Jonathan and the Chibok Girls affair, by Majeed Dahiru

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Out of the Box

Expectedly, the book, My Transition Hours written by former president Goodluck Jonathan, which was publicly presented 28th November, a day he turned 61, has generated a lot of interest within and outside Nigeria. The book is essentially a brief narration of events before, during and after the historic 2015 elections by the central character in the plot. By no means, an autobiography, Jonathan’s My Transition Hours mainly focuses on issues surrounding the 2015 elections by clearly identifying certain factors that decided the course of events against his re-election bid. These include the power struggle within then ruling PDP over the rotation of the presidency between the north and south resulting into a murky politics of ethno-geographic and religious identity. Contrary to the entrenched perception of him by majority of his countrymen as a weak leader, who was unable to tackle corruption and insecurity effectively, Jonathan gave an insight into his efforts in these regards.

No doubt the fact that the Boko Haram insurgency and the unfortunate incidence of the abduction of the Chibok school girls marked a major sour point in the Jonathan presidency. Reading through the fourth chapter of Jonathan’s My Transition Hours, reveals he wasn’t so ‘’clueless’’ of the security situation neither did he fail to act on time to rescue the Chibok girls. Jonathan gave a brief synopsis of the insurgent group, its source of funding and links to ISIS. In fact the Jonathan administration acted before time to prevent the abduction of the school girls by issuing a security advisory for students to be evacuated from risk prone areas to safer locations. In a letter dated 12th March 2014, addressed to His Excellency Kashim Shettima, the executive governor of Borno state by then supervising minister of education Nyesom Wike, stating the urgency to relocate “candidates in the federal unity schools be assembled in the respective state capital where they are to sit for the examination in safe locations. You are please enjoined to make contingency arrangements for candidates from public and private schools in your state to sit the examinations in safe locations.’’ For reasons that has remained shrouded in mystery, the governors of Yobe and Adamawa complied with this advisory with the exception the Borno state governor. This incidence will go a long way to shape mutual suspicion and spin a web of conspiracy theories that was weaponized by then opposition coalition leading to global opprobrium on the Jonathan administration and eventually leading to his defeat.

Whereas he took responsibility for the Chibok girls’ incidence as President and Commander in Chief on whose table the buck stops, as clearly stated on page 31 of the book, Jonathan nevertheless lamented the non-cooperative attitude of the Borno state governor and the political leadership of the Muslim north in general, which was still smarting from an intense power struggle within the PDP in the build up to the 2011 presidential election. For violating the PDP power rotation arrangement and taking the turn of the north, Jonathan faced a political revolt in the most populous part of Nigeria to such an extent that all his developmental effort in the north including his effort to combat the Boko Haram insurgency was met with cold stone.

Under this tense atmosphere of hate and mistrust, all hands were not on deck to tackle the problem of Boko Haram insurgency. If Jonathan was not being blamed for not doing enough to curtail the excesses of terror sect, he was also verbally pummelled by the political leadership of the affected region for his hard military measures, which they condemned as punitive. In this statement by Lai Mohammed in reaction to the Chibok girls’ saga, ’’The same government that is apparently behind the activities [Boko Haram’s activities] had bluntly ignored wise counsel and said it will never negotiate their release’’ it would seem theopposition tacitly implied Jonathan as behind the Boko Haram insurgent group as a ploy to decimate the population of the north and reduce its democratic demography. Added to this was a conscious attempt to obscure the true nature, origin, motive and mode of operation of the Boko Haram insurgents by describing them as ‘’non Muslims’’ whose actions ‘’were far from Islam’’. The living in denial by those who should know better left Jonathan as bewildered as rest of non-Muslim Nigeria as he  pondered this question on the page 31 of his transition hours thus ‘’so, who or what is Boko Haram?’’. As a result of these toxic cocktail of conflicting narratives, Jonathan may have been convinced that the entire Boko Haram insurgency including the Chibok school girls abduction was a carefully choreographed terror franchise by his political opponents calculated to bring down his government. If Boko Haram insurgents are not Muslims then they must be agents of political forces of regime destabilization.

The recentmassacre of officers and men of the 157 Task Force Brigade of the Nigerian army stationed in Metele village of Guzamala local government area of Borno state, in numbers believed to exceed one hundred jolted the Nigerian people into a rude awakening to the reality of the seemingly intractable Boko Haram insurgency. Three years after the Jonathan administration, the Boko Haram insurgency has not only resurged but has taking the fight to the armed forces away from soft targets laying bare all conspiracy theories as mere fallacies. The fundamental reason for the unending Boko Haram insurgency is the overt politicization of the crisis to the detriment of Nigeria’s national security. Whereas Boko Haram is not Islamic, it is Muslim. The living in denial of this reality has contributed to the unending Boko Haram insurgency. The lack of proper contextualization of the Boko Haram insurgency within the frame work of a renewed global Islamic revivalist Jihadi movement that is sweeping across the Muslim world has left a large room for conspiracy theories to the advantage of terror group.

Jonathan was neither behind Boko Haram activities as alleged neither were his political opponents behind the insurgent group. While Jonathan deployed human and material resources to effectively combat Boko Haram insurgency, Shettima likewise made great efforts to provide support to IDPs as well as moral and material support for his people. However, the terror sect took advantage of this vital communication vacuum to incubate undetected and multiply in geometric fold. For every one insurgent killed by security forces, 100 replacements are made as a result of the proliferation of radical Islamic ideology, which has kept open the tap and allowing for a free flow of willing recruits into the ranks of the terror group. The Boko Haram insurgency was a by-product of the Sharia movement that swept through the Muslim north in the early years of the fourth republic. The Boko Haram ideology itself predates the modern Nigerian state and only found violent expression when the utopian ideal of an Islamic state was not achieved through the promise of its political promoters.

If the Boko Haram insurgency had been put in its proper perspective as an Islamist Jihadi group without politicization or living in denial of its roots in radical Islam by the larger Nigerian Muslim community, the Chibok girls’ abduction would not have come as a surprise and the suspicious cloud of doubts surrounding the unfortunate incidence would have been prevented. The Chibok school girls incidence like any other form of abduction forms a cardinal doctrine in radical Islamic ideology, which makes seizing of ‘’war booty’’ lawful in war time situations. As far the Boko Haram insurgents were concerned they were waging a holy war against the Nigerian state and the Chibok School girls were just another set of war booty. Therefore, the weaponization of the unfortunate incidence by the opposition, which led the Abu Shekau led terror group into the realization of how its latest group of regular war booty was priceless would not have happened and the School girls may have been rescued with relative ease.

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