In defence of Nyako
Admiral Murtala Nyako, governor of Adamawa State, has for the second time accused the Federal Government of sponsoring the Boko Haram crisis. The first time he did so was at a security seminar in Washington, DC a month ago. This time, in a memo to the Northern Governors’ Forum, Nyako said the government was responsible for the violence sweeping the North East, with its killers “embedded in our legitimate and traditional defence and security organisations,” who trample upon and take people’s lives, property and rights with the hope of igniting a war between Muslims and Christians in the North. “Cases of mass murder by its bloody-minded killers and cutthroats are well-known but it attributed the killings to the so-called Boko Haram.”
A few have criticised him but many others are happy that he has spoken their minds. But the reality is that Nyako has only come out to say in public what all others, including many of his critics, have been saying in private for at least the past two years. And for as long, there has been this total reluctance of the government to investigate or even acknowledge the incredible anomalies witnessed especially at the time church bombings and wanton arson. Even now, there is this inexplicable nonchalance in responding to reported threats like the one developing around the Darazo-Basirka bush on the border of Bauchi and Jigawa states, even after abductions, kidnappings and killings had taken place.
Anonymous security elements have accused him of sponsoring the crisis, but they should do more than throw back Nyako’s charge at him; for, doing that is being disingenuous for a number of reasons. One, if they have all along had reasons to suspect Nyako, they have never said so until after he has made his charge against the government; therefore, nobody will believe them now. Two, why, in all this time, they have not made any moves to arrest or even just interrogate him? Three, if they are up to the task of interrogating or really looking for causes, why have they never cared nor attempted to consider all the charges against or interrogate a former state governor close to the Jonathan collective who is universally accused of variously setting Boko Haram up, arming them, financing them, using them against his political opponents and then running away from them? Four, what does his being untouchable and closeness to the president tell the nation?
At any event, what Nyako said wasn’t new, and before the security asked Nyako to bring his evidence, which in fact he should be asked to bring, they should wait until the government asked Obasanjo to bring his evidence for the hit squad he said it was training to hit at its enemy list. Nyako only said the government was hiding behind Boko Haram to kill people. He didn’t say, like the majority of the people in the North are saying today, that the government was responsible for the initial sponsorship, not subsequent infiltration, of the original Boko Haram. Obasanjo said Jonathan was training his own strike force, his own Government-Haram, so to speak.
But the mere fact that there is a group that has come out to say that it is responsible for what has been happening and they are Northerners doesn’t prove it is its agenda that is being pursued or achieved. For instance, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, with neoconservative cold warriors embedded in US corridors of power, the Americans were desperately looking for a new cold war adversary. They found one, courtesy of Dr Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian preacher, who gave a fatwa that the World Trade Center and other public monuments in New York be brought down. That was before Osama bin Laden. But it was only after the trial and conviction of Abdel Rahman that evidence came to light showing U.S. government complicity in the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York City, using Emad Salem, a retired Egyptian army officer and FBI informer, who was made to infiltrate the preacher’s circle and become his personal assistant and bodyguard, as the agent provocateur, who pushed him to issue the fatwa.
On the other side are those who, with even less evidence, repeat the irritating refrain that Northern leaders created Boko Haram as a Northern enterprise to make Nigeria ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan. Besides the irritation, this must rank as the height of absurdity.
First, Jonathan has not been governing before Boko Haram, and so there is no need for Boko Haram to make the country ungovernable for him. Nigeria has been ungoverned not because anyone is making it ungovernable but because its effective governance is beyond the ken of Jonathan and his team.
Second, proof that the crisis hasn’t proved such a bother as will render the polity ungovernable for Jonathan in the manner they mean is best seen in the fact that these people are even able to dance with so much fanfare and merriment right after one of the deadliest terror attacks.
Third, if Boko Haram is created to make the country ungovernable for Jonathan, its primary target will have been Abuja, the seat of governance or Lagos, the seat of corporate governance.
Fourth, since it is supposed to be a Northern plot against a Southern president, its target should have been in the South; and instead of Borno, they should have hit Bayelsa, to take it home to him.
But it may have been a Bunbury for some; and outsiders have good reasons not to be left out of the action. Because of the Middle East crisis, which, by the way, is an Islamic and not Arab problem, there is no Muslim land that is not anti-American; but the anti-Americanism in Northern Nigeria comes in its special virulent class. The magnitude of their empathy and the muscularity of their involvement owe a lot to the fact that Nigerian Muslims are among the least secularised in the Muslim World. And because of some popular misconceptions of Muslim popular culture aspects of the antiAmericanism, and much of the mode of their reaction to the international condition, may not be entirely justified or even appropriate.
But, all the same, this, coupled with the fact Borno and much of this society has stubbornly refused to embrace the jean culture and dump the flowing babbar riga, that is more than enough to cause real concern in some quarters. The choice of Borno is in fact, not an accident, or a haphazard act-nor is it the first time that it will be chosen. If Borno’s overland Hajj route and writing of local languages in the Arabic script were not acceptable to early twentieth century imperialism, this measure of Islamic internationalism, especially its being the world’s Qur’anic capital, so to speak, will be even less acceptable to the globalism of the twenty first. And if hearts and minds cannot be won, they can be weaned, or can they?
Meanwhile, the solution to this crisis will not be found unless Northern leaders take their roles and responsibilities seriously enough, including that of telling truth to power. Many people, who initially criticised the conference outburst of His Highness Alhaji Barkindo Aliyu Mustapha, Lamido Adamawa, not for not being true but for allowing his utterance to surprise those expecting the traditional Northern royal stiff upper lip to be maintained at all times, have now come round to agreeing with his style.
If Northern politicians who have made a career out of lying in the name of the people have decided to keep a studied, frightened and fearful silence as their people are daily killed in their hundreds, this shouldn’t e surprising. If retired Northern military leaders have kept mute and failed to offer leadership, that will be disappointing. The question is: will the traditional institution also allow itself to fail? If it does, to whom then should the people in their hour of anguish turn?
The Lamido had shown that with a little courage and independence, effective leadership could be given. And if he could persuade ten of the leading Emirs and Chiefs to meet and deliberate on the cry of their people and their suspicion that their government had a hand in what was happening to them; or that their government had adopted such a laidback approach to governance that renegade elements and foreign forces had taken control of security and targeted the North East for starters. If they could do this, something would be done by the government whether the plot was hatched in Tel Aviv, the DGSE or at Langley.
But, what exactly has been happening? If government is not the sponsor, at least has it been really serious about the fight to uncover those behind it and stop the killings, something it will be reluctant to do if it is the sponsor? So far, for five years, security forces have been unable to crush Boko Haram or block their supply route. Without any unsolved logistical problems, they seem to be getting all they ask for. Who is financing them— and why? Who is arming them with all those heavy armaments—and how? And in spite of all the fuel scarcity in the country, who is filling the tanks of their many convoys, with 30-50odd vehicles in a single convoy? And how can such a large attack force move without detection, coordinate its manoeuvres without difficulty, launch attack without let or hindrance, evacuate without any problems, and return to base without being apprehended—all this without telephone contact and under emergency? The Admiral has a point.