Ajiwo: Electioneering under the shadow of death

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

– Jon Krakauer, “Into the Wild”

I WAS stupefied to know that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan finally visited Borno State last week. It is heartrending that the visit occurred less than 30 days to the 2015 Presidential elections in Nigeria. Suddenly the President and his handlers discovered that it is now important to visit Maiduguri, Borno State capital, which has served as an operational base of the insurgents labelled Boko Haram. 

    Regardless of the pretensions of the Presidency, Jonathan’s first visit to Maiduguri since March 2013 exposes his soft underbelly as a man who does not really care about the plight of Nigerians. His belated mission to Maiduguri was clearly for electioneering purposes.

   Nigerians have clearly been living under the shadow of death in the last two years since Boko Haram became more daring and deadly. On Sunday, January 4 the Daily Trust Newspaper reported that at least 13 Local Government Areas in Borno State were under the control of Boko Haram. According to the newspaper, “the Deputy Governor of Borno State, Zannah Umar Mustapha, disclosed that over two million people had been displaced from at least 20 local government areas of the state…”

   Nigeria has become an increasingly insecure territory in the last five years. Apart from the onslaught of Boko Haram, Nigerians are virtually under the siege of kidnappers in various parts of the country. Nigeria accounts for 26 per cent of annual kidnap and ransom incidents in the world. It is globally acknowledged that Nigeria ranks fourth among the “Global Kidnap” league table. 

   Control Risks, a risk consultancy firm, has reported that 74 per cent of kidnappings recorded in Africa in 2012 occurred in Nigeria. The country records well in excess of 1,000 kidnappings for ransom a year.

Nigeria’s economy, apart from the unbridled crass corruption in high places, is crippled because people are afraid to travel around the country to exchange ideas and merchandise. Last year, the telecommunications companies operating in Borno State had their infrastructures damaged by insurgents. Many business people and school proprietors, in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states have either shut down or relocated their businesses to other states where they believe are less prone to regular attacks from Boko Haram. 

    These insurgents and kidnappers pose a grave threat to Nigeria’s survival as a nation. Unfortunately, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan does not seem to know what to do apart from passing the buck. It is saddening that a President who has spent N348 billion (2011), N 921.91 billion (2012), N 950 billion (2013) and N968.127 billion (2014) on security matters without any result is busy begging Nigerians to give him another four years to “solve the security problems” of our dear nation. 

   In spite of the huge budget voted to tackle security challenges the valiant men of the Nigerian military are slaughtered like troops without a commander-in-chief. Nigerians, like Professor Yemi Osinbajo declared recently, needs a commander-in-chief that will lead from the front.

   The lack of resources is not responsible for the seeming helplessness of our military and security agencies in the fight against terror. It is the absence of commitment to state and the willingness to do what will lead to crisis resolution. This is why the spokespersons for President Jonathan need to put on their thinking cap. 

   The pedestrian arguments against the Presidential quest of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress by Jonathan’s handlers are worrisome. They succinctly illustrate the pragmatic handicap of the PDP government in the last 16 years. Their sloppiness advertises Buhari’s APC as the party needed to change the fortunes of Nigerians. For instance, the South West zonal coordinator of President Goodluck Campaign Organisation, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, on Monday January 11, 2015, said the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari, cannot be the president of the country because he “cannot click a computer…We want a 21st century compliant president.” It is shocking that an otherwise brilliant politician of Mimiko’s status can publicly display his ignorance about computerisation and governance. With the assumed knowledge of Jonathan about computers, in what way has he solved the nation’s myriad security challenges?

   President Jonathan’s campaign Director General, Ahmadu Ali (a retired army General who presided over the most tragic student crisis in Nigeria), also described the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari as a “septuagenarian with fossilised ideas”. Ali also likened Buhari to an old plane. The indecorous manner some of these PDP leaders refer to others reveals their vacuity on matters of governance. These untutored spokespersons of an inept government should understand that a progressive minded person who is courageous, regardless of his age, is most desirable in the 21st century. He will achieve more than a younger fellow who falters constantly as if under stupor.

• Walero Ajiwo is a blogger on waleroajiwo.wordpress.com

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