As insecurity looms in Nigeria under Jonathan’s presidency, there are growing concerns as to whether the country can survive as a single indivisible entity.
BY OHIA ISRAEL
After over one year of failed attempts to contain the security challenges affecting the country and at a time billions of naira were ‘spent’ on security without commensurate result, President Goodluck Jonathan last week after returning from his controversial trip to Brazil sacked the ‘billionaire’ National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. A Azazi (Rtd) from his plumb position albeit too late considering the record breaking number of Nigerians that were either killed, injured or subjected to untold poverty and suffering due to the deteriorating security and crime under Mr. Jonathan’s presidency and the failure of the security organization in the country to contain or manage the Boko Haram and its related uprising.
So far, Mr. Jonathan will go down in the history of Nigeria as one president under whose leadership the country lost countless of its citizens due to politicization of issues of security and corruption at the highest level of those managing the security of the nation.
President Jonathan has appointed Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (Rtd), son of a respected elder statesman, Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki as the new NSA. In the same move that expresses the failure of those managing the security of the nation, Mr. Jonathan also sacked Dr. Bello Halliru, former acting National Chairman of the PDP and one of those in the fore front of campaigning for the president in 2011 from his lucrative position as the minister of defence. Halliru’s appointment at a time of security challenges after Jonathan’s controversial victory at the 2011 polls is generally seen as an undeserved and unqualified posting primarily as a reward for his loyalty and in total disregard of the safety and security of the lives and properties of the people.
The sacking of the two top security chiefs as reported in many national dailies was after an emergency security meeting convened by Mr. Jonathan shortly after he came back from Brazil. Both Azazi and Halliru were in the meeting. The meeting was also attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Police Affairs minister, Caleb Olubolade, the Chief of Defense Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, Chief of Army Staff, General Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Umar and Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar.
Sources within the Presidency in Abuja told this paper that the sacking of Azazi and Halliru was part of the president’s resolve to overhaul and restructure the security network in the country for better performance against the growing threat of Boko Haram sect. Another insider told DESERT HERALD magazine that the choice of Dasuki being a Muslim and from one of the most influential families in Nigeria and considering his closeness to both Generals Ibrahim Babangida and former NSA, Aliyu Gusau is strategic and may restore the north’s confidence in the administration and the search for solution to the growing insecurity in the north. It is also expected that the likes of Gen. Gusau will behind the scene work closely with Dasuki and will willingly offer his wealth of experience to one of the heir apparent to the Sultanate throne. Dasuki was the former Aid- de-Cmap, ADC, to General Ibrahim Babangida.
It will be recalled that the former NSA, Azazi of late has become controversial due to statements credited to him including castigating the ruling PDP for the woes of the nation. Security experts are also unanimous that under Azazi as the NSA, the Boko Haram attacks and other related crimes in the country have escalated despite improved security funding running into billions of naira. To many, Azazi is not only incompetent but has woefully failed in securing the country.
But in a move that exposes the alleged rift between Mr. Jonathan and his sacked NSA which culminated to the surprise sacking, Azazi last week responded to the decision to sack him by saying that his former boss is a weak president. Azazi said that Jonathan had rejected his advice to arrest and quiz the likes of the CPC opposition leader, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd).
Also reacting to the sacking, Media spokesman to Azazi, Mike Awe, said: “The government appointed him and has asked him to go. The President is under political pressure and not everything is classified and made public. When the NSA asked that Buhari be invited for questioning, Jonathan kicked against it. When he suggested that some people be brought in and questioned, he kicked against it saying it is a ploy to scatter his government. So, really, it’s all about the president’s softness (weakness) but he appointed him and he has removed him.”
On the whole, some pundits are also expressing concern about the experience and competence of the new NSA, Dasuki to bring the needed change at such a difficult time. However, development in the security situation or lack of it in the next few months will determine Dasuki’s future and whether or not the president has made the right choice in him.
Insecurity looms in Nigeria
The situation of insecurity in the country has not only continued but it has gone unabated and at an alarming rate, without any solution in sight. Three years on, when the Boko Haram insurgence started, it has for long now defied many strategies to halt the unending insecurity. However, security experts believe that much needs to be done if Nigeria expects peace.
It is of note that from President Goodluck Jonathan to the Minister of Defense, Dr Bello Halliru Mohammed; from the National Security Adviser, General Andrew Owoeye-Azazi to the former Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim; and from the Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihijerika to Vice President Namadi Sambo, there has been a common exhortation about the insecurity in the country, and the slogan is always Boko Haram will soon be a thing of the past, but however in spite of these steady and continuous pledges, the same crisis of insecurity still lingers on.
According to an analyst who spoke to this paper “The problem of Nigeria is that everything seems very good to our leaders without recourse to the implication of such things on the masses, may be because these Boko Haram fanatics are not focusing directly on them. Instead of marching force to force, the Jonathan administration has set up reform panel. Must everything have reform panel? Why do we always embark on this lazy panel methodology when definitely you and I know that nothing will come out it? This panel that is chaired by the chairman of the police service commission, Mr. Parry B.O Osayande DIG (rtd) has other members including Mr. Casmir T. Akagbosu AIG (rtd), Mr. Bashir A. Albasu AIG (rtd), Major Gen S.N Chikwe rtd, Prof S.D. Mukoro, Dr. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), Aisha Larai Tukur and the Solicitor General of the Federation. The permanent Secretary, SSO, Office of the SGF is to serve as the secretary to the committee.”
However, it is on record that the greatest fear about the Boko Haram bombings are reprisal attacks and last weekend’s attack on churches in Kaduna State during which many people were killed and maimed seems to have sparked something hitherto dormant in the hearts of the Christian population, as the angry youths started attacking anyone perceived to be an enemy. However, Nigerians patiently ask questions which are begging for answers, such questions are when will this end, can Jonathan tame this unending insecurity situation? But if these answers cannot come, then it means that the President cannot assure the masses of their protection and a stable economy, and then he is therefore inviting anarchy. And such anarchy may bring Nigeria to a disastrous end.According to another political analyst; “For those who will argue that the security problem existed long before Jonathan came to office, the facts are that of the 13 years that the PDP has been in office, Goodluck Jonathan has been a part of the Presidency for 5 of those years, and President for the last two.
“The biggest tragedy of all was the President’s failure to seriously address the issue of insecurity. No one listening to Jonathan’s speech would have guessed that he was the President of a nation where lives are being lost daily to the menace of terrorism. The President’s speech offered no clarity on what his administration’s strategy would be to tackle the Boko Haram crisis. Is this then because, as it is being speculated, the government is covertly the mastermind of the whole saga with the unwholesome intent to destabilize the North? ”
It is obvious that the President has forgotten that what Nigerians want to know is; if there will be negotiations with Boko Haram. The long suffering Nigerian people, who are losing their lives and limbs daily to bombs and rifle rounds, deserve to know if they should expect an expanded security presence in their neighborhoods. They want to know when it will be safe to walk the streets again, and go to their places of worship without fear that they will be executed or bombed to smithereens. Nigerians want to know when they can breathe again. Those who expected any substantive proclamations on the nation’s grave security challenges would have been terribly disappointed by what the President had to say.
Another analyst also told this paper that “Jonathan offered the usual palliatives – sweet nothings, topped up with the traditional sprinkling of patriotic pep talk. Nothing in his speech was even remotely reassuring. The fact that the bombs and the killings have resurfaced with a vengeance is testimony to the ineptitude of this government in guaranteeing the lives and security of its citizens. The fact that reprisal attacks have also begun is telling, and it forebodes a new phase in the crisis, one with severe implications for Nigerian unity. When citizens lose faith in their government’s ability to protect them, they are left with no recourse than to take the law into their own hands,” said the analyst.
As it stands today, many think that the crisis called Boko Haram is specifically a Northern phenomenon and those in the South are either less or completely unbothered about the implications of the unrest. It may also look like the state in Abuja is unwisely isolating the problem as either sectional, sectarian or even a worry of a section of the North Eastern flank of the country. The problem is far much more than that and in fact the issue is that it seems that there is nobody in the corridors of power who actually has a reasonable grasp of the magnitude of this social explosion Nigeria is facing. If the government does not make the deliberate move to understand the genesis of the crisis and addressing it faithfully, the whole nation may be embroiled in untold confusion in the not too distant future.
