Senate President’s Boko Haram Theory By Sam Nda-Isaiah

Chairman of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Nda-Isaiah

like every other well-meaning Nigerian, the Senate president feels very strongly about Boko Haram. Senator David Mark is a very well-respected public officeholder and he has consistently done well in all the high offices he has held. You may not agree with or even like his politics, but he has always been a competent person who takes whatever job he is doing seriously. As a lieutenant colonel, he was governor of Niger State under the presidency of both generals Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida, and he remains one of the best the state has had. On account of that, he is still very popular with the intelligentsia of the state. As Senate president, he has brought stability and maturity to the Senate chamber. That is why I am so surprised at the quality of his views on the Boko Haram insurgency, an issue that is supposed to be a very straightforward matter: the failure of President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria declares very clearly that the welfare and security of the people is the responsibility of the federal government. The Senate president has blamed everyone else on this Boko Haram issue but the federal government and the person who heads the government, President Jonathan. Publicly, Senator Mark has held very strong views about the intractable Boko Haram insurgency. He has consistently continued to put the responsibility of solving the problem on the shoulders of the northern elders – by the way, he is one of them – but he has never for once declared that President Jonathan has failed disastrously in doing the most elementary job he was elected to do.

The first time the Senate president spoke publicly on the matter was at a conference organised by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) last year. The most notable thing he did there was to condemn northern elders for not condemning Boko Haram. He asked why northern elders were not condemning Boko Haram. I remember writing on this page and saying that the Senate president should instead be asking Jonathan and the federal government why they were not effectively doing their job. I went further to say that northern elders were not condemning Boko Haram publicly because they were afraid to do so. Pure and simple. That is a matter of fact. People were afraid because they knew the government was incapable of protecting them when they got that bold. And it is on record that Boko Haram operatives had murdered those northern elders that had condemned them or even reported some of their members to the authorities.

The first, in fact, to condemn them was their teacher, Sheikh Jafar, who was allegedly killed by members of the sect who thought the cleric was critical of them and their extremist doctrines. If they would kill those who abhor their doctrine and the Jonathan government would be so hopelessly incompetent in getting to the root of the murder, would it not be expecting too much for anyone to condemn them publicly? And, in fact, what difference would it make when people condemn them? Crimes are punished, they are not condemned. If you like, call that cowardice or call it discretion, but it will be very foolish for anyone to draw danger to himself if the government has proved so incompetent in protecting innocent and law-abiding people. When a former inspector-general of police told the insurgents that their days were numbered, they embarrassingly bombed the police headquarters in Abuja. The former IG himself only escaped death by the skin of his teeth. And the Senate president does not expect people to be scared stiff of such beings? Well, I’m yet to be convinced that Boko Haram has been responsible for all the atrocities attributed to it.

There are so many northern groupings today trying desperately to foster unity among northerners, especially between Christians and Muslims, as a direct aftermath of the activities of Boko Haram. But, as I have told many of the conveners, there are some problems that can be solved only by government – and the Boko Haram problem is one of them. And, here, I mean the federal government. Even the state governments have limited leverage to tackle this nature of security impasse. Their own contribution can only be complementary. The federal government controls the police, SSS, army, navy and the air force. The president also controls the immigration and the customs services. I am not suggesting that the state governors should be exculpated of all responsibility. Far from that. After all, they appropriate security votes. But if, as we now know, most of the arms, bullets and grenades that are used for crimes come into Nigeria through our borders, how then does the governor of a state like Kaduna, for instance, stop these weapons from coming into his state?

The Senate president also insinuates that some northerners are giving protection to Boko Haram. If that is the case, is it not also the responsibility of President Jonathan’s government to fish out such miscreants and charge them in court for abetting terrorism and mass murder? I have never heard our respected Senate president for once telling the president this very straightforward truth.

If, indeed, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has not punished a single person for terrorism, including the Niger Delta militants who started it all on October 1, 2010, how then does the president expect that the problem would go away? Even, none of the several Boko Haram people that have been arrested has been charged in court and punished. Is it not a very elementary precept of statecraft that when crimes are not punished, they proliferate? How many people has President Jonathan’s government arraigned for bombing a church? Yet, we know that every Sunday, for as long as we can remember, churches are bombed during worship and many get murdered. I really do not understand the kind of government that the president is running, and I have not met anyone who knows. Since Jonathan came to power, not a single person has been punished for murder, yet, almost on a daily basis, people are murdered. The Senate president has not noticed this?

