I have come across a few write-ups presenting arguments on the caliber of person President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should appoint as his National Security Adviser. While some argue in favour of someone with a military background, preferably a retired general, others think otherwise. Those who argue in favour of a retired military general mention the fact that the threats confronting the nation are mostly from non-state actors, who are well equipped with military-grade weapons against the Nigerian state. All the operations conducted against these groups are by the military, with the police and other security agencies playing minor roles. It is instructive therefore that the NSA should be someone who understands the security environment in which the traditional military security remains very relevant.
Beyond understanding the essence of the military’s counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, anti-banditry, anti-kidnapping, anti-piracy, and many other operations, the NSA should be a person who also should be well-equipped with adequate knowledge that would enable him or her assess, analyze, and advice on political and socio-economic issues that impact on national security. In other words, the NSA should additionally be someone with exposure and experience in analytical research in aspects of human security, such as education, health, environment, food or agriculture, poverty, unemployment, etc.
Another area of concern is border security and management. Cross-border criminal activities are pervasive along Nigeria’s land and coastal porous borders. The NSA should therefore have the capacity to pursue regional efforts, especially among ECOWAS, ECCAS, the Sahel, and Lake Chad Basin regions, in order to tackle arms proliferation, cross-border terrorism, trafficking in drug and persons, and smuggling of prohibited goods.
In one of the blogs, someone argued that in the US the NSA is not of military background. This is just an assumption because most US political appointees have had some military experience, either in National Guard or the regular military. But what is relevant in countering such argument is the fact that in most cases, threats to US national security are reflected in the country’s national interests outside the US territory. This is not the case with Nigeria whereby the nation is confronted by violent insurgency, terrorism, and extremism within.
The application of conflict resolution mechanisms in dealing with conflicts and crisis threatening Nigeria’s national security is also of priority, because use of force alone cannot produce the results needed. This is why the NSA should be familiar with such mechanisms, to include capacity in crisis management and alternative dispute resolution.
I can’t think of anyone who is eminently more qualified to advise the President on matters of national security like the former Chief of Army Staff and former Minister of Interior, Lt Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau (Rtd). In terms of knowledge, experience, and expertise, and going by the President’s earlier pronouncement on “Government of National Competence”, then this is the most suitable person for that job of NSA. He is a 1989 PhD Criminology graduate from the UK, following his earlier degrees BSc Criminal Justice and two Masters in Higher Educational Adminstration and International Relations. He is a Fellow and Associate of Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, in addition to certification in the Harvard national and international security program. He possesses certification of the Harvard Law School Mediation Program. The general has been involved in scholarly research, especially on African Regional security since he left military service, and has been a Senior Fellow at Center for Democracy and Development, University of Massachusetts.
At home, he is a Fellow, Society for Peace Studies and Practice, University of Ibadan. Politically, he has been a very active APC party member since 2014, and his contributions to its success has been tremendous.