Thursday, October 1, 2015 1:09 pm
STEPHEN OLUFEMI ONI/Ilorin.
A former Nigerian Ambassador to Angola, Clement Layiwola Laseinde, has made a strong case for the licensing of religious preachers in the country, Christians and Muslims alike, by government, as a radical way at checking the growing incidence of insurgency, especially in the north-eastern part of the country.
Laseinde, who was the keynote speaker at the opening of a three-day International Conference on National and Regional Security organised by the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin, was pissed off by what he described as the adversarial role being played by Nigerian media.
To the retired diplomat, who spoke on the theme: “Re-Thinking Strategies for National and Regional Security, Peace and Development in Africa”, most of the current reportage of government in Nigeria do not augur well for the overall objective of national security and development and they, lamentably, run counter to what prevails in developed climes.
To deal with terrorism, the ex diplomat stressed the need for stick and carrot approach, urging government to look at the vulnerable segment of the population, the youth and the unemployed, and take measures that would make unattractive to them any appeal to flirt with terrorists organisations. He said: “While there is need for the use of proportional force to ensure that there is order, rule of law and respect for citizen’s privacy and human rights, government should look at a soft approach of countering terrorism and extremism.”
He warned the federal government and security agencies not to sleep over the threat posed to Nigeria’s security by the Movement for the Actualisation for the State of Biafra (MASSOB) as well as militants in the Niger Delta area, saying they represent a present danger to Nigeria.
He said: “Documentation of strangers and licensing of preachers, both Muslims and Christians, will prevent the condition which allows all sorts of people, without adequate knowledge, to take to preaching to the masses and converting them to lean towards anti-social behaviour.
In his words: “As long as the government allows a free-for all (unchecked) preaching by some of those who call themselves religious scholars, there will always be the tendency that a few militant preachers with fundamentalist views will interpret their religion in such a way as to create discord between the government and the people on the one hand and between different religious groups on the other. When terrorism started in Nigeria they sent some of us in the office of the NSA to go and study countries where there is terrorism. We visited Indonesia, Singapore etc. One of the things you find out is that you can’t preach without a license. When we say this, people cry out but the Singaporean leader said the interest of the nation must be far above any other. They train you, monitor your preaching and if you begin to derail they stop you.”
“If Nigeria says it is not ready for this approach then it means we are not ready for peace. Maiduguri opened itself as a centre for religious scholarship so it welcomes all sorts of people from other neighbouring countries and they have their followers and we have seen the result. “
On the threat posed by MASSOB and Niger Delta militants, he said, “MASSOB will be a serious security challenge if not well handled. They are a present danger to any security agency. They have a flag, currency, national anthem and a radio station. What is not known is the level of support from people in that area. The Niger Delta militant issue is also a threat. You remember what they said before the election. They have a lot of guns. The fact that they have not begun anything does not rule out what they can do.”
While arguing that Nigerians have over dramatised the war against corruption, Laseinde said there should be more focus on the pillars of democracy, one of which is the press. He said: “In my view, we have over dramatised corruption in Nigeria. I am against corruption but it is a sign of weak governance. What we need to do is strengthen governance. You cannot run democracy when you don’t have the foundation for it. Democracy has six pillars: literacy which should be at about 75 per cent level as well as having about 10 per cent of your population in the solid middle class. Another pillar is to have a good justice system. I think in Nigeria we have that although the cultural issue is affecting them. Next is law enforcement where we are performing poorly. The first people here are the police. We need a really professional policing system. The problem we have is poor recruitment and training. You also need an independent press. Today we have an adversarial press which is fuelled by need to market their products. It is however affecting the image of Nigeria negatively. There are many countries that are more corrupt than Nigeria. I think it has rubbished us and we need to change. All those causing problem for us are not up to five percent of the population. Majority of Nigerians are not corrupt. I think there must be a balance between reporting news and damaging the image of your country.”
Earlier in his welcome address, Director of the Centre, Dr. Mahfouz Adedimeji, argued that the time was ripe for African leaders to develop appropriate strategies to deal with the several security challenges in the region without waiting on foreign powers to intervene. He commended the efforts by ECOWAS leaders in dealing with the recent power tussle in Burkina Faso as an example of the needed spirit in the present times