ON Monday, May 19, 2014, newspapers and other news outlets across the country were awash with reports arising from a press statement signed by Chief Tony Anenih, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustees, BoT. Anenih, who has been a firm fixture in the upper echelons of the ruling PDP since the party’s early days, made a noteworthy departure from partisan politics by calling for national unity against the threat of insurgency.
In his statement titled, ‘Let us unite against Boko Haram’, Anenih struck a statesmanlike note when he said: “At a time that our nation is facing the menace of terrorism, it is of utmost importance that all Nigerians, irrespective of their regional, religious or political affiliations, should be united in supporting the Federal Government and all the security agencies in the fight to end terror in our country.”
Showing concern as a father, Anenih said: “I deeply sympathise with the parents of the abducted Chibok girls and pray for their safe return. No parent should have to experience what the parents of these innocent girls are passing through on account of this outrageous abduction by Boko Haram.” The elder statesman went further to add: “I also understand the anger that has been expressed through the global #BringBackOurGirls movement and wish to state that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are fully committed to ensuring the safe return of our daughters.”
If that was all that Anenih’s statement contained, there would not have been a need for this article. For, if there’s an issue which should clearly unite Nigerians across all ideological divides, it is the need to resist the insurgency being waged by Boko Haram with one voice. Unfortunately, stemming from an apparent need to score political points, some discordant opposition voices have been launching attacks on the Federal Government, as if such people are in cahoots with Boko Haram.
Clearly, it was for this reason that Anenih cautioned: “I must, however, deplore the situation where some opposition politicians have tried to make political issues out of it by calling for the resignation of President Jonathan over a group that is waging war against the Nigerian state. Such behaviour is unbecoming of patriotic citizens of a democratic nation like Nigeria. When militant gunmen attacked a shopping mall in Kenya, killing many people and holding many others hostage, the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, stood right beside the President, Uhuru Kenyatta, while the latter was addressing Kenyans on the dastardly attack.”
The foregoing quote from Anenih’s statement is an important point that must not be lost on anyone. Our freedom to peacefully disagree with one another—even the Federal Government—is one that is guaranteed under our democracy by the Constitution. It is this freedom, among others, that Boko Haram seeks to take away. It is therefore the duty of all Nigerians to eschew political considerations at this time and come together as one to stand against Boko Haram.
As Anenih was quoted as saying in his press statement: “Boko Haram is a threat to Nigeria and to our democracy.” The PDP BoT Chairman also stated that: “The Boko Haram insurgency is not against Jonathan as an individual, rather it is against the Nigerian state. That is why our collective efforts are needed to tackle the challenges.”
However, it is clear that some opposition politicians do not fully appreciate the need for national unity in the fight against Boko Haram. If they did, they would not be spouting invectives on the person of the President or ridiculing the efforts of the military and other security agencies. That is why Anenih’s advice that “all Nigerians, irrespective of their regional, religious or political affiliations, should be united in supporting the Federal Government and all the security agencies in the fight to end terror in our country” needs to be re-echoed until everybody in Nigeria internalises the message.
A point which is well-known and bears repeating here is that: “All over the world, fighting terrorism takes time and requires patience, cooperation and national unity.” Those who imagine that there is a big button somewhere that President Jonathan needs to push in order to immediately bring the nefarious activities of Boko Haram to an end should recall that the United State of America, with its allies such as Great Britain and Australia among others, have been fighting terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda and the Taliban for over a decade.
One is not saying that President Jonathan needs more than a decade to fight Boko Haram. However, expecting that a scream from Jonathan will automatically silence Boko Haram is an unrealistic expectation. Moreover, as Anenih reminded us: “President Jonathan has said it several times that in fighting Boko Haram, the Federal Government is dealing with fellow Nigerians, who are our brothers and sisters. Consequently, the military cannot deploy its full might against them. Besides, doing so would be against international rules of engagement.”
Although cynics are within their rights to say whatever they wish about the Boko Haram insurgency, Anenih has clearly placed national interest above all else in advising that the country should unite in fighting the terrorist group. It may be a cliché, but it is still true that a house divided against itself cannot stand. In the words of the wise statesman: “The message to Boko Haram from all Nigerians must be: we will never bow to terror!”
JOHN UDUMEBRAYE, a public analyst, wrote from Port Harcourt, River State.