How Nigeria (Rightfully) Lost Control, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

George Orwell once wrote that, “in times of deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”.

I am not here as a spoilsport, to puncture the enormous goodwill and support that has naturally welcomed the coming of the British, United States and French military assistance to rescue the missing school girls.

This is a reality check. Some leaders oppose the foreign military assistance to fight Boko Haram on the basis that it is quite haunting to see what they described as a “purely internal affair” jump out of their hands. They are calling it a re-colonization of Nigeria. I do not agree. I have made appeals, along with other Nigerians for a “coalition of the willing” to come and help Nigeria first to obtain the 300+ girls stolen by the terrorists and to help us win the wider war.

The reason for this is simple. Even when the Nigerian government says it is doing its best, doubts persist about both the competence and sincerity with which it is going about the mission of combating terrorism. Some of its most vociferous critics have said openly that the government is itself complicit. For me, the whole question we are dealing with boils down to the issue of national pride. If there is glory to be won from the quashing of the terrorist organization – which is bound to happen sooner than later – no national government can claim it. Instead, it is the international community that will take credit.

The internationalization of the Boko Haram war has effectively put the control of the outcome of the war out of the hands of our current rulers, but so what?

Haven’t we lost control already? Evidence that the Boko Haram issue will be settled, not in accordance with our own terms but terms stated by the international community, is clear from two incidents: one, the public hearing by the U.S. Senate on the Nigeria handling of the theft of those 300+ girls, which exposed the rot in the military and the Nigerian government is indicative that we have lost the chance, out the government’s incompetence, to settle the crisis in our own terms.

The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs is about to hold its own sitting on the same issue. This hearing could not hold in the Nigerian Senate because they are focused on regime protection as part of their overall interest in preserving privileges they enjoy, privileges they desperately wish to cling to. The government for its part has merely been wasting public resources making false claims that terrorism is being fought when in truth, we are merely engaged in a talkshop being taken through motions. Their focus is about nothing but gratuitous patronage.

The second indicator of the fact that we lost the initiative on this war is by virtue of the fact that a summit to bring Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin together had to be called at Elysee Palace, Paris, France. Nigeria does not otherwise posses the clout to call such a meeting. All of this is happening because we have a government that is insensitive.

They do not listen to public opinion because for them, no criticism is made in good faith. They suffer from the “Nixon Complex”. (President) Nixon complex is when every criticism is perceived as enemy action – hostile and inimical, for which government will come with retribution. Worse than the Nixon complex, some say the government’s mind is being ruled by George Bush doctrine, which defines itself thus: you are either with us or against us. Things got out of their hands because they won’t look beyond opposition politicians wherever there is a problem.

Nigeria cannot get worse. Thank God, progressive scholars, the leading lights that shone the country’s path to unity and development such as Dr. Bala Usman, Dr. Mahmud Tukur, Professor Claude Ake, Comrade Ola Oni, Niyi Oniororo, Sam Ikekwu, Dr. Buba Bello and the others are not alive today to see the surrender of the country’s sovereignty, willfully and deliberately by a government the whole world accepts is overwhelmed.

In one of his greatest speeches, a former Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed didn’t envisage an era when the country will come together to beg foreign countries for support to end the menace of about 2000 terrorists. At the end of that speech where the OAU burst into a thunderous ovation, Murtala declared that “Africa has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however, powerful.

“The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or mar. For too long have we been kicked around; for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly.

“For too long has it been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies. The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interest; that we are capable of revolving African problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers, which, more often than not, have neither relevance for us, nor for the problem at hand.”

Murtala, Ake, Bala et al will be turning in their graves, watching the country as it makes this tactical shift in the bedrock of our nationalism but for as long as this is the government in place, pursuing the same policies that have failed again and again; treating issues of security with the levity they always have, there is little left for the people of Nigeria than to surrender their pride and accept outside help.

In an increasingly inter-dependent and inter-connected world, the International Community will itself be failing in its duty were it to turn its back against this request. You are dealing with consistent accounts, as the one given by Sky News correspondent, Alex Crawford, of ” a hemorrhaging morale of an army which lacked the will or the means to take on the terrorists.” Sovereignty is meaningless in dealing with any state unable to protect its citizens.

 

 


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