Jonathan, The Fire Fighter

Jonathan, The Fire Fighter

Now it looks like President Goodluck Jonathan has decided to take on the beast of religious terrorists ravaging different parts of Northern Nigeria, particularly the North-Eastern part, with his imposition of emergency rule on the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa last Wednesday.

The President had in a national broadcast made the announcement after his hurried return to the country in what looks like a panicky attempt to cover the sore of insecurity he had allowed to fester for so long. For to speak the truth, the situation in the North-East last week was not in anyway different from what it had been like in the last many months.

There was therefore no apparent justification for the declaration of emergency.

But PDP chairman, Bamanga Tukur, has volunteered information which seems a secret known only to members of his party. The terrorists, Alhaji Tukur said, have perfected plans to secede from Nigeria with parts of the North under their control.

One wouldn’t know if the apparent lack of any significant increase in the state of insecurity in the states in question is the reason the opposition ACN is not sold on the idea of emergency rule right now.

For them, the President is only playing politics ahead of the declaration of campaign for the 2015 elections with his decision to suspend normal constitutional rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Indeed there are doubts in certain quarters as to why Adamawa should suffer the same fate as Borno and Yobe.

Whatever is the real reason behind the President’s decision, the bottom line now is that he seems to be travelling down the road he had until last week refused to walk through.

The operative word here is that the President SEEMS to have decided to take on the terrorists and had ordered the movement of troops. We might wake up next week and find that the entire talk of declaration of emergency was another blast of hot air.

We, therefore, need to be sure the administration is sure about this declaration before we conclude it is ready to take on the terrorists. For quite a long time now, time during which the terrorists ravaging the peace of the country have been allowed to consolidate their stranglehold in different parts, dictating the pace of events by their campaigns of terror to which Abuja only manages to react every now and again- for such long time has the President vacillated on what step to take to counter the surge of terrorism in the country.

One morning he decides he wants to talk to faceless groups of murderers, one faction of which vowed to sheath their swords if he could but proclaim himself an Islamist.

The next night he vows to take on the terrorists ‘fire for fire’. After two years of lingering too long around the pit-latrine of indecision, strange flies now buzz in the ears of Abuja, forcing it to take panicky measures to cover the stench of its own stool in a sudden access of brave actions.

This column has for long maintained that the glaring lack of will to take on the terrorists whose name this column has blacked out for long, a name that legitimises its existence and confers respectability on it- this column has repeated again and again that had the President summoned courage and invoked the powers of his office as the Commander-in-Chief and taken the fight to the cowards who hide under the guise of religion to commit abominable acts of violence against longsuffering citizens of this country, his government would have since scattered them to the four winds.

But he dithered, wasted precious time because he lacked both the wisdom and, even more, courage to act when the situation called for it. The President has never fully recovered from the dizzying effect of his meteoric rise up the political and social ladder of the country.

He lacks the confidence that should enable him exercise the powers attached to his office as president. He appears to be constantly looking across his shoulders, afraid of both real and imaginary enemies, leaving Chief Edwin Clarke to do most of the sabre-rattling on his behalf when the likes of Asari Dokubo are not threatening fire and brimstone on anyone who does as much as question the President’s right to a second term in office. The President is the weakling, the proverbial Dada, the Yoruba says has a courageous younger brother.

It is, thus, the President’s weakness, his lack of moral courage, that the terrorists saw and have since taken advantage of, proliferating into many copycat groups that now call into question the basis of the Jonathan administration.

For a government that can no longer guarantee the security of life of its citizens, where the very structures of state power- the security forces and state establishments have come under incessant attacks, such government cannot claim to be in control.

That the terrorists have taken the initiative from the government is the reason Abuja continually falls into avoidable blunders and takes panicky reactive measures that have earned it the charge of human rights abuse. When it confronted the terrorists in Baga and hundreds of people died, it got the blame.

When the terrorists returned fire in Bama weeks later, nearly 60 security personnel went down in the attack, to say nothing of the Nasarawa case where three more security personnel became mere canon fodders. For all of these, the administration gets blamed. It’s increasingly clear that the Jonathan administration’s only skill is in fighting fire. Which now leaves it with the unenviable irony of sending troops to combat the very groups for which it recently established a presidential committee that would engage their members in dialogue.

The fear of the terrorists going after them was clearly a major consideration for a couple of the nominated members of the committee that declined their nomination. The terrorists have shown themselves more reliable in sustaining their terror campaign than this government has shown in protecting citizens of the country. Who do you blame for this but the fire fighters in Aso Rock Villa?

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