Jonathan: Playing with Boko Haram fire

The admission by President Goodluck Jonathan last week that he had treated Boko Haram insurgents light-heartedly even as the violent sectarian group continued to slaughter Nigerian citizens must have come as a surprise to many people. That confession by Jonathan, the man who wants to be seen as a nice guy, has exposed the duplicitous face of the president whose responsibility it is to protect the lives of citizens.

By devoting a casual attention to Boko Haram terrorists and their vicious attacks on the country, Jonathan has handled insensitively the precious lives of innocent citizens who were brutalised, tortured, and murdered by the blood-thirsty and callous agents of the evil forces that Boko Haram represents.

During a visit to Namibia last week, Jonathan told his host, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, that: “Initially, we handle it (terrorism) with kid glove, but now we have decided to be a little more forceful because we must thrash out these terror groups. We must not allow it to continue to slow down economic growth in that part of the country.”


Jonathan said further: “With the terror attacks in that part of the country, the rest of the country feel it because Nigerians live everywhere. In these other parts, there is always the fear that if you do not tackle it, it will infiltrate in these other parts. We will work together to ensure that terror attack is stamped out globally and in Nigeria we are committed… The issue of global terror is worrisome and in Nigeria, we believe that a terror attack anywhere in the world is a terror attack on everyone. It may be more in one country compared to the other. For instance, in the North Eastern part of Nigeria, we are having incidence of terror in three states out of 36 states.”

By sending mixed messages to the nation on the government’s determination to weaken or eliminate the symbol of terror on Nigerian soil, Jonathan has shown that he is a weak leader, a spineless president who lacks courage and willingness to deal with serious security challenges that confront the nation. It is obvious that in the early days of the Boko Haram violence, Jonathan ignored security reports about the threats that Boko Haram posed to our national security interests. He ignored advice that he should deal decisively with Boko Haram uprising.

We are confronted today with the dreadful scourge of Boko Haram terror because a president wavered when he should have acted forcefully to put down the rebellion. Rather than listen to informed advice, Jonathan lurched from one policy blunder to another, focusing instead on how to please northern political and religious leaders who had called for a soft approach in the way the government dealt with Boko Haram insurgency.

Jonathan vacillated on the Boko Haram question for too long. During that time, the leaders of the violent sectarian group have amassed deadly weapons; they have been bolstered by their successful hits on military establishments; they have grown more audacious in their attacks, and they have assaulted national institutions no one ever imagined they would target.

On 6 November 2012, Jonathan depicted Boko Haram and their evil sponsors as “uncivilised”. Jonathan said this during a two-day visit to Jigawa State. Exasperated by the rising list of casualties of Boko Haram’s terror, Jonathan said: “Terminating innocent lives through terrorist acts is primitive, so perpetrators and sponsors of terrorism through Boko Haram cannot be anything but uncivilised.”

Why do I feel outraged by Jonathan’s admission that he had treated Boko Haram terror with kid gloves all these years? I have always believed the Federal Government ought to confront Boko Haram’s sadistic activities with equal force. Nigeria has the military apparatus and intelligence capabilities to dismantle the terror group, never mind there are traitors who consistently betray military activities designed to overwhelm Boko Haram terrorists.

You cannot treat light-heartedly a violent organisation that continues to kill thousands of Nigerians in peacetime, an organisation that has refused several opportunities for dialogue but prefers to engage in criminal bombing of military establishments, police buildings, school buildings, media houses, churches, market places and motor parks. Boko Haram leaders have never made it a secret that they want to break down Nigeria in order to make it ungovernable.

The only way the nation can appease Boko Haram leaders is if we accept to be force-fed with their quaint religious creed. Boko Haram, we must be reminded, is a terrorist organisation that is waging a violent religious war against the Nigerian nation. Other than lack of courage to confront the organisation, why would Jonathan handle Boko Haram terror all this time with kid gloves? What kind of president is Jonathan?

Jonathan’s decision to handle Boko Haram with kid gloves has come at an enormous cost to the nation. His ill-informed assessment of the criminal group has cost many lives. Jonathan’s gutless attitude to relentless bomb explosions and killings by Boko Haram insurgents has only emboldened the criminal group to the point where they now believe they can hit at any institution or national target effortlessly and get away free.

Despite Jonathan’s declaration of the state of emergency in three northern states, despite the large presence of military forces in the north eastern part of Nigeria, Boko Haram’s senseless killings have continued. These agents of anarchy have continued to operate with little resistance from the security agencies, making a mockery of the combat-readiness of our soldiers, and the ability of the police to respond with minimum delay to areas where the group commit horrendous acts such as the murder of innocent school children and the slaughter of elderly men and women in villages across the north.

Since 2009 when the former leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in questionable circumstances, members of this religious sect have continued to terrorise residents of various northern states. They kill, maim, torture and decapitate their victims who include market women and children, business men and women, travellers, worshippers attending church services, policemen and women, and soldiers. In the past three to four years, so many lives have been wasted by Boko Haram murderers. This terror group has turned northern states into a killing field unfit for business activities and human residence.

Soon after Jonathan gave a false impression that his government would match Boko Haram terrorists on the principle of an eye-for-an-eye, I was conned to the point that I wrote a somewhat flattering essay on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 in which I praised Jonathan’s courage. I wrote: “It looks like Jonathan is about to emerge from a position of weakness to present a new image of a strong president who wants to be seen for his robust approach to security challenges facing the nation. Time will tell whether Jonathan’s uncompromising statements in Borno and Yobe states signal a transformation in leadership style or whether his utterances were just a one-off public relations gimmick.”

It is obvious now that Jonathan never told the nation the truth about his unwillingness to confront Boko Haram terror since he took over, in an acting capacity, from Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. For the years that Jonathan dreaded tackling Boko Haram head on, he merely extended in a metaphorical sense a warm handshake to a violent group that cared little about the sanctity of human lives. Jonathan dithered while the nation was consumed by ball fires lit indiscriminately by a terrorist organisation, thereby abdicating his position as the chief security officer of the nation. To put it mildly, right from the beginning, Jonathan played with the fire lit by Boko Haram terrorists across the north.

Jonathan’s national security plan has failed. That failure has been confirmed many times by the successful hit-and-run raids carried out by Boko Haram. The failure of Jonathan’s national security policy was reconfirmed last week when Jonathan visited Namibia and confessed to his initial lack of courage in tackling the group. That catastrophe represents the breakdown of intelligence gathering. And it is on the back of the failure of national security that Boko Haram has found strength to continue to attack military barracks and civilian residential areas in the northeast. This is a tragedy but it is a disaster that could have been avoided or dealt with swiftly if Jonathan had acted against Boko Haram terror much earlier than he is doing now.

If Jonathan had acted with force, if he had been firm and determined at the beginning of his government, he would have been able to clip the wings of this terror group. Because Joanthan failed to act, because he did not consider Boko Haram a threat to national security, because he thought he could deal with the group in the manner that Umaru Musa Yar’Adua dealt with the Niger Delta militants, the nation is now paying a huge price in terms of financial resources, human resources, military hardware and other assets that have been invested just to end or contain this horrible internal uprising.

I hate to draw on a cliché to end this essay but Jonathan should be reminded of the value of the proverb that states that a stitch in time saves nine.

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