Northern governors must be very livid with Governor Nyako for his recent treasonable pronouncements. It is important to point out that the Adamawa State governor did not shoot from the hip. He is afterall a fighting man. And he is certainly not suffering from schizophrenia. Simply put, he made his statements well aware of the potential consequences for Nigeria’s national security. It is thus curious that he has not been “invited” as yet for discussions by the State Security Service.
It is also troubling that the former Vice Admiral’s (and second most senior military officer in Nigeria at some point in our history) pronouncements coincided with former Head of State, General Buhari’s formal denouncement of terrorism. If there hitherto was any doubt about the culpability of the North’s elite (there is a wide dichotomy between the region’s elite and masses) in regard of the Boko Haram menace, Governor Nyako has unintentionally vindicated the intuition and perception by many that the region’s ruling class are partly to blame for our country’s present predicament.
The president’s caution in general is likely because of a desire not to instigate a bigger conflict. However, that caution is misplaced in the face of such brazenness displayed by Nigeria’s former Deputy Chief of Defence Staff and now Governor of a state; especially as this is someone privy to the national security secrets of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is not a call for an emotional, “commando” style and sensational arrest; as that would certainly play into the hands of the wily man. Due process is what is being called for here. The President should simply direct the Attorney-General to file treason charges against the Governor. And of course, the government cannot now say it doesn’t know how to get around the Governor’s immunity. Whether a potential treason charge against Governor Nyako leads to a conviction is immaterial. Apart from the clear message it would send about this government’s commitment to fighting terrorism, it may also avail the authorities of much sought after intelligence.
As for the president’s quick praise of General Buhari’s recent pronouncements denouncing terrorism, what was the hurry for? The Boko Haram crisis took a meaner dimension after the former head of state lost the 2011 elections. And he is only now issuing a statement denouncing terrorism after four years? President Jonathan should instead use his bully pulpit to ask General Buhari to speak in Hausa on the BBC, VoA, Radio Kaduna, etc. Hausa radio services denouncing Boko Haram in very clear terms and asking the North’s masses to support the government’s efforts. And this should be broadcasted repeatedly. In fact, a roll-call should be taken of all the members of the North’s elite who are yet to publicly denounce Boko Haram.
Isn’t it curious to anyone that the body language of Northern Governors and other northerners does not suggest a group of people worried about Boko Haram or the insecurity in the north? Since the beginning of the crisis, there has been an increase in the military budget, an increased focus on their supposed grievances (some of which are legitimate; the poverty in the north is staggering and there is enough blame to pass around for this) and a deliberate attempt by the President to ingratiate himself to them. This is not without precedence. President Jonathan would probably have been denied the presidency during the Yar’adua interregnum but for the consciousness by “custodians” of the Nigerian State of potential repercussions from Niger Delta militants if he were denied the rights of his office. As events since the negotiated peace with the Niger Delta show, insurgency can be quite beneficial.
Let’s think about this for a bit. Hitherto, all the major regions of the country had an insurgent/secessionist strategy or autonomy advocacy group except the North. The Yorubas in the Southwest had a quasi-military wing called the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) and the Igbos in the Southeast had the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). What the did north have? Until it became clear to the North’s elite that power was going to elude them for some 18 years (if we include the remainder of President Yar’adua’s tenure), there was no need to adopt such a strategy. If President Jonathan rules for another 4 years (and even for another 5-6 years thereafter if the ongoing constitutional conference’s likely recommendation of a single 5-6 year term does not have retroactive application), the presidency would have eluded the North for 18-24 years. That is enough time to change the power configuration of any country; talk less Nigeria.
However, in the likely scenario that the North’s elites decided on an insurgent strategy, they were likely bereft of any rallying point of significance except religion. The literature is replete with the evolution of Boko Haram. So that would not enjoy consideration here. That it had nuisance value at the very least for the North’s strategists is not in doubt. But like all strategies, there are always unforeseen events that could throw all plans into disarray. No one could have predicted the ouster of Gaddafi in Libya and the proliferation of heavy arms around the region thereafter. And President Jonathan’s tenacity must have come as a surprise as well. Another way to think about this is thus. In the unlikely scenario that Boko Haram prevails, who are those that would rule the country? A particular general’s name quickly comes to mind, surely.
Nigerian Muslims also need to take lessons from what happened in the Central African Republic. Boko Haram has been committing these atrocities under the banner of Islam. It is imperative on the country’s Muslims to be on the forefront of the war and advocacy against terrorism. If Nigeria’s Muslims (and indeed adherents of Islam all over the world) don’t speak against and fight terrorism in the most vociferous manner, there is likely to be the emergence of terrorist groups under the banner of other religions. Burma and the Central African Republic are cases in point. In general, the citizens of Nigeria should take the threat posed by Boko Haram very seriously. If we do not contain it now, the national security consequences would overwhelm us all. Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., “When evil men plot, good men must plan”. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.