EARLY this week, the Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima was in Abuja to brief President Goodluck Jonathan on the heightened insurgency in his state. It was coming against the background of the massacres perpetrated by Boko Haram insurgents in a huge swathe of the state. So alarming has the situation become that the Northern Governors’ Forum convened to explore issues of the widening insecurity in the region as well as efforts to find solutions. These are the worst of times indeed for innocent, often very poor people eking out a desperate livelihood in ecologically challenged environments.
They have been at the receiving end of killings that have increasingly taken a most incomprehensible pattern, especially in the past one year. It was instructive that Governor Shettima blamed the nation’s leadership for the inability to stem the insurgency. He underlined the efforts of the Nigerian armed forces, but stories from theatres of operation indicate that insurgents are better armed and motivated than our troops who have the will to do their job but lack the necessary equipment. In many instances, troops flee operational areas when they run out of ammunition! The insurgents seize the opportunity to stay for hours to kill as many people as possible and destroy infrastructure.
It is equally worrisome, that President Jonathan, as Commander-in-Chief, has never visited his troops to get first hand accounts of problems facing troops or to shore up flagging morale in a very difficult war. When France lost two soldiers in Central Africa, the French President Hollande flew from Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa, to Bangui, to commiserate with his troops and show that he is a caring leader.
There are regular reports of the British Prime Minister dropping in on his troops in the theatre of war in Afghanistan. That is how real leaders behave. In June 2012, during the PRESIDENTIAL MEDIA CHAT, I asked President Jonathan why he had not visited Borno; he said he was informed that the Maiduguri airport was out of order. I couldn’t tell our president that he had been lied to, because I had flown into and from the same airport, a few weeks before the interview.
I think there is a sense in which the president has been held captive and blocked from a thorough appreciation of the issues in the insurgency. Those making a huge fortune from spending on the counter-insurgency war do not want the war to end. They are the people in cahoots with international arms dealers and security organisations to become billionaires.
It is therefore in their interest to continue to paint doomsday scenarios for a captive president, about the situation, just as they deprive the troops of adequate weaponry and provisions. When the president was told that the Maiduguri airport was not functional for example, he probably cannot verify the veracity of that position. But what they do is paint the president as uncaring about the plight of the people in a region of the country.
Millions of our compatriots who needed the re-assurance of their leader get an impression that they do not count, in the scheme of things. On the other hand, there have been reports much earlier in the insurgency, that political circles around the president, often from his neck of the wood, are happy that killings are taking place in the North. They have a “na dem dey kill demselves” attitude and so cannot be bothered!
Remnants of Ghadaffi’s troops
A recent media report also indicated that remnants of Ghadaffi’s troops from Libya have joined the insurgency and the ferocious killings and pillaging of recent times are attributed to this new element. If this is true, then we should not be surprised! Goodluck Jonathan broke from the pan-African resolutions of the African Union (AU), in 2011, to support the imperialist Western countries, when they launched a war against Libya in support of the Islamist rebels that finally overthrew Muammar Ghaddafi.
So eager was Jonathan to play the toady of imperialism, that he probably did not and could not even, have thought through the consequences of his playing the role of imperialism’s “House Nigger”. Huge volumes of arms from Libya have today appeared in theatres of war in Mali; Central Africa; South Sudan, maybe Congo and now, Northern Nigeria!
There are also highly trained but embittered ex-soldiers and mercenaries from many parts of North-west Africa, formerly in the employ of Muammar Ghadaffi, who lost their livelihoods in Libya and are now sowing destruction in African theatres of war, including those said to have joined the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. Our man, Goodluck Jonathan, desperately wanted to be in the good books of the imperialist western countries and as the proverb goes, brought home an ant-ridden faggot and in the process, invited the visit of lizards.
The inability of a dim-witted administration to see the interconnectedness in social and political phenomena is surely costing us far more today in Borno and many parts of the North and by extension, the whole country. Libya is not as far from Nigeria, as the man from the creeks probably imagined; the tragic consequences of his choice in 2011 are now haunting us big time!
The chickens are home to roost, with the spike in the insurgency in Borno. But we have to help ourselves, by helping Goodluck Jonathan to be more decisive in provisioning the troops; improving the levels of armaments; to motivate the troops better; secure advanced technology and NOT BEG Americans to “dash” us attack helicopters, as we hear they are doing (monies being stolen at NNPC will be enough to adequately make these purchases which will reinforce national sense of pride instead of the groveling beggarly posture in the presence of Washington!); work more harmoniously with the governments of the states suffering from the killings; provide succour to the people and pay regular visits to the troops and the areas of operation. Those are the remits of a responsible president and commander-in-chief!
On a final note, the Northern Governors and the various levels of the elite in the North have a special responsibility to re-examine their ways and how such ways have contributed to the emergence of the insurgency. The worst indices of underdevelopment in our country are located in Northern Nigeria. Infant and maternal mortality; the poorest levels of educational attainments and schools enrolment; the worst levels of urban and rural decay; troubling indices of poverty and underdevelopment; the greatest levels of obscurantism and near-absence of rational scientific levels of inquiry; environmental degradation and serious inter and intra communal crises; a very young population and some of the highest fertility rates in Africa where there is despair and hopelesseness. Yet, in the midst of these contradictions, we have a ruling elite that pillages resources and as I noted in my piece last week, we have seen the emergence of individuals becoming richer than the states they have ruled, as a result of brazen theft!
These are the socio-economic and political roots of the insurgency in Northern Nigeria. It is the African peasantry that used to say that our broth will cook only in our pot. The Northern Nigerian elite must make very enlightened choices to turnaround the phenomena which facilitated the insurgency.
We cannot continue with socio-economic and political choices depriving millions of our people opportunities and making them as hopeless as they are today, and expect that there will not be trouble in the land. The Nigerian ruling class has created one of the most unequal and unjust societies in the world today. Neo liberal capitalism might record dizzying heights of growth and handsome returns in the speculative world of stock exchanges, but it is not creating jobs; it is deepening poverty and has not trickled down prospects of development for millions of the Nigerian people.
The truth is that it will never! It is in the nature of contemporary capitalism to take a few to great levels of prosperity and trap millions in the ghettos of the modern world. In Nigeria, the ruling class has pillaged the state system and transferred huge assets and resources into private hands. In Northern Nigeria, its worst manifestations dog society so totally, a huge army of insurgency has emerged.
It has become very sophisticated and more dangerous at a time when the capacity of the state has been sapped by corruption and barefaced theft and the underlying incompetence. If we do not do things in a radically pro-people, pro-poor manner, in our socio-economic choices, things might get even more desperate in our country, but especially in Northern Nigeria!.