By Ondugbe O’ Abbah
Whenever the history of contemporary Nigeria is being written, historians are likely to cast their minds back to that period when the anticipation, nay pledge, of a “breath of fresh air” was at its zenith. That, needless to say, was the period when President Goodluck Jonathan, who found himself in power early in 2010 following the now famous proclamation of “doctrine of necessity”, fed Nigerians with assurances of “transformation agenda”.
But, alas, no sooner were Nigerians’ appetite wetted with Jonathan’s pledge of transformation and “breath of fresh air” than things started to turn sour. The pervading insecurity in the land (that has rubbished the then militancy in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram insurgency in the north east) became more pronounced when Jonathan mounted the saddle.
Despite the visionary efforts of the then President Yar’Adua who had kick-started an Amnesty programme for MEND and other militant groups in the restive N/Delta, the situation was somehow allowed to degenerate into an unprecedented kidnapping-for-ransom spree as well as large-scale crude oil theft allegedly masterminded by some ex-militants. Curiously, even though Aso Rock overlooked the Nigerian Navy and other security forces to award lucrative contacts for the “protection” of oil facilities to those same militants, oil pilfering kept snowballing alarmingly!
In the same vein, no sooner had Jonathan taken over than the Boko Haram insurgency skyrocketed. Political and security analysts alike are still at a loss over how a situation that was relatively tolerable prior to Jonathan’s emergence (bearing in mind that his predecessor had virtually the insurgents by then) was allowed to spiral out of control under his watch. So much so that between then and now, not only has the radical Islamic group waxed stronger; it was become daring and seemingly omnipotent to the extent that the president and commander-in-chief of the armed force famously declared that Boko Haram had penetrated the highest echelon of his government.
It would be recalled that as far back as January 2010 the nation had been alerted to the fact that the daredevil gang was about to bounce back. In the first edition of DESERT HERALD magazine it was reported (based on a broadcast by the new leader of B/Haram which was exclusively obtained by the monthly magazine) that the radical sect was not only returning with a bang, but was poised to be more daring and deadly.
According to some security experts who spoke to this medium, it was curious that rather than act on that and other vital intelligence with a view to nipping the Boko Haram threat in the bud, officialdom opted to play the proverbial ostrich. “Given that security is the cornerstone of every government, it’s incredible that the president ignored that self-evident threat until it was virtually too late, opting instead to concentrate every effort on his (2011) election campaign” remarked one of the security experts.
What worries many is that just as Jonathan is fiddling while the nation has been bleeding between 2010 and 2011; and worse still is that a somewhat similar scenario is being re-enacted ahead of the 2015 general elections, so much so that despite the unprecedented level of frequent killings of hundreds of defenceless citizens (by insurgents and gangs of unknown gunmen alike) the president seems to be more obsessed with his political interests.
For instance, following the slaughter of tens of innocent students in a federal government college in Borno State on the eve of the recent centenary celebration, despite calls for Jonathan to visit the bereaved families, he bluntly refused. In contrast, he has been veritably busy visiting foreign capitals (such as the recent six-day world tour which included Namibia, Rome and the Netherlands) just as he has been a permanent feature at all the ongoing PDP zonal rallies!
With the commander-in-chief so seemingly disconnected with the tragedies unfolding before our eyes, the casualty figures have continued to mount beyond belief. For instance, on January 26, 2014 about 80 people were slaughtered in two separate attacks in Borno and Adamawa states by suspected insurgents. Barely two weeks later, over 100 compatriots were massacred in Izghe, a village in Borno.
These are merely two out of the countless mass killing recorded in the country (mainly in the North) in recent time. According to the international NGO, Human Right Watch, over 700 people have been killed in 40 separate attacks in the North-east alone since the beginning of this year, even as the casualty figures keep mounting.
In fact, the troubling situation has deteriorated to the extent that on a typical day, national dailies keep carrying banner headlines of the mass killing of defenceless Nigerians either by that radical sect or warring herdsmen and farmers (usually in the North east and North-central). Another chilling dimension to the killing spree is the serial killing of so-called jail-breakers by security agents (as evident in the slaughter of tens of people a few weeks ago at the headquarters of the state security services (SSS) in Abuja).
While insecurity (including serial kidnappings, armed robbery, hired assassinations and the like) reigns supreme, corruption in high places has gotten out of hand. For instance, the levity with the revelation by the then CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi, that a princely $2 billion was missing from the NNPC account, was treated. In the same vein, the disclosure that petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke has spent some N10 billion of taxpayers’ money junketing around in chartered aircraft, has largely been snubbed by a president who pays lip service to the anti-graft campaign .
Needless to say, corruption and insecurity are not the only hydra-headed monsters taking a toll on the nation. Inflation, unemployment (the recent deaths of 19 Nigerians during the ill-fated Nigeria Immigration Service job interview is a case in point), dilapidated infrastructure, near-comatose electricity generation/supply and perennial industrial actions are all having a field day even as Mr. President snores
Ironically while Jonathan has found it expedient to ignore, or best treat with levity, the mind-boggling problems confronting the nation, he has been quite unrestrained in his globetrotting and attendance of partisan political activities. At a typical PDP zonal rally he would hurl verbal missiles at his political foes, calling them all sorts of names, and even threaten to deal ruthlessly with state governors who dare to challenge him! As some analysts have pointed out lately, rarely has a Nigerian ruler ever stooped so low, making the sort of unmitigated statements that are more associated with Motor Park touts.
Putting the matter in perspective, Senator Adetunmbi Olubunmi (Ekiti North Senatorial District) recently lamented that “these statements are certainly not presidential either are they accepted utterances of a true statesman (they) show that we may perhaps have a president who is clueless on one hand and also largely insensitive to the plight being faced by Nigerians”.