by Tunde Fagbenle
President Goodluck Jonathan seems deep in bad mess, but mostly out of no fault of his. That is not saying the mess is all undeserved, but I am persuaded that the president, bar the still missing gift of eloquence, is lately of carriage and mien looking the part of president of the most populous black nation on earth!
But the mess is messy. Take the bombshell of a revelation by the Australian negotiator, Reverend Stephen Davis, supposedly hired by Jonathan’s government, to intercede for the freedom of the over 200 Chibokschoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram terrorist group over four months ago. For reasons of his own, Davis went on air once out of the country, with the “disclosure” of names of two important personalities he alleges are sponsors of the dreaded insurgents. And he challenges them to sue him if they dared.
Both men, interestingly, could be said to be Jonathan’s men. And, as if by Davis’ design (or is it?) they share those factors generally at play to divide the country: religion (Christian/Muslim) and geo-ethnicity (South/North).
One, General Ihejirika, is from the South and was once head of the army, directly in charge of bringing to an end the insult on our national psyche from the nonsense being made of our armed forces by the evidently better equipped and more enthused Boko Haramists.
The other, Mr. Bunu Sheriff, from the North; a former governor of Borno, a frontline state in the war against the terrorists, and a senator of the Federal Republic, who most recently, prior to Davis’ “revelation” it must be said, decamped to President Jonathan’s ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, from the opposition,the All Progressive Congress.
Of the two, the more shocking and explosive is of General Ihejirika, for if the allegation were true, the implications and ramifications would be far-reaching and capable of completing the mess in morale of the country’s armed forces. Being Jonathan’s geo-ethnic kin, it would also affirm the “conspiracy theory” at large that the Boko Haram menace has not ended because the government does not want it to end, yet – since it is a veritable source of unimaginable largesse and ace in the 2015 presidential election card.
As for Sheriff, there is nothing shocking about his being named; he has been speculated as such virtually since the inception of the insurgency some years ago when he was still governor. Many see his dance to the ruling PDP as a move for “protection”, and, as if to disabuse the mind of possible doubters, he was seen in photographs along with President Jonathan a few days ago during the president’s visit to his Cameroonian counterpart to discuss the issue of border security in the face of escalating Boko Haram threats.
A people perpetually exploiting their ethno-religious differences for political ends and consequently at silly loggerheads and mindless rivalry where positive, united, stance is demanded, the Davis-Gate has become a cat amongst the pigeons, even in high official circles.
Common sense has taken leave and no one seems to be asking the right questions. What could be the motive in this Davis’ release? How logical is it for a group, any group talk less a terrorist group operating with strictest care and secrecy, beyond deliberately selling misinformation, how logical is it for them to provide names of their sponsors, even as a slip? Is that to praise or nail their benefactors? Would that endear them to other possible sponsors? Someone suggests that, perhaps, they have fallen out with these two named guys and so want to nail them. O, really? And so lay themselves bare, cutting their own noses to spite their faces? It just doesn’t add up.And, as for Davis, even if the information were true and gathered surreptitiously, does such disclosure keep him in business – the business of secretive negotiator – or out of it? The questions to be asked, the right questions to be asked, are endless.
That is not saying the named guys may have clean hands. It is probable they don’t. And, by all means, let those arms of government in the serious business of espionage and secret investigation go ahead and do their job. Who knows, perhaps deliberately having Sheriff on hand in Cameroon for the president’s visit is part of the set-up process?
What I find abhorrent and completely distasteful is the whole business of people taking sides and cherry-picking who of the two named is to be assumed guilty and who not.For now, the government has denied hiring Davis as a go-between them and Boko Haram, dismissing him as a nutcase, which he probably is, if you ask me, only that the denial cuts no ice, after all it was public that Davis had been sought by the government to mediate with Boko Haram in the same way, it is claimed, he did with the Niger Delta militants of old.
The mess does not end there. A president is as good as the men (and women) he surrounds himself with: his top security men, his advisers and sundry handlers. In the case of Jonathan, they don’t come more compounding than he has them. Right now, it does appear the broth of getting Jonathan another term in 2015 as president has as many cooks in the kitchen as could show up: sans order, sans coordination, sans thinking, sans everything! Everyone is throwing what he can into the mix and the soup, predictably, is tasteless.
How else can one describe the brainlessness behind the parody of a most sensitive and harrowing campaign to “#BringBackOur Girls” abducted by Boko Haram and laughably turn it into campaign to “#BringBack Jonathan in 2015”? Everyone around Jonathan are doing what they want and making the president look worse by the day. To them, the parody is a “smart thing”, a way to “ride on the back” of a campaign slogan that’s caught on like wild fire. The sad thing is, were it not for the outrage against it by the international community, notably an editorial in America’s Washington Post newspaper, these unconscionable handlers of Jonathan would still be patting themselves on the back for “smart thinking”!
An embarrassed Presidency has rightly, even if belatedly, ordered the immediate removal of those obnoxious banners and billboards. In a statement released by his media adviser, Dr. Reuben Abati, the president “wholly shares the widely expressed view that the signs which were put up without his knowledge or approval are a highly insensitive parody of the #Bring Back Our Girls hash tag.” Then not to discourage further show of support, it assures that “President Jonathan appreciates the enthusiastic show of support for his administration by a broad range of stakeholders,” but “he condemns the #Bring Back Jonathan 2015 signs which appear to make light of the very serious national and global concern for the abducted Chibok girls.”So much for all the pretence at “not having a hand” in something and of “it’s a free world” when it is convenient.
President Jonathan is entitled to wanting a second term come 2015 but if there’s one thing he doesn’t need, it is the silliness that goes around in the name of “demanding” or “persuading” him to run.
And that’s saying it the way it is!
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Tunde Fagbenle/Punch