DURING last Monday’s PRESIDENTIAL MEDIA CHAT, Goodluck Jonathan was asked to respond to a statement made by Borno Governor, Kashim Shettima, in respect of the arming and motivation of the Boko Haram insurgents vis-à-vis the Nigerian Army, in the counter-insurgency operations in the state.
The governor who had praised the commitment to duty of Nigerian forces, nevertheless pointed to a failure of leadership as affecting military personnel’s morale. An incensed presidency had replied through the Aso villa Man Friday, the “Comical Ali” of Nigerian politics, Doyin Okupe, that the Borno governor was a civilian who could not assess different types of weapons of war. It was obvious that President Jonathan shared Doyin’s simplistic play at politics.
On Monday night, Jonathan condemned Shettima’s statement and in a peculiarly absurd retort, added that he could withdraw the troops from Borno for just a month, and the governor would not be able to stay in Maiduguri’s Government House! Jonathan was obviously playing a political card against a governor who belongs to a different political party and he obviously was not talking as Nigeria’s president.
Otherwise, he would have remembered that he had sworn to an oath to protect the lives and properties of all Nigerians, irrespective of whether they are in the creeks of the Niger Delta, where ex-militants are assured of over N50billion from the 2014 budget of the administration or are the poor and hapless of Borno and Northern Nigeria, who are daily being killed in a horrendous manner by the Boko Haram insurgents.
A president is not afforded the luxury of being partisan with such an instance of security, as he did on Monday night. It should be clear to Goodluck Jonathan and his “Comical Ali”, Doyin Okupe, that the insurgency is not about Kashim Shettima, the Borno governor, but the people of a huge swathe of Nigeria.
An angry president
It looks clear the president was angry that what is unfolding on ground had been presented so brutally frankly by the governor. Our national defense budget has hit about a trillion naira, but reports from the theatres of operation point to the dearth of basic equipment for the troops such as body armour and night vision equipment. Those who know say that troops killed in the barracks in Bama had been attacked by insurgents who had those equipment.
The issues we face in Borno, Yobe and the entire region are not those we can posture about in order to score cheap political points. Jonathan must work very closely with the political authorities in Borno, especially to coordinate all actions to bring an end to the insurgency. While the federal deployment of troops has been a notable development in the struggle against the insurgency, Borno continues to deploy millions of naira to assist these troops, even if the killings have continued and have heightened to the most tragically incredible proportions.
As I write these lines on Tuesday night, the most recent atrocity was the burning of 29 children at the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi, in the Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe state. By late evening on Tuesday, the death toll had risen to 43.
These tragic killings only underscore the need to work together by the political leaders at national and state levels, to find more surefooted ways to assist the dangerous job being done by the security forces on ground in Borno and the entire region. Goodluck Jonathan’s faux pas last Monday night should not be repeated, in the interest of the Nigerian people he swore to protect as the president of our country.