NSA, Major-General Babagana Monguno, retd.
NSA, Major-General Babagana Monguno, retd.

Political Security as Essential Component of National Security

By Zakari Usman

Political insecurity, such as electoral violence and an attempt to topple democratic governance, is one of the biggest threats to national security and nationhood. Once there is political insecurity, society tends to reinforce fault lines and revert to social, cultural and geographical identities capable of creating divisions along such lines as ethnicity, religion, region, etc. Whether it is the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide, political insecurity has a history of igniting further threats and its resolution has a poor reputation of being a slow and torturous process.

In many African countries where there had been conflicts in the past and in the ones currently experiencing conflicts, political insecurity has played a role in the escalation of such conflicts. Even in Nigeria, the Civil War of 1966 started as a breach of political security. It is for this reason that stakeholders and the general population should understand the concept of political security and how it forms an imperative component of national security.

One of the triggers of political insecurity in developing countries is the process of political transition in form of elections. It is with this understanding, for instance, that Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, at the first quarterly meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) for the year 2022, tasked the Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC) to address all logistics and operational challenges ahead of the 2023 general elections.

“This is important, given the fact that the 2023 general election is around the corner. The Area Council elections in the FCT is holding on 12th February, 2022 and there are two off-cycle elections in Ekiti and Osun states as well as other bye elections in the country,” the NSA said.

According to a 1994 Human Development Report, political security is one of the seven security frameworks associated with human security. Other securities within the policy circle are: economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security and community security.

One academic definition of the concept of political security was given by Buzan and Kelstrup thus: “Political security concerns itself with organisational stability of states systems of government and the ideologies that give them legitimacy.”

In essence, political security is concerned with protection of human rights and well-being of all people. It also includes protection against people from state repression such as freedom of press, freedom of speech and freedom of voting. Abolishment of political detention, imprisonment, systematic ill treatment and disappearance are also covered under political security.

After the 9/11 attacks, both the concept of human security and what constitutes political security changed. At the core of those changes was an attempt to shift traditional approaches to security away from the integrity of the state and state sovereignty to the community and individual. In doing so, the concept of threat is modified away from inter-state war, nuclear proliferation and revolutions to broader concerns with disease, poverty, natural disaster, violence, human rights abuses and genocide amongst other threats.

By then, the concept of national security, which had assumed different definitions in the past, thereby leading to misconceptions about its components and actors, evolved into something widely understood to cover the protection of citizens, livelihoods, critical infrastructure, the environment and cyberspace,  as well as ensuring food security and response to natural disasters. As mentioned, responsibility on matters of national security has also evolved; from integrity of state and state sovereignty to community and individual-based involvement of non-state actors.

Whether it is the old definition of political security within the concept of human security or the evolving definition of national security, one thing is clear: political security is the focal point of other security frameworks – economic, health, environmental, cyber, food, maritime and border, etc.

This connection has been vividly captured in Nigeria’s National Security Strategy (NSS, 2019); a policy blueprint developed by Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) which outlines how the country’s national security is being coordinated. Page 44 of the NSS states on political security: “The nexus between political stability and economic prosperity calls for appropriate measures to be taken to ensure the political security of Nigeria. Accordingly, the objective of political security is to aggregate and unify the aspirations of individuals and groups in the Federation through reasonable distribution of power as well as wholesome generation and equitable distribution of resources.

“To achieve this objective, we will ensure the exploitation of the opportunities provided by our endowments in terms of size, resources, population and strength inherent in our diversity. We will equally foster the interdependence of our people, while taking deliberate measures to overcome the challenges of managing diversity.”

The NSS further states that Nigeria’s political security measures will include multi-sectoral responses such as: promoting unity and national cohesion by fostering a culture of civility and inclusive public discourse; ensuring political stability based on multi-party democracy, grassroots political participation, political inclusiveness, strong democratic and political institutions and a free, fair and credible electoral process devoid of all kinds of violence; enhancing good governance based on development, accountability, zero tolerance for corruption at all levels, sound regulatory mechanisms, due process, rule of law and human rights; promoting non-discrimination among all Nigerians irrespective of gender, religion or ethnic origin; ensuring sound fiscal federalism as a deliberate socio-economic strategy; and ensuring freedom of information, national orientation, de-radicalisation and political education of the populace as a political strategy to facilitate citizens’ commitment to our national security goals, among others.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria will drive the implementation of our political security measures under the principle of delineation and distribution of responsibility among the different tiers of government. To this end, we will employ all national strategic assets to coordinate the achievement of our national political security goals,” the document states.

Crucially, as the nation enters into an election season, it is important for stakeholders to make the connection between political security in the context of national security and a threat to it as an existential threat to nationhood, just as NSA Monguno did with INEC’s logistics and operations. In this light, vile political rhetoric, electoral violence, propagating fake news and hate speech, corruption and instigating discordant socio-cultural sentiments, among other vices, before, during and after the election are gestures capable of endangering political security in particular and national security in general.

Usman wrote in from Abuja     


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