Tuesday’s response of the presidency to the comments by the Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima over the rising spate of killings by Boko Haram suggests to Nigerians that President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration view political opposition with hatred and sees them as enemies because of political differences without bothering on the consequences of the grievous harm that may lead to destabilization, reports Aminu Imam.
There is growing disenchantment with President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration’s glaring insensitivity to the plight of the ordinary Nigerian, given his the presidency’s response to the recent rise in the spate of the latest violent attack by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in a northeast Nigeria.
There were reports of a “massive” attack in the town of Bama, a day after presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe said the army was “winning the war” against Islamist militants, as on Tuesday, Okupe had said the military was “on top of the situation”. Borno state senator Ahmed Zanna told journalists the attack on Bama had lasted for five hours on Wednesday morning.
More than 245 people have been killed this year alone by suspected Islamists while several thousand have lost their lives since Boko Haram began its uprising in 2009. The attackers often have time to destroy whole villages before retreating. The town has been attacked several times in the past. Only last weekend, 106 people were killed in an attack on the village of Izghe.
Dr. Okupe’s statement contradicted the comments of the governor of Borno state, whereby the state governor, Kashim Shettima had, in response to the recent Boko Haram attacks, called for reinforcements and said the insurgents were “better armed and better motivated” than the security forces.
The governor had stated that Nigeria’s military was ill-prepared for drawn-out guerilla warfare in the forests of northeast Nigeria and there was a growing recognition of the need to look at other options
A state of emergency was declared in Borno and two neighbouring states last year, with thousands of extra troops sent to the region, but the attacks have continued. The army has at times taken hours to respond to attacks, allowing the militants to kill, destroy homes, schools and mosques, and loot before retreating.
After meeting President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Shettima told the media that without reinforcements “it is absolutely impossible for us to defeat Boko Haram”.
But this was denied by Mr. Okupe, who said Nigeria’s army was one of the best equipped in Africa. “We state authoritatively without any fear or equivocation whatsoever that Nigeria is already winning the war against terror and the activities of the insurgents will be terminated within the shortest possible time.”
Many stakeholders, particularly in the north-east of the country, have opined that the statement was rather unfair and insensitive to the sorrowful plight of Borno people and its government. According to one observer, who spoke to Peoples Daily but preferred anonymity, said, “It is an irony to realise that while Okupe didn’t find it worthy to hold a press briefing in sympathy with the people of Borno and to join in condemning the horrible serial attacks that left nearly 300 innocent citizens killed in February alone, he found it very urgent to try to take advantage of an honest opinion just to show his face on television in the name of doing his job.
“At the end, it is Okupe that would attract ill-feelings of the people towards the Presidency and not his targeted prey. While appreciating the President’s efforts in the last two and half years in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency, the seeming incapacity to decisively tackle the menace and nip it in the bud is gravely undermining the credibility of the Presidency, particularly in the North.
The Governor’s very honest remark was a case of ‘one who wears the shoes knows where it pinches’. The Governor is the person on ground, as such, he knows exactly what the problems are. As most Nigerians would testify, Shettima had been very patient before he aptly opened up yesterday and the sole aim was for Nigerians to appreciate the situation on ground. Unless Dr. Okupe wanted Governor Shettima to tell lies or to conceal the truth by deceiving Nigerians, or perhaps he wanted the people of Borno to die in silence, otherwise, the Governor did the right thing any responsible leader should do in the circumstance he found himself. A leader must be bold enough to tell the truth so that solutions can be found to critical situations.
Dr. Doyin Okupe should kindly be reminded that as a Public Relations Officer, part of his job is to interprete situations correctly to the Presidency, attract goodwill and create more friends for the Presidency and not to create rift. As someone concerned with what Governor Shettima said, Dr. Okupe would have scored a good point if he, or better still, President Goodluck Jonathan took time to visit Borno state, interact with the government, the people and the military, especially those on the field, so that he could have first-hand information, rather than sitting in the comfort on his office in Abuja and disregarding the sensitivity of a highly traumatized people for no other reason but cheap goal of showing he is working.
It could be recalled that among the weighty allegations levelled by former President Olusegun Obasanjo letter to Jonathan last December, against the incumbent and his administration was the fact that the state of the nation had become worrisome and that the current leader has not been alive to his responsibility generally.
In the ex-President’s views, the Jonathan stewardship could be assessed from five stand-points. They are: the leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), headship of the Federal Government, management of the military, control of the security of the nation, and general political leadership, especially in the movement towards 2015.
Unfortunately, this uncontroverted information suggests that the country may be sinking further under the watch of President Jonathan.
The Boko Haram sore that continues to fester gives credence to the allegations of the President’s incompetence in handling of the (in)security, intolerance, clannishness and inability to rise up to challenges have compounded the situation in a part of the country.
Nigerians had looked forward to a rebuttal of this allegation with a robust account of what the administration has done or is doing to combat the scourge. However, it would appear that the presidency agrees that it has failed the nation on this score. By their actions, or inactions, President Jonathan and Boko Haram seem poised to break up Nigeria.
Most Nigerians, as well as the international community are calling on the President respond to the seemingly insurmountable challenge decisively. Several experts have said that the return of violence to Maiduguri, after a period of relative calm, suggested the government in Abuja needed to explore all options to tackle the problem. A Boko Haram specialist at Modibbo Adama University in Yola, Adamawa state, Kyari Mohammed, said the group’s capacity to hit Maiduguri was “substantially reduced” but vigilance was still a must. “The security agencies have to keep their eye on the ball,” he added. “The office of the national security adviser is thinking of ‘soft’ options such as counter-terrorism strategies and de-radicalisation,” he added. “Unfortunately, the process is military-driven.”
However, the nagging question remains: On the road to an increasingly possible anarchy in Nigeria, who blinks first, is it Boko Haram, President Jonathan OR Nigerians? Time shall tell.