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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Confusion galore in pursuit of Boko Haram

In any country, a state of insurgency is abnormal and prone to various absurd or unusual behaviors. Like telling lies, as in war situations, like being dishonorable or exhibiting inflated ego all for purposes of claiming false glory. And for Nigerians, misconduct in such circumstances attains the unenviable level of shamelessness.
That was why the (recent) abduction of, at least, over 200 secondary school female students in a hitherto hardly known (to Southerners) rural settlement Chibok, in Borno State, created all-round confusion especially in government circles. The schoolgirls were suspected to have been abducted by the Boko Haram violent agitators. That suspicion somehow was an image-boosting feat for Boko Haram, a lawless gang terrorizing Northern parts of Nigeria. For the past three years, the nation has been assured intermittently that Boko Haram would, soonest, be subdued.
That would not justify the confusion in the land such that till now, there is no exact correct number of the female pupils abducted or their whereabouts, and most importantly, the unverified (if verifiable) treatment to which the poor pupils might have been subjected. Teenage girls in the forced custody of scores of male lawless elements? So far for a fortnight and indefinite future?
This concern is exacerbated by the unknown number of the hopeless girls in the Boko Haram captivity. Clearly in a vain attempt to pre-empt public outrage at the misfortune of the schoolgirls, the first information came from army headquarters that the figure was merely over 100. An incensed group of Chibok citizens disgusted by the claim of the army headquarters put the figure at 247. The school authorities virtually ratified that figure with their own claim of over 230. By far, the worst confusion was created by army headquarters with its claim to have rescued almost 100 of the abducted girls.
For the moment, there is this necessary concession. As a people, we are very churlish. Despite criticisms of President Goodluck Jonathan all along on the Boko Haram violence, he (Jonathan) has emerged a paradox in the seeming uncontrollable upsurge of the Boko Haram menace. Abduction of the Chibok Secondary School pupils occurred a day after the massive tragic bombing incident at Nyanya motor park at Abuja in which authorities claimed almost 100 Nigerians lost their lives. Witnesses around the incident put the figure at more than double the fatal victims.
Jonathan must not, and in any case, will not be allowed to rest until there is a solution to the Boko Haram insurgency. But for the moment, nobody can legitimately blame Jonathan for not doing everything possible to contain Boko Haram. Critics should now come up with new “ideas” on how to conquer Boko Haram. Who are the critics? Opportunists known as religious fundamentalists, ethnic jingoists, emergency warlords and dubious security experts who blamed, blackmailed, forced and even if inadvertently, undermined Jonathan in the battle against Boko Haram.
Jonathan was made to change service chiefs. Three or four times? Jonathan was made to declare emergency in three Northern states where Boko Haram fiercely operated. Jonathan was made to create a new army (7th) division in Maiduguri. Jonathan was made to move leadership of the army to Maiduguri. In view of the criminal conduct of Boko Haram, these measures, on the surface, might be necessary. The only fault was that proponents were too naïve and mostly ethnically biased to realize that the Boko Haram insurgency had assumed an entirely complex nature that even Americans and specifically ex-US President Bill Clinton publicly observed that tackling Boko Haram should be multi-pronged, – military, economic and social etc.
The point being made is that President Jonathan must thank his stars that he positively responded to his critics especially with the military option. Otherwise, the religious fanatics would by now single out Jonathan for total blame on the intractable nature of Boko Haram. Left for the critics, Jonathan should wipe out North East from the Nigerian map.
A further confusion was created that once the United States listed Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation, that would end the violence in Northern Nigeria. Could it be as simple as that? Jonathan’s former National Security Adviser, the late General Andrew Azazi, as a professional knew better and in total opposition, argued his case at Ministry of Defence, Washington. Jonathan was misled to remove General Azazi. Two years after his exit and 18 months after Azazi’s death, Nigeria is still held down by Boko Haram. And of course, that was after the United States has rightly declared Boko Haram a terrorist organization.
As the Americans have observed and advised, we must not limit the solution to Boko Haram at only military combat.
On the confusion in the fight against Boko Haram, the military (or perhaps the Nigerian government), has worsened its credibility problem. It was bad enough that the military claimed the kidnapped schoolgirls at Chibok had been freed. But it was most disturbing that the army claimed responsibility for rescuing the girls, all claims which turned out to be untrue as the girls, at this time of writing, are still with Boko Haram in unknown destination.
The army claim to have rescued the girls is the latest in its series of false success stories or denials of insurgents’ similar claims. Were Nigerians not told last year that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had been killed by Nigerian soldiers in action? Nigerians were even shown visuals on Channels Television of a man lying injured or dead somewhere and identified as Abubakar Shekau. Since then, media all over the world have been reporting video clips of Shekau deriding Nigerian government.
