Recent successes by the Nigerian Military against the raging insurgency in the North-East seem to inspire confidence that the nation can, afterall, halt the loss of life of innocent persons and of territory to a needlessly protracted conflict. The army has done commendable work in similar situations in West Africa in particular, and their failure at home has puzzled and baffled many.
Until the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF weighed in with a strongly-worded letter to the President, signed by their Chairman, IGP Ibrahim Coomassie and Secretary, Col. J. P. Ubah (both of them retired), it is the conspiracy theorists who canvassed the view that the military was being denied the weapons to fight by a political authority that does not want to see an end to the war.
In this letter (Front page, New Telegraph, Saturday, September 13, 2014), the ACF lamented that in spite of the emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, “towns and villages are being sacked, people maimed and killed, while national territories are being seized by a group of insurgents”.
The ACF criticized the President for not being on top of the situation, said the statement, considering that “there has been no decisive action to expose, contain and resolve the Boko Haram insurgency” adding that “the attitude of the President towards the plight of the (Chibok) missing girls is, to say the least, appalling and unpresidential.”
The group flayed the role of the government in the crisis, saying that there is a widespread feeling that the crisis is being used as a ploy to punish the North and neutralize its advantages and potential by permanently destabilizing the region.
It is perhaps for this reason that the involvement of the military in the war itself is portrayed as a favour to the North. The President, Dr. Jonathan once reacted to criticism of the army, by the Governor of Borno State, Bukar Shettima, with a threat to the withdraw the army, saying that the state government will be swept away by the insurgents the moment that was done. Careless remarks such as this make Northerners feel that they are not treated as citizens but subjects.
What then suddenly changed, that the military is now actively carrying out its moral and constitutional duty of protecting life, property and territorial integrity of Nigeria? Why now, after the five years of needlessly high human toll?
In all five years that the insurgency was given time to nurture and grow into a threat to the international system, government never got tired of expressing their commitment to protecting life, property and national territory, while using at the same time, the terror campaign for maligning the opponents of the administration. “The Jonathan Government, a government of a minority Ijaw; a Christian from the South is the target of the insurgency” had been a constant refrain for quite a while. So back to my question: what is it that changed that the Jonathan government is now seriously battering and bettering the insurgents?
Four case studies may offer a possible insight. One, there are election kudos to be won. As 2015 Presidential elections inch closer, Dr. Jonathan will gain a lot by rolling back the insurgency. He has a good chance of becoming a hero. To the South, he will be celebrated as the Commander-in-Chief who stemmed the South-ward march of the insurgency. In the North, he will be praised as the leader who has brought back peace and security. This is an enormous political asset going into 2015. The North, his ardent critic will no longer have any grand to oppose him.
Two, regionally, Dr. Jonathan stands to equally gain much. His regional peers who have shown such a remarkable disrespect for a Nigerian leader; the type never seen before will call into reckoning his success in crushing the insurgency that threatens not only Nigeria but the entire region and the world. They will, thereafter give him his due regards.
Thirdly, the Nigerian President will garner the respect of Europe and America. Their newspapers writing those raunchy and grimy editorials, calling Dr. Jonathan all sorts of names would have to treat him with “well-earned” respect. Four, political leaders in this country who behave rudely to one another might even suggest that this war could add to the gain of electoral war-chest.
The view I hold is that it is better late than never. Government should get every encouragement to crush the insurgency. No effort to take away any part of the Nigerian territory should be allowed to succeed. While the decisive move against the insurgency is welcome, government on another hand should also give flip to law and order as enshrined in democratic norms. In a true democracy, law uniformly applies to the rich and the poor; the political leader or the ordinary person; the educated or the uneducated.
People in power should have greater responsibility to conform to law but in Nigeria, political leaders behave very rudely and they feel they are a law unto themselves. That’s why crime is at its peak today.
A politician found to be sponsoring terrorism should, in addition to serving jail, be banned for life from entering into any kind of public life including politics. For a custodian of the law sponsoring terrorism? Those ones should be punished so severely that others don’t even dare to break the law.
All of us, and the whole world are watching the President in these very interesting times.