OBASANJO vs. JOONATHAN
Recently, Chief Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) a.k.a OBJ, the only man to have been a former military Head of State and civilian President of Nigeria, gave us another food for the fodder. Please don't forget that I wrote about his statement concerning “Rogues and Armed Robbers.” In case you do not remember, let me remind you. The ex-President had enlightened us that “today rogues and armed robbers are in the States Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly.” He had also “shocked” us by saying that our judiciary was corrupt. Okay, this was some months ago and on the heels of a former Head of State statement about “dogs & baboons.”
So what provoked Baba this time? Well, it was the statement by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) a.k.a. GEJ at his press briefing on Sunday, November 25, 2012. Apparently, GEJ took off his gloves (at least that is how OBJ saw it) and stated that the method utilized by OBJ in handling the Odi problem was not effective. Let us revisit Odi and Zaki Biam.
In Odi, there were alleged militants that had attacked soldiers. At that time, GEJ was Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. To cut a long story short (as they say), OBJ ordered the annihilation of that village on November 20 1999 because the Governor did not produce the militants. Every building in the town, except a bank, an Anglican church and a health center, was razed to the ground. Of course, OBJ premised his actions on the fact that he was the Commander in Chief of the armed forces and could not just stand by and watch his soldiers be killed by civilians. Of course, he was also the President of the whole country, including civilians.
As for the people of Zaki Biam in Benue State, soldiers killed over 100 civilians over alleged killing of peacekeeping soldiers that emanated from a simple dispute over siting of local government headquarters. Again, this was under Obasanjo civilian regime between 22 to 24 October 2001.
Why are we revisiting this matter 11-13 years later? Are we trying to indict OBJ for violation of human rights? Those are not rhetorical questions, but the issue came up as it relates to Boko Haram. Should GEJ handle Boko Haram like OBJ handled Odi? I am not a Security Adviser to GEJ, but the complication may be that GEJ may need to annihilate several villages in at least 5 States (Borno, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano, Niger) as Boko Haram terrorists have been linked to these States (and others). Also, it could be that since GEJ is not a former soldier, he is not familiar with the rash methods of the military. Or is it that as a brilliant academician, the President may be restrained by intellectual analysis paralysis that the military is not prone to utilize? Most Nigerians are familiar with the brutish approach of the military to problems, whether it is the flogging of civilians at checkpoints or the retaliatory killing of even police officers.
So, which do we prefer? A President that appears weak because he is seeking workable solutions to an ethno-religious terrorism problem, even if it may involve dialogue, or a President that will order the razing of a village because it potentially may harbor terrorists inside even if it results in killings of women, children and innocent civilians.
Anyway, somebody once said that Nigerians are a tough bunch to rule and they only understand it when they are treated as animals. Notwithstanding out our herd mentality towards religious leaders and our bandwagon approach on many issues, I disagree.
The question that needs an answer is whether OBJ and GEJ are on a collision course. There are recent insinuations that OBJ may be courting Northern governors in an attempt to block any attempts by GEJ to run for re-election in 2015. Apparently, OBJ sold GEJ to the core north under the premise that the presidency will return to the north in 2015. Now that GEJ is equivocating about his ambitions for 2015, maybe OBJ feels obligated to stop his benefactor so that his word will be taken seriously in the future.
Let us wait and see because 2015 is not very far. In fact, absent any issues from Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the elections will be less than 27 months from now and the next president will be sworn in on May 29, 2015 (872 days).
Happy New Year
Prof Alex Osondu Atawa Akpodiete is an author, Computer Scientist, Educator, Consultant, lawyer, Political Analyst, Public affair analyst & Social commentator. He has a Doctorate degree in Jurisprudence from the US. He has lectured Law, Ethics and Security & Intelligence Studies at the University level here in Nigeria and US. He also writes for a state daily newspaper & national monthly journal. He currently divides his time between Nigeria and USA where he runs a PR and an international capacity building firm ATAWA GROUP. Contact him on 08138391661 or [email protected] He is also on Facebook and you can follow him on Twitter.