By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
“Statistics say Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, with an average annual per capita income of 1,200 pounds, great wealth in most of the continent. But this is the greatest kleptocracy on Earth, whose oil wealth is pillaged by an elite which claws not millions, but billions…
We see in Nigeria the problems that beset the entire African continent…It is international publicity, not shame, that has forced President Goodluck Jonathan’s rotten regime belatedly to respond to the (Chibok) kidnapping…”- Max Hastings
THE past week must be one of the most difficult for President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Never has it been under so much scrutiny, for its conduct. Not even a successful hosting of the World Economic Forum for Africa, allowed it a moment of triumphalism. A shocked world was scandalised by the administration’s response to the abduction of over 200 young girls from Chibok. The worldwide campaign to bring back the girls also focused world media attention on Jonathan’s refusal to respond to the abduction act for 19 days. Amnesty International(AI) reported that security forces received reports of an imminent attack on Chibok, four hours before, but did nothing to prevent the attack and the abductions. AI’s allegation has been particularly embarrassing for the government and was stridently denied.
President Jonathan’s handling of the Chibok abductions has triggered some of the most scathing criticisms of the administration since it was elected in 2011. THE NEW YORK TIMES editorial of May 6, 2014, titled “Nigeria’s Stolen Girls” stated that “the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has been shockingly slow and inept in addressing this monstrous crime”. The editorial stated that “the reaction of Mr. Jonathan’s wife, Patience, was stunningly callous” and most damagingly: “Mr. Jonathan, who leads a corrupt government that has little credibility, initially played down (Boko Haram’s) threat…it wasn’t until…more than two weeks after the kidnappings that he called a meeting of government officials…” In the meantime, Nigerians across the country were taking to the streets demanding that the children be brought home; the same demand touched the hearts of people all over the world. By May 7th, BBC World TV was reporting that the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag was already re-tweeted a million times and on the same day, if one Googled “Bring back our Girls, one saw 2.1Billion results! The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, according to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL was created by a Nigerian lawyer, Ibrahim Musa Abdullahi; and by 11th of May 13, 2014, had been re-tweeted more than 2million times. Social media has made it a cause celebre , just as the Nigerian government dithered and tried, cynically, to politically manipulate the abduction and throw a Christian-versus-Muslim spanner into the exemplary unity which Nigerians were displaying on the need to bring back home our girls; alive! Mrs. Michelle Obama addressed Americans and made the Chibok abductions the central plank of her address, just as Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s widow, stepped out of her period of mourning to send message of solidarity and hope with the abducted girls. She added that Madiba would have understood the gesture! By 9th May, some of the most eminent international personalities like Desmond Tutu, Bill and Melinda Gates, Mo Ibrahim, Salim Ahmed Salim and musician Bono, joined the worldwide campaign calling for the return of the Chibok girls. They urged “all local, national and regional governments, with the full support of the international community, to dedicate their expertise and resources- from satellite imagery to intelligence services to multinational corporations’ supply chains-to #BringBackOurGirls”.
It was equally significant to note that Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission, condemned the kidnappings and described Boko Haram’s action as “a gross misrepresentation of Islam”. Similarly, on May 9th, American president, Barack Obama, revealed that he wakes everyday thinking about our girls and wished that he “could reach out and save those kids”. If Obama was very measured the same cannot be said of the very rightwing and gung-ho John Senator McCain; he went on an offensive: “what we should have done, as soon as we know that these young girls were kidnapped…we should have utilized every asset we have, satellites, drones, any capabilities that we have to go right after them. We didn’t have to wait until a Nigerian government, the nonexistent practically government in Nigeria gave us the go-ahead”. That appeared very much like a blow below the belt for the Jonathan administration. And it was not the last during last week. Former US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton was unsparing in her response to the Chibok abductions too: “The seizure of the young women…is abominable…The government of Nigeria has been, in my view, somewhat derelict in its responsibility toward protecting boys and girls, men and women in northern Nigeria over the last years”. She punched further that “Nigeria has made bad choices, not hard choices…They have squandered their oil wealth; they have allowed corruption to fester, and now they are losing control of parts of their (own) territory because they would not make hard choices…The Nigerian government has failed to confront the threat, or to address the underlying challenges”. When these blows were being rained on the Jonathan administration, international media outlets like CNN with anchor Isha Sesay were exposing the dark crevices of the nation’s governance process and putting to a lie, the posturing by the government. It was an incredible tour de force, which underlined all that is wrong with the performances of the Nigerian government, under Goodluck Jonathan.
But something good has eventually come out of all the fast paced event of the past week, or so. The international community finally arrived with assets that can help to unravel the Chibok abductions. The long-term potential consequence might even lead to the considerable weakening, if not total end of the insurgency. The regional and international danger of the insurgency has been under the limelight in recent days too and with the US, France, Britain, China, Israel and other countries offering Nigeria various forms of assistance, things will certainly turn a corner. But Goodluck Jonathan has to learn vital lessons into the future. Certainly, he cannot forget the past week in a hurry!
The mystifications of national security
LAST Sunday, Nigerian newspapers quoted Agency Reports, that the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) of Nigeria, in November 2013, signed a $3Million a year contract with the American lobbying firm Patton Boggs to “provide comprehensive security device, including the donation of excess military and law enforcement equipment”.
ABC News, which was the source of this report, said Nigeria had hired the “powerful Washington lobby firm to press its case for intelligence on violent terror group Boko Haram and to persuade the Obama administration to donate non-lethal equipment in the hunt for extremists”.
ABC News went further, quoting documents filed with the US Justice Department, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), it described Patton Boggs’ point man on the Nigerian NSA’s contract, as Col. John Garrett. This Garrett met officials at the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany in December 2013, “on behalf of Nigerian National Security Adviser Muhammadu Sambo Dasuki”.
Col. John Garrett requested information on Boko Haram activities derived from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance overflights of northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state”. Up to this point, there was nothing untowards in what the lobbying company seemed to have done on behalf of Nigeria’s NSA. But as the story rolled on, we might just begin to raise eyebrows as I will show in this write up.
Because ABC News went further to say that “Patton Boggs also asked for non-lethal protective hardware to be DONATED to Nigeria such as mine-resistant armored personnel vehicles, night goggles and communication equipment from Iraq and Afghanistan stockpiles LEFT OVER (my emphasis) from US withdrawals from those war zones”.
Stripped of niceties, our NSA is asking for the donation of TOKUNBO military equipment from the US and for that he employed the services of a Washington lobbying firm. But these requests do not seem to add up.
Why must we be requesting for the donation of TOKUNBO military hardware, when we have been budgeting huge sums of money for defence in the past few years? THE NATION newspaper’s Editorial of Tuesday, May 13, 2014, titled #BRINGBACKTHEGIRLS, raised pertinent issues about the nation’s defense budgeting: “One of the cries of the half year since the escalation of the violence of the Boko Haram insurgents is the call for accounting for the budget allocated for security since the Jonathan presidency started prosecuting its war against the militants.
The budgets of 2012, 2013 and 2014 have been especially high. For 2012, the budget allocation was N921.91billion. In 2013, the sum budgeted was N950Billion. This year’s budget is N845 billion. For three years, the Federal Government has budgeted N2.7trillion for security, and this covers the armed forces, police, the office of the national security adviser, and other operational costs”.
Begging for left overs
It is the security apparatus that has gulped over N2trillion in three years that has incredibly employed a lobbying firm to beg the US administration to donate to our country TOKUNBO left overs like night vision goggles that can be picked over the counter in China, US and Europe. What have they spent money on in the past three years?
News filtering out of the operational zones talk about restive troops that are badly provisioned and who do not have the requisite equipment to do their job. It is frightening to recall that President Jonathan told a bewildered country during his last media chat, that the military lags in training and equipment.
But after spending so much money in the past two/three years, why haven’t we seen qualitative improvements in the state of our armed forces? Why did we get to the point where the NSA is begging for the donation of TOKUNBO leftover material from Iraq and Afghanistan? They certainly owe Nigeria explanations.
Our valiant fighting men and women ought to be some of the best-equipped, provisioned and motivated forces in the world today, given the challenges we face as a country. These fine officers and men have a proud record of services around the world keeping the peace; but they have especially, displayed tremendous heroism and valour in ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone. So why and how did we arrive at the sorry pass of begging for TOKUNBO equipment?
The NSA must tell us why the trillions spent so far could not purchase night vision goggles and mine-resistant armoured vehicles! We have to tear through the mystifications woven around national security. There must be full disclosure to the Nigerian people!