Metropole Magazine

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14 Jan


A Snapshot by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

At a time when the issue of accountability has emerged as the most talked about subject in public discourse, the theft of the 219 girls from a government school in Chibok has, expectedly kicked up questions about how far,so far, and whether this is going to be an endless wait for their return.

A government that says it would be respectful of the people's mandate would be willing to give a snapshot of the continuing efforts to find the girls and free them.

When the government of Muhammadu Buhari gave strict directives for the Nigerian armed forces to root out Boko Haram and bring an end to the insurgency in our country’s northeast, the kidnapped girls from the Government Secondary School in Chibok were foremost in his mind.

The issue remains one of great significance to Nigerians at home and abroad, and to the international community, and finding the missing girls is still a priority of President Buhari’s government.

Over the past months, the Nigerian military has recorded major victories against Boko Haram, reclaiming territory that had previously been occupied by the terrorists and dislodging them from their strongholds deep within the Sambisa forest. Throughout these operations, special care has been taken by the military to not harm any abducted persons in the terrorist’s captivity.Our armed forces are under instruction to withhold invasion rather than endanger the life of any Boko Haram captive. Various reports giving alleged information as to the whereabouts of the missing girls have also been received by the army, but these have all turned out to be false or misconstrued.
Unfortunately, things were left too late. The previous government wasted precious time questioning the veracity of the abduction rather than going in search of the girls when the trails left by their kidnappers must have still been fresh and easier to follow. In addition, after almost two years, there is a big questions out there among the experts ifall the over 200 missing girls are gathered in one spot, in one location, sitting and waiting to be rescued.

When he spoke honestly and truthfully on the issue in his maiden Media Chat, the President drew criticism from some members of the Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG movement when he answered in the negative, a question on if he knew specifically where the girls were being held.

The President equally faced criticism for offering unconditional talks to Boko Haram leaders to secure the release of these girls, criticism that ignoressufficient record in history in the United States, Russia and even Israel. As illustrated by security consultant and author, Brian Jenkins in a 2014 article, if a safe rescue is the objective-which truly it is in this case-a negotiated outcome is always better than an armed rescue operation. In his words: "Armed action should never be ruled out completely, but negotiations are the more practical course to bring the girls safely home."

That article strengthens the argument that, while the government must not abandon military efforts, it should carefully consider the complexity of such operation, especially given President Buhari's emphasis that delay is preferable to errors, especially where the getting the girls unharmed is the ultimate goal. Don't forgetthat after the 9-11 terrorist attack on the United States by Alqaeda, it took ten years of careful planning to bring Osama Bin-Laden to a final, Hollywood-style finish.

For President Buhari, there is no place for the overdone political posturing over the sad incident. He is not seeking applause because this problem is far more serious than most people think.

From everything the Defence Headquarters has been saying, our troops are ready, able and willing to storm anywhere at anytime to secure the girls once that needed intelligence is available.

The last battle-ground, the Sambisa forest is large and expansive. It covers about 3,000 square kilometers of Nigerian territory and it ideally harbors the remaining terrorists and their captives. But Sambisa presents a number of challenges not only to our own fighting forces but to the terrorists themselves. The place has been heavily mined. The terrorist operatives who planted the mines are believed to be mostly dead or have fled, so they too fall victim to them as they move in the forest because the remnants of their fighters don't know where the mines are planted.

With recent military procurements by the present administration, mine-sweeping equipment have been deployed to pave the way for our soldiers. The Air Force is doing its duty of providing air cover and the Navy is active in Lake Chad waters. Our neighbors, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin are collectively standing with Nigeria to deny terrorist a foothold on their soil.

In addition to these efforts, there are daily intelligence reconnaissance flights by our Air Force,the U.K, U.S and France which are partnering with the Lake Chad Basin Commission Countries.

In the light of all these, a serious advance is being made towards liberating the forest and hopefully, government will be laying its hands on whatever is left of the terrorists and their hostages.

However, the issue goes beyond the Chibok girls. The incident which took place at the Government Girls School in Chibok, as horrific as it was, merely provided a glimpse into a darker horror that had gone largely ignored by both the Nigerian media and the previous administration: Girls being kidnapped every day from their homes and schools in northeast Nigeria.

