By HUGO ODIOGOR
Service chiefs and political leaders have disagreed over the best approach to deal with the security challenge thrown up by the Boko Haram terrorist threat in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and some states in the northern part of the country.
The service chiefs had been summoned to the National Assembly for a meeting with the leadership of the legislature. Sources told Sunday Vanguard that there were marked differences in the disposition of the security chiefs at the meeting and that of political leaders who are seeking a political solution to the Boko Haram’s spate of deadly attacks on the security personnel, institutions and infrastructure by the pro-Islamic militant group.
Only last Thursday, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had warned that the deploying of the military was not the solution to the Boko Haram menace, canvassing what he called “deep intelligence” on the group. The sources close to the National Assembly parley with the service chiefs said the top military officials did not buy the carrot and stick policy of the Jonathan administration to terrorist attacks that has made life a nightmare for Nigerians and security personnel in the northern part of Nigeria.
“What is the worth of Nigeria’s sovereignty if some parts of the country opt out of the laws or a situation where the laws of the country are not applicable to all the territories under its control? This is the question the lawmakers could not answer”, one of the sources said.
The source claimed Senate President David Mark, with his military background, sympathised with the security chiefs who have lost their men, equipment and infrastructure to the Boko Haram attacks,” but as a key player in the democratic arena, he was constrained to reason along with President Jonathan on the carrot and stick approach”.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the service chiefs made it clear that the country was playing with fire by trying to politicise the Boko Haram assault on the military, police and other security outfits. One of the sources added: ‘’The security chiefs made it clear to the senators that the objective of the Boko Haram attacks on the military, police and security agencies is to incite the military by creating disaffection among the security outfits and force them to react against the democratic leadership. They want to use terrorism to incite the military to act against the leadership.
Already, there is a dilemma with the military coming out to help the police check the movement of persons. The reaction of the public to military searches in Abuja and environs drew negative response; yet if the military stays aloof and allows things to degenerate further, the same public will ask the military to save the country from disintegration. At that point, it will be too late for the political leadership that has politicised this situation.”
Although the idea of state of emergency was not discussed, one of the sources said: “When a state of emergency was imposed in Ekiti State under the administration of Ayo Fayose, the situation was not as dangerous. What we have in Borno today is more dangerous than what happened in Jos when a state of emergency was imposed there during the Dariye administration. Now, we have a situation that is more dangerous than that of the Niger Delta when the Joint Military Task Force was sent in’’.
He explained that Boko Haram has further polarized the Nigerian state as it appears there is no political will on the part of the Federal Government to move against Boko Haram as it did when it had similar security situations in Odi, Bayelsa State’ Zaki Biam in Benue State, Gbaramatu in Delta State, and Jos in Plateau State. “This time around, we have two state governors publicly apologising to Boko Haram and making the military to look stupid in trying to contain the menace”, the source added.
In Borno, Bauchi and Kaduna States, Sunday Vanguard learnt that the option of political settlement offered by the proposed amnesty for the Boko Haram elements and the public apology by two state governors have weakened the resolve of the military high command which is worried about the indecisiveness of the political class to tackle the extremist sect.
Even many people in the security allegedly believe that those who have been arrested as members of the deadly group have been kept away from of justice because the Federal Government claims it is only holding them for questioning. “We see a lot of double speak and wavering on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan in this carrot and stick approach to a security situation that can split the nation or throw us on the path of Sudan. It is very difficult for the security agencies to deal with Boko Haram decisively as a security issue”, a security source stated.
Meanwhile, suspected Boko Haram gunmen attacked a police station in the town of Toro in Bauchi State last Tuesday night, escaping with an arms cache, correspondents say. The latest trouble came as the former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, issued a public apology to Boko Haram for his role in the brutal crackdown on the sect in 2009.
The sect demanded the apology as part of conditions for a truce with government. “We know that the northern political establishment is supporting the ideology of Boko Haram but that is for their selfish interest because, when they had political power, they did nothing to promote the welfare of members of the sect”, Sunday Vanguard security sources said.
The sources said the ambivalent position of the political leadership has made it difficult for the security forces to make good their boast of their capability to contain Boko Haram.
In the meantime, Professor Pat Utomi and a University of Lagos (UNILAG) lecturer, Dr. Rasheed Akinyemi, have called on the Federal Government to address the issues of decadence in governance and grinding poverty among the people to curb the security threat posed by the Boko Haram uprising.
Utomi, the presidential candidate of Social Democratic Mega Party in the April polls, said what we are witnessing in the north is the revenge of the poor, especially the impoverished Almajiri group (children naming in the name of Islamic education) who have been left without hope of survival, while the ruling feudal, political and military class revel in affluence. Describing the situation as the coming of anarchy, he told Sunday Vanguard that the patrimonial state arrangement that we have in Nigeria today is not sustainable as a few privileged members of the ruling class cannot appropriate the nation’s wealth and expect the vast majority of the citizenry to watch them haplessly
“When I predicted the militant agitation in the Niger Delta years ago, it was not taken seriously, but then it came to pass. Years ago, I warned that the Almajiri situation in the northern part of the country was a time bomb; nobody listened. Today, it is exploding right in our faces”. According to him, the coming anarchy is similar to what Prof. Zintum pointed out in Sierra Leone when the masses rose against the ruling class and the state. In his own assessment of the Boko Haram threat, Akinyemi said that, contrary to the attempt by government and the media to portray the uprising as an anti-Christian matter, the group is targeting the agents of the state, its institutions and personnel. He said the ideology of Boko Haram is against the state and western education which has deprived them of the basic conditions necessary to find meaningful existence and enjoy their self esteem.
The university don said that despite the threats by the police and army to crush Boko Haram, the group has continued relentlessly to attack and kill policemen with ease. The manner in which they went to attack the police headquarters in Abuja underscores the fact that they have intelligent people behind them. Some of these people are said to be frustrated products of western education which has not added value to their lives”, he said.
Akinyemi believed the group is not against education, but against western education which they believe promotes hypocrisy and corruption.