Mailafiya, Na’abba and DSS’s Role in Conflict De-escalation

By Mohammad Dahiru Lawal

As Nigeria inches towards the 2023 general elections in a state of security apprehensions across the Nation, alignments along religious, regional, partisan and ethnic lines have continued to emerge by the day creating a vacuum for vulnerability where conflict can easily be used as a tool to a political end.

With the Nigerian dynamics, such constellations are an easy pass for rising social tension and conflict escalation especially in hotbed areas. As such, it may only take leaders who reconcile within themselves that their ambition is not worth the blood of the people they stand for – apologies to former President Jonathan – and that their actions and utterances is key to mutual understanding, peaceful coexistence and reduction of a potentially violent situation in such an indispensable political formation, thanks to our diversity.

For those whose ambition is a do or die thing – apologies to former President Olusegun Obasanjo – it is the duty of the system to check such actors; an action in which the Department of State Service, DSS were commendably proactive in taking, with recent utterances from two notable Nigerian Political figures, Dr. Obadiah Mailafiya and Ghali Umar Na’abba.

After all, structural functionalism teaches us that society is an organism whose entire system has to be in good working order for systemic equilibrium to be maintained. However, when there is a shock to the system, society becomes disorientated, allowing for collective violence.

Last week, in a highly controversial statement capable of heating the Nigerian Polity, Mailafiya, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and Presidential candidate of African Democratic Congress, ADC, in the 2019 election had without substantiation, claimed during a radio interview program that a sitting northern governor is the commander of the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria – “sitting” and “northern” being the two keywords capable of pitching one Nigerian against another and killings will not be farfetched.

On another front, Na’abba, a former speaker of the Federal House of Representatives and co-Chairman of the National Consultative Front, NCF, described Nigeria as a failed state and said Nigerians have a right to self-determination.

While Na’abba has the right to his opinion, the concept of the call for “self-determination” is not something intelligence circles will take for granted especially in a country grappling with pockets of agitation from dissatisfied quarters for a break up.

Surprisingly, a month before the two incidents, the spokesperson of DSS, Peter Afunanya had issued an alert that some prominent personalities and socio-cultural groups may resort to divisive acts through inciting statements aimed at pitting individuals, groups and ethnic nationalities against another. He therefore warned that the service would not tolerate the orchestrations by subversive tendencies to cause a breakdown of law and order in the country.

As a security and intelligence outfit that has constantly adapted to increased roles necessitated by evolving security threats in Nigeria, the DSS are not naïve to the fact that there are diverse linkages between utterances, actions and security including risks of conflict, national security concerns, critical national infrastructure, geo-political rivalries and threats to human lives, as such they did what they had to do to de-escalete a brewing conflict situation.

Over the last several years’ research has examined anew the potential for utterances and actions to induce political conflict and potentiate social unrest. Several explanations for the relationship between this and social unrest have been proposed key of which is the fact that dangerous utterances and actions may increase the risk of violent conflict. History is replete with cases in point.

In this context, that the DSS handled this situation professionally is not debatable more so, that the duo of Mailafiya and Na’abba have in their separate media briefings commended the DSS for treating them with decorum and respect devoid of intimidation, molestation and harassment.

For those who are good at reading between the lines, evidence of the result of the DSS’s action lies in-between the tone they had both adopted after their separate sessions with the security outfit.

They have both toned down on their messages and they did not reemphasize their statements in the context in which it was perceived across the polity, wherein they reiterated their commitment to the peace, unity and stability of Nigeria.

Na’abba therefore told the Nation that his concept of self-determination is not one that inspires a violent movement where he willfully explained that, “Self- determination simply in our own context means Nigerians must be allowed to live the way they want to live.”

On his part, Mailafiya through his lawyer, Yakubu Bawa, has defined himself as a man that loves peace and loves his country “so dearly.”

The action by the DSS, under the current Director General, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, underscores the significance and important reminders that the survival, livelihood and dignity of people must be at the heart of our actions. Had they stood akimbo while these men were talking, we probably wouldn’t be having this line of discussion by now. May humanity continue to prevail.

Mohammad Dahiru Lawal, a Development Journalist writes from Kano via [email protected]

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