The Chibok kidnap was merely an indication of a much larger problem, in which the Nigerian government has already recorded great progress. Although military invasions of the Sambisa forest have so far not yielded the missing Chibok girls specifically, they have led to the rescue of hundreds of women and children from various other parts of northeast Nigeria, who had been in Boko Haram captivity usually for several months. Between April 2015 and today, about 2000 women and children have been rescued by the Nigerian military from deep inside the Sambisa forest. Just last month, over 200 people, mostly women and children, were rescued from Boko Haram captivity. Without the BBOG outcry that followed the Chibok kidnapping, the world may have remained unaware of the distressing plight of those hundreds of missing women and girls.
These hundreds of women and girls may not be the focus of any major advocacy or media frenzy, but they are equally important.Their rescue and welfare are just as crucial as that of the famed Chibok girls.Their safety is as much of a priority to the Nigerian government.

The President sharesempathy,solidarity and sympathy with the BBOG and other stakeholders. He may not be a man of many words. But as his actions suggest, he understands the loss by the parents, stakeholders and the nation very well. That's why he keeps saying, " you have to secure the nation to govern it well." Security is the number one priority of this administration.

In the last few months, the government has run a very energetic and a very successful campaign that has diminished greatly, the terrorists, and has engaged the neighbors and the rest of the international community. These efforts have very much translated into a concerted and coordinated action. Yet for all these to succeed, stakeholders, especially those under the BBOG movement who, to their credit have served the nation selflessly to make Nigeria a more conscientious country need to rally their support behind the armed forces and the President. That is a critical ingredient for the girls to be found and returned and for the country to be safe from terror.

By the end of 2015, the Nigerian armed forces had succeeded in containing the insurgency in the northeast.All this is part of the ongoing effort to, not just rescue missing women and girls but ensure that they stay safe afterwards, that incidents such as the kidnapping in Chibok never reoccur. When kidnapped girls are rescued and returned to their families, the communities in which they live must be secure. They should be able to sleep without fear of being kidnapped again.They should be able to resume their education, to go to school in peace of mind. No more kidnappings should be allowed to take place.

If a repeat of this horrible incident is to be prevented, there must be corrective steps incumbent upon Nigeria.President Buhari remains committed to taking these corrective steps. He remains committed to finding the missing Chibok girls.He is also committed to annihilating Boko Haram and to bringing an end to terror in the northeast and in other parts of Nigeria. We must not lose hope.


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05 Sep

For so many reasons, the forthcoming PDP Kogi primary election certainly means much to the Kogi electorate. Presently, there is much anxiety but less excitement around the primaries because any confusing outcome may not only encourage dissatisfied voters to look elsewhere to shop for a candidate but may expose the nature of underhand practices in intra party politics in Nigeria. Actually, the Kogi election is even made dicey because the PDP and the APC are the only  two major political parties in the race for Kogi governorship, as such, failure of the PDP to provide a credible candidate against Audu Abubakar, the already selected candidate of APC, will certainly mean that some voters that do not agree with the choice of these candidates may eventually settle for another party or be constrained to make their decision on the basis of choosing a lesser evil amongst the candidates from the two major parties. Given the reality on ground, some political analysts believe that PDP has a good chance provided its leadership can recognise the stakes on board and strategically reposition itself for victory. Indeed, given the mountain of public protests that have greeted the leadership of APC since Audu Abubakar’s victory, it is likely that most people  against the candidacy of Audu Abubakar  of the APC may  find comfort and haven in the PDP should a candidate they deem acceptable is presented.

Accordingly, given the present circumstance and its attendant effects, ordinarily, the Kogi election would have been a less tedious triumph for PDP over APC, but sadly, most times, politicians neither reason with the right logic nor do they conduct their arithmetic with appropriate theorems that will assist them balance unsophisticated political equations. Usually, the preference for most politicians is to advance self interest above party good, through the introduction of unnecessary complications. Indeed, from every good sense of objectivity on observations in respect of the ongoing preparations for PDP Kogi primary, it is very doubtful that the PDP is set to visit wisdom. The fear that the Kogi PDP primary election may not be conducted properly in order to retain Governor Idris Wada as a candidate for the election is largely anticipated. Such possibility that is considered as unethical political conduct has left enduring doubts in the minds of many Kogi voters. In fact, if this is allowed to happen, the naked danger for the PDP is that the disgusting controversies which may emerge can create further divisions in the Party, thus upturning its chance of probable victory.

