On Saturday, President Jonathan was on a campaign tour of Maiduguri and spent three hours asking the people to vote for him. He assured the people that if elected into office for a second time, “he will conquer the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist group, reclaim peace in Borno and other volatile states and also revitalise the social and economic life of the people” (Daily Trust, 25/1/2015). Of course the city was placed under complete shutdown to guarantee the safety of the president.
The President had ignored earlier appeals to visit Chibok and various places where Nigerians have suffered from atrocities in the North East but did not visit. Now that the campaigns are in full gear, he is now the famous two-time visitor to Maiduguri within the month. I am worried that the assurance provided by the President is that he will conquer Boko Haram if he is re-elected. This movement has been committing atrocities against the people for the past five years that President Jonathan has been in power. Are we then being told that re-election is the only condition on which he is ready to defeat them? Has it not been his duty from day one to fight and defeat the insurgency?
Last week, the President’s National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was in London making a plea for the elections to be postponed. Increasingly, the body language of the President and his aides is that they are afraid they would lose the elections and if they do lose, appear unwilling to handover to the probable winner. The body language is to seek postponement and work towards a possible interim government arrangement. The collateral damage in this scenario would be the war against Boko Haram. If the war continues to escalate, it would be difficult to hold elections in the affected zones and then conditions could be created for resurrecting the “doctrine of necessity”. This scenario, which is speculative, is an extremely dangerous one for the future of our dear country and I do hope that’s not what is on the cards.
A few hours after the President left Maiduguri, Boko Haram launched a major attack on the city. The activities of Boko Haram in the surrounding villages and towns in Borno state have pushed out the population to Maiduguri, considered a fortress city that would be protected at all costs. Breaching the security of Maidiguri would be an unprecedented disaster for the millions of inhabitants and internally displaced people in the city. Such an outcome would also be a major turning point signalling the consolidation of the announced Caliphate. We will all continue to hope fervently that Maiduguri would not fall. Meanwhile, there are reports coming in as I write this column that Monguno has fallen, which means that Maiduguri would receive additional hordes of internally displaced people.
One of the strongest indicators of the lack of confidence of President Jonathan that he could win next month’s presidential election is found in the story published by PREMIUM TIMES last Saturday. They reported that prominent Niger Delta militants met to strategise on how to maintain the “Ijaw” president in office. The former militants were reported to have resolved that “any attempt to dethrone the President would be seen as a direct attack on the Ijaw nation, (and) threatened to unleash violence on the country and take back Niger Delta oil should Mr. Jonathan lose re-election.”
The meeting is said to have taken place in Government House, Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital and participants included the former militant leaders Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, leader, Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force; Victor Ben Ebikabowei, aka, Boy Loaf; and Government Ekpudomenowei, aka, Tompolo. Also in attendance were the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, and chairman of Amnesty Implementation Committee, Kingsley Kuku; Bayelsa state Governor, Seriake Dickson and his deputy; President General of Ijaw Youth Council, Udengs Eradiri; among others.
The meeting was said to have resolved to engage in battle should President Jonathan not be returned to office and also “to take their oil away”. It is very worrying that government officials from a ruling party would be meeting with militants who have a history of armed combat against the state and have been further strengthened by huge security contracts from the state to strategise on how to fight the state should their candidate lose the election. It is a real sign that the President does not appear to believe that he would win the elections. I know nothing about military capabilities and it might well be that Ijaw militants can militarily crush the rest of the country. Be that as it may, someone who has had the privileged to lead Nigeria as a democratically elected president should show more commitment to preserving and building Nigeria as a whole.
The campaign strategy of the president has been to make a lot of promises about the great projects he will implement if voted again into office. The question for Nigerians is that President Jonathan has been in power for five years and should run on his record not promises about a better future. It might be the lack of success in achieving promises made to Nigerians in 2011 that might have shaken his confidence about victory in February. My advice to the President is that one can or should presume the outcome of the elections and all candidates should campaign with confidence. The elections must be free, fair and credible and losers must aspect the verdict of the people. That is the path towards consolidating our democracy. That is the attitude I would like my President to take.