On September 24, 2014, Atiku Abubakar of the APC declared at the Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja that he was running to be president of Nigeria. The occasion was without incident. This was followed on October 15, 2014 by Muhammadu Buhari of the APC who declared in Eagle’s Square, Abuja that he was also running for president. Again, the occasion was without incident.
But on November 10, 2014, the day before Goodluck Jonathan declared that he was running for president at Eagle Square in Abuja, the Boko Haram struck. 50 students were killed and about 80 injured in a suicide bombing in Potiskum, Yobe State. This shows in clear and unambiguous terms that the Boko Haram has no problem with either Atiku or Buhari running for president. But it is against Goodluck Jonathan.
Brotherhood of insurgency
The “coincidence” between Boko Haram assaults and PDP events and their lack of incidence at APC events has become a standard operational procedure. On September 26, 2014, Rabiu Kwankwaso, PDP governor of Kano State, and four other PDP governors, defected to the APC. Bombs did not explode as a result of this. However, on April 14, 2014, the day before Ibrahim Skekarau, former governor of Kano State was welcomed by Jonathan to the PDP at a rally in Kano after defecting from the APC; over 80 people were killed by the Boko Haram with a bomb planted at the Nyanya motor park near Abuja.
It is incontestable that the Boko Haram script against the PDP aligns conveniently with the interests of the APC. Indeed, instead of condemning the Boko Haram for killing innocent Nigerians, the APC seizes on these murderous incidents to attack the PDP for not cancelling the events both the Boko Haram and the APC are determined should not hold.
Accordingly, Lai Mohammed, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, accused the president of dancing “Azonto” on the occasion of Shekarau’s defection rally instead of being concerned about the killings. When the bombs went off the day before Jonathan’s declaration of his candidacy, Mohammed again declared as “utterly insensitive and absolutely callous” the decision of the president not to cancel the scheduled event; saying the president was: “dancing on the graves of the students.” But as any right-thinking person knows, cancelling the event would have been tantamount to succumbing to Boko Haram blackmail.
APC readily exploits calamities in order to score cheap political points. This leads to the conclusion that it is either complicit in the attacks or insensitive to them. The APC does not seem to believe it can win the coming election against a sitting president and an entrenched PDP. Therefore, its assignment is that of an unscrupulous mischief-maker that would do anything and use anything to undermine the government of Nigeria.
Who is afraid of Goodluck Jonathan running for president in 2015? Two main protagonists have a consanguinity of interests: the Boko Haram and the APC.
Boko Haram apologists
There can be no question that the interests of the Boko Haram and those of the APC are in tandem; leading observers like Femi Fani-Kayode to declare that as the IRA (Irish Republican Army) was the armed wing of the political Sinn Fein in Britain; so can the Boko Haram be described as the armed wing of the APC in Nigeria. As a confirmation of this, APC members have shown greater determination in attacking the Nigerian government than in attacking the Boko Haram. However, now that they are fishing for votes nationally, some of their prominent Northern figures are now attacking the insurgents.
Let us take, for example, the position of the presidential candidate they have finally chosen; three-time loser Muhammadu Buhari. For years Buhari, who often betrays inadvertently his true colours as a sectional and sectarian Northern champion, was an ardent apologist for the Boko Haram. In an interview with Kaduna’s Radio Liberty in November 2012, Buhari demanded that the Federal Government should stop the clampdown of Boko Haram insurgents, insisting they should be given special treatment like the Niger Delta militants.
These are Buhari’s words: “They (the Niger Delta militants) were trained in some skills and were given employment, but the ones in the north were being killed and their houses were being demolished. They are different issues. What brought this? It is injustice.” That same year, Buhari said he does believe there is a real movement called Boko Haram and claimed the federal government of Nigeria was: “the biggest Boko Haram.”
Wole Olaniyi was a fly in the wall at a meeting in Kano Government House in 2013 designed to persuade rebel PDP governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, to decamp to the APC. Assuming that only Northerners were present, Buhari declared the Boko Haram was a “strategic plan” by the government of Goodluck Jonathan to “destroy the North.” When Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states, Buhari came out against it. Seeing the conflict with Northern goggles, Buhari claimed Goodluck Jonathan was using the insurgency as an excuse to wage war on the North.
Attempt at volte face
It is necessary to remind Nigerians of this position of Buhari because now that he is shopping for Christian and Southern votes, he is singing a different tune. He is now smooth-talking Nigerians; naming Christians before Moslems in his speeches, and putting the South before the North in them. But let us not forget that Buhari was so clearly identified as a friend of the Boko Haram that, in November 2012, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, the second-in-command to Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, in announcing a readiness to negotiate a ceasefire with the Nigerian government, named Buhari as one of the few “trusted” Nigerians it would be ready to negotiate with.
Buhari’s blatant sectarianism has not gone unnoticed. Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the PFN (Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria) was so incensed by Buhari’s defense of the Boko Haram insurgency that he asked that Buhari should be arrested. Oritsejafor said: “This can only mean that the retired General is a fanatic. He is, therefore, the prime leader of this religious and blood-thirsty sect called Boko Haram, a movement that is based on a warped interpretation of a strict adherence to force people of other religions into Islam. This is why I call for the arrest of Buhari now. Buhari is a big security risk to Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
Truly progressive Northerners also sought to distance themselves from Buhari’s sectarianism. Jibril Mamman Vatsa, spokesman of the Arewa Youths Forum, said: “Buhari does not speak for all Northern leaders. His statements on Boko Haram exist as part of a continuum of Northern leaders’ responses to the problem, which have ranged from proposing dialogue to condemning the FG’s approach to, if some allegations are to be believed, actively supporting the movement. If the Boko Haram members are becoming more daring by the day, it is because of the support given to them by some highly placed persons.”
However, now that Buhari is gunning again for the presidency and seeking votes from a national constituency, the need has now arisen for him to tamp down his pro Boko Haram rhetoric.
Therefore, in an about turn, he is now pretending to be a big critic of the Boko Haram. He says: “These people, whose actions are not sanctioned by any religion and who subscribe to no known values, will not succeed. Our people are resilient and strong, and our nation is capable, based on our rich human and material resources, of successfully tackling these nihilists. We will together see the end of them and their reign of terror.”
Buhari’s new stance should not be believed. A chameleon can only change its colour; it cannot change its shape. Buhari would now like us to see him as the Messiah who would bring the Boko Haram insurgency, which he said was a Southern ruse, under control. To do this successfully, Buhari needed to be refurbished as an enemy of the Boko Haram. Into this new playbook came the alleged attack on his life by the insurgents.
APC supporters should forgive me for being totally cynical about this. The so-called attack on Buhari’s life benefits no one but Buhari himself because it fits into his new script of trying to distance himself from the Boko Haram. Buhari does not normally go around in a bullet-proof car. But quite conveniently, when he was attacked, he had borrowed one especially on that occasion. His car was not bombed but sprayed with bullets. Some people died from the attendant bomb blast, but not a single one of Buhari’s aides died. In any case, the Boko Haram never declared they were the ones after Buhari.
Rather than condemn Buhari’s attackers, the APC was more interested in using the incident to absolve itself of complicity in the spate of terrorist attacks in Nigeria. Lai Mohammed issued a statement saying: “If indeed the APC is behind Boko Haram and General Buhari is a sympathiser of the evil group, as the Federal Government wants the world to believe, could it be that the insurgents do not know their leaders or sympathisers, assuming they are behind the attacks? Whatever happens now, the satanic and repulsive theory of the PDP-led Federal Government that the opposition APC is using Boko Haram to truncate the administration of Jonathan is up in flames.”
Lai Mohammed blundered with this statement. It easily leads to the conclusion that the whole point of the attack on Buhari was to launder the image of the APC and distance it from the Boko Haram. This was quickly recognized by the PDP.
Olisa Metuh, the PDP national publicity secretary said: “We are shocked, disappointed and disgusted that the APC leaders chose to use the ugly development to embark on image laundering. Nigerians now ponder; they ask, was the attack a setup aimed at scoring some political points? Or could it be APC’s desperate strategy of trying to disentangle itself from the internationally acknowledged link with terrorists and possibly undermine the planned probe of their involvement by the United Kingdom?”
(TO BE CONTINUED)