Besides the PDP worrisome indecisions, ahead of its forthcoming Kogi primary, it is important to state that the polls conducted thus far, revealed that voters want an alternative to Governor Idris Wada. According to results from credible political analysis that have been made public, Governor Wada’s participation in the forthcoming elections has been greeted with skepticism as he is considered a disappointment for both the PDP leadership and the Kogi people. There are wide spread insinuations that most Kogi citizens are unsatisfied with the conduct of Governor Idris Wada’s led government and the truth is that a time like the forthcoming election has been long awaited by Kogi voters to confirm their frustrations.  For emphasis, it is broadly alleged that Governor Wada has not been sensitive to the suffering of the Kogi masses. True or false, his attitude and conduct fits that of a man that is highly out of touch with what runs through the mind of the average Kogi voter. Lamentably, the blame herein will best be thrust at the doorsteps of his many paid propagandists as they have done Idris Wada no good in their efforts at discouraging him to believe most of the credible assessments and opinions that exposes his administration’s shortcomings.

On Governor Idris Wada’s quest for the PDP's renomination, emerging facts have clearly revealed that such an intention has become very problematic as it is obviously against the choice of his party’s  majority. Those against him firmly believe that a reputable popular candidate would be most appropriate to represent their party in the next governorship contests. Thus, the conclusion by most analysts on this intra party squabble is that it will be awkward politics for the PDP to select a candidate like Idris Wada that carries the tag of diminished credibility and unpopularity in this so termed  important gubernatorial race. The simple reason is that the present day voters awareness and complexities of Kogi politics will not permit the PDP to repeat what it did  in 2011 election regarding the dubious  emergence of  its governorship candidate that was rated unpopular, yet extended a slanted mandate of the party. Till date, the animosity which emanated from that indiscreet conduct of about four years ago is still unsettled, as the PDP’s membership has grossly been depleted and still on rapid decrease ever since Idris Wada, the infamous party candidate was maneuvered through the back door to become the Kogi PDP leader. However, with improved electoral process and voter alertness, things have changed, as such, any attempt by the PDP not to do things rightly, will be too difficult to escape the notice of political analysts and resistance of Kogi voters.

Arguably, the outcome of  the last presidential elections in Kogi state which clearly showed that the APC emerged outstandingly victorious by successfully rupturing the camp of the PDP faithful is a direct reflection of Governor Idris Wada’s dwindling acceptance and loss of voters’ confidence.  Therefore, it will be very difficult for any objective mind to deny that Idris Wada’s ascension to the headship of Kogi PDP has not fractionalized the party fold and paradoxically amplified the membership of the APC party. In fact, the increasing opposition to the PDP in Idris Wada’s tenure as Governor and party leader is very visible. Undoubtedly, this has come with direct negative impact on the PDP in Kogi State and its future electoral potency. Consequently, the thought of Idris Wada as a second term governor of Kogi state is extensively regarded by his party members to be out of place and may only be permissible under a weak electoral process that embraces massive rigging of elections. Realistically, without proper articulation by the PDP, its involvement in the forthcoming  governorship contest against the strong APC party should be considered a very steep hill to climb. Therefore a Wada’s candidacy for the PDP will give most voters the impression that the Party  is unworried about a defeat at the polls. Right now, even though Governor Idris Wada is still is fighting hard to keep his position as the number one citizen of Kogi state, his deep unpopularity will not only invite ridicule upon the party that presents him as its candidate but will show that the PDP has not even done justice to its members in Kogi state. This is considered so by opinion leaders in Kogi politics because it would be impossible for the PDP to advance any convincing argument that Idris Wada is the best aspirant from its fold. The simple truth is that whilst Idris Wada attracts disaffection and rejection to the PDP, a new credible candidate from the PDP will appeal unity for the party and fresh hope for Kogi voters. As things are, it is very unlikely that with Governor Idris Wada as the standard bearer of the PDP, a large section of dissatisfied PDP party members will not transfer their loyalty which will make votes evaporate again into the APC. Arguably, it is such anti party conduct by PDP members that was recorded as the real game changer for the APC’s victory in the last presidential election in Kogi state. So, with an unpopular candidate, it is hard to see the reason why many Kogi voters will not withhold support from PDP by casting their vote elsewhere in the coming elections. Already, majority of the voters are at the other end of  the pole to Idris Wada and it will be very difficult for anyone to mobilize votes for the PDP if really Idris Wada forges ahead as the PDP candidate.

