matters worse, the struggle for political powers has remained vicious and dangerous because politics has become a lucrative business thus in a way ousting honest people in government", he said.
On corruption, the retired diplomat pointed out that the menace has been disturbingly resilient, adding that, by extension, it has encroached on our collective values.
The pro chancellor of University of Lagos, Mr. Gamaliel Onosode, who also spoke on the issue of corruption at the occasion, stated that the menace was deep in the body politic.
We should not delude ourselves to think that we should go back to the regional arrangement to reduce the prevalence of corruption," Onosode said.
He castigated the private and the public sectors for the decline in the nation's growth.
'Fifth columnists may be at work'
By Abdulwahab Abdulah
Mr. Taiwo Ayodeji, a media consultant, says government should tackle Boko Haram once and for all. He condemns the idea of amnesty or a round table discussion with the sect.
Everybody is worried about the economy and the social imbalances in Nigeria today, but the most critical is the issue of terrorism. What do you think about this development?
The most critical issue now is the Boko Haram incessant attacks. It is a kind of thing that deserves pragmatic and urgent attention because their activities must be quelled once and for all. It has a lot of implications for us as a nation, especially in area of our credibility in the eyes of other countries that we have diplomatic relations with and from those we are seeking foreign investments.
How can a sect be bombing everywhere and holding the country to ransom? It is not something we can fold our arms and keep watching the trend and allow the bombing to continue. It is becoming an attitude and a kind of bad symptom that we cannot deal with. We don't have a good security system. My feeling is that the president needs to call the shot, where he needs to. He needs to take a drastic action now for him to deliver the dividends of democracy expected of him,this is because if he fails now, the situation can even mar governance and pose a threat to his administration and things may soon get out of hand if he doesn't quell the actions of the sect.
Are we saying that the government cannot investigate and get to the roots of this matter once and for all? They should be able to investigate and fish out those behind these attacks and call them to order. Whatever may be the political underpinnings, whatever may be the interest of the groups behind this Boko Haram, we have to know that there is nobody that is above the law and whoever is found wanting be made to face the wrath of the law.
As an image-maker, do you think this issue of Boko Haram connotes anything about the Nigerian government?
The attacks here and there are creating the picture of unstable polity. Secondly, it is a potent hindrance to foreign investments probably coming into the country. Again, the world powers see us as a nation that cannot control our borders and have failed internal security. They see us as people who cannot provide security for their citizens and foreign investments coming into this economy.
Indeed, it is a very bad signal because it's painting us as a terrorist country where terrorists operate free. As a communication consultant, the situation is creating a very bad image for us that may cost us a lot of money and time to launder our image back before the world. With this development, nobody will come and invest in the country and truly we needed the investment for now.
Some highly placed Nigerians have been calling for dialogue or securing amnesty for those found culpable in this attack to solve the problems like we had in Niger Delta, how realistic is this?
When we talk about Niger Delta amnesty, that is the right kind of policy we need to put in place, because it is a different ball game entirely. What these people are clamouring for is that, there are a lot of resources coming out of their domain and what they are getting in returns is not commensurable. So, they are seeking more government presence in their area. That one is different from Boko Haram. It is tied to a lot of things like religious crises and political underpinnings. There is no religion that will propagate crises. Islam preaches peace and abhors killing people. So, they hide under different canopies. They are the enemies of Nigeria, they must be fished out and made to face trial and secure appropriate judgement. We are in a democratic setting; nobody should hold Nigeria to ransom.
A school of thought believes that they are being sponsored by politicians. How can the issue be addressed?
Those boys cannot just be operating without somebody engineering them. There are some big boys behind all these things within government and the security agencies. There should be aligned forces. It has gone beyond the police. Boko Haram is now an instrument in the hands of politicians. This may be a personal opinion, some people don't like the present president to be in power. That is why fighting and bombing everywhere. It doesn't speak well of us the way the foreign media has been reporting this crisis as if Nigeria is not safe and people should not go there and do business.
Unconfirmed security report indicated that some members of the group are coming from outside the country. How can this be addressed to guarantee the state of our security?
This will take us to other issues, such as the issue of spate of unemployment in this country, which is very high. Two, the level of our development is poor. There are lots of foot paths that people take to beat immigration. The immigration department doesn't have all the necessary tools to secure our borders.
Now, if we don't address all these issues and we are seeking foreign investments, we are joking. Now, virtually, nearly all multinational companies in Nigeria are relocating to Ghana. In the north, there are lots of idle hands, people are not encouraged to go to school.
So, you will find out that people who are miscreants are on the high side in the north. We need to address issues like social reformation scheme. That is why we insist that the president should appoint functional ministers that can perform, that are proactive and are interested in the well being of Nigeria. Education should be one of the priority of the present government. They said "idle hand is a devil's workshop" and there are so many people who are idle. When you are pushed to the wall and you are idle, you can do anything. You can be used by the enemy.
We have been wrongly told that Boko Haram a war between Islam and Christian. It is a very wrong notion, it is just a set of youths who don't have a home, who don't have a means of livelihood. Give arms and ammunitions to a youth without a job, he would do something with it. As long as we have the army of unemployed youths on the high side, we will continue to have this security problem.