| Mike Akpan |
AT THEIR various extraordinary national conventions in April and May this year, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, which have all dissolved into the All Progressives Party, APC, made the apparent incapacity of the federal government to tame the Boko Haram insurgency which has seriously challenged the security situation in the country, their campaign issue. They carpeted President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for inefficiency and lack of focus to effectively manage the security situation and protect lives and property especially in the northern part of Nigeria. They advised Jonathan to resign if he has run out of ideas on how to handle the Boko Haram insurgency. On their part, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, and the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, accused the president of looking the other way as the Boko Haram sect systematically destroys the economy of the north.
On face value, those who accused President Jonathan of doing nothing to contain the Boko Haram insurgency might have been right. At first, the president did not really know how and where to place the sect. That is, the government was confused as to whether Boko Haram was a militant or a terrorist group. And despite pressure by the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and other concerned Nigerians, Jonathan bluntly refused to classify Boko Haram as a terrorist group and even prevailed on the government of the United States of America, USA, not to do so for inexplicable reasons. Perhaps, the confused policy of the government encouraged members of the sect to intensify their campaign of atrocities with indiscriminate and senseless bombings of various targets followed by gun attacks on innocent people. Worse, the Joint Task Force, JTF, set up by the federal government to contain the insurgents, was incapacitated by the rule of conduct that governed its operations. Consequently, the members became helpless in the face of sustained attacks by the insurgents and strident accusations of human rights violations by the NEF and human rights groups. The last straw which probably broke the federal government’s back was the massacre carried out in Baga and Bama towns in Borno state by the insurgents but which opposition groups and the Human Rights Watch attributed to the JTF members.
Apart from the massacres and mindless destruction of property, there were security reports that the insurgents had captured many towns and local governments areas in Borno State and burnt the Nigerian flag before installing their own. President Jonathan confirmed this ugly development in his nationwide broadcast on May 14. This was a clear case of rebellion which no government or country can fold its arms to watch helplessly. The disturbing security reports jolted President Jonathan to now believe that the sect has gone too far and, according to an African proverb: the greeting has gone beyond the elbow. It was time to stop the insurgents in their tracks. Even before it got to this stage, the president had come under pressure by various interest groups including the opposition political parties, the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, the NEF and the ACF to consider dialogue with the insurgent group and eventual granting of amnesty to the sect members willing to embrace peace. But no sooner had the president succumbed to the pressure and constituted a committee to handle negotiations for that purpose, than the insurgents rejected the idea of amnesty insisting that it should be the other way round. And to demonstrate that they meant business, they intensified their attacks in Borno and Yobe states.
Before the president decided on what should be his government’s response to the bravado of the insurgents, he consulted widely. In the process, the opposition groups got wind of his planned line of action. That, probably, explained why the ACN, the NEF, the ACF and a group of Northern Youths persistently warned President Jonathan against declaring a state of emergency in any part of the North. The ACN premised its opposition to emergency rule declaration in any part of the north on the fact that it would give the ruling PDP government an electoral edge over the other political parties in the country. The president ignored their warnings because he considered them to be a product of selfish interests. In fact, Jonathan deserves commendation for declaring a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states on May 14 in spite of the intimidating opposition. As he said in his nationwide radio and television broadcast, his action was to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The response of the sect to the emergency rule declaration barely three days after, with a deadly attack on banks, two police stations and a prison yard, among other places in Daura, the home town of retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state, was an indication that the sect was not in any mood for peace. This assertion was confirmed by the vast arsenal it had stockpiled at various locations in readiness for war. Among the stockpiled weapons captured by the federal troops which overran many of the sect’s training camps were anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers, bombs, grenades, explosives and anti-tank guns. It is now very clear that those who spearheaded the opposition before and after the declaration of the state of emergency to deal with the insurgency once and for all have their separate agenda politically. But one thing they fail to understand is that their struggle to claim political power in 2015 will be an illusion if there is no country called Nigeria for them to rule. So, it is in their own interest to co-operate with President Jonathan to secure the territorial integrity of Nigeria for them to aspire to govern. At this stage, national interest should override any political ambition. The Action Congress of Nigeria in particular, and the APC in general, must move away from the old-fashioned style of political opposition of not seeing anything positive in the policy of the party in government. If it criticizes a particular policy of the government, it should be able to offer an alternative to it. That is the only way opposition can be responsible and relevant. Now that it has condemned emergency rule in the three northern states by President Jonathan, what has it suggested as the alternative?
— Jun. 3, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT