Presidential Visit to Maiduguri: A Patriotic Perspective
By Alexander Ifeanyichukwu
The unannounced visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to the troubled state of Borno last Thursday 15 has predictably been the subject of mainly politically-prejudiced attacks from the opposition in spite of being a well timed morale boosting trip visit which coincided with the Armed Forces Remembrance Day commemoration.
The opposition ploy to turn every action of the President into a weapon of political persecution was reflected in the newspaper headlines that followed that visit. One of the national dailies captioned its story : Jonathan Sneaks into Maiduguri , another described it : At Last, Jonathan Visits Maiduguri , while a few which are vehemently opposed to anything Jonathan, ignored the visit completely.
What then are the crimes of Mr. President to visit Nigerian soldiers fighting to safe guard the territorial integrity of their country and the thousands of persons internally displaced as a result of the nefarious activities of the Boko Haram sect?
Some wondered why it took the President ages to visit the besieged people of Maiduguri and its environs, and why is he doing so only few weeks to the Presidential polls? Another group reasoned that the President has not shown enough concern for the welfare of Nigerians living in the north eastern part of the country hence, it took him this long to visit the region.
And for those who have always blamed the Boko Haram insurgency on the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency, the visit was seen as another opportunity to pitch the President against the Nigerian Military who have been engaged in a local war with the insurgents; to this group, the visit to Maiduguri is damn too late and only displays the President's disdain for the Military.
Most of the headlines and the views expressed by a section of the media is predominantly uninformed individual opinions misrepresented as news with the implication that the overall national import of the visit is nearly eroded.
This attitude which is unbecoming of a people faced with an identifiable common enemy calls for caution as it is capable of eroding the confidence of citizens in the aspiration for an indivisible and united Nigeria.
Notably, in the haste to vilify the President for this all important visit to Maiduguri, many of the reports forgot to tell Nigerians that the President had earlier visited Borno state in 2013 after the declaration of state of emergency in the three North East states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa. These elements who have decided not see anything good in what the Jonathan administration does, are in reality the true enemies of the Nigerian people whose interest they claim to have at heart.
Sound reasoning and the best of security judgments which is the area of specialty of certain state agencies and its personnel suggests that the President's perceived delayed visit to the troubled zone must have been informed by superior security advice which even the President's enthusiasm is not strong enough to overrule.
A simple rational appraisal of the situation would show that if the President was so concerned about the situation in Borno state in 2013 when he visited the state, then it would not have cost him anything to do it more frequently especially in the aftermath of the Chibok Girls' kidnap saga. The President could only have been acting on better and informed security advice, hence the time lag between June 2013 and January 2015 when he paid another visit to the state.
We must constantly remind ourselves as a people that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan notwithstanding how we feel about him is still the elected President of Nigeria and he carries the supreme mandate of the people of 170 million Nigerians. His safety is quite paramount to the same security men and women who daily lay their lives in Borno, Yobe or Adamawa that Nigeria may remain what it is, the Blackman's most powerful nation.
And we must come to terms with the reality that the day an elected President of any country begins to take orders from critics especially from the pages of newspapers and the electronic media on where to go and when to do so, then that leader ceases to enjoy the confidence of his people. This is because one of the mandates of the people to an elected President is to safeguard lives and property and not the other way round.
It is for this self same reason that a President Barack Obama, despite the sophistication of Airforce One and that jet's capacity to repel any attack against it, would 'sneak into' Afghanistan or Iraq unannounced to reassure American soldiers of American support. Why would Goodluck Jonathan act differently in a similar scenario?
From every indication, the Boko Haram insurgency are armed with anti-aircraft weapons which can jeopardize an ill-advised visit to that region by any top government functionary. Furthermore, reading political meaning to the visit because of its closeness to the February 14 Presidential polls is only suggesting that the President should have also shifted the commemoration of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day till after the elections before showing solidarity to the gallantry so far displayed by the Nigerian military. No right thinking leader would defer by one day an opportunity to express gratitude and show solidarity with its military personnel who are facing a formidable opposition like the Boko Haram affront.
Much more important is the reassurance and confidence that visit brought to the internally displaced persons and wounded soldiers in that region. For once, they are reassured that government and indeed all Nigeria have them in mind and remember them in their plight. One of the best medicines to a people under siege like the type currently being witnessed in north east Nigeria is the encouragement and soothing words of the country's leader which is what President Jonathan did last January 15.
The cheering and cheerful countenance of both the displaced persons and wounded soldiers are clear indications that criticisms of that visit on the pages of newspapers and over the electronic media was not shared by these affected Nigerians and is not what they need at this time.
Rather, kind words, show of concern and reassurances of hope gives them a future to look forward to knowing that they are still a part and parcel of the entity called Nigeria. For a moment, contrast the scenario at the IDP camps in Baga, Kukawa and Monguno with the bitter protest that followed the announcement of the separation of part of Bakassi to Cameroun a few years back, then one will understand what loss actually means to a displaced people.
This time calls for collective resolve among Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, religious or political inclinations to end the insurgency in the north east of the country and not to politicise the entire effort at nipping the unpleasant situation in the bud. After all, what use will it make if an ex-army general is 'endowed' with the solution to the insurgency but insists that he could only make known this magic wand, if and when he is elected the President of the country? What use would that be if he does not fit the people's choice for that office?
Only genuine, sincere and concerted efforts by those who are truly patriotic citizens of this country will solve the present unwarranted attack on fellow citizens by the Boko Haram sect. Mr. President has displayed this attribute through that risky but worthy trip to Maiduguri. The :time for fault finding is over, we must collectively set Nigeria free from wicked devices of the evil ones. Well, done Mr. President.
Alexander Ifeanyichukwu is a public analyst who wro
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