Frankly speaking, it was a very unconvincing President Umaru Yar’adua that addressed the media last Tuesday. In the wake of the world-wide outrage which followed the cold-blooded extra-judicial execution of the leader of the BOKO HARAM sect, Muhammed Yusuf, Yar’adua attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to claim a moral and political high ground on the matter. His regime, he vowed, had an “uncompromising stance on the rule of law” (yawn, yawn and yawn!). The ant-devoured faggot of “rule of law”, is the prop or “anchor” to good governance in Nigeria. So leaning on his prop, President Yar’adua launched a “post-mortem” as a first step which would enable his government determine the next line of action, after his security forces had carried out the mass execution of hundreds (some actually say thousands) of Nigerians in the previous week.
What was lost to the apostle of the “anchor” of “rule of law” was the fact that his declaration that the sect should be dealt with, provided the carte blanche which the security forces, especially the police and its mobile forces, needed to behave with irresponsibility during the BOKO HARAM episode. Our president was therefore being politically clever by a half, to have given the command and then turn around to claim some high ground. That effort was a climax of several other desperate attempts to spin us all out of control, by rulers in the various states. By August 1st, a list of people that the members of BOKO HARAM allegedly planned to kill was released to the media; this by a regime that was unable to release the long list of sponsors of the banditry in the Niger Delta which has almost severed the nation’s economic jugular! As we all now know, one of MEND’s sponsors is even a senior official in the presidency: rewarded for waging war against Nigeria, after becoming a multi-millionaire at the NDDC!
But they went farther; the deputy governor of Borno State averred that BOKO HARAM was planning attacks during Ramadan; this within the context of an orgy of demolition of mosques in Bauchi, Borno, Gombe and Kano states amongst others. The houses of individuals allegedly linked to BOKO HARAM were also pulled down. And the propaganda about the huge armada of the sect has only harvested locally-manufactured guns, bows and arrows, a few Kalashnikovs and some Molotov cocktails, so far! In all the knee-jerk efforts to justify the systematic extra-judicial killings, what we have seen have been actions which clearly were not located within the “anchor” of Yar’adua’s “rule of law”. It has been a serial “rule of lawlessness”, by the various tiers of government, and these have been broadcast on television!
We must interrogate the fundamentally undemocratic and anti-democratic structure and content of the Nigerian state and its organs. This is an issue that we have for long pointed out, but the BOKO HARAM episode has brought this problem to a head. In the first place, the regime in power suffers a serious legitimacy challenge, while the president has an insecure persona. This is a potent mix which often leads to disaster! When President Yar’adua ordered that the sect be dealt with without mercy, he revealed a deep flaw in his own political acumen, one that is not lost to those who have followed his career since 1999. You might recall that under him, in 2003, people were killed in Katsina state, during that year’s elections; similarly, it was also under his watch, that Katsina state earned the dubious record of being the only state where people demonstrating against Obasanjo’s Third Tem Agenda were killed. So there is a frightening pattern which the directive of the Commander-in-Chief to his forces over BOKO HARAM merely underlined!
Then there is the fact that our security forces have their roots in a colonial origin as forces used to subjugate what became Nigeria, by British imperialism. The philosophic orientation has hardly changed, almost fifty years after independence. The Nigerian police force especially preys on the people habitually. It is notorious as an ill-motivated, badly-equipped, badly-paid force; that explains its penchant for killing people on the highways, after asking bribes and immediately planting guns, drugs and other illegal wares on the people killed! All Nigerians know this side to the police force. In a report on the Jos crisis of last year, the international human rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), said that the police and army unlawfully killed 133 persons. “In responding to the inter-communal violence, the Nigerian police and military were implicated in more than 133 arbitrary killings….The vast majority of police killings were perpetrated by the…mobile force, commonly known as MOPOL”, according to HRW. The same arbitrary killings were reported from Maiduguri, where it became a crime for any Muslim to wear beards: they were simply shot during the mayhem, by trigger-happy MOPOL men! The same pattern of arbitrary killings was also reported in Bauchi.
The BOKO HARAM episode has revealed, in a graphic manner, that there is something wrong with the entire structure and content of the nation’s security system. Unfortunately, President Yar’adua’s “post-mortem” will not even begin to scratch the surface of the problem; this is because it came in response to an outcry of disgust at the behavior of his security forces. What will come can only be a whitewash, to gloss over the culpability of those who killed so many people extra-judicially, and ultimately, even mister president himself, who prepared the grounds with his command not to pity members of the BOKO HARAM group. Nigeria needs a security sector reform, but not the type which American imperialism has been canvassing since the time of Olusegun Obasanjo. The security reform I am talking about must be part of a package of democratization of the Nigerian state. It has to become a state which survives on the basis of the interests of the Nigerian people, not the thieving proclivities of its bandit ruling class!
In the wholesale democratization I am talking about, the state survives only to take care of the needs of our people: education, health care, creation of jobs, the creation of the ambience for the citizen to take part in the process of building the country and achieving his legitimate pursuits and the building of a modern and prosperous country for all our people. The votes of the people must be the basis upon which regimes come to power and vacate power, not the “do-or-die” of massively rigged elections which has been the basis of all regimes in Nigeria since 1999! The regimes do not owe existence to legitimacy conferred by the votes of our people; consequently, they do not work for the interest of the people. In turn, non-state and anti-state contraptions like BOKO HARAM emerge in Northern Nigeria, while ethnic militias and “militants” spring up in the South. When crisis comes, regimes without legitimacy resort only to strong-arm tactics and this leads to extra-judicial killings! It is a vicious cycle that must be broken through a people-oriented democratic renewal of the Nigerian state, including its security apparatus; the spin of the past week has been out of control but it will lead nowhere meaningful for Nigeria!