Message From Chibok As President Jonathan Visits, By Azubuike Ishiekwene
A number of those who would never have believed that the Chibok girls were abducted may have finally changed their minds after seeing the chilling videos released by Boko Haram during the week. The late converts may include former aviation minister, Kema Chikwe, who was poised to fry my balls for saying that her comments suggested that nothing less than seeing the heads of the girls on a platter would satisfy her doubt.
Until the small sparks from the hashtag of local campaigners set off a global firestorm, I feared the worst. I feared that the Chibok girls would go the way of Nyanya, Buni Yadi, Mubi and dozens of other atrocities committed by Boko Haram that have been barely noticed. And it’s precisely because of the Kema Chikwes around President Goodluck Jonathan that politics trumps common sense all of the time.
When Boko Haram attacked Nyanya the first time, killing 75 people, PDP spokesman Oliseh Metuh, an otherwise sensible man, said with his tongue hanging out that it was the handiwork of the APC. He didn’t have a shred of evidence, and no one – not the security forces, not his party, not the president and commander-in-chief – asked him any questions. Instead, Jonathan made a cameo appearance in Nyanya and away he flew for a jig in Kano. Information minister Labaran Maku later explained that such malicious indifference was the only way to send a message to the terrorists that they could not bring the country to a halt. Nero would have been proud of such a defence.
Again when the Chibok girls were abducted, the first response was not how to rescue them. Amnesty International has said the security forces had four hours’ warning notice. They ignored the lead, apparently because they were not sure how Aso Rock would respond. And as if to justify that callous initial response, instead of sending help, Aso Rock led by the actress-in-chief was busy staging a drama entitled “Na only you waka come?” Aso Rock was sold on the view that the kidnap was another political game by Governor Kashim Shettima in cahoots with a few northern elites to embarrass the president.
This mindset has not only permeated Jonathan’s government; it has, sadly, infiltrated the security forces, encouraging indifference, corruption – and sabotage. Why bother when the boss is not concerned? Jonathan has said over and over again that he did not create Boko Haram; that some northern elites who could have done more to stop it are either not interested or – worse – stoking the flames.
He is right, up to a point. The seeds of Islamic fundamentalism in the north dating back to the Maitatsine riots and the beheading of Akaluka were sown by leaders who espoused political sharia instead of providing education for citizens; leaders who looted their state treasuries and fed citizens with the crumbs; zealots who made a public show of smashing beer bottles on the shelves of poor street traders while drinking Jim Beam in the comfort of their homes; hypocrites who preached one thing and did the exact opposite.
Yet, even if these were not problems of his own making, the moment Jonathan offered himself for office, he could no longer justifiably cherry-pick the problems to solve or behave as if he is president over three-quarters of the country. Those who have his ear and heart have obviously led him to believe that Boko Haram is an affliction created by the north to spite him; it’s just as well that the Frankenstein has turned on its maker. It has taken the abduction of 276 schoolgirls and global outrage for Jonathan to discover that what affects one ultimately affects all; that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Otherwise, why would Barack Obama, David Cameron or any other world leader bail us out of misery caused by the ineptitude of our own leaders?
When Jonathan said, during the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting in Abuja, that the kidnap of the girls was the beginning of the end for Boko Haram, I agreed. Not because he can be trusted to spread butter on bread, but because the involvement of the US and Britain will help shine the light on three key areas undermined by the incompetence of this government.
First is accountability. It is estimated that the security services have been spending an average of N1.1trillion on the fight against insurgency every year for the last three years. Where is the money?
I’m aware that not all the agencies have benefitted equally from the budget. The police, for example, have been the hardest hit, with less than 25 per cent of their budget released year in year out. But where has N1.1trillion gone? No serious effort to win the war will succeed as long as this massive fraud is swept under the carpet.
Second, where is Boko Haram’s funding coming from? The group is obviously getting more than two cents from bank heists, ransom, drug running and contributions from its affiliates in the Sahel. But without financial help from rogue and hostile businessmen in and around its base, these sources of funding can hardly support the audacious scale of their operations.
Third, what have security forces been doing with information provided by scores of suspects (mostly low level, but quite a few high-profile ones) in their custody? Any renewed offensive against Boko Haram must begin with an evaluation of existing information buried in the archives of the various agencies. It is not unlikely that, over the years, important information gathered by low-level staff across agencies may have been suppressed by ranking officers either for their own selfish interests or just for the heck of advancing inter-agency turf wars. The suppression of the advance warning on Chibok is just one tragic example of what I mean.
And that was what Jonathan meant when he said, two years ago, that Boko Haram had infested his government. But Jonathan, being Jonathan, he would rather bury his head in politically convenient excuses than hold his security chiefs on a tight leash. Until the president takes direct personal responsibility for the safety and security of the country and directs the security agencies to give periodic accounts of what they are doing publicly, we will not make any sustainable progress.
If he has not learnt this lesson in the last 30 days, I commend him to #bringbackhismanhood. Welcome to Chibok.
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to email@example.com