How about this other confusion? A supposed Nigerian National Security Council meeting was held at Abuja, which was expected to be attended by all the 36 state governors. It turned out only PDP state governors, 17 of them attended. Why should a National Security Council meeting in the circumstances of threatening anarchy be turned into a ruling party affair either because the opposition parties were kept away or because opposition parties boycotted?
Did the National Security Council meeting end before PDP national publicity secretary Olisa Metuh, openly accused opposition parties of boycotting the meeting? In another confusion, Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio, emerged from the meeting to say that PDP governors requested for the meeting but that President Jonathan requested the enlarged meeting to involve opposition governors.
PDP’s Olisa Metuh lied and Governor Akpabio lied. Do these people realize the state of insecurity in the country? Was it true, as claimed by rival All Progressives Congress (APC)that the party, after being invited, was misled that the meeting had been postponed or even cancelled? And Olisa Metuh turned round to mischievously lie to Nigerians that APC boycotted the meeting while Governor Akpabio similarly lied to Nigerians with the image massage of President Jonathan insisting on the attendance of APC governors?
The prospects were that PDP governors and President Jonathan had decided on their intention and would confront APC governors with that fait accompli.
There is this other very disturbing confusion, which should attract the attention of President Jonathan and his security chiefs. Most of the times, victims of Boko Haram atrocities, as reported in the media, always claimed that their attackers dressed in military uniforms. Should the culprits be truly Boko Haram insurgents, how could they be accessing military uniform?
Governor Amaechi’s lesson for Jonathan
 This must not be true but if true, it should taste sweetest. The Commissioner of Police, Adamawa State, John Abakasanga, was reported to have written Governor Murtala Nyako advising him not to disturb President Goodluck Jonathan from holding a political rally at Ribadu Square, Yola.Governor Nyako must be exceeding his power and violating his oath of office if he has been correctly reported. We must get this clear. Jonathan, in this case, must not be seen as President of Federal Republic of Nigeria being defied by Governor Nyako. Instead, Nyako must be seen as violating his oath of office to which he swore partly “… that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; … that I will, to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; … that I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, in all circumstances, etc.”In denying Jonathan from holding rally, Governor Nyako is allowing his personal (political?) interest to influence his official conduct and decision against Jonathan. There is no other explanation. But for political differences Nyako would not have obstructed Goodluck Jonathan. In so doing, Nyako is also not defending provisions of Nigerian constitution.
It must not also be conveniently assumed that in planning his political rally in Yola, Jonathan is in any way violating the Electoral Act, which purportedly bars election campaigns till 90 days before elections. No such law can stand as long as it violates fundamental human rights under Nigerian constitution, which guarantees for everybody the right to assemble, the right to hold political views and the right to express such views publicly.
Jonathan should approach a court of law for a declaration (a) of his right to hold and express political views as well as the right to assemble and (b) that Governor Nyako is violating his (Nyako’s) oath of office and his (Jonathan’s) rights under the constitution.
For the education and entertainment of everybody, let us allow the constitution to operate through the law. That is how a society develops. Jonathan must resist the temptation and especially any prompting to send soldiers or armed police to secure Ribadu Square, Yola, for his political rally. Should he fall for such show of force, he would be unnecessarily taking the law into his hands.
However, that is about all in favour of Goodluck Jonathan. We must now remind President Jonathan how his agents Police Inspector-General Mohammed Abubakar, instructed his subordinate and (at that time) Commissioner of Police Rivers State, Mbu Joseph Mbu not to allow Rivers State governor Chibuike Amaechi, to hold rally at the new Port-Harcourt stadium. If police authorities were on that occasion acting without Jonathan’s knowledge or instruction in disallowing Amaechi’s rally at which he was to distribute appointment letters to newly-recruited teachers, did Jonathan keep his oath of office by overruling his police subordinates to allow Governor Amaechi enjoy his constitutional rights?
The fact of history is that Amaechi could not hold his rally on that day. Today, President Jonathan is being subjected by Governor Nyako to the same humiliation inflicted (in Jonathan’s official status) on a state governor  last time. On that occasion, that official lawlessness was condemned in this column as Governor Nyako is being rebuked today.
Ordinary road transporters carry inscriptions on their buses to remind us that “ASO ROCK IS NOT THE END”. Ironically, President Jonathan still occupies Aso Rock and he is being treated with the indignity and misuses of power to which a state governor was subjected by police authorities in the name of President Jonathan.
For purposes of preserving the dignity of his office, President Jonathan should enforce his fundamental human rights through law courts.

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