*And 100 Days of Infamy
By Jide Ajani
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone” – Bill Cosby
You need to be close to President Goodluck Jonathan to understand him. But understanding a man is not the same as understanding his circumstance(s). For a man who permanently wears a demure demeanour, but occasionally bursts into laughter and manages a smile, Nigeria’s Number One Citizen is a bundle of ambivalence. This piece will show why an earlier report on this page (GOODLUCK JONATHAN: A President in Need of Help – an encounter inside Aso Rock) ought to have been taken seriously by presidential handlers. And whereas it should be acknowledged upfront that there are those who neither wishes Jonathan nor Nigeria well, the selfsame President and his team would need to re-discover themselves so that Nigeria, under their watch, would not continue this shambolic run.
How the stage was set for a shameful act
The President looked distant; yet, behind a veneer of statesmanlike mien, he tried vigourously to mask it. This was as a result of what he had been put through in the last 36hours during the weekend of May 2 – May 4, 2014.
But before the ordeal, just some two weeks earlier, precisely April 14, 2014 and less than 24 hours after the deadly Nyanya bombing. Jonathan decided to go and dance in Kano in the name of a rally while some innocent students of Government Girls Grammar School, Chibok, were being put through torture by members of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad which, in English, means, “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”, otherwise known as Boko Haram.
The President’s ordeal was compounded on Saturday, May 3, 2014, because, at a meeting between him, Governor Shettima of Borno State; CP Lawal Tanko, Police Commissioner in the state; Mrs. Asabe Kwambula, the school principal; Comrade Inuwa Kubo, Education Commissioner; and the DPO for Chibok, Hezekiah, muddle was thrown in.
It was discovered by Sunday Vanguard that the four actors from Borno gave different versions of the incident of April 14.
Aso Rock insiders said this development created confusion.
“Even Mr. President could not believe what he was hearing from the principal, the education commissioner, the police commissioner and the DPO. Those at that briefing became confused too”, Sunday Vanguard was told.
And because procrastination is said to be the thief of time, that was where President Jonathan’s problem, which would turn into a national embarrassment, began.
It is procrastination, made worse by the element of doubt which Jonathan and his handlers allowed to get a better of them, that stole the first three weeks of the Chibok abduction from the Federal Government of Nigeria.
That was why, for three weeks, the Jonathan administration chose, rather strangely, not to believe that the girls were abducted.
Granted, any individual, present at the briefing by the team from Borno, would have been equally confused and angry.
However, a President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces ought to go a step further by setting a machinery in motion for intelligence gathering to verify the authenticity of the claim of abduction. Worse still this was a meeting held some two clear weeks after the girls had been stolen.
A similar instance, in what can be described as stone-age, compared to this day, an event that occurred in 1976, a time when there was no internet, no FaceBook, no Twitter, no Whattsapp and other jet age modes of communication, the tiny nation of Israel was confronted with a hostage situation.
Procrastination! The Israeli government, under Shimon Perez, did not allow that thief to creep into the administration and steal valuable time. But the case of the Chibok girls is a typical example of how President Jonathan allows that thief in his life to make a mess of his avowed good intentions – a President who means well must be seen to be doing well.
THE ENTEBBE EXAMPLE
According to Wikipedia, the operation to rescue the hostages lasted just 90minutes. It is recorded that Operation Entebbe was a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces, IDF, at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, on July 4, 1976. A week earlier, on June 27, an Air France plane, with 248 passengers, had been hijacked, by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells, and flown to Entebbe, the main airport of Uganda. The government on ground supported the hijackers and dictator Idi Amin Dada, a man who typifies what a buffoon looks like, personally welcomed the hijackers and their booty.
The hijackers separated the Israelis and Jews from the larger group and forced them into another room. That afternoon, 47 non-Israeli hostages were released. The next day, 101 more non-Israeli hostages were allowed to leave on board an Air France aircraft. More than 100 Israeli and Jewish passengers, along with the non-Jewish pilot, Captain Bacos, remained as hostages and were threatened with death. The IDF acted on intelligence provided by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad.
The hijackers threatened to kill the hostages if their prisoner-release demands were not met. This threat led to the planning of the rescue operation. These plans included preparation for armed resistance from Ugandan military troops.
The operation took place at night. Israeli transport planes carried 100 commandos over 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to Uganda for the rescue operation. The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes. 102 hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, the unit commander, Lt. Col Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed. All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and 30 (some say 11) Soviet-built MiG-17s and MiG-21s of Uganda’s Air Force were destroyed. Kenyan sources supported Israel, and, in the aftermath of the operation, the beast Amin issued orders to retaliate and slaughter several hundred Kenyans present in Uganda.
But how did the Israelis do it?
In his book, Hijacking and Hostages: Government Responses to Terrorism, J. Paul de B. Taillon, an adjunct Professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, reveals the seriousness with which the Israeli government swung into action: “After much discussion, Perez approved the plan, pending the final approval of the cabinet. Meanwhile, planning was to continue unabated. “Perez agreed that Shomron was to command the operation and begin selecting the personnel and unit to execute the plan with a final exercise on the model of Entebbe to be conducted on Friday evening.
Shomron commenced assembling his forces soon after his briefing on July 1. The force consisted of some 200 troops from the 35th Airborne Brigade, the Golani Brigade an element of Sayarat Matkel, better known as the General Staff Intelligence
Reconnaissance Unit. All were highly trained with an exceedingly high proportion being battle ready regulars.
The general staff plan, according to Herzog, required
1. A force to secure and illuminate the runway
2. A force to occupy the old terminal and release the hostages
3. A force to take control of the new terminal
4. A force to secure the airfield and destroy the Ugandan fighter aircraft
5. A force to evacuate the hostages from the terminal to the aircraft”.
CHIBOK 100 DAYS AFTER
For those around President Jonathan, who are quick to arrogate so much sense of propriety and omniscience to themselves, they would readily make some observations about the difference between Entebbe and Chibok. They would say Entebbe was a known location with structures and, therefore, a model of the airport could be constructed and exercises carried out; unlike Sambisa Forest that is just a wide, very wide expanse of shrubs and tress! They would also argue, as they have been wont to do, rather profanely, that there was no partisanship involved in the Israeli hostage situation unlike Nigeria where the main opposition political party, the All Progressive Congress, APC, may be sympathetic to Boko Haram – although the conduct of leaders of the party has been very disgraceful since the Chibok affair started.
Unfortunately, they would become tongue-tied to explain that whereas the Israeli government, led by Perez, swung into action and brought the matter to a close within just a week, it is yet unknown why Nigeria’s government chose not to believe that girls were abducted even after ten days.
There have been arguments for the need for unity; that Nigerians should rally behind President Jonathan. Yes! That is a good call. But you rally behind an individual who wants to and is seen as being on top of his game. Even when Boko Haram capitulated in a manner of conduct, that it was willing to swap prisoners for the girls, the FG missed the opportunity. This is because the people in the intelligence agencies know of ways where individuals could be rendered vegetative in a slow manner even after their release. So, why did the Federal Government not go for that option?
The excuse of knowing where the girls are but cannot just carry out an operation carries with it the suspicion of a do-nothing administration. If the government is thinking of collateral damage, there have been more than enough deaths in southern Borno alone since April 14, 2014, when the girls were abducted – more than 650 in three months. If it is thinking of human rights challenge that may be occasioned by a full-scale attack on the insurgents, these states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are already under emergency rule and whatever can be done should be done to reverse the tide.
Worse still, it was members of this same administration who alerted the world, making a show of a possible visit by Jonathan to Chibok before finally calling it off for security reasons. Pray, does Barrack Obama announce to the world that he plans visiting his troops in hostile territories like Iraq and Afghanistan? Once the visit was cancelled, what was wrong for Jonathan to request that the parents of the abducted girls should come to Aso Rock? Rather than even allow those who raised the awareness regarding the abduction to continue their #BringBackOurGirls crusade, blackmail from the highest office of a mother in the land was brought in a la ‘Dia Ris God ooooo’. And to make more mockery, urchins and miscreants were allegedly hired by people around government to harass the ReleaseOurGirls group and disrupt the peaceful #BringBackOurGirls rallies.
And as if to further ridicule the nation, a presidential aide publicly declared that it was because Malala Yusafzai requested our President to meet with parents of the girls that he met with them. In order words, it had to take a 17-year-old to tell the leader of a nation of some 170million people to do what is right and sensible?
It is now 100 days and more since the girls were abducted. Some claimed to have escaped en-route Sambisa forest while some claimed to have escaped from the camp of the terrorists.
The spectre of violence, just last week, extended to Kaduna and Kano.
Nigeria was miraculously saved from what would have been the commencement of a pogrom had the evil plot of those intent on destabilising the country worked. We are here talking about the narrow escape of General Muhammadu Buhari, last week, when a suicide bomber decided to make him a target.
Unfortunately, some reckless and grossly insensitive group of Nigerians are already flying a theory that the attack was stage-managed. It is this same set of sick people who also propounded the earlier theory that there was no Chibok abduction issue, thereby opening President Jonathan to ridicule in the comity of world leaders
What manner of legacy does President Jonathan plan to leave behind?
Make no mistake, even he, as President, is not comfortable and nobody should make it appear as if he is. Some have argued that for as long as he is derided as being clueless, for so long would he take his time in doing whatever he wants to do. That may very well be true. The question that knocks the bottom off such reasoning is simple: So, who would be the butt of jokes, ridicule and scorn? Therefore, rather than treat the nation like a Bantustan entity, good thinking should prevail. Therefore, as long as the President procrastinates on issues of grave national significance, so long would that thief continue to present a picture of a shambolic presidency!