I HAVE been at odds trying to rationalise, or otherwise put a value to the recent ultimatum given President Goodluck Jonathan by a group known as Northern Elders Forum (NEF). The group, long-discredited by its often parochial stance on national issues, insists the President must produce the abducted Chibok girls and bring an end to the Boko Haram insurgency by the end of October 2014, or be deemed unfit to seek re-election in 2015.
My first impulse was to dismiss the so-called ultimatum as not worth the paper it is written on; but I hesitated for the reason that the fallacies implied in the NEF statement must be challenged and the issues put in their proper perspectives.
The NEF does not always comment on issues except when their narrow interests are concerned; then they are at their adversarial best. Their sudden burst over the Chibok girls’ abduction, the nation’s security challenge and the manner they are linking them with Jonathan’s re-election should arouse interest.
No doubt, the Chibok girls’ abduction stirs patriotic Nigerians to sympathy, and it is one issue in which Jonathan has spoken and acted with so much passion. He continues to reiterate that his government will do everything within its powers to ensure their safe release as well as resolve the nation’s other lingering security challenges. Evidently, he has kept to that assurance, working strenuously in collaboration with international assistance, to return the country to normalcy. However, implicit in the NEF statement is that Jonathan has not done enough on the Chibok girls. The falsehood should not be allowed to stand.
While I agree that the lingering terrorist attacks and other related security challenges in the country pose a major threat to the 2015 elections and the survival of Nigeria as a nation, I disagree that the solution resides with one man, however high the office he holds. When the forum lamented that the insurgents have taken over some parts of the North-East, who really do they blame?
They must face the truth: the Frankenstein’s monster they created or helped nurture has unfortunately turned against them and cannot be potent as a tool of blackmail against President Jonathan? To send Nigeria’s President on what is ordinarily a fool’s errand is therefore preposterous. An ultimatum is no less idiotic than the unwillingness by prominent leaders of the region to genuinely seek a resolution of the problem. It speaks volumes of their so-called love for their homeland and gives credence to rumours that they are hand-in-gloves with the opposition which, in an effort to discredit the President as the 2015 election draws near, has been linked with the dastardly act.
Yes, it does appear that some ‘Elders’ are complicit, acting as quislings to the national cause. The last time the NEF issued a statement on the nation’s security situation, it was to disparage the Nigerian military and their campaign to halt the advance of the dreaded terrorist gang, Boko Haram, into the North East.
In defending the terrorists, the stormy petrel of the NEF, Professor Ango Abdullahi, had accused the military of genocide and threatened to drag then Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, to the World Court. Ironically, in less than a year later, the same NEF has made restoration of peace to the North East its condition for the nation’s Commander-In-Chief to exercise his constitutional right to stand for re-election. The connection between one man’s right and what is ordinarily a common national problem, cannot be more curious and revealing.
Also, the claim that the NEF was speaking for the entire North, cannot be more laughable; so is the waspish basis on which they are threatening to decide for all of us come October. Of course, the group which has over the years been manipulated by a certain clique in the North West, cannot be speaking for the whole North, especially those other areas of the old region that have borne the brunt of their selfish activities.
It is obvious from the 2011 elections that the vast majority of Northerners do not share their negative views of Goodluck Jonathan. They must be either ignorant or oblivious of the reality of the present political configuration in the North which forms the nationalistic support base for the President. The scenario being masterminded to weaken the president and portray him as incompetent and therefore unfit for re-election is therefore untenable.
There is, however, a bright side to the statement signed by two members of NEF, Mr. Solomon Dalung and Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed: if Jonathan does not resolve the Chibok crisis, he will forfeit his right (emphasis mine) to ask for our mandate beyond 2015. For the first time, after several surreptitious efforts to make it impossible for him to even put himself forward for re-election, the group now admits that Jonathan reserves the right to ask for our mandate beyond 2015. That is interesting; you cannot forfeit what you are not entitled to. It is an interesting step forward.
Like the Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati said in response to the stance of those misguided elders, it is delusional for anybody or group of persons to pretend they are in a position to give the President of Nigeria an ultimatum.
It is even more delusional to assume they can make choices for the larger majority of Northerners. The NEF should rather direct their frustration at the terrorists killing and maiming their kith and kin, and in supporting the President’s efforts at curtailing their nefarious activities. To seek to exploit the unfortunate incidence for political gains is most irrational.
As an African proverb says, it is a foolish man that chases after rats running away from his burning house. Why the respected Alhaji Maitama Sule continues to be associated with such regional bigotry, in the twilight of his life, still rankles but it is a matter for another day.
Mr Femi Ayelabowo resides in Ibadan.