By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
I learned early this week that President Goodluck Jonathan has written to the National Assembly to request the approval of a third (!) extension of the emergency rule in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. I won’t mince my words: this is straight-out insane.
A popular epigram says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Emergency rule in these three northeastern states has done nothing to contain or countermine the sanguinary fury of Boko Haram. In fact, it seems to have escalated it. No one contests that fact. It is utter insanity to repeat three times in a row the same thing that has proved to be ineffectual.
It was during the state of emergency that scores of students were slaughtered in their sleep and their dorms set ablaze in Yobe State. It was during the same state of emergency that hundreds of female students were brazenly abducted in Chibok, Borno State, prompting mass outrage the world over.
As Abdullahi Bego, the Yobe State governor’s spokesman, said in a recent news release, “over the six months of emergency rule and later over the second, we have seen some of the worst attacks by Boko Haram in Yobe State. From GSS Damaturu to GSS Mamudo to College of Agriculture Gujba and FGC Buni Yadi, more than 120 students were killed by insurgents. There were many other attacks in Gujba and Damaturu local governments.”
Yet President Jonathan wants to elongate the emergency rule in the northeast by another six months. That, right there, is the very definition of insanity. Call it government by insanity, if you like. The state of emergency may not in and of itself be responsible for the escalation of violence in the northeast in the past six months, but it certainly has not lived up to its promise. A sane government would devise a different strategy.
I was one of the first people to applaud the declaration of state of emergency in the northeast last year. (See my May 25, 2013 column titled “The Malcolm Xian Logic in Jonathan’s Praiseworthy Boko Haram Offensive”). I thought it was the best option to neutralize and rout out the homicidal maniacs called Boko Haram. It has become apparent, however, that the state of emergency in these states hasn’t worked and is unlikely to work, not least because we have seen a disturbing uptick in violence in the wake of the emergency rule.
What’s particularly tragic in all of this is that the Jonathan administration doesn’t seem to know what it actually means to declare a state of emergency in a part of the country. I thought this was elementary knowledge. The declaration of a state of emergency in a state effectively relieves state governors of the responsibility to superintend over the security of their states, yet the Jonathan administration, at every turn, blames the Borno State governor for the unprecedented abduction of nearly 300 school girls. The federal government wants to have its cake and eat it. That’s childish.
In any case, if rising insecurity is the only reason why President Jonathan wants to perpetually extend emergency rule in the northeast, he should also consider declaring a state of emergency in Abuja. In fact, the whole of Nigeria is ripe for a state of emergency since not a day goes by that we don’t read of news of bloody communal upheavals in different parts of the country. Nigeria is effectively a leaderless, rudderless, auto-pilot nation.
I have never felt this much shame to be Nigerian all my life.
In light of the worldwide “#BringBackOurGirls” protests Nigeria has been dominating the news cycle in the global media. Our dysfunction as a nation is now nakedly transparent to the whole world. Every single day here in America people ask me questions about Nigeria and its president that I just feel too ashamed to answer. The president is absent where it matters; he is only present to supervise the large-scale organized robbery that governance has been reduced to.
Thanks to President Jonathan’s incompetence, Nigeria is now the object of scorn the world over—almost the same way it was during General Sani Abacha’s evil rule. That’s why Senator John McCain could afford to talk so rudely about President Jonathan without any consequence. In response to a question about the propriety of American intervention to rescue the abducted girls in Chibok, he said "If [the U.S.] knew where [the kidnapped girls] were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country. I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.”
That’s an unbearably disrespectful thing to say about the president of a sovereign state, but President Jonathan brought this upon himself. He has told the world that he has no frigging clue what it means be a president and commander-in-chief. That’s why almost every country in the world is either in Nigeria or is offering to go to Nigeria to help find our girls. A country can’t get any more helpless and hopeless than that.
The same government that can’t even secure its immediate surroundings (think of the Nyanya bombings and the comical shutdown of Abuja because of some world summit) and that can’t locate abducted girls in a well-known forest, wants to take over the security of a vast, far-flung part of the country in perpetuity. Only a government headed by “some guy named Goodluck Jonathan” does that.
I have no confidence in members of the National Assembly, but I hope they pleasantly disappoint me and refuse to approve this insane request to extend a spectacularly useless emergency rule.