At first, it was my intention to gloss over the ideas, the sheer venom and the vituperation of those who had written in to express their opinions which widely differed from mine when I wrote my last article titled ‘Blame the Governor, not the President’. But I am not going to do that. I had a re-think. I suppose it is because I believe that every good-natured writer must be able to subject himself or herself to constructive criticism. It is one mark of maturity. However, when criticism begins to border on insults and outright abuses on the person of the writer and not limited to his article, that is the time you begin to weigh the calibre and objective of who is truly speaking.
In all my 39 years as a writer, I have never been so vilified as I was last week. I was called dumb. I was named a wacko and a bigot. I was asked if I forgot that there is emergency rule in Borno state. One critic suggested I made derogatory remarks about Professor Soyinka. My article was rated as very misinforming. One critic said I was seeking for cheap fame, trying to talk intellectual like Soyinka. One asked if at-all I had children. Another called me ‘a big inyamiri Igbo fool’ and suggested I was too greedy to speak the truth. One said I was a big moron and a thief to say that rather than President Jonathan, Governor Shettima should be blamed while another said I was either a hungry writer or a selfish observer. One very interesting critic said people like me who are struggling with life, and to survive, in our London Council flats write a lot of stupid things and that our reasoning is daft. Another said that when he saw the appendix, KSC, after my name, he knew that all I would write was lies, and so on.
I have no problem with people expressing their divergent views on any issue they are not comfortable with. Nigeria is a democratic country. But I have concern when a writer is misrepresented and all hell is let loose because the fixated imagination of his reader failed to grasp the depth of the facts on the ground.
For the sake of clarity, let it be reiterated that in the second sentence of that article, this writer made it clear that he has great respect for Professor Wole Soyinka, a respect he defined as “personal.”
The kernel of that controversial write-up was to suggest that what is happening in North-East Nigeria today is home grown politics. It is a revolution of the people, by the people, for their (top) people. It is a conspiracy.
The article asks if it was possible that these insurgents could come into a village with armoured cars, heavy duty vehicles, rocket propelled launchers, IEDs, Petrol Bombs etc and the villagers are unable to spot these strange sightings in their communities and are unable to report strange persons of possibly questionable behaviours in their midst to law enforcement agencies?
I have never been to Northern Nigeria, but I can imagine what is happening in that part of the country, thinking of my own village and town in Imo State. I know that once my people are aware of security threats in their state, there is no way (new or irregular) armoured cars can suddenly surface among them either in the state capital or in any part of the state where people live, whether by day or by night, and they will not call any available arm of the security agencies to inform them of strange sightings. It just won't happen. Besides, there are compelling stories we hear about what actually took place in the North that just don't add up.
For instance, in the recent case of Boko Haram killing as many as 300 people in Gamboru Igala at the beginning of last week, and abducting 11 more girls from Warabe and Wala communities in Borno state in just one swoop, how can anyone explain that the military was said to have got “intelligence reports” indicating that some Boko Haram members were seen with the Chibok kidnap victims. How did they receive the “intelligence report” that turned out to become hoax? By what medium did they communicate with the informant? Then barely one hour after the soldiers left in search of the girls, the hoodlums struck – for 12 good hours! Where were the security officers during those 12 hours? And why did those security officers stationed there earlier not return to save the situation?
These, and similar questions and lapses, the article suggests, only point to the fact that there is more to all these than meets the ordinary eye. For instance, how do people move around at night when there is a curfew? How do they move heavy weapons around and the villagers fail to notice them or report them? That is why the writer suggested that eminent Nigerians like Professor Soyinka must also direct their anger and their questions to the citizens of these and the neighbouring villages in the areas Boko Haram has concentrated its merciless killing spree. The local government chairmen and their supervisors and workers must answer questions about what they know or deliberately fail to know.
In order words, the war against Boko Haram must involve all the citizens. Security thrives on information and if this information is not given to security agencies when citizens spot irregular movements within their communities, they should also be blamed when things go wrong. Certainly all the blame cannot go to Mr. President alone because all true Nigerians are supposed to be involved in this war, although the President must take the final responsibility at the end of the day, whether things go right or wrong.
It is interesting to note that since that article was written, those of us Nigerians in Diaspora have followed with great interest the new vigour Governor Shettima has put into seeing that he is still in the good books of a greater number of those who voted him into office. A few days ago, he ordered three days of fasting and prayers in the search for God’s intervention. That is something. It is evidence that the Governor is doing his bit to contain his people who voted him into office but were almost finding it necessary to revolt against their own. Only yesterday, he made widely appreciated visits to victims of Boko Haram atrocities. That is also something that shows that the Governor is working along with Mr. President.
