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Published On: Mon, Jul 28th, 2014

Attack on Buhari, national security and politics

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BuhariTuesday Column by E. Kennedy

The two main political parties are yet to make any official statements, but if we follow their antecedents, you would expect that they would, as usual, politicize this and lose the sense of what we should be taking away from this incident and what we should be acting on as one nation. President Goodluck Jonathan is right to call the attack “an odious attempt to inflame passions and exacerbate disquiet, fear, insecurity and sectional divisions in the country”, but whether his own media people, his party and the opposition are going to read the script as a way forward is another matter. Desperation seems to rule the Nigerian political roost on all fronts nowadays.

 Though, at the moment, Boko Haram are yet to claim responsibility for the attack, there is enough uncontested information for us to make informed speculations, all of which would easily lead us to conclude that they are behind the attack. For instance, even from Buhari’s account, we know that the attack on his convoy was carried out by a lone suicide bomber, after another suicide bomber on foot had lunged at a moderate Islamic leader, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi at the prayer ground at Murtala Muhammed Square in the commercial area of the city where thousands had gathered for prayers.

Even though the suicide bombers in the twin attacks did not succeed in killing their main targets, reports say over 40 people were killed in both attacks. Clearly, these attacks bear all the hallmarks of a Boko Haram attack. Nigeria is a funny place politically and we must thank God that the nature of the attack has removed any doubt about its perpetrators, because we wouldn’t have put it past some to claim it’s an Abuja-inspired attack, because Buhari is such a feared opposition leader that forces loyal to President Jonathan would want him out of the way before 2015 and blame it on Boko Haram. Of course, that claim would be silly and unsupportable, but with Nigeria, with the kind of politics being played now, anything to stain President Jonathan seems fair game. We can see it clearly from the fact that many opposition figures do not respect the office of the President or the man at all and that’s a big shame. We should be grateful that the way this happened reduces the chance for these characters to ratchet up their mischief.

Beyond all that, what I would personally advise is that Nigeria’s political leaders must see the significance of this attack in the context of what we have suffered as a nation in national, communal and personal security for the past five years of Boko Haram and related terrorism. It is instructive that while this menace has been on, the political opposition, of which Buhari is a key figure, has treated it as though it is the problem of President Goodluck Jonathan and his party and some of their members have spoken and acted in all manners indicative of that belief. They have obviously framed a political strategy around presenting the President as clueless in matters of national security, even where they themselves have never provided workable suggestions or solutions on the matter.

More depressingly, Buhari has been portrayed by officialdom as the defender of the Boko Haram sect, even if his utterances and actions show otherwise. This mistake stems from his insistence on the rule of law with regard to those arrested on suspicion of being Boko Haram foot soldiers. He calls for a fair trial for suspects. Any true democrat should demand this. Yes, he may have compared Boko Haram to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), implying that something like the Good Friday Agreement that paved the way for the political process that led to peace in Northern Ireland should be employed in Nigeria. What is wrong with that? If dialogue would get us the result that a military campaign has failed to deliver, so be it.

Again, yes, Buharihas consistently criticized the Goodluck Jonathan administration’s anti-terrorism tactics. But that is the truth, isn’t it. They have been ineffectual so far. Indeed, if we are honest, no matter the side of the political divide we are on, we cannot doubt the fact that General Buhari has condemned all acts of terror anywhere they occur. He is not a Boko Haram sponsor or supporter. Of course, discerning political observers know that whatever the origin of Boko Haram, as presently constituted, it is actually a Nigerian franchise of international terrorism and those with control over the organization are not part of our political class.

If indeed the Boko Haram are behind this Buhari attack, as I suspect they are, then here is a clear and unequivocal message from them to us that nobody is immune from their murderous anger. Even though there are opposition politicians who speak as though Boko Haram is their Cerberus, we must now know that Boko Haram is not the military wing of the APC. It is a terrorist group that we all must try to deal with as one. So that is the message of this Buhari attack. It is time for the government and PDP media machine to tone down their rhetoric, which claims or implies that Boko Haram is being sponsored or supported by the opposition, no matter what some individual opposition politicians say to disparage the effort of the Federal Government in this regard.

Doing this is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. More importantly, supporting such notion of political sponsorship in the media only energizes the Boko Haram people, because it indicates infighting amongst the political class over national security, which is something they’ve proved adept at cashing in on.  Of course, this is by no means suggesting that the security services should not continue to do their job of monitoring all persons, no matter their political party affiliations and no matter how highly placed, once they have reasons to suspect them to be part of the threat to national security, including being collaborators with Boko Haram elements in any way.

 E. Kennedy is on linkedIn

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