Opinion: Is The North Taking Ownership Of Boko Haram?

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Those who took a rather simplistic view of the origin of the Boko Haram terrorist attacks on Nigeria are eager to link the escalation of their insurgency to the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as the President of the country in the 2011 general elections. They are quick to point to threats made in certain political quarters to make the nation ungovernable for the President should he defeat the northern candidates at the polls. Of course, Jonathan defeated the candidates of the North clinically both in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary and in the general election. It is also the truth that, ever since, the country has known no peace with the Boko Haram insurgency unleashing mayhem on the nation and its people.

Interestingly, not a few of our people buy this hypothesis that seeks to build a direct nexus between the outcome of the 2011 presidential election and the upsurge of Boko Haram terrorism. They do so not because the postulation is lacking in merit or conviction but more because it is safer not to do so for the sake of national cohesion. Yet the body language and the failing countenances of some politicians, leaders and elders in the northern part of the country tend to reinforce rather than give a lie to the belief that Boko Haram is politically motivated. Even the silence and some unguarded utterances coming out from the North tend to suggest some kind of complicity and sympathy for the insurgents.

General Muhammadu Buhari, who recently escaped a vicious attack on his motorcade in Kaduna, had earlier shocked Nigerians by advocating a kid-glove treatment for the insurgents simply because they are northerners. Speaking during a Liberty FM Hausa Service Programme, Guest of the Week, in Kaduna a year ago, the APC chieftain said that Boko Haram members were being killed and their houses demolished unlike the “special treatment” given to the Niger Delta militants by the Federal Government. And, in a similar line, the Borno State Elders had called on President Jonathan to withdraw the military from the state where Boko Haram attacks have come with alarming regularity. An obviously angered President was reported to have told the elders: “If anyone of you (referring to Borno Elders) wants the Federal Government to withdraw JTF troops from the state, he should come and sign an agreement that if anybody is killed after signing the document, I will hold you responsible according to the law of the land; I assure you that before I go back to Abuja all the JTF troops will leave the state”.

Following the same cue, the impeached governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, had thrown all caution to the wind and accused Jonathan of sponsoring genocide against the people of the North through the declaration of state of emergency in the three Boko Haram-infested states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. His words: “Nigerians, this is the first time we have collectively elected a citizen of this country from the former Eastern Nigeria as a President. Dear citizens of Eastern Nigerian origin, please note that this Federal administration under your son is giving you a very bad name. He takes wrong decisions and seems to be heading us to the abyss. Let’s therefore team up to save our freedom, dignity and rights… The Federal administration under present leadership has truly become absurd in its approach to vital decision makings as it could be seen in its declaration of State of Emergency and the deployments of the Armed Forces. How could such decisions be made without exit strategies?”

Lest we forget, this is the same Northern Elders that threatened to drag the former chief army staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, to the ICJ for fighting Boko Haram more ferociously. These positions and the complicity of silence tend to not only suggest a subtle connivance of northern politicians with the Boko Haram group but also embolden the insurgents. Yet in spite of these give-away signs, many Nigerians were willing to give northern politicians the benefit of the doubt by seeing Boko Haram simply as a part of the global terror phenomenon. But that was until the Northern Elders Forum played its last card, an ace in their befuddled thinking by tying President Jonathan’s second term ambition to the resolution of the Boko Haram insurgency in the country.

With the stand taking by this vocal faction of the Northern Elders, is it beginning to unravel how Boko Haram activities, including the abduction of the Chibok girls, on which the APC has footed its opposition to Jonathan recently are part of a well-choreographed steps aimed at blackmailing the President and stopping him from contesting in 2015? Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who clearly authored that satanic verse issued by the Northern Elders Forum, represents the intellectual backbone of the irredentist North and has been canvassing that opprobrious position in his Newspaper columns. And if you dismiss this rabid espousal from Hakeem Baba-Ahmed as his personal opinion, then that is simply being naïve of the power relations in the North.

I have heard some analysts posit on Channels Television that whenever President Jonathan appears to be getting set to announce his intention to run in 2015, something tragic happens with a bomb going off somewhere in the North. Initially this position sounded a bit too reductionist but with what is coming out from the Northern Elders, it is perhaps adding up now. It is understood that the North has held and misused power for so long that their politicians are getting increasingly discomfited without it. But they must also realise that scaremongering is not about to help their cause. If anything, it further endangers their quest even in 2019. By seeking to blackmail President Jonathan with the insurgency, the Northern Elders are simply taking ownership of Boko Haram! Even that will only make Jonathan’s victory in 2015 much easier.


Written by Francis Ehigiator.


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