Nigerians need to read the handwriting on the wall with necessary wisdom to understand how despite the aggression by the state coercive apparatuses, the group seem to be enjoying wider support from desperate Nigerian youths and the seeming ‘successes’ they are recording in beating the security apparatuses of the state and inflicting hurt on the people.
According to a political analyst; “I don’t believe that Boko Haram is a political movement or is acting the script of any politician or group of politicians for that matter. It is a product of the structural weaknesses of the Nigerian nation and state. It is a manifestation of the failure of governance especially at the center and can best be addressed through the evolution of dynamic social and economic policies.
“The Boko Haram phenomenon cannot be resolved through brute military operation or political romanticism which the government in Abuja seems to be adopting. The ‘them them’ theology which is said to be the view of some top notches in the corridors of power is a clear misunderstanding of what power is and the dynamics of social crisis in a plural society like Nigeria where majority of the citizens are aggrieved with the system in operation.
“Whether anybody likes it or not, Boko Haram is today Nigeria’s most disturbing social phenomenon. It is necessary that wisdom prevails and this is only possible if those who take decision on our behalf are humbled by the enormity of this national challenge. The earlier government opens up and begins discussion with the group the better for us all. This grandstanding in fight against terror is misplaced. The Americans will hardly be bothered because what the group does is not detrimental to oil supplies in the Delta region,” he said.
Meanwhile, as the Nation was again engulfed in security crisis in Kaduna and Yobe States, the President travelled out of the country for an earth summit in Brazil. A press release by the office of the SA media to the President said: “President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will depart Abuja tomorrow to attend the United Nations’ Earth Summit, RIO+20, opening in Brazil on Wednesday. President Jonathan will participate in the Summit’s four plenary meetings at Riocentro Plenary Hall on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as attend a reception to be hosted by the Brazilian President for Heads of State and Governments at the Summit” – stated the presidency as it announced to the press the President’s scheduled trip to Brazil. The announcement was signed and delivered by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, on evening of June 18, 2012.
Amazingly, as the president’s media point man released the above media statement of the President’s plans to travel to Brazil, three regions within the geo-sphere of Nigeria were reeling from bloody affair that has resulted in a casualty count of near 130 dead citizens of Nigeria through the mechanizations of bandits that have repeatedly wreaked havoc against the nation and her people. And pundits believe that the President had shown signs of helplessness in the face of the Islamic terrorist group. His latest action of jetting off to Brazil for a soft business jamboree against the ongoing anarchy unfolding in three regions of Nigeria depicts a leader with misplaced priorities.
The presidential press release further reads, “The President will use the opportunity of the Summit to declare open the Nigerian/Brazil RIO+20 Business Forum, and also hold talks with selected Brazilian businessmen and captains of industry. While in Rio De Janeiro, the President will meet with representatives of the Nigerian Community resident in Brazil, and return to Nigeria on Friday. President Jonathan will be accompanied by the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, Governors Ibrahim Shema and Seriake Dickson of Katsina and Bayelsa States respectively, as well as Sen. Benedict Ayade and Hon. Eziuche Ubani of the National Assembly. The Ministers of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafiya, Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochekpe, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga and Niger Delta (State) are on the entourage.”
On Sunday, June 17, 2012, multiple bomb blasts in Kaduna State, the home state of the vice president of the federal republic of Nigeria, took the lives of church goers – and sparked a reprisal attacks by Christians who have long harbored the feeling of helplessness at the hands of the federal government. The incident on Sunday saw an estimated 100 dead persons and an additional 163 injured. According to reports, law and order in Kaduna was nearly broken down – causing the State governor to declare an abrupt 24hour curfew across to avert the unfolding street fighting between Christian and Muslim youths in the various localities in Southern Kaduna State.
