A pres­i­dent play­ing dan­ger­ous pol­i­tics with Boko Haram

Daily Trust - - SPORT - with Mo­hammed Haruna nda­jika@ya­hoo.com 08059100107 ( Text only)

The last time we met on these pages two weeks ago, I con­cluded my piece that morn­ing by putting the bur­den of solv­ing the Boko Haram “rid­dle” (my own word) on the lead­er­ship of the Mus­lim North, specif­i­cally on the new Min­is­ter of De­fence, Lt-Gen­eral Aliyu Mo­hammed, (re­tired), a vet­eran spy­mas­ter and a for­mer army chief, and on Col Mo­hammed Sambo Da­suki, re­tired, the cur­rent Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser to the Pres­i­dent.

“On his part,” I said, “the new army chief should know that if, along with the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser to the pres­i­dent, Colonel Sambo Da­suki, a scion of the Sokoto Caliphate, he can­not solve the, ad­mit­tedly com­plex, rid­dle of Boko Haram which has done so much dam­age to Nigeria gen­er­ally but more specif­i­cally to the North and to Mus­lims and to the im­age of their re­li­gion, then the Mus­lim North will have no one else to blame but its lead­ers, both sec­u­lar and re­li­gious.”

Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan’s an­gry re­ply over the weekend in Bauchi to Gover­nor Mur­tala Nyako’s charge in far away Amer­ica that the pres­i­dent is in­ca­pable and/or un­in­ter­ested in solv­ing the Boko Haram cri­sis – that is if, ac­cord­ing to Nyako, the man is not him­self out­rightly com­plicit in com­pli­cat­ing the cri­sis for po­lit­i­cal gain - has got me won­der­ing if I have been fair and sen­si­ble in shift­ing even the im­me­di­ate bur­den of solv­ing the cri­sis from the pres­i­dent to his lieu­tenants, and through them, to the en­tire lead­er­ship of a re­gion. Of course the ul­ti­mate bur­den of solv­ing any na­tional prob­lem lies with the coun­try’s pres­i­dent; the buck, as they say, al­ways stops at the ta­ble of the boss. How­ever, there is also a lot his un­der­lings can do to help him solve a prob­lem. It was to that ex­tent that I put the bur­den of end­ing the Boko Haram scourge on his two se­cu­rity chiefs. But then the pres­i­dent’s an­gry re­marks last Satur­day, March 26, dur­ing the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party’s North-East rally in Bauchi strongly sug­gests a frame of mind that is more in­ter­ested in play­ing pol­i­tics with Boko Haram than in end­ing its ter­ror. With such a frame of mind it will not mat­ter much what his sub­or­di­nates do to help their boss do his job sat­is­fac­to­rily of se­cur­ing the na­tion.

No doubt Gover­nor Nyako’s paper dur­ing the March 17-19 sym­po­sium in Wash­ing­ton DC, USA, on the Boko Haram in­sur­gency in the North-East at the in­stance of the Unites States In­sti­tute for Peace to which all the 19 gov­er­nors of the North­ern State were in­vited, was highly provoca­tive. “The se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion we are fac­ing,” he said in the course of de­liv­er­ing his paper, “... could be spon­sored by evil minded and over­am­bi­tious lead­ers of Govern­ment and so­ci­ety for po­lit­i­cal gains.” Of course, he did not name names but it needed lit­tle or no imag­i­na­tion to guess those he was point­ing his fin­gers at.

As if to re­move any doubts about those the gover­nor pre­sum­ably had in mind, the pres­i­dent chose the oc­ca­sion of his party’s rally in the main theatre of the Boko Haram in­sur­rec­tion to re­ply him. I solved the ter­ror prob­lem in my home state, Bayelsa, when I was deputy gover­nor and then gover­nor, so Nyako and other North­ern gov­er­nors ac­cus­ing me of in­com­pe­tent lead­er­ship should go solve their own Boko Haram prob­lem, the pres­i­dent said, in ef­fect.

“All what they put on their bod­ies,” the pres­i­dent re­port­edly said in his pe­cu­liar English and sim­plis­tic logic, ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to the Boko Haram rag­tag army, “is not worth N10, but they carry ri­fles and bul­lets worth more than N250,000. Some­body gives them food so that they can kill. You ask how we build this army of un­em­ployed and un­em­ploy­able youth? The Federal Govern­ment does not con­trol pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion, it does not con­trol sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion, and a gover­nor has been on seat for nearly eight years and we have people in that state that can’t go to sec­ondary school. You say bad lead­er­ship? Who is the bad leader? Is it the Federal Govern­ment? I made sure that ev­ery state has a univer­sity. That is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Federal Govern­ment and I have done it.”

The pres­i­dent is right, damn right, that gov­er­nors – and I must say that in­cludes him­self when he was one, as can be seen from the poor pri­mary and sec­ondary en­rol­ment fig­ures of Bayelsa – have been al­most crim­i­nally neg­li­gent of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to pro­vide pri­mary (through Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments) and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in their states.

How­ever, the pres­i­dent was wrong to blame the states alone for their neg­li­gence. Part of the blame must go to the Federal Govern­ment for cor­ner­ing so much rev­enue for it­self from the Fed­er­a­tion Ac­count (55% or so) that states seem to lack enough to at­tend to even their more ba­sic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in such ar­eas as ed­u­ca­tion, health and ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture.

