By Ochereome Nnanna
I HEARD it first when President Goodluck Jonathan visited our heroic and patriotic troops in the liberated communities in Nigeria’s northeast. “Never Again” appears to be the rallying battle cry in this second Nigerian civil war.
Compare it with “One Nigeria” which the troops forced people to sing whenever they captured communities in the former Biafra enclave. “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done”, was another powerful slogan which Mike Enahoro popularised before he read the news on Radio Nigeria. Meanwhile, his elder brother, Chief Anthony Enahoro, was the Federal Commissioner for Information and Culture and in charge of the propaganda effort of the Federal side, which was struggling under the withering firepower of Radio Biafra’s penetrating propaganda.
Why don’t we ask the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and other radio and television stations, newspapers, social media and internet platforms to adopt “Never Again”, this new, inspiring anti-terror slogan coined by our military? We need to scold ourselves for indulging in expensive follies which nearly cost us our beloved country over the past couple of years.Why are we still pretending that what we are fighting is not another civil war? Why are we not behaving like a country on the brink of victory in her second civil war? Why are we still so detached?
I concede that the mood of the nation at large is MUCH better now when compared to the situation, especially in the past one year when our army and embattled communities fled from Boko Haram. Some of us were beginning to unconsciously give up Northern Nigeria to the terrorists. We were already considering our own independent options to defend and secure our respective communities from savage Islamisation, since the military appeared no longer capable of doing so.
Nigeria was losing the war on terror due to two self-imposed acts of omission and commission as Chief Obafemi Awolowo would say: (a) saboteurs and blackmailers were allowed a free rein rather than being cracked down on which is the right attitude to fifth columnists when a nation is at war; (b) we abandoned our army and nearly paid dearly for it.
When President Jonathan won the election in 2011, even though it was adjudged to be the best election this country ever had after the annulled June 12 1993 poll, Boko Haram, which late President Umaru Yar’ Adua had deftly knocked out of contention in 2009, made a sudden resurgence in 2012. They hit churches, barracks, government buildings and crowded places in Abuja, Suleija, Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Maiduguri and other parts of the North in a manner that baffled everyone, including the federal government. It seemed that the threat by some disgruntled Northern leaders to ensure that Nigeria was rendered ungovernable after Jonathan’s victory was in full swing. It became obvious that these disgruntled politicians and their supporters outside the North were determined that Boko Haram was a handy instrument to clear the path for them to ride President Jonathan out of his quest for a second term in office.
This much was evident in the reactions of these elements when Jonathan declared a state of emergency several times and adopted the “stick-and-carrot” approach to arrest the situation. He yielded to pressure by a section of our community to “dialogue” with Boko Haram, while also heeding the call by another section (to which I belonged) to hit the terrorists hard and exterminate them to restore the power and authority of Nigeria as demanded by the constitution. While the so-called dialogue efforts were going on, General Azubuike Ihejirika, the then Chief of Army Staff, flushed Boko Haram out of the various towns in the North, including their so-called “spiritual headquarters”, Maiduguri. The terrorists took refuge in Sambisa Forest.
The saboteurs and blackmailers grew hydra-headed and attacked from all fronts. General Muhammadu Buhari and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) with people like Professor Ango Abdullahi and Dr. Junaidu Mohammed grumbled aloud that the Federal Government had declared war on Northern Nigeria and Muslims. The criticism of Federal Government’s proscription of Boko Haram by the spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Alhaji Lai Mohammed was portrayed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as a sign that the Party was a “sympathiser”, if not “sponsor”, of the terrorists, a charge that the opposition party hotly denied.
Impeached former Governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, added to the confusion in his letter to Northern leaders and governors accusing Jonathan and the military of severe human rights abuses against the Northern population and Northern elements in the army. Borno Elders became very active in condemning efforts to muscle out Boko Haram, and many newspapers and writers who purported to defend “Northern interests” became couriers of fabricated lies about the activities of the armed forces. They eagerly reached out to foreign media outlets such as BBC and Al Jazeera to mount a campaign of calumny against the Army and the federal government.
The saboteurs also became very energetic inside the armed forces. They leaked operational plans to Boko Haram, gave them easy passage to attack our military installations and stage deadly ambushes against our troops. They handed over our military equipment to the terrorists and orchestrated sudden bolt-and-flee withdrawals during planned offensives. Mutinies took place, and a series of court martials followed. It became obvious that the armed forces needed more modern equipment to confront the terrorists. But attempts by the Presidency to secure appropriation for one billion dollars in the National Assembly to re-equip the army were met initially with fierce opposition, but this overridden by the patriotic majority. Gradually, some of our supposed foreign allies became stumbling blocks in the effort to upgrade the army. The Presidency discarded its strategic engagement with a foot-dragging United States and went to Russia to procure the equipment which we are using to turn the tide.
Never again should we allow our political differences and quest for power to blind us to the need to stand by our government and the army in times of war and national tribulations. Right now, almost everybody is happy and relieved that the troops are on the verge of defeating Boko Haram. Even the Northern newspapers that tended to lionise Boko Haram’s savagery have now started giving due attention to the exploits of our troops. Even though some elements in the opposition party who were very fond of deriding the army and the federal government are now mute at their victorious forays, the federal lawmakers of the APC boldly broke bounds and patriotically issued a wholesome plaudit in salute to theirvalour.
There is a bold dividing line between politics and our common destiny as a nation. Whenever our common destiny is threatened, we must forget our political differences and come together to confront the threat. When we overcome we may go and continue our squabbling. Never again should we believe that the only way we can achieve our political objectives is to sabotage, undermine and blackmail those in power. Power is nobody’s monopoly. Tomorrow we may find ourselves there. But that will only be possible if there is Nigeria for us. I am overjoyed that the evil antics of blackmailers, saboteurs and two-timers have failed. I am very optimistic that Nigerians will never reward them by giving power to them. They will never benefit from their crimes against their motherland.
THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES ON THURSDAY.