Chibok Visit: In Defence of President Jonathan, By Adekoya Boladale
On Wednesday 6th of April 1994, around 8:30pm the Presidential Jet conveying President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda touched the country’s airspace after a trip from Tanzania. Few minutes before landing, the Jet was shot down by a radical terror group. The President and all his entourage died instantly thus marking the beginning of the Rwanda genocide. The President was from the ‘Hutu’ tribe and the assassination was believed to have been carried out by ‘Tutsis’ the other tribe in the country and before one could say Jack, all hell was let loose. In 100days of vengeance over one million Tutsis were slaughtered in cold blood not with guns but Machetes, Clubs and Knives. Husbands killed wives, Pastors betrayed Church members who had run to them for sanctuary. For months the reign of bloodbath continued without recess.
While I share the common opinion that President Jonathan has shown weakness in tackling the growing insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria and also in his failure to visit parents and guardians of the over 200 school girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram terror group over a month after they have been abducted, I strongly feel the decision to abort the trip to Chibok few days ago was a wise one.
Most people have called President Jonathan names over this failed trip without giving deep thought to the danger posed by such visit. Unlike usual presidential trips, visit to region or areas under attack especially from rebel or terror forces are usually unannounced and mostly brought to public knowledge after such trip has been made and the President airborne home, surprisingly the media was agog with the planned visit of President Jonathan to Chibok twenty hours before the trip. Report by international news media Reuter claimed that a source within the presidency revealed the itinerary of the president which in normal situation is meant to be a closely guarded secret. With information such as this in public domain, it is a great security risk for the President to embark on such a trip not just for his own safety but also for the sanctity of the over 160 million persons he represents!
Sadly though, the presidential spokesman Reuben Abati instead of proferring a more ingenious explanation as to why Mr. President would not be in Chibok at such material time chose to play his usual denial and counter denial card. All he could do was to swing into action in other to save the presidency from ridicule and belittle the might of the presidential security detail by denying the visit which of course has no official correspondence.
Though it is not clear who within the president’s security detail betrayed the sworn oath of secrecy, but events in the past few days has pointed out clearly that no individual in any of the security forces can be trusted, not even the Strike Force. The Nigeria Army has suddenly become more of a pro-terrorist organization rather than waging war against insurgents. The continual withdrawal of Soldiers from road blocks few minutes before terrorist attacks by superior officers, the strategic order misleading troops to walk into ambush by commanding officers one of which caused the mutiny against the GOC of the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army by angry soldiers and the unending arrest of men of security forces betraying the country is a pointer.
Since the town of Chibok doesn’t have an airport, the President would have to land in the community via a military chopper which can be taken down by any surface-to-air missile. Now let’s not imagine the consequence of having Jonathan brought back to Otuoke in a body bag. It is Rwanda all over again!
It will be wrong to under estimate the might of the Boko Haram and the will of its lieutenant, this is one thing the people in government have been doing over the years and the result is evident today. Having the Vice-President take the trip is another option but I doubt Alhaji Sambo will agree to embark on such journey not after his convoy was brought down by an RPG is Kaduna few months ago.
Some may not see the reason why the State Security Service cannot save the President in situations like this, after all they are well equip to do just that. But similar events in recent years have shown that it is better to not make the journey than trusting the security forces to do their job. The assassination of John F. Kennedy who in spite of numerous security reports believed the secret service could protect him but gunned down in broad daylight in Dallas, Texas is a lesson for all.
The high point of this is that, while it is important President Jonathan makes a solidary visit to Chibok, it is of high importance that the anti-government spies within the government are first flushed out before such trip. Nigeria will never survive the outrage and events if the president is assassinated in Borno as the South will view such act as a conspiracy by the Northerners. Already the Southerners refer to every Northerner on the street as a Boko Haram member and if such event occurs every Northerner however innocent will pay for it.
As much as the opposition and some Nigerians are tired of the president and really wish to take over Aso Villa come 2015, it is important that such dream is achieved through constitutional means which is election. Frustrating the president into making journey such as this at this particular time may pose a greater threat to the existence of the country. That we don’t like the president doesn’t mean we should wish him death. As it stands now having Jonathan alive even though inactive is the best option for us all.
Adekoya Boladale wrote via email@example.com. Twitter is @adekoyabee