The significant re-appearance and frenetic political activity of some notable, old northern Nigeria establishment figures and others, after a relatively long, pregnant silence, may suggest that they believe they have softened the enemy (Goodluck Jonathan and his presidency) sufficiently for the major offense to commence.
That main assault, including a sophisticated propaganda effort in international media and on diplomatic fronts, has come as demand for a review of revenue allocation to give even more money to the North. It comes in the insistence on dialogue with Boko Haram cold blood killers. It comes as a determination to hold on to ownership of Delta oil blocs and largesse, by suggesting that the oil fields are situate in an oceanic no-man’s land. And it comes as a resolute demand for a northern President in 2015.
In principle, there is nothing wrong with all of these demands in a democracy, except one. Citizens or groups in a republic are perfectly entitled to articulate their interests and make demands of the federated centre, as long as such demands are legitimate, peaceful and lawful. Boko Haram’s demands are not legitimate and their methods are neither peaceful nor lawful.
The injustice of it all is that innocent Nigerians, mostly northerners, are the cannon fodder of this madness. Also, obviously taking full advantage of this cruel distraction, politicians and others have intensified their efforts to rob the country blind, bankrupt and, possibly, extinct, with daily news suggesting it is now a looting free for all. While constructive opposition is part of a democracy, what we have been witnessing is not. This is disruption and it may lead to total destruction. It is a disruption of the mandated term of a democratically elected President, with the capability to destroy all of our fledgling democracy.
In the final analysis therefore, the arguments against Boko Haram are less about north and south, Christian or Moslem. They are about equitable government.
Democracy is neither an event nor a destination; it is a journey, and it is a process. How many of their list of demands that Jonathan’s opponents finally get, will be a measure of the country’s resolve to pursue political progress. Just as it will be a measure also of conservative North’s willingness to accept true democracy. Demands for secession, Ijaw indigenes being the latest, arose only because we failed to make democratic progress. They will arise again with, we can expect, increasing hatred and growing violence if we abandon or allow a cabal to terminate our present march towards full democracy.
When you consider the sophistication and material capital required for the level and extent of their operations, of which Boko Haram have amply demonstrated they are not in short supply. When you consider the impunity, with which they carry out their attacks. When you consider the loud threats and subsequent calculated silence of some, whose voices would have made a restraining difference. It should not surprise anyone that many Nigerians suspect that some of the North’s mighty and wealthy are backing these murderers. That they are also willing and have killed roughly just as many Christians as Moslems clearly attests that Boko Haram, just like its role model Al Qaeda, is more to do with political power than religion.
Cheerleading for terrorists hardly mitigate that perception, as, for example, commentary by a notable northern journalist about the recent bloodbath in Kaduna. Seemingly applauding the carnage, he wrote that the butchery is evidence that the government’s claim of some victory over Boko Haram is, in his words, an empty boast. As far as he and others like him are concerned, the Boko Haram war is already a stalemate if not outright victory for the terrorists.
Little wonder then that, following President Jonathan’s declaration that we will begin to see the end of these criminals in another three months the Boko Haram spokesperson released a video promising to turn the tables on Nigeria’s elected President. Even as he threatened to destroy the country’s democratic government within the said three months.
So, now that Goodluck Jonathan’s seemingly implacable opponents, indeed opponents of our nascent democracy, think they have the President where they want him it is pertinent to look at how we got here and how we can move forward.
There is no doubt that President Goodluck Jonathan carries ultimate responsibility for the present situation, especially for allowing the grass of Boko Haram as a weapon and means to regain absolute political power to grow right under his feet. I will come back to that later. In the past, the President also showed a dangerous habit of a willingness to pay any price for political support, north and south and on both sides of the River Niger. However, much of the blame apportioned to Goodluck Jonathan is misinformed.
Terrorism against an elected government and the country’s population is totally a new phenomenon in Nigeria’s history. Hitherto, it had been unelected rulers terrorising the people. At the onset of military takeover of Nigeria in 1966, the design of all of Nigeria’s security and intelligence apparatus was mainly to suppress the people and keep unelected rulers in power. Development of that apparatus, over the period of about half a century, also had the unstated but indisputable objective to keep a section of the country in government and other sections including people like Goodluck Jonathan out of it.
With such structure and purpose of our security agencies, it should be no wonder that the new administration appeared initially to have no clue whatsoever about how to deal with the Boko Haram threat. Jonathan was fighting his enemies with weapons designed to work against him. It definitely informs the release and re-release of arrested bombers and the unbelievable ‘escape’ from police custody, of the most wanted terrorist in the country.
One of the mixed blessings of Boko Haram may yet turn out to be that it will give rise to a national security apparatus that truly protects all of the country, the constitution and our democracy.
However, President Jonathan has had at least four opportunities to nip the evil of Boko Haram in the bud but in which he failed miserably, the shaky legitimacy of his acting presidency and an initial tenuous hold on power notwithstanding.
TO BE CONTINUED