The spokesperson for the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, Lai Mohammed, has told the British Parliament that President Goodluck Jonathan and Nigeria’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are manipulating the Boko Haram crisis to return Mr. Jonathan to power in 2015.
Presenting a paper titled “Challenges of Insecurity in Nigeria and Boko Haram Insurgency” to a sub-committee of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom Monday, Mr. Mohammed listed six ways he said the ruling party was exploiting the bloody campaign by Boko Haram for political gains.
First, he said, the crisis has been used by the PDP to launder Mr. Jonathan’s image through his participation at key international meetings.
“Curiously, Boko Haram has now become a way of getting the international community to talk and meet with President Goodluck, and gain international media coverage,” he said.
He said the PDP-led government is using the crises, especially the #Bringbackourgirls campaign that follows the abduction of over 200 school girls from their school hostel in April, to blackmail opposition groups, and to impose emergency rule in states and areas controlled by opposition political parties.
He also accused the ruling party of using the crisis to harass and restrict media freedom (through military clampdowns), and for justifying illegal activities, he stated.
“The status quo favours the PDP and President GEJ. Why? Boko Haram affected areas and indeed the Northern region are APC strongholds, hence Boko Haram crises, the declaration of emergency rule and general atmosphere of insecurity in the North is likely to affect voting (low turnout due to displacement),” Mr. Mohammed said.
“There is already talk of cancelling elections in some areas in the Northeast, all plots designed to minimize President Jonathan-PDP electoral losses in the North and enhance the likelihood of a PDP victory.”
The meeting of the House of Commons Monday received updates from the UK foreign affairs department on the situation in crisis-prone nations in Africa and elsewhere.
On Boko Haram, the committee was told that Boko Haram’s claim to have established a caliphate in north eastern Nigeria “does not have any credibility outside this group of terrorists”.
“Boko Haram does not command widespread popular support. They continue to deliberately target the weak and vulnerable, causing suffering in communities of different faiths and ethnicities,” said Hugo Swire, the Conservative MP for East Devon.
In his presentation, Mr. Mohammed detailed the genesis of the group and how it grew into an ultra-violent sect after a government crackdown, and how its operations have increasingly been exploited by the PDP and President Jonathan.
“The Boko Haram crises is readily used by the PDP to rationalize the Jonathan Government’s abdication of its constitutional responsibilities, including visits and assistance to areas affected, effective response to kidnappings and abductions,” he said.
He added that the declaration of emergency rule in the three north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, and the massive increases in spending on security without correspondent impact, have become a “political gimmick” by the PDP.
Mr. Mohammed accused the ruling party of actively politicizing the declaration of emergency rule, saying that the government is ever quick to propose and declare emergency rule in areas controlled by opposition political parties, but not in PDP-controlled states even where the scale of violence, killings and destruction are similar.
“For example, despite incessant violence, killings, displacement and destruction in Taraba, Benue and Plateau (PDP controlled states), the PDP has been quick to discount the possibility of a full scale emergency rule, however it is quick to impose emergency rule in non-PDP states at the slightest episode of violence.
Mr. Mohammed said the Federal Government has spent about $32.88 billion since 2009 on defence, with nothing to show for it.
The APC spokesperson said his party was recommending an urgent formulation of a holistic counter-terrorism strategy that emphasizes the “synergistic use of military, political and economic elements”.
He also called for a “political negotiation with Boko Haram”, noting that all recent cases of internal security challenges (militias. etc.), including the OPC, MEND, etc. across Nigeria have all been resolved through political negotiations of some sort.
“Boko Haram cannot be an exception,” he said.
The APC, he said, is also calling for development programmes for youth in the affected areas, and a United Nations-led peace initiative.
The party called for security reforms in Nigeria and for the trial of the alleged sponsors of the sect by the International Criminal Court.
“There is no doubt that Boko Haram has committed crimes against humanity in its scorched-earth campaign against unarmed citizens, and the most appropriate body to investigate and try the sect’s sponsors is the ICC,” he said.