By Peregrino Brimah
What the President planned to put across in his recent statements in Namibia, only he knows, but what he seems to have said answers many questions as to the free reign of terror in the north of Nigeria and the unabated decimation of lives and livelihood. It appears from his statements that President Jonathan either hates the north or is totally disconnected from the north and views it as a separate country. This was the message he gave President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, at the Conference Hall of the Namibia State House.
President Jonathan told his Namibian counterpart: “Initially, we handled it (Boko Haram terror) with kid’s glove, but now we have decided to be a little more forceful because we must thrash out these terror groups. We must not allow it to continue to slow down economic growth in that part of the country. With the terror attacks in that part of the country, the rest of the country feel it because Nigerians live everywhere. In these other parts, there is always the fear that if you do not tackle it, it will infiltrate in these other parts.”
The first part of his statement admitted that he had not taken the terror situation seriously for the first years of his regime, and only recently did he realize to step up his war against Boko Haram. This explains the relative impunity Boko Haram enjoyed and their ability to reign terror in the northeast the last four years, resulting in the deaths of thousands and destruction of billions in property.
But the second part of the statement was most worrisome. In the continuation of his talk, the President of Nigeria explained why he was now taking Boko Haram terror seriously and stepping up his war against them a notch—not all the way, just a notch as he said—Jonathan said, terror affected the economy in the northeast, “that part of the country,” as he referred to it. Then he went on to further describe his posture toward “that part of the country.” President Jonathan said, “With the terror attacks in that part of the country, the rest of the country feel it because Nigerians live everywhere.” What did the President mean by this statement?
“Because Nigerians live everywhere.” Is it possible for Nigerians not to live in the terrorized Borno? Would Nigerians of other regions not feel it or will it not matter if they did not live in Borno or have people who did? Is Nigeria separate from Borno? Which would explain perhaps his message, that Nigerians lived everywhere including in Borno “country,” like “Namibia country” and are subject to the terror Boko Haram reigns on Borno country?
Was the President trying to imply or inadvertently confessing that had Nigerians stayed in their regions, he would not care about the crises in Borno and the other affected states, but simply because Nigerians of all regions lived in all regions, hence Boko Haram which has been decimating Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states becomes his concern? Can we relate to his statement? What will be a situation where Nigerians did not live everywhere? And how will this determine the nation’s response to Boko Haram terror of the people of Borno state, Nigeria?
The follow-up statement of the President I believe underlined and expatiated on his thought process and feelings. The President went further to say, “In these other parts, there is always the fear that if you do not tackle it, it will infiltrate in these other parts.” Basically what this meant is that if he did not inconvenience himself, so-to-say, tackling Boko Haram terror in Borno, Yobe and environs, it may reach “Nigeria.” President Jonathan’s concern is piqued due to the risk of the real people of Nigeria in “other parts,” who might be affected by the terror and hence it is now his concern. This is the implication of his statements. He simply failed to lament the deaths and only related to extra-regional impacts.
It is recognized that it was after the Yobe college massacre in which Nigerians from all states of the federation were notably attacked that the President stepped up his campaign against Boko Haram and the military engaged and pursued the terrorists more determinately, resulting in the capture and killing of dozens and the discovery of camps loaded with hundreds of vehicles, cash, arms and other utilities. Public uproar from all quarters of Nigeria forced the President to reactivate the war against Boko Haram.
Is there another explanation to his statements which seem to indicate that it is only the presence of Nigerians from other parts, at risk in the northeast and the possibility of the terror that irreversibly destroys those northern regions, spilling over to other parts of Nigeria that prompts the Presidents concern and decision to take off his kid gloves and up his war just a notch?
It would be a serious matter of concern if the President of Nigeria is insensitive to the plight of and disconnected with regions in the nation. Such an unusual and dangerous reality certainly would necessitate immediate and urgent regionalism to allow regional leaders who see their zone as their nation and will do all within their means, urgently to protect life and restore hope.
The President’s predecessor regime, that of late President Umaru Yar’adua was quite different. Yar’adua did not use kid gloves with Boko Haram. He promptly and adequately crushed the terrorists as soon as he got wind of them. But not only this, challenged with a different terror situation in the south of Nigeria, far off from his hometown, Yar’adua and his National Security Adviser, NSA Sarki Mukhtar did not see the Niger-Delta as a foreign land and an “everywhere where Nigerians lived,” or a potential risk of terror spill-over to “Nigeria proper,” rather Yar’Adua determinately instituted an amnesty programme to quickly address and resolve the southern MEND terror crises he had inherited from the Obasanjo predecessor regime.
It is possible for leaders to not have a phobia for regions they perceive as distant and culturally foreign to theirs. The inability and failure to do this is a very, very dangerous situation prompting immediate attention. President Jonathan’s statements in far-away Namibia possibly provide an essential opening into root cause of the failure of Nigeria to resolve the Boko Haram terror crises that has made Nigeria one of the most terrorized nations in the world today, with Boko Haram achieving a terror status second only to al Qaeda in 2013.
This Northophobia is evident in the widely commented about failure of the President to visit the terrorized regions to empathize with the people and in his failure many a times to even express grief and condolence over the deaths when hundreds of Nigerians in the north are massacred. It is not really his fault, so to say; he just does not seem to have the ability to relate with these peoples and parts and recognize them as part of the same nation in his charge. I think the north should be very worried if they like themselves.
Dr.Peregrino Brimah can be reached on email@example.com and Twitter@EveryNigerian