The pres­i­dent was also wrong to think poor pri­mary and sec­ondary school en­rol­ment is the main cause of Boko Haram. It is not. The Boko Haram army may be rag­tag but its main re­cruits are not small kids who won’t go to Western schools. On the con­trary it re­cruits mainly from youths who have been to such schools but have be­come to­tally dis­il­lu­sioned with a sys­tem which they can clearly see is more in­ter­ested in pro­duc­ing a few bil­lion­aires than in rais­ing mil­lions out of poverty. The pres­i­dent may not be es­sen­tially re­spon­si­ble for such a sys­tem but he has not helped mat­ters by the wil­ful way he has, for all prac­ti­cal pur­poses, re­fused to do any­thing about so much waste, cor­rup­tion and scan­dal that has sur­rounded his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The pres­i­dent was also wrong to claim he solved MEND’s ter­ror prob­lem in Bayelsa. He did not and could not. As gover­nor, he had no con­trol of the po­lice and the se­cu­rity forces. As he knows all too well the credit for that goes mainly to his boss, late Pres­i­dent Umaru Yar’adua for his amnesty pro­gramme for Delta mil­i­tants, and partly to him­self as vice-pres­i­dent, who, as the son of the soil, helped to over­see the ex­e­cu­tion of the pro­gramme. The pres­i­dent’s ap­par­ent mis­di­ag­no­sis of the Boko Haram prob­lem clearly sug­gests he is more in­clined to play­ing pol­i­tics with it than in try­ing to solve it. There have been at least two ev­i­dences of re­cent to sup­port this the­sis. First, is the reck­less man­ner in which his party’s spokesman, Mr Olisa Me­tuh, has been at­tack­ing the main op­po­si­tion party, the All Pro­gres­sive Congress, la­belling it an Is­lamic party with a “jan­jaweed” ide­ol­ogy, as if it is a crime to be a Mus­lim in this coun­try. In­deed, he has said worse by ac­cus­ing the party with­out a shred of ev­i­dence of be­ing the spon­sor of Boko Haram and no one seems to want to call him to or­der. On the con­trary, he seems to en­joy at least the tacit sup­port of his party’s lead­er­ship.

Even more telling than Me­tuh’s reck­less­ness has been the pres­i­dent’s loud si­lence on the un­mask­ing in Fe­bru­ary of his Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tance on So­cial Me­dia, Reno Omokri, as the brain be­hind a highly du­bi­ous at­tempt, through a Word doc­u­ment us­ing a funny-sound­ing alias, Wen­dell Sim­lin, that tried to link Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the sus­pended Gover­nor of the Cen­tral Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to the re­cent in­crease in Boko Haram vi­o­lence in Borno and Yobe States. The dis­cov­ery that Omokri was the real au­thor of the doc­u­ment has yet to earn the man even the mildest re­buke, never mind a sack.

It all re­minds one, doesn’t it, of the charge by Mr Henry Emo­mo­timi Okah, since jailed in South Africa for his al­leged role in the Oc­to­ber 1, 2010 fa­tal bomb­ing of Ea­gle Square dur­ing the Golden Ju­bilee of Nigeria’s In­de­pen­dence, in an af­fi­davit he swore to in a court in that coun­try, that he was con­tacted by the pres­i­dency to pre­vail on Move­ment for the Eman­ci­pa­tion of Niger Delta (MEND) to with­draw its state­ment claim­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the bomb­ing so that it can be blamed on some North­ern politi­cians, no­tably Gen­eral Ibrahim Ba­bangida, for­mer mil­i­tary pres­i­dent who was ini­tially in the run­ning for the 2011 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Said Okah in his af­fi­davit, “Dur­ing the morn­ing of 2 Oc­to­ber 2010, I re­ceived two SMS’es from Mr Tony Uranta...The SMS’es were sent from Mr Uranta’s num­ber +2348075407801. The first of the two SMS’es stated; - “Ask J.G to with­draw state­ment.” (J.G. be­ing Jomo Gbomo the spokesper­son for MEND.) The fi­nal SMS sent at 10h28:32 am states; - “The govern­ment will blame on North­ern el­e­ments.”

Okah has since claimed that his re­fusal to co-op­er­ate with the pres­i­dency was why the Federal Govern­ment leaned heav­ily on the South Africans to se­cure his im­pris­on­ment.

In that same af­fi­davit Okah claimed that “On the day of the bomb­ing of 1 Oc­to­ber 2010, I re­ceived a call from Mr Moses Ji­tuboh, the Head of Per­sonal Se­cu­rity to Pres­i­dent Jonathan, who so­licited my as­sis­tance and con­tin­ued co­op­er­a­tion with Pres­i­dent Good­luck

Jonathan to­wards shift­ing blame for the bomb­ings to the North of Nigeria. He as­sured me in this meet­ing that Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan was de­ter­mined to en­sure that po­lit­i­cal power never re­turned to the North which Mr Orubebe de­scribed as par­a­sites. To achieve this, Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan would pre­tend to do only one term in of­fice and once en­trenched, he would in­sist on a sec­ond term.”

Okah’s af­fi­davit may sound like the des­per­ate act of a dog in a manger, but his claims seemed to have been borne out by sub­se­quent events, in­clud­ing for­mer pres­i­dent, Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo’s now fa­mous open let­ter to the pres­i­dent re­mind­ing him that he had promised to do only one term dur­ing his cam­paign for the 2011 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. With a record like this it is hardly un­fair to sus­pect our pres­i­dent of be­ing more in­ter­ested in play­ing pol­i­tics with the Boko Haram scourge than in bring­ing it to an end. In which case noth­ing his sub­or­di­nates do will, in the end, make any dif­fer­ence in help­ing him se­cure the coun­try and its cit­i­zens from ter­ror­ism.

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