President Jonathan’s state of emergency paradigm By Theophilus Ilevbare
The proclamation of emergency rule on three states of the North-East by a resurgent President Goodluck Jonathan was given the blessing of the National Assembly, as legislators of opposition parties broke party ranks to rally support for the President, his decision they believed was in the best interest of the country.
Mr. Jonathan must be commended for summoning the political will to assert the country's authority as a last ditch measure to wrestle the North from the shackles of the rudderless Islamist fundamentalist. Leaving the governors and the entire political structure in the states, where the protracted security has become a challenge, to discharge their constitutional responsibilities was a paradigm, a clean break from the sack or suspension of sitting governors by the Obasanjo administration.
ln a previous essay published in the Punch entitled: The dilemma of Boko Haram amnesty, I posited that to win the war against the rampaging insurgents and maintain our territory integrity and sovereignty as a nation, the use of military might at some point in the time should not be completely ruled out. The counter-terrorism war has not been won anywhere in the world with amnesty or any kid glove measure.
The carnage of the past could have been averted if a state of emergency was declared earlier by President Jonathan, in just one state, Borno, from where the terrorists birthed few years back. That the prolonged battle with insurgents took the lives of over 80 security agents in Nasarawa before it sank into the President that a state of emergency was imperative is reprehensible. My word! It was long overdue.
It remains to be seen what will now become of the work of the amnesty committee. The rug has been pulled from under their feet. They can't be negotiating with a sect that is being shelled on a daily basis in war with the special forces. Clearly, their role in peaceful resolution of the conflict has been undermined. Moreover, who negotiates with a gun to his head as a member of NASS quipped?
Nigerians must begin to be wary of politicians who elevate negative progressivism beyond state interest, whose definition of opposition politics is to criticise every move, good or bad, of the ruling government. The ACN described the declaration of emergency as lacking in original thinking. To them the blood thirsty charlatans should be allowed to continue their rampaging assault on the state, preferring that the government beg the terrorists with amnesty, even if they've rejected same by spitting on President Jonathan's face, declaring, that it is the government instead, who needs amnesty from them. Any right thinking Nigerian will agree that the use of force becomes a sensible alternative to smoke out the terrorists. Else, how do we hold them accountable for the gruesome killings over the past years? Lai Mohammed and the Action Congress on this note, got it wrong! Contrary to the vituperation of the opposition camp, rejecting the presidents' move in totality, describing it as one that will be counter-productive, the emergency rule has started yielding commendable results already. Security report have it that the “insurgents have been dislodged from their previously safe havens and camps while many have been apprehended, and their activities in the affected states have been brought to a total halt.”
It was a declaration of war on the North, the Northern Elders Forum had charged, forgetting that if the status quo was maintained, they would soon be caught up in the orgy of attacks that does not guaranty their safety as well, as the attempt on the life of the Emir of Kano had shown. Their sense of reasoning seem to be beclouded by their preoccupation of wrestling power from the South by all means possible come 2015. They seem not to be bothered either by any genuine efforts geared towards ensuring the country remains united. Such 'elders' have to stop and think for a moment… Even if the North had power, it needed a country to govern! The real enemies of Nigeria under whose outstretched arms the ghosts of terror have received blessing to terrorise the country are being unmasked.
Afterthought, we begin to marvel why it took President Jonathan so long to declare a state of emergency in the troubled northern states after three years of onslaught by the Jihadists on innocent law-abiding Nigerians. It gives us ample room for speculation that Mr Presidents' dilly-dallying on sundry national issues is the very reason his administration is moving the country at “Jonathan speed”. Think of the gains that would have been made in power, education and petroleum sectors for instance if timely, well thought and strategic decisions are taken.
The renewed synergy and determination shown by the combined team of security operatives have yielded laudable results. But in the aftermath of the state of emergency, there will still be terror lurking if the dispersed sect members in neighbouring states and border West African countries find safe haven to regroup and launch fierce vindictive attacks on the state. Boko Haram hotbeds like Nasarawa, Bauchi, Kano and Gombe would been under a kind of quasi-emergency rule, maybe in restive local government areas, to flush out and ward off other extremists from resettling. The frontiers bordering Bauchi should be well guarded so the fleeing militants find it difficult to gravitate to the country after the emergency period has elapsed. The fear of the dreaded sect regrouping is real.
The much talked about carrot and stick approach employed in quelling militancy in the Niger Delta region by former President Obasanjo is being implemented masterfully by the Jonathan administration. With the state of emergency running concurrently with the amnesty offer still on the table, and the government's renewed promise to ensure the amnesty plan is not derailed, there is optimism, that the wings of the insurgents will be clipped sooner rather than later. Meantime, the Presidency has reiterated its offer of amnesty to any member of Boko Haram who surrenders.
In the long run, a holistic approach is imperative to rid the entire country of every elements of insurgency or terrorism. The task of curtailing the cocktail of bloodshed is one that goes beyond the emergency rule. The task of securing the lives and properties of Nigerians is a continuum. We can recall that the amnesty to Niger-Delta militants did not get to the root cause of their agitation. It is worrisome that so much has been expended on the amnesty programme itself but so little in arresting the deprivations that snowballed into banditry. In recent time, we've seen the rise of oil bunkering and kidnapping in these regions.
Kudos to President Jonathan once again for not upsetting the political applecart by dislodging the elected governors. The overwhelming support that greeted the emergency is a pointer that for once Mr President hit the right note. It was time a halt is brought to the wanton loss of lives and attacks on state institutions, that in a most profound way, has threatened the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria.