30th April, 2012
The National Security Adviser, General Andrew Owoye Azazi (retd) hit the nail on the head at the 2nd Southsouth Economic Forum last Friday when he said the internal workings of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were partly the cause of the Boko Haram terrorist attacks in the Northern part of the country. We are aware that there are other remote causes, but Azazi’s diagnosis appears to have laid bare one of the central reasons for the Boko Haram insurgency.
The internal workings of the PDP, in this regard, is the controversial principle of zoning in the choice of the party’s presidential candidate.
Though Boko Haram started their attacks during the Umaru Yar’Adua administration after the leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf was extra-judicially murdered by the police, the terrorist attacks escalated after Jonathan took over as president on 29 May 2011.
It got worse after the April 2011 presidential election. In fact, the first suicide bombing happened after Jonathan was sworn in.
Before the election, some Northern leaders, such as Adamu Ciroma, vowed to make the country ungovernable if Jonathan was elected president. Their grouse was that it was the turn of the North to produce the PDP presidential candidate for the 2011 election since Yar’Adua did not complete his term before he died in May 2010.
So the terrorism we are witnessing today is not a mere coincidence. It is the handiwork of those who vowed to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan. Rather than go after those who threatened fire and brimstone before the April 2011 presidential election, everybody is living in denial, and pretending not to know the masterminds of the bombings.
Our leaders and security agencies are burying their heads in the sand like ostriches in the face of danger.
Did Jonathan not tell Nigerians that Boko Haram had infiltrated his government? Is that revelation not more startling than that of Azazi? Since he made that disclosure, what has he done to weed them out of his government?
Azazi spoke the bitter truth when he asserted that “PDP got it wrong from the beginning by saying Mr. A can go (contest for presidency) and Mr. B cannot go and these decisions were made without looking at the constitution. Is it possible that somebody was thinking only Mr. A could win and if he could not win, there would be problems in this society?”
The answer to this rhetorical question Azazi asked is yes. There is problem today because a Northerner was not allowed to get the PDP ticket. That is the bitter truth Azazi was trying to tell the world. Jonathan and the PDP are just frothing in the mouth engaging in a slanging match with Azazi over what he said. Nigerians know better.
Azazi is the National Security Adviser who knows the truth and summoned the courage to say it at an auspicious moment and at an august gathering. But Azazi ought to have gone further to outline the path to peace. Will the present approach of repression work? Is it not time for dialogue?
Our view is that the present campaign of force against the militants in the Northern part of Nigeria is not yielding good dividends and does not hold any prospect of anything good. The only path to peace is the conference table.
The Nigerian government should urgently find the means to jaw-jaw with the bomb bearing members of Boko Haram. Or alternatively, convene a sovereign national conference to redefine Nigeria’s togetherness.