Simultaneously, on the same Sunday, mayhem was brewing at another region of the country – the south south region – the home region of the President of Nigeria. The Igbinedion University at Okada in Benin, Edo State saw unknown group of men armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons – beheading students in their hostels and destroying buildings and parked vehicles. The mayhem appeared unprovoked and without prior warning. The school campus turned into a bloodletting campus as the student scattered around in search for safety. The siege at the campus did not come under control of the law enforcement officers until late in the evening of that day. The number of dead and injured is not ascertained at the time of filing this report.
Again on Tuesday, Kaduna reignited on fire as the State government relaxed the curfew from 24hours to 6pm to 6am. The Muslim youths clashed with the residents of Barnawa in Southern Kaduna State. Bloodshed was averted through the quick response of the security force stationed in Kaduna. As the Kaduna fire was being put out, another fire started at another region of Nigeria. The fire started at the capital of Yobe – with 15 bombs reportedly detonated by the dreaded BH group. Gun battle between sect members and law enforcement agents were also reported at the capital city. Casualty count is not ascertained as at press time but eyewitness account estimates that the casualties maybe high.
However, lots of Nigerians have lampooned the President for such a callous lack of sympathy for the people he is ruling. One of such is one time Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Dr Abubakar Tsav, who in a phone chat with DESERT HERALD called on the President to throw in the towel and resign as he is not capable of ruling the country. He said the President is not capable of ruling the country, and that he should step aside. According to Tsav the President has lost control of the country and the best thing is for him to step aside. More so he said every time the president will say he knows those who are behind the Boko Haram and till now he can’t even mention them to Nigerians, adding that the unending insecurity situation is on top of the President rather than the president and all his security officials saying they are on top of the situation.
Tsav also condemned the President’s Trip to Brazil last week while the nation was engulfed in bombing and reprisal attacks. According to Tsav the action in Zaria and Kaduna has shown that the people don’t have mind and trust in the Government and that is why they took arms to defend themselves and that is why there was the reprisal attack.
Tsav also told this paper that Mr. President should be impeached and that he enjoins Nigerians to call for Mr. President’s impeachment as he is not capable of taking this country anywhere.
Similarly, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has criticized President Goodluck Jonathan for embarking on a trip to Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development at a time Nigeria is facing what could be described as a national emergency, as citizens continue to die from gun and bomb attacks in several cities.
The party, in a statement issued in Lagos, Tuesday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the decision by the President to travel two days after dozens of innocent Nigerians, including women and children, were killed or maimed by suicide bombers in Kaduna State, is a sign of insensitive and confused leadership.
It said the fact that the trip was announced by the presidency as the Yobe State capital, Damaturu, was being terrorized by attackers raised serious concerns about the Jonathan administration’s commitment to the security and welfare of the citizenry, which is the rason d’etre of any government. ACN said the President should have cancelled the trip as a symbolic act of a caring leadership and out of respect for the souls that were lost and are still being lost across the country.
”Again, we are constrained to ask whether this President is getting quality advice from the myriad of aides surrounding him, or whether, like his benefactor, Olusegun Obasanjo, he has decided he may not even take any advice from his advisers. In other climes, the usual thing is for leaders to cancel foreign trips or rush home from such trips when their countries suffer tragedies.
”In April 2010, Chinese President, Hu Jintao cut short his Latin American tour and returned home after a strong earthquake hit the west of China; This year, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir returned home early from his visit to China, due to the rising tension along the border of his country with Sudan, and even a phone-hacking scandal was enough for British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut short an African trade tour and return home in 2011.
”Since our own President has not even left Nigeria when these latest tragedies broke, it is inexplicable that he will still hop into a plane with a huge entourage and fly out. He should realise that he is attending the conference because he is the President of Nigeria, not because he is Dr. Jonathan. Therefore, Nigeria’s paramount interest dictates that he stays at home and oversees efforts to prevent the precarious situation in Kaduna from degenerating into an all-out religious war”, the party said.
The long and short of the nation’s unfortunate insecurity story, said a Kaduna-based political pundit, “is that President Jonathan’s advisers are not sincere. They are after what they can get from the government for their selfish ends; which is why the Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku could opened his wide mouth to tell Nigerians that Jonathan can rule Nigeria from anywhere, even when the very people who gave him the presidential mandate are losing their lives to what they know nothing about. The president is a disappointment” , he summed up.