Mildly put, an effective suicide attempt for the PDP would be to allow the alleged  planned rigging of its upcoming party primaries to be made real. Ordinarily, if such speculations attributed to the cronies of Idris Wada goes unchecked, then it will rightly suggest a confirmation of PDP’s unwillingness to offer the Kogi electorate  a credible choice, The truth is that if Idris Wada, a man of little voters value is presented against Audu Abubakar of the APC, then the election will not be a thorny issue. Indeed, such will mean presenting the Kogi electorate an easy choice because while Idris Wada will find it impossible to  motivate the electorate on the basis of past achievements, Audu Abubakar on the other hand will pride himself his already gained public acknowledgement for past work done as Kogi state governor. If really electoral selection is based on past credible work done, there is no way, the APC will not take the day at the polls.

From a large political spectrum of Kogi State, already Governor Idris Wada has come under fire over various issues ranging from his mental incapacitation, financial mismanagement and clueless leadership. Nevertheless, the one that has been largely shielded is the rising concern over his psychiatric challenges which have constitutional consequences that can threaten the position he occupies. Even though a public discussion on Governor Wada’s mental inappropriateness has been categorized “as a no go area’ and well managed in the media by his cronies, such an obscure privilege enjoyed by Wada as sitting governor  may be hard to retain in the face of a very vibrant opposition. This is so because as soon Idris Wada emerges as the PDP contestant in the coming Kogi election, the APC will not hesitate to step on such a hitherto considered  verbal landmine that may expose the truth on some authenticated  medical records that exist in the public domain. Such documents which presumably indicate that Idris Wada is a patient of chronic bipolar disease, a serious mental disorder would easily be collaborated with Idris Wada’s regular  trips out of the country for treatment to reach an easy conclusion on his unsuitability to be a Governor in line with Nigeria’s constitution.  Most damaging supporting evidence for the APC would be that,there exist no confirmation to buttress that Idris Wada’s regular six weekly Kogi state sponsored trip overseas for treatment has neither yielded any positive impact on the state’s economy  nor has it contributed to the attraction of foreign investors. This is why Wada’s candidacy deserves to be rested by the PDP as it  will not only deprive the Kogi people a credible choice but limit their chances of a prosperous future which cannot be offered by Idris Wada in his present health condition. 

Therefore, in this period and circumstances where Wada is  deemed as unelectable or his defeat at the polls nearly assured or can be abruptly terminated midway by the APC on legitimate grounds of ill health, it would be wise for his supporters  to encourage an early acceptance of step down from the governorship race in order to ensure respectable exit. Otherwise, now that his mental incapacitation has been clearly recognized, it will be self delusion for anyone to believe that the APC  will be too blinded and dumb to appropriately take necessary and legitimate actions even in a Wada’s miraculous victory.  In summary, the PDP will certainly be digging its ditch if it allows Idris Wada to find his way into the 2015 polls as a contestant for the party. Candidly put, the pessimism about Idris Wada’s candidacy is on point. Thus, the national working committee of the PDP must realize that it will be an exercise in futility to grant Idris Wada its ticket. More so, it will in the party’s best interest to give the Kogi people a good choice of candidate especially now that internal divisions in the APC can be strategically turned to be a gain for the PDP provided a new candidate is selected. The PDP must avoid a total collapse of its existence in Kogi state for the good of Nigeria’s competitive democracy and the accomplishment of a great Kogi.

ONYEGBULE writes from Ogori Magongo.
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