By Babajide Alabi
It will be an understatement to say the outcome of the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria was based primarily on two issues – terrorism and corruption. These two, no doubt, contributed to the final results of the elections and technically sealed the fate of the former President, Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that ruled the country for sixteen years.
While it may be argued that these two issues have been major problems in the country for many years before the election, at no time in the history of the country was there a sustained campaign to bring attention of the world to them, especially corruption. It is no secret that the “world” think of our leaders as corrupt, but never had we as a people rose up to agree with this “tag”, as we did before the elections.
The sustained campaign by various groups and individuals to portray the Jonathan administration as “clueless” on how to fight the wave of terrorism carried out by Boko Haram was legendary. The officials of the administration did not help matters with their reactions to the audacious kidnap of the Chibok girls by the terrorists. An example was the video of the reaction of the former First Lady that went viral for the wrong reasons. The global attention on the kidnap of the girls was phenomenon and it comfortably sounded the death knell of the Jonathan government.
The “noise level” on the activities of Boko Haram and corruption in government was increasingly high towards the elections and in a short while the demand for “change” became louder and more synchronised. The social media was “set on fire” with varied opinions while almost on hourly basis, the public was getting news updates on Boko Haram and allegedly corrupt officials of the Jonathan government. Interestingly, how to defeat Boko Haram became campaign issue, with political gladiators promising to fight these evil jihadists with their last blood if elected into office.
Fast forward to many months after the elections and you will realise that the momentum that was gathered by the news, opinions and publicity about Boko Haram and corruption have all been lost. One tends to ask what has happened between the elections, the swearing in and the present time that has warranted the “lull” in publicity? Corruption, especially, has got a new definition – it is not as broad as it was before the elections.
A friend of mine actually called my attention to these facts during the week. He noted that unlike in the past when all that circulated on the media were these two main issues, nobody seem to bother much about them any longer. He argued that while Boko Haram, now an affiliate of the ISIS, is still rampaging the northern cities and killing fellow Muslims, the media reportage definitely have moved from the front to inside pages. The international media also seem to have rewritten their criteria for picking news worthy stories, especially from Africa. We cannot really blame the media as some of them surrendered their “agenda setting ” function to political manipulation.
Has the confusing statements from the government on how it plans to defeat Boko Haram brought about the lethargy on foreign media?
Many supporters of the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammed Buhari, have said times without numbers that he is the “only force” that can defeat Boko Haram. Citing his military credentials as evidence of seriousness and willingness to bring the terrorists to their knees, Mr Buhari was propped up as the messiah in waiting.
It was therefore surprising when on a visit to the United States of America in July, the president disclosed of his willingness to negotiate with the terrorists. This was against the run of expectations from the newly sworn in government and a no-nonsense general who waged war against indiscipline.
The President’s decision to negotiate must however not be taken as an act of cowardice, rather of sympathy with the Chibok girls. In an interview with CNN Buhari said:- “If we are convinced that the [Boko Haram] leadership that presented itself can deliver these girls safe and sound, we’ll be prepared to negotiate what they want.”
Months after this revelation, Nigerians are beginning to wonder if the negotiation idea has died a natural death. The fears were allayed in a recent interview with Al Jazeera News, the President went a step further to reassure Nigerians that his government is still very much open to negotiations, as long as the terrorists can give the assurance that the Chibok girls are still alive. This is the hard nut to crack.
Adding a new dimension to the fight against terrorism, Mr President put a time scale to it. He assured that his government will deliver “victory” as Christmas present to Nigerians. Not minding the advise by some members of his party, the C in C is confident that all the Nigerian army need to do is “chill” till the start of the rainy season and Boko Haram will be in trouble.
The general idea a few months ago, especially prior to the General Elections, was that the Nigerian Army was gaining ground in the Sambissa Forest. We heard news of victories, surrenders and some of the terrorists fleeing their “duty posts”. And in recent times, there were news of “annihilation” of the group by security agents.
The worrisome part is that in as much as the security outfits are claiming victory, these terrorists have devised ways of coming back from dead and inflicting more pains on innocent Nigerians. The spate of bombings in recent times have not assured Nigerians that the tables are turning.
Observers have claimed that the terrorists would have been routed by now if there had been consistent coordinated attacks backed by modern warfare equipment. And as revealed recently, if only we have dedicated and resolute soldiers who are not likely to abandon their stations at the sound of footsteps of BoKo Haram terrorists.
As the dialogue seemed to have stalled, Nigerians have no other option than to wait prayerfully for the magical date in December so they can say good bye to terrorism on their shores. Yet one has the nudging feeling of conspiracy of silence, among the citizenry, as against what was obtained before the General Elections.
This is why I support the deadline set by the National Human Rights Commission that by December (again), eighty per cent of Nigerians must know their rights (by force?). Maybe, only maybe, we will start asking the right questions after December, when we are aware of our rights.