Between Herskovits, Azazi and Jonathan

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LAST week, I expressed worry about the simplistic acceptance of ‘Boko Haram’ complicity for the bombings around the country. I had argued that we needed a more open-minded and critical interrogation of the various claims

This is because, even statements coming from state security, indicate there are criminal syndicates claiming to be Boko Haram.

This does not absolve Boko Haram of whatever atrocities it has carried out; but the pattern of recent events in Nigeria, seem to indicate that there is a ‘Fifth Column’, implementing an elaborate political agenda to divide Nigeria, by cynically exploiting the fault lines of religion and ethnicity.

We will come back to this point; but I will like to remind the reader that the exploitation of our fault lines was central to the political and electoral calculations that delivered the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. This is the most divisive presidency in Nigerian history!

Against the backdrop of the slow motion of the Jonathan’s presidency and its increasing alienation from the Nigerian people, it is no surprise that it exploits national security as a central thesis of survival. On January 4, 2012, Owoye Andrew Azazi, the National Security Adviser, wrote an Op-Ed piece for THE WASHINGTON TIMES newspaper, titled “Combatting a common terrorist threat”. Against the backdrop of the tragic bombings of churches in Northern Nigeria, Azazi tried to link events in Nigeria to the American ‘War on Terror’: “Terrorists from Nigeria have again turned the joyful celebrations of Christmas into a D-Day for premeditated murder”, our security Czar told his American readers. And to raise the ante of fear located in memories of 9-11, he incredulously claimed that, “America is at risk for this type of violence”. Azazi reminded that “Two Christmases ago, a militant from my country- the infamous Underwear Bomber-tried to blow up an American jetliner over Detroit…We must stress that the threat emerging in our country is far larger and may be headed America’s way”.



Having stoked American fear, Azazi launched into the real reason for his ‘Psych-Op’ project: “It is time for a strategic security relationship between Nigeria and the United States”. Simply put, Azazi is openly inviting AFRICOM, whose commander has been courting Nigeria. AFRICOM’s agenda is basically to secure oil resources and contain and isolate Islam. An American ‘War on Terror’ type bludgeon cannot be employed as substitute to an intelligence-led containment of Boko Haram.

Azazi’s hysterical stoking of terror, must be counterpoised to the restraining voice of respected religious leaders like Cardinal Okogie, who warned that there is no religious war in Nigeria, nor is there evidence of foreign support for Boko Haram. But they must justify the near-One Trillion Naira budgeted for ‘security’ in 2012: security contractors; the Zionist Israeli security apparatus and the Nigerian ‘securicrat’have a huge amount to sink their teeth into; hence the agenda to continuously exploit the Boko Haram ‘franchise’.

It will serve many purposes. First, there is the huge sum to spend and steal; then the cynical politics of continuing division of Nigeria along ethno-religious and regional lines, especially with an eye on the 2015 elections. Dividing Nigeria was a winner in 2011, so that card must continue to be the best possible option!

It is significant, that telltale indications continue to point to the fear that there is indeed, a cynical manipulation going on. The ‘Boko Haram’ elements that gave Christians an ultimatum to leave the North were clearly fake; just as there are stories making the rounds, that suspicious security elements actively participate in bombings, while claiming to be ‘Boko Haram’.

In November 2011, the SSS announced that it busted a gang made up of non-Muslims, but threatening people as ‘Boko Haram’. These suspicious elements are not a popular line of interrogationas can be seen in the sensational reportage of‘Boko Haram’atrocities, which feed into people’s fears and prejudices, and the manner it is being exploited to force Nigerians’ retreat into ethno-religious/regional laagers. SATURDAY MIRROR of January 7, 2012 screamed: “Youths sack Hausa in Sapele; Gunmen kill 12 Igbo, Yoruba in Adamawa” and inside the same paper, on page 7, ‘Reprisal attacks begin in South”; the following day,SUNDAY SUN followed with “War Drums”, as its lead; just to quote only two examples of a trend in our recent journalism. We seem to be back in the 1960s; or closer still, the uncertainty and fear, which followed the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election.

That frame of fear was packaged and presented by President Goodluck Jonathan, to a church congregation on Sunday, January 8th, 2012. Jonathan incredibly claimed that Boko Haram killings were worse than the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s. Now, the majority of Nigerians today, is under the age of thirty and did not experience the crises of the 1960s.

But over one million Nigerians died in the Civil War, so why on earth will President Jonathan compare those tragic years with Boko Haram? In my view, it was in pursuit of that cynical manipulation, that I spoke about earlier. President Jonathan claimed there were Boko Haram members in practically every sector of Nigerian society; in the same manner that he refuted claims by MEND that it carried out the 2010 Independence Day bombings. Boko Haram is useful to the Jonathan administration’s national security doctrine and grand political strategy of exploitation of our ethno-religious fault lines, for short-term regime advantage. The long term effect on the well-being of Nigeria does not seem to matter to the administration, nor, as we have quoted in Azazi’s article for THE WASHINGTON TIMES,for its security apparatus.

But it is in the interest of Nigerians to give themselves the pause, and scrutinise every ‘Boko Haram’ claimcritically. Things are not as they often appear or are made to appear! Azazi’s January 4thOp-ed piece seemed a response to the January 2nd NEW YORK TIMES article, “In Nigeria, Boko Haram is Not the Problem”, by Professor Jean Herskovits, who has written on Nigeria since 1970. She cautioned America against getting sucked into a Nigerian variant of the “War on Terror”, because it will be “chasing an elusive and ill-defined threat”, since in real terms, “there is no proof that a well-organised, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today.


Endemic poverty and


On the contrary, “evidence suggests instead that, while the original core of the group remains active, criminal gangs have adopted the name Boko Haram to claim responsibility for attacks when it suits them”. Jean Herskovits reminded “that the root cause of violence and anger in both the north and south of Nigeria is endemic poverty and hopelessness”. Even the American Ambassador, Terrence P. McCulley “has emphasised, both privately and publicly, that the government must address socio-economic deprivation, which is most severe in the north. No one seems to be listening”.

For me, these are contending frames for appreciation of the security challenges of recent times in Nigeria. Nobody will dispute the existence of these challenges; we might not agree on their historical roots and the strategies to eliminate them. But it is important to scrutinise claims that seem designed to seriously damage co-existence amongst the Nigerian people. In the last days of apartheid in South Africa, ‘Fifth Column’ Black-on-Black violence, was engineered by the racist regime. This centred on Kwazulu-Natal, and it pitched Zulu tribal elements against the ANC, in an attempt to unravel the liberation struggle. I strongly suspect we are dealing with a cynical exploitation of Boko Haram in Nigeria too.

I am suspicious of the frames of perception and analyses from President Jonathan and his Security Advicer, Owoye Azazi. The regime is deficient in trust, as it has shown over the past few months, but especially, in the spectacular manner it scored an own-goal in the current fuel subsidy crisis.

So why should we trust the same cast of characters in the way it has presented the threats of Boko Haram? Clearly, there is something rotten in the state of Nigeria, to paraphrase Shakespeare!

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