The North and Boko Haram’s invisible hands

Governor Murtala Nyako’s recent allegation that the president and top officials of his government may have a hand in the on-going violence ravaging the north is very troubling. It is so not because it is the first time such claim is made but because of the personality and experience of the governor and the context in which it was made.

Nyako, governor of Adamawa state, was a naval officer who retired as a Vice Admiral after more than 30 years of active service. In the his days in the military he held several important positions, including being the first governor of Niger State (1976), chief of Naval Staff (1990) and deputy Chief of Defence Staff (1992) etc. So, an allegation of such enormity coming from a man of his pedigree is not something to be dismissed by the wave of one’s hand.

When he first made the charge about a month ago what followed was even more shocking. Of course the media might have overplayed the incident but it was clear his convoy had been caught up in a military fire that nearly turned very ugly had the convoy not hastily taken cover. So, was that a case of mistaken identity, an innocent tactical error or a deliberate attempt to hush him?

His allegation came almost around the time Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State accused the federal government of underarming and by implication under motivating soldiers tackling the insurgence. Although the governor has learnt to say no more the reality is what cannot be hidden from even the most naïve observer.
So, the first set of questions I asked myself was whether the government of President Goodluck Jonathan was deliberately waging war against the North, as has been suggested, and what it hoped to gain from such proxy war. Again, even more irking, if these series of battles are actually remote-controlled from outside the north and, specifically, from the presidency or by politicians opposed to the North’s well-being, is the unmistaken muteness of the region’s influential sons and daughters, many of whom are as vastly experienced as Nyako.

Unable to, by myself, decipher this and other underlying issues I drew a friend’s attention. And to my shocker he argued that such silence, as incomprehensible as it might appear, could be conspiratorial. And that, from his findings, some of those the people look up to are aware of this campaign of annihilation but would rather not act either as a natural attempt to preserve themselves or because they have been fully compensated.

Whether these claims are plausible or not, truth is the fight against this insurgency has been from the outset half-hearted. In the face of mounting casualties and progressively collapsing social and economic structures in the region the leaders carry on unperturbed. Battles for the 2015 trophies are set and there’s no leaving any stone unturned. Both the ruling and opposition parties are jostling for ways to outsmart each other. No one is really doing as much as is essential to stop the collapse and suffering. It is, in effect, all about self and nothing else.

But the mistake we make in the North is our failure to realize how this trend could galvanise the people we dismissively call dormant to act and the possibility of the region witnessing the country’s first revolution. The Boko Haram violence is a clear pointer to this possibility.
Meanwhile, the charade in Abuja in the name of national conference takes shape and the agenda gets clearer. Those who doubt the possibility of the conference achieving anything meaningful for the country are already feeling vindicated. And those who went with a plan to fragment the country are perfectly strategising to cut off the ‘parasite

North’s’ oxygen. But the north should have planned for such eventuality. It should have learnt from the story of the Sudan.
The north of Sudan, which controlled power and country’s resources for several years, was never pretentious about the eminent collapse of the union. It rather was proactive. And because much of the oil from which it generated valuable revenue was in the South, it made sure the refineries and means of exporting the oil was in the North. After the collapse the South controlled its oil but had no means of refining or exporting it. It still needed the north for which it paid heavy taxes. In the end its control of the oil brought no relief to it and its people.

Now is the time to pragmatically mull safety valves and not to pretend bluffing through would work. A collapse of the union won’t automatically translate to the North’s funeral, but this should not stop it from preparing for it.

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