By Bisi Olawunmi
There is a tripartite battle of public opinion at play in the polity as the Presidency, the governors –particularly those from the North – and the military are all engaged in spirited public communication to excuse their respective ‘failures’ in the on-going war against Boko Haram, alias BH. The BH commanders must be having a big laugh for destabilizing the forces ranged against them. We take the Presidency first, being the main act, in this morbid tangle in the public arena. The Presidency insinuates that the Boko Haram insurgency is a deliberate ploy to harass President Goodluck Jonathan out of power. It alleges sabotage from all – the main opposition party, the northern governors and even the military, the Presidency’s own armed enforcer.
The Presidency, in its desperation, talks of a conclave of ethnic warriors, religious fanatics and opposition mischief makers ganged up against it. President Jonathan has become the butt of jokes, virtually across the world, as the brazen, widespread violence of Boko Haram ridicules the authority of the state before a world audience. The Presidency is the arrow head of power in any country, the monopolist of the legitimate use of force to stamp its authority. So, when the Presidency whines excuses about its inability to ensure the security of the state, it is a tragic display of the powerlessness of power. The Presidency is miffed on being charged with spinelessness, and is trying to convince us that it is malevolents frustrating its efforts. Excuses don’t win a battle.
The Northern governors, most of them members of President Jonathan’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) act more like opposition members in their tackle of the Presidency – a case of a house divided against itself. It shows us that in Nigeria’s peculiar political configuration, party affiliation is just a platform of convenience but the bonds of religion and regionalism are stronger. So, it would appear that against Boko Haram, the message from the Northern governors is: President Jonathan, you are on your own. The half hearted condemnation of Boko Haram’s vicious violence by the governors is apparently for public appearances. But the governors not only give the President a put down, they launched a devastating attack on the military for alleged extra-judicial killings in the armed forces’ fight against the BH insurgents. Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa state even went a step further to allege GENOCIDE against the military. And this is someone who was a Rear Admiral in the Nigerian Navy!
Well, Nyako, the sailor, taken out of the waters to his near desert state of Adamawa, is apparently out of sync. Genocide is a grave allegation and an unwise one in a situation where the armed forces are also losing members to the Boko Haram insurgents. Northern governors cannot exonerate themselves from the violence that has seized the north by the throat, given information in the public domain linking some top political elements in the region to the nascent growth of Boko Haram. It is pedestrian for governors, across the nation, to think of security only in terms of the police and the military as an excuse to shift the burden solely on the federal government. Governors, supposedly freely elected, should also have a system of surveillance to contain incipient rumblings. Their supporters should be their listening posts.
When situations are allowed to escalate into vicious violence either by omission, commission or connivance, necessitating the deployment of the armed forces, governors of such states or region have no moral right to point fingers. You see, northern governors don’t support state police. I have a feeling that this is playing the artful dodger, trying to avoid the tasking responsibility of ensuring security of their states, giving them the leisure to live the life of the indolent mandarin. Given the unholy alliance of Nigerian politicians with thugs and other sundry renegade characters, militant groups like Boko Haram, may, paradoxically, even be victims of the machinations of an un-conscienable elite.
Now to the military. The military has found itself in the unaccustomed terrain of fighting a frontless war and facing frontal attacks on its facilities by suicidal hordes of Boko Haram insurgents. It must be trying times for the armed forces, compounded by suspicion of moles in its ranks. It is nursing bruises from the communication fiasco on the false claim of rescuing the kidnapped Chibok school girls. These are not the only woes of the military as it is also being forced to fight a public opinion battle, following concerted attacks from the Presidency and northern governors, which seek to portray it as a weak force. An aspect of the attacks is its alleged corruption in hardware and welfare provision. The Presidency and the Military High Command have been bandying widely differing budgetary allocations and receipts which in itself is an ugly public contestation. The question is: Are monies allocated not monitored to ensure compliance with procurement process and that the goods are delivered? If money is allocated and the spending is not followed up, is that not an inducement to corruption, knowing that nobody asks questions?
Finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala seems to hold the view that appropriation is what matters since she will have figures to bandy around, even when the money is released in trickles. Anyway, if corruption is alleged against the military, could it be that it is taking a cue from the political class? And the Presidency’s off and on offer of amnesty to Boko Haram is not helping matters and becomes a disincentive for a vigorous military offensive. After all, the amnestied Niger Delta militant warlords that the military fought yesterday, suffering losses of its personnel, are today’s millionaires!! Ultimately, the burden of blame for the Boko Haram insurgency is to, first, the northern governors privy to the emergence of Boko Haram, then the Presidency that failed to nip it in bud, with the military the least blamable. They cannot now seemingly combine to make a scapegoat of the military in cleaning up their mess.
Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Bowen University, Iwo is reachable on firstname.lastname@example.org (SMS ONLY 0803 364 7571)