Freedom of expression is essential in every civilised society so long as it does not harm individuals’ character or malign institutional reputations through false and misleading information. It is a fact that violation of freedom of expression is violation of the right to freedom of association and assembly.
While some individuals and institutions are cautious of making public statements because of the sensitive natures of their assignments, it could be considered justifiable and legitimate when such interventions are for the general good of the society.
In April 2012, two top Military Generals, one from Nigeria and the other from Israel, made public statements that have continued to generate debates because of the sensitive security positions they hold in governments. General Andrew Owoye Azazi is the National Security Adviser in Nigeria, the most populous Black Country in the world, and General Benny Gantz, the Chief of General Staff of Defense Forces of Israel, the nation widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.
While their individual remarks have continued to generate controversies and debates, coincidentally their respective citizens hail their positions while the governments condemn the outburst because of security implication in their respective countries and sub-regions.
Whenever the issue of Middle East is discussed, the confrontational stance between Israel and Iran always comes to mind over the alleged nuclear ambition of the latter. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Minister of Defence Ehud Barak have threatened to attacks Iran if the international community refuses to take actions. At Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day this year Netanyahu blatantly stated that: “The regime in Iran openly calls and determinedly works for our destruction. And it is feverishly working to develop atomic weapons to achieve that goal.”
The officials in Iran have denied the allegation of seeking nuclear ambition but insisted that the country is only enriching uranium for peaceful energy purposes and that its nuclear programme is not a threat to anyone. Countries like the US, European Union, Canada, Japan and Australia are not swayed as they imposed sanctions on Tehran include restrictions on Iranian oil sales, and an asset freeze on certain individuals and organisations.
Probably in response to the anxiety and fear of going to war with Iran through suspected preemptive strikes, Israel’s Military Chief, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz said he does not believe Iran will decide to build an atomic bomb and called its leaders “very rational”.
Lt-General Gantz’s remarks published in a popular Israeli Haaretz newspaper stated that “Iran is moving step-by-step towards a point where it will be able to decide if it wants to make a nuclear bomb. It has not decided yet whether to go the extra mile.”
He added that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would not make a huge mistake of going the extra mile to make an atomic bomb. In his words: “I think the Iranian leadership is comprised of very rational people. But I agree that such a capability in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, who at some moments may make different calculations, is a dangerous thing.”
Interestingly, subsequent remarks by former Foreign Intelligence (Mossad) chief Meir Dagan, and former Shin Bet (Domestic Intelligence) chief Yuval Diskin clearly argued in line with General Gantz by criticising Israel’s political elite on a possible strike against Iran and the unresolved Palestinian question.
While Meir Dagan pointedly said: “This (planned attack on Iran’s nuclear installations) is the stupidest idea I have heard in my life,” Yuval Diskin added that: “Israel is now led by two incompetent politicians with messianic delusions and poor grasp of reality. Their plan to attack Iran is leading to a worldwide catastrophe.”
Similar tempo is being played out in Nigeria. At the South-South Economic Summit in Asaba, Gen. Owoye Azazi, the National Security Adviser who spoke extemporal disclosed that elements within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) helped create the environment that brought about the Islamic sect, Boko Haram. He was alleged to have said: “The issue of violence did not increase in Nigeria until when there was a declaration by the current President that he was going to contest. PDP got it wrong from the beginning. The party started by saying Mr. A can rule, and Mr. B cannot rule, according to PDP convention, rules and regulations are not according to the Constitution. That created the climate for what is happening. Is it possible that somebody was thinking that only Mr. A could win, and if he did not win, he could cause a problem in the society?”
On the Boko Haram, Azazi added that: “It takes a very long period for somebody to train a sniper. But I can assure you that Boko Haram has got to a level of sophistication. There’s a lot that could be done to address the problem. Even if all leaders we know in Boko Haram are arrested, I don’t think the problem will end because of the problem that created the phenomena: religion, poverty, or the desire to rule. I think it is a combination of everything.”
Responses to Azazi were swift from the party in government and the government itself. In a statement, Olisa Metuh, spokesperson to PDP said the party remained united in support of President Goodluck Jonathan, rejecting allegations of practicing politics of exclusion. He described Azazi’s comments as “a poor reflection of the internal workings of the Party and a wrong deduction on the roots of security challenges in the country.”
President Jonathan during his sympathy visit to ThisDay office in Abuja which was attacked by a suicide bomber said: “I don’t believe that it is undemocratic practices in the PDP that could give rise to Boko Haram or any other groups. So probably, people need to ask NSA to explain what he really means.”
Many Nigerians still believe in the remarks of General Azazi which clearly pointed out that more need to be done to address the insecurity in the country through programmes and policies that have positive and direct bearings on the citizenry.
The two Military Generals in Israel and Nigeria have spoken the minds of the majority, including this writer. It is ‘the truth and nothing but the truth’ towards finding lasting solutions to regional insecurity and global peace. Probably sooner or later if Politicians are wiser, we will live to witness Iranian and Israeli leaderships celebrating their unity, while Nigerians from the South and the North will sincerely and strongly believe in the oneness of the country.