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State of Emergency and Worsening Boko Haram Insurgency

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. In Nigeria’s northeast, which has been under emergency rule for more than a year, every single day is wor...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

In Nigeria’s northeast, which has been under emergency rule for more than a year, every single day is worse than the previous day. Boko Haram’s reign of terror persists and escalates with inexorable ruthlessness. The masses of our people there continue to endure unspeakably unrelieved suffering. Every day keeps getting worse. And there doesn’t seem to be any hope in sight.

 We wake up every day to news of the loss of large swaths of Nigerian territory to Boko Haram. As I write this, at least eight of the 27 local governments in Borno State are now in the firm, brutal control of Boko Haram. If the experience of the immediate past is any guide, it can only get worse. 

The latest tragedy is that Mubi, Adamawa State’s second largest town and hometown of Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff Alex Badeh, is now under Boko Haram’s control. The city has been renamed “Madinatul Islam.” Gombe State is also now under attack by Boko Haram.

It can’t get any more hopeless than this. This is the nadir, the absolute ground-zero of despair and helplessness. Yet all this is happening while the northeast is supposed to be under a “state of emergency.” Curiously, nobody seems to be talking about this: about the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan’s “emergency rule” in the northeast seems to be emboldening Boko Haram and exacerbating the chaos and anomie in the region. What is the point of a “state of emergency” if it only worsens the conditions it purports to be designed to contain?

It is apparent that the president doesn’t, as he likes to say on national television, “give a damn.” Amid the heartrending humanitarian disaster that Boko Haram has wreaked on Mubi, the president chose to travel to Burkina Faso to “resolve” the country’s political crisis. Which sane person goes to put out another person’s fire while his house is up in flames? I have never seen a more cruelly insensitive and clueless response to a grave national crisis than this in my entire life.

In the next few weeks, the “state of emergency” in the northeastern states will expire. Given the astonishing imbecility of this government, I won’t be shocked if it writes to the National Assembly to ask for a fourth extension of the “emergency rule”! That would, of course, be demented in the extreme, but this government is capable of the most unimaginably stupid things.

In light of the possibility that the government would ask for an extension of its incompetent and counterproductive “emergency rule” yet again, I reproduce below an abridged version of my May 17, 2014 column titled “The Insanity of Extending State of Emergency in the North-east.” Enjoy:

“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.”

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