“What kind of people do they think we are? Is it possible they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?”—Winston Churchill.
Wars and insurgent situations are not new to humanity, what differs is how they are received and resolved. Ancient Egypt was constantly under fire from other world powers who wanted to control it because of its strategic location and advantages in trade. Ancient Israel was routinely attacked by the Philistines and other disgruntled neighbors for land-grabbing and the ordinary fear that Israel was an emerging power. There were internal insurgencies in the old Oyo empire as a result of royal rivalries and from vasals who craved independence. At a point, Napoleon Bonaparte was the scourge of Europe, and misguided Socialists/Communists were thorns in the flesh of various governments. All of these situations were handled differently and their results lay apparent in our history books. Indeed, in the words of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, terrorism is everywhere but the handlings are different and the results are telling.
After the September 11, 2001 attack, the United States of America led the world into a massive campaign against terrorism, now everyone is engulfed in it and persistence resulted into the killing of the master-mind ten years after the event. But in a sharp contrast to this, the case of the Nigerian government’s response to Boko Haram has been very pathetic, slow, deadly and unpatriotic to say the least. This is so for number of reasons, some of which are not obvious.
Nigeria has been hitherto known to play a “big brother” role in Africa by giving material and military aid to other countries in their time of crisis and getting meaningful results. Infact, the Nigerian armed forces are well renowned for their ability to confront any assult be it in Sierra-Leone, Liberia, Dhafur or Congo. A feat which elicited the phrase “born rugged” because no matter who you are, when Nigerian troops are out against you, there is only one possible result; you bow. This situation was due also largely to the strong personality of the individuals who were Nigeria’s leaders at each of these junctures. Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo for instance, during his tenure as Nigerian president, possessed a larger-than-life image by wading into international issues and emerging with relative successes. From granting asylum to Charles Taylor after brokering the peace in Liberia to opposing Faure Gnasingbe’s imposed presidency in Togo, Obasanjo was just there. On the other hand, Nigerians neglected Mr. Jonathan’s displayed lack of this required strong personality. In the period leading to the 2011 presidential election which ushered in Mr. Jonathan in his own tenure as president of Nigeria, two big events of great international significance played out in Africa.
First, the “Arab spring” in which sub-Sahara African leaders featured as minor and remote characters because Nigeria which was seen as the “big brother” did not see it as an ample opportunity to promote democratic ideals in the continent especially at a time when Nigeria had successfully transited democratic governments, when we had demonstrated through the Yar’adua saga that we can uphold and indeed support the rule of law, and we are giving hope to Africa’s minorities that they could also lead their countries. Instead of keeping up the momentum of this new realities to promote Africa’s democratic efforts, the weak, universal and nonchalant personality of Mr. Jonathan took over and eclipsed the whole opportunities. But Nigerians failed to observe.
In the same manner, about the same time, right in the same West African sub-region as Nigeria, the Ivorian post-election violence ensued and Mr. Jonathan could not lead ECOWAS to do anything concrete or meaningful. It took the intervention of French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to send in French troops who, in collaboration with pro-Quattara forces, dislodged Laurent Gbagbo’s from Ivorian presidency. All along, Mr. Jonathan was busy with the permutations of the 2011 elections while neglecting the roles of his office, yet again, Nigerians failed to observe.
Another major problem currently at hand is that the Nigerian government refuses to realize that they are technically in a state of war, for until then, Mr. Jonathan will not realize he occupies a hot seat and thus become effective. When people are been killed and abducted in such scandalous numbers and the president insists that it is all a “political move” by some opponents of his regime, then that regime is worth checking. For crying out loud, if a president is so sure that political opponents are at work in encouraging security challenges in his country, he should identify them and deal with the situation. Why does he have all instruments of state at his disposal?! Mr. President, quit complaining, just act!
It is interesting and ironic that we now have foreign military aid to help us combat internal insurgency. The shepherd now been “shepherded”. Nothing goes for nothing as it is generally known, I hope along with many Nigerians that the foreign military aid does not come at the cost of producing an African Iraq, otherwise, we have only just begun.