A recently appointed presidential aide said he prefers a bullish ‘Attack Lion’ pet title to the bearish ‘Attack Dog’ critics call him.
By Idris Akinbajo
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, on Monday rejected the tag of an “attack dog” for the Presidency.
Mr. Okupe, who appeared on an interview programme on the Africa Independent Television (AIT), said his job at the presidency was to engage the public on discussions around the achievements of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
He said those calling him an attack dog were not fair to him considering his (physical) size and past achievements.
“They should even call me an ‘attack lion,” Mr. Okupe said.
The light remark by Mr. Okupe caused the interviewer, Gbenga Aruleba, to say that there were some dogs that could be so fierce and large like a lion. The presidential aide dismissed that remark, seemingly preferring the title, ‘attack lion’, saying no dog could be fierce or large enough to confront a lion.
The Ogun State-born politician also served notice of what to expect from his office. He said his office and team would respond to any public criticism (by public commentators) against Mr. Jonathan and his policies.
Mr. Okupe also used the interview to explain President Jonathan’s reluctance to use maximum force on the extremist Boko Haram sect.
No maximum force on Boko Haram
The presidential aide said those accusing Mr. Jonathan’s of inaction on the insecurity pervading the country were not fair to the President.
“It is wrong to say the President has not been able to tackle the security problem,” Mr. Okupe said.
The Ogun state-born politician said the Federal Government could not use force on the Islamist group because it wanted to avoid civilian casualties.
“The Nigerian army can in one month wipe out the Boko Haram, but the collateral damage will be unbearable,” he said.
He said that the government was already achieving some success against the terrorist group.
“Three people (Boko Haram members) have been declared terrorists (by the U.S.). One is dead (killed), one is under the armpits of security forces, and another is on the run,” Mr. Okupe said. “That is a remarkable achievement.”
Mr. Okupe compared the difficulty in tackling the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria to what the British government faced with the Irish Republican Army saying “for 28years, the British Government could not stop it (IRA). When terrorism is internal, it is hard.”
Three categories of Boko Haram
Mr. Okupe also said there were three categories of Boko Haram operating in the country. He listed them as the religious Boko Haram, the criminal one, and the political Boko Haram.
Nasir El-Rufai, an opposition figure and leader of the Congress for Progressive Change, had also listed the same categories of Boko Haram in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
The two however disagreed on the sponsors of the political Boko Haram. While Mr. El-Rufai alleges that they are sponsored by the Federal Government in order to split the country along ethnic lines and for other reasons, Mr. Okupe insinuated that they were being sponsored by the opposition.
Though he refused to mention names, Mr. Okupe said that the fact that the violence went out of proportion after the 2011 presidential elections was a sign that the opposition were behind the sect.
He said that the Federal Government was going to dialogue with perceived political sponsors of the terrorist group because it had no hard evidence with which to link them to the group’s sponsorship.
“When we have weakened the apparatus of the insurgency, you now call for dialogue,” Mr. Okupe added.
Muslims harbour Boko Haram
Mr. Okupe also said that gathering intelligence on the Boko Haram group was difficult as they were getting help from some Muslims.
“Sincere and pious Muslims believe it is against their religion to report these terrorists,” he said while explaining that the security forces were improving on their intelligence gathering efforts.