While all this is happening, I think that everyone must have his share of blame for his part in making so many terrible sacrifices in terms of both human and material loss to make governance difficult for Goodluck Jonathan, and subsequently to see him out of Aso Rock by 2015. I do not hold this opinion in isolation. One of the credible Sahara Reporters columnists, Pius Adesanmi, feels as such. In one of his recent articles he said, and I quote:
“Beyond this unity of purpose in seeing Goodluck Jonathan go in 2015 lies a parting of ways on the definition of justice and fairness. There are certain assumptions on the part of many in the northern brigade of the anti-Jonathan camp in Cyberia that must now be addressed. When our friend in Zamfara talks about a "we" united in the desire to free Nigeria from the incompetence of Dr. Jonathan in 2015, the vision of that "we" must now be scrutinized. In essence, when Pius Adebola Adesanmi and Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai say that "we" want Jonathan out in 2015, are they saying the same thing? Are they in perfect consonance? When my friend from Zamfara and Dapo Rotifa, Agbaosi Sevezun Gloria, Petra Akinti Onyegbule, Yommi Oni say that "we" want Goodluck Jonathan back in Otuoke in 2015, are they saying the same thing? No, there are two different sets of "we" saying opposite things here. The "we" of El-Rufai and my new friend from Zamfara have an understanding of justice and fairness that must see power return to their own corner in 2015 - a corner still massively over-determined by a bunch of cruel, wicked, greedy, and patently anti-north northern elders.
These northern elders are anti-north because the regain of federal power in 2015 translates to only one thing for them: renewed access to oil blocs and licenses, renewed access to juicy federal contracts fed by oil revenue, renewed access to juicy federal appointments fed by oil revenue. The common northerner is not and has never been in their calculation. Outside of their narrow interests, polio, VVF, illiteracy, and backwardness can continue to ravage the north for all they care. The north of today, home to some of the world's worst statistics in poverty and underdevelopment, is a product of their over three decades of chokehold on the Presidency. The second set of "we" is saying something totally different.”
In one of my most recent articles published by Sahara Reporters on 9 April and titled 'Another Look at Nigeria' I said, and again I quote:
"The shameful events that are daily happening in Northern Nigeria, and which have continued to take an unprecedented toll in human lives and in property, definitely call the unity of Nigeria to deep question. There is not one country in the world today where the frequency and number of victims can compare favourably with the mindless high handedness with which Boko Haram continues to descend on the villages of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states particularly. No other country in recent times, even in times of war, has recorded such levels of atrocities or such measured frequently!"
"Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration must ask itself very frank questions. Perhaps the answers to those questions will give the government a better guidance towards its commitment to all Nigerians. For instance: why are Boko Haram insurgents insisting on killing unarmed and innocent Nigerians? Is it because they believe that by so doing they would be able to bend the will of the Nigerian government and get it out of their way? And why are they also killing their fellow Moslems? Is it because they want everybody to know that this is a political, and not a religious, war and that no matter your religion, you stand to be eliminated if you are known to oppose or sabotage the mission of the insurgents? Why are they persistent in their mission?
Could it be because they are fighting a sort of jihad in which they are prepared to throw in everything they have and fight to the last drop of their blood? Is it true that some big-wig politicians and businessmen are financially and morally behind the activities of the insurgents? Could the suspicion be true? Is it also true that these big wigs are very well known to top Nigerian public office holders but cannot be named or apprehended because they are regarded as sacred cows? And if that is the case, for how much longer will innocent Nigerian citizens continue to suffer the degradation of being slaughtered like chickens, for no justifiable reason? And for how much longer will the Federal government suffer the indignity of seeing its citizens daily felled like logs of wood, with little or no hope of rescue from their government? When will all this madness end and sanity return to Nigeria?”
“Boko Haram insurgency resulted from the social and political ambition of younger pro-sharia Muslims seeking to build a new religious constituency in the Northern part of the country. Perhaps, this is why it will be very difficult to dislodge or silence them. From every indication that buttresses their determination, Boko Haram's operations have been known to be brutal and, to many Nigerians, somewhat senseless. Yet, they may be right to some extent, if the truth must be spoken. Nigerians need to know whether their leaders who have been clamouring for the unity of the country are seriously committed to it, or whether they are doing so for their own selfish reasons – because of their own share of the oil revenue.
For instance, it has been rightly or wrongly suggested that some powerful politicians (who cannot be named) are behind the Boko Haram struggle to enthrone a Sharia country in the North. It has also been suggested that some governors are behind the entire violence because they know that their financial allocations from Abuja would be greatly enhanced if there is violence in their states. Again, why, for instance, must the recently inaugurated National Sovereign Conference exclude debates on the possibility of breaking up the country if the need becomes compulsive? Why must odd bed-fellows be forced to sleep together if, in their opinion, they are incompatible? Perhaps it is because some people have something to gain from such an unholy matrimony. Nigerians need to know the truth."
It is unfortunate that Mr. President allowed this wound inflicted on the nation by a section of its citizenry to fester for so long. But like the article suggested, the time is up for the Federal government to declare full-scale war in the affected states. Nothing less will do.
Finally, if I did in any way offend the sensibilities of my numerous readers, I apologize. I never intended to hurt anyone. Given the dark phase that Nigeria is presently passing through in this period of its democratic evolution, this is hardly the time to join issues.
Mr. Asinugo is a London-based journalist and editor of Trumpet newspaper.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters