By Edwin Madunagu
Last Thursday, in the opening segment of this series, I listed some of the weapons and manifestations of the power struggle now going on in the country. My intention was, and is, to examine them and relate them back to the central question: power struggle. Before embarking on this, however, I considered it helpful to start with a number of recent newspaper reports, opinions and editorials that are relevant to the propositions I wish to make and argue.
I reported the Leadership’s stories on what the Senate President, David Mark, and the Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, said on different occasions on the power struggle, and an editorial by The Guardian on what Kuku, a Presidential Adviser, and Dokubo-Asari, leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, said on President Jonathan and 2015. The present segment proceeds from there.
On Monday June 3, 2013, three weeks after The Guardian editorial summarized in the first segment, the newspaper came out with another editorial: “Regional ‘leaders’ and the state of the nation” in which the paper questioned the credentials, antecedents and patriotism of a group of Nigerians “from the southern part of the country” who “met in Lagos the other day to deliberate on the national security crisis and the premature politicking ahead of 2015 general elections”. The editorial saw sectional and partisan, rather than national interests as informing the conclusions of the meeting – appearances notwithstanding. This second editorial was even harsher in language than the first.
A “universal democrat” or a “democrat-at-large,” not conversant with Nigerian history and politics, would enthusiastically endorse the two editorials. However, although I also endorse the editorials as general democratic interventions and acknowledge the patriotic spirit in which they were produced, I have a fundamental reservation – because I know Nigeria and I am a Nigerian. My reservation is that the editorials proceeded from a fundamentally wrong, though silent, assumption, namely: that Nigeria’s political class, the mainstream politicians taken as a whole, believe in the Nigerian Constitution and desire to play by the rules of the Constitution or even by the rules and agreements of their own parties.
The editorials are premised on the wrong assumption that the main trend or substantial trend, in Nigerian politics as played since General Olusegun Obasanjo became president in May 1999, is democratic, and that what is needed is to correct or defeat the marginal undemocratic and unpatriotic tendencies and personages. No. What The Guardian criticized and denounced in its two editorials is the dominant tendency in contemporary Nigerian politics.
In its Sunday, May 26, 2013 issue, The Guardian published an interview it had with Dr. Junaid Mohammed in Dutse, capital of Jigawa State. Mohammed was described by the newspaper as “medical doctor turned politician, convener of the Coalition of Concerned Northern Politicians” and a “Second Republic member of the House of Representatives”. The interview is titled Mohammed: Jonathan merely playing politics with amnesty for Boko Haram, with the rