Terrorist outrages: It’s unfair to blame Jonathan!
From the Other Side By Lindsay Barret
Thursday, January 26, 2012

It has become commonplace for some commentators to accuse Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of everything from negligence to incompetence as a consequence of the outrages perpetrated against innocent Nigerians by the dreaded “Jamatul Ahlil Sunnah lit daawati wal jihad” generally called “Boko Haram”. Since the Kano debacle we have been fed with various forms of “expert advice” from many who claim to have the answer to what is fast becoming Nigeria’s greatest aberration.

Many have of course called for the sacking of the security chiefs, and one can hardly blame them. The disgraceful revelations of what is beginning to look like collusion rather than confusion in the behavior of some security agencies, especially the Nigerian Police, justifies almost any allegation of professional delinquency on the part of these bodies. For example, the presence of Commissioner Zakari Biu in the police force without any apparent qualified scrutiny, given his well-documented record of abuse of office in the past, beats the imagination. But the President could not be expected to personally monitor the deployment of rogue appointees. It was a serious breach of both professional intelligence and ordinary common sense for someone with Biu’s antecedents to have been put in charge of such a sensitive assignment.

The interrogation and investigation of a miscreant with the profile of the individual who is now being described as the mastermind behind the Madalla Christmas Day bombing should have been handled by the State Security Service (SSS) right from the outset. From the moment that he was captured the suspect should have been in the custody of what is assumed to be the most effective arm of state security without any chance of escape. The coincidental timing of his escape and the terrifying outrage in Kano has raised the criminal profile of the terrorist organization, which has warned all commentators to desist of from calling it “Boko Haram”.

This organisation now poses a serious threat to the common good in Nigeria as a whole even though so far its most determined attacks and operations have been concentrated in some Northern states. The provocation of sentiments of resistance and chauvinistic protectionism in some Southern states will certainly follow the outrage in Kano although the victims of this outrage have overwhelmingly been people of Northern origin who in many cases were adherents of the Islamic faith. Those who claim to be the perpetrators have made it clear that they wish to provoke a division of national interests. Their pre-attack warning, which was widely circulated in Kano for days before the actual operation commenced indicated that their targets would be the agents of government enforcement and security that they regarded as having targeted their members.

This same document characterised “Christians” as collaborators with the official agencies. This showed that while the perception of their rationale is widely allied to religious bigotry their true purpose is even more sinister. The perpetrators of this outrage are determined to impose anarchy on the society in pursuit of an improbable objective. Dr. Jonathan cannot by any stretch of the imagination be accused of having created the climate for such an intrinsically destructive agenda. Even though the security apparatus of the government, which he largely inherited rather than created, has been impotent in confronting the rise of terror represented by these outrages it is wrong to attribute the tragic development to the failure of the government that he is presiding over. To do so would be to legitimise terror as an instrument of change. The slaughter of innocents cannot and should not be condoned on any count and those political opportunists who have been quick to point fingers at the President are not helping matters at all.

It is very easy for us to point fingers but we should not forget the old adage that says “When one finger points at others four point back at the pointer (accuser).” The underlying focus of the problem represented by the rise of home-made terrorism keeps changing as the nature of the outrages change. Let us not forget that last year’s UN bombing forced us to consider the extent of international collaboration and what the ultimate objective of the core perpetrators might be. Since then we have heard of territorial and religious motives for continuing outrages but one thing that has been clear is that the main purpose of the perpetrators has been to intimidate ordinary citizens and create chaos. Unfortunately they have achieved what can be described as a qualified success in promoting their agenda.

It is quite clear that the security apparatus of the state has failed either to adjudge the extent and strategic weight of the terrorist organisation or to comprehend the true nature of its organisational form. The success of its tactical initiative of surprise uprisings in increasingly populous and strategically important metropolises has signaled the existence of a formal plan and motives that are quite predictable. In spite of this the security forces have constantly been wrong-footed by the perpetrators of these outrages. They have continually claimed to be making headway against these forces while consistently being taken by surprise. In fact it is becoming quite clear that Dr. Jonathan has been misled by his security advisers to the same extent that he appears to have been misled by some of his economic advisers over the likely consequences of the abrupt removal of the fuel subsidy. It is unfair to accuse a leader of causing problems caused by circumstances that precede his tenure but he must be answerable for the consequences of condoning inefficiency and accepting bad advice.

These are the only grounds on which the outrages in the North could possibly be blamed on Dr. Jonathan but in the present circumstances he is clearly not entirely at fault. Just as his advisers on the economic and social fronts have come equipped with impressive recommendations his security advisers lay claim to impressive professional credentials. What is becoming increasingly obvious is that the level of threat to the overall stability of the nation that is being faced by the Jonathan Administration is unprecedented. Those of us who can remember the period preceding the start of the Nigerian Civil War find the present circumstances frighteningly similar if not even more distressing. The fundamental differences between the form of the nation then and now could easily conspire to aggravate negative sentiments of territorial distrust. In the sixties Nigeria was a flawed federation replete with inequalities among the four regions.

Today Nigeria is an even more flawed federation beset by diverse interests and objectives being manipulated by the political leaders of thirty six unequal states. Dr. Jonathan bears no responsibility either for the foundation on which the nation that he leads is built or for the fundamental processes that have undermined its stability. Nevertheless he cannot totally extricate himself from blame over the failings of the security and other forces under him. He must restore confidence in the ability of government to anticipate and react with courage to a strategy of unprecedented brutality, but he cannot accept blame for the emergence of this strategy. Those who want him to admit culpability are overlooking the true dangers that the new terrorist element poses in Nigeria’s historic evolution. They are suggesting that regional equity is a secondary element in defining leadership in Nigeria. That suggestion spells doom for the nation. Under the present circumstances Dr. Jonathan cannot be accused of setting the stage for this.

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