And there are other questions we also need to ask the president. Why is it that the police are not properly funded to do their job? Indeed, why is it that they do not get the money that are budgeted for them and approved by the National Assembly? It is squarely part of the Senate president’s job description to ask. It is not a secret that the IG of police, M. D. Abubakar (ditto his predecessor Hafiz Ringim) has been going around governors begging for money to do his job. For goodness’ sake, where are all the funds that have been voted for the police in 2010, 2011 and 2012? If the police are not well equipped, how are they supposed to confront the superior fire power of Boko Haram? Of course, most of the money meant for the police and more had been diverted by the Jonathan government to make up the N2.6 trillion that was misappropriated to take care of fuel subsidy payments in a year that N250 billion was approved for that purpose. Is this not the type of question that Senator Mark should be asking the president instead of blaming the wrong people for the rise of crime and terrorism in the country?

Boko Haram insurgents are killing Christians, Muslims, northerners and southerners, and even foreigners. The constitution has said that the welfare and security of the people is in the hands of the government. So let’s ask the right questions. And if a leader, especially an elected one whose duty it is to guarantee safety and security is not doing the job, the right thing to do, especially by the Senate president, would be to tell that president to shape up or ship out – whichever is more convenient for him. We shouldn’t play politics with the lives of people.

The president’s handlers’ most intelligent explanation for the Boko Haram insurgency is that it is the handiwork of the president’s northern opposition elements who had promised to make the country ungovernable for him if he won the presidency. If the president believes that rubbish, then, those opponents must really be strange people indeed to try to make life uncomfortable for Jonathan by killing their own people and killing their own businesses. Yes, the victims of these insurgents are mostly northerners – both Christians and Muslims. And since the activities of this group are mostly in Borno, Yobe and Kano, then, it will only be plausible to say that more Muslims have been killed as a direct result of Boko Haram’s activities. One of the distressing things for me every Sunday is to hear that Christians have been killed during church service, and, lately, that has happened every Sunday. Imagine the killing of those professors and other academics at the Bayero University Kano chapel, to mention one of the many. But, in spite of the distress, anger and pain I feel, I know clearly who to blame for the needless deaths. It is the incompetence of President Jonathan. It’s the same way I blame Jonathan for the sharp increase in the incidences of armed robbery, theft of crude oil and theft of public funds since he became president. The elites of this country need to be very clearheaded about such matters. We need to continue to question the competence of the president, especially since what we have is still called a democracy.

One doesn’t need to be a superstar to know how to handle this insecurity problem. Apart from the long-term issues of poverty, illiteracy and plain crime, there are some things that must be done immediately. First would be the question of where these so many arms and munitions are coming from. I am surprised that the president doesn’t know this is the point to start from. The Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali and Libya had been involved in wars for as long as many of us can remember. One does not need to be a Lee Kuan Yew to know that many of the weapons in Nigeria today are fallouts of those wars. So the first steps would be to face our borders. Nigerian borders are currently the most porous in the world. That is why, these days, even grenades are so easy to procure that even armed robbers use them for their operations.

The next thing would be for President Jonathan to start punishing murderers. People who kill should also be ready to die. How many death sentences have been carried out since Jonathan became president, in spite of the fact that tens of thousands of innocent people have been murdered in cold blood since he was sworn in as president?

Thirdly, money budgeted for the police and other law enforcement agencies should be given to them in full in order to equip them for the very serious battle against terrorism. That means that President Jonathan should start working on the image of the government he leads – the most corrupt in the history of this country. Corruption, since Jonathan became president, is now measured in trillions of naira. But this should not surprise anyone since the president has just told us that it is against his principle to make his assets public. The message he has just sent out by that statement is that corruption is not an issue for him. But, of course, just as Jonathan has never punished anyone for murder, he has also not punished anyone for corruption since he became president. That is not how to run a country.

One of the things the Senate president said is that Boko Haram would break Nigeria if things continued this way. No, Nigeria will not break. What could happen if Boko Haram is not reined in would be far worse. Nigeria would become a worse form of Somalia or Congo. Even as I write, Jonathan has refused to go to Borno and Yobe states since he became president. He can’t go, he said, because the airport is not good. Words fail me on this one. The president doesn’t even know that that is part of his job. And, even at that, people have been using the Maiduguri airport daily. Even if it is true that the airport is not good, can’t he go by road? Is he not the president of Nigeria? Has there not been past presidents that toured the country by road? In fact, won’t travelling by road afford the president the opportunity to see, first hand, the state of the federal roads in that part of the country he governs?

Nigeria can’t break up along religious lines anyway, because this not a war between Christians and Muslims. What is happening now is that there is an organised gang of outlaws killing both Christians and Muslims, and the government has been utterly incompetent in handling the situation. The second reason why Nigeria cannot break along religious lines is that there would be no borders. If, as the Senate president has said, the country breaks along religious lines, which part would the Hausa/Fulani Christians in Wusasa and Katsina belong? Which part would the Christians in Kebbi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Zamfara, Gombe and Borno states belong? Where would the many Muslims in Kogi and Kwara states belong? Or, even by the way, the few Muslims in Idomaland where the Senate president comes from? It is absolutely impossible for Nigeria to break up along religious lines.

There is a problem of leadership here, please. President Jonathan is the leader today. Let all of us, but especially the Senate president, tell him to his face that his incompetence could push the country off the cliff. Nigeria is too divided today as a consequence of this failure of leadership. Nigeria is divided along religious lines, tribal lines, regional lines, oil-producing states and non oil-producing states and so on and so forth. We need a leadership with a broad world view that gives cover to everyone. Leaders must not be seen as champions of their people either by their actions or utterances. We need leaders who will bring people together to see themselves as one with a common purpose and common destiny. The ordinary man in the north suffers the same problems as one from the south. Corruption stunts everyone’s growth whether they are Christian, Muslim, northerner or southerner. When Dana Air’s aircraft crashed recently, apparently as a direct result of corruption, northerners, southerners, Christians and Muslims were all affected. Let Nigerians come together and fight their common enemy.

And, by the way, why is it that nothing has been heard of the people who were arrested trying to bomb a 15,000-capacity mosque in Kano about a fortnight ago? People were arrested red-handed, so there is no ambiguity in this one. Are they Christians, Muslims or even fifth columnists in government in the pursuit of their own agenda? The Senate president should join President Jonathan to force the security agencies to make the identities of the felons public in order to put to rest the rumours of the conspiracy theories currently making the rounds. This arrest must not be allowed to fade away like many, many others before it.

E A R S H O T

Congratulations To Kola @ 50

This is to wish my friend, Kola Abiola, a very happy 50th birthday and many happy returns. It is gratifying to note that Kola is recovering well after going through the twin disasters of losing both his wife and lovely daughter within one year. I wish him well in the years ahead.

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  5. Magnus obinna says:

    A clear definition of Boko haram activities is likened to that tender age of d morning when the night usualy feels reluctant to give birth to d day.iam nt a religion fanactist neither due i have any grudge for any particular religion,bt 1 thn that marvels me is the way northern elders are taking ths issue. If a mosque at kano,kaduna,sokoto and d famous national mosque at fct experience a blast maybe the same day,u wl see that a word from emirs,sultans and many powerful northern elders wl struck a national solution.(ths nt my wish).lets face d fact here,bible condems murder but what about koran.if an islamic sect want to divide nigeria,let the united christian group say no.

  6. michael says:

    It would be extremely naive 2 argue dat d present boko haram crises does nt av any political undertone. D original boko haram draws inspiration from d sections of d quran dat prescribes establishing sharia as d panacea to the world’s troubles. Now d muslim north is completely entangled in a feudal system, whereby traditional/islamic/political leaders av a firm grip on d commoners largely due to their islamic ties. Security operative can only work with d information d gather from d public; the One of the greatest constraint of security operatives is dat they do not get enuf info frm the northern public bcos many muslims r sympathisers of d boko haram and dier cause: The silence of d northern leaders further reinforces this perception of d part of d northern public. Obviously BH has been hijacked by northern politicians bcos of d outcome of the April 2011 election. Bt where d leaders(islamic inclusive) of d north has failed is dat dey av nt educated d muslim public adequately, so dat dey would c it as an islamic instruction to fight against d actions of boko haram as demanded in quran 49:9 . The truth is dat, without d support of d northern public, boko haram issue would continue 2 persist.

    • Baffa Saleh says:

      Mr. Micheal did you even read the white up? You said the Muslim North, The North is made up of both Muslims and Christians who have lived in relative peace until politicians and Mischief makers like you brought up a divid between us! You dont know a the 1st thing about Islam or the North, you just make up conjectures from sectional media outfits, religious bigots and corrupt politicians to arrive to your delusional conclusion! We the people of the North christians and muslims would hold hands together, bring peace to our region and stand in unity for one Nigeria like it or not! We will be our brothers keepers, we will continue to pray in Mosques and churches and work together to defeat Satan and his follows to build one nation under God! Boko Haram is a terrorist organisation which is not Islamic in any way or form and its activities are foreign to the cultural and beliefs of the North and its people! So Mr. Michael i’d advise you to go and read more about the history of the north and the teaching of Islam before you generalise and make provocative statements! May the Almighty save us from the evil of men and bring peace to our lands, Amen!!!

  7. Magnus obinna says:

    For once iam in love with a post in this forum.all you said is right but the questiön is can senate president tel ths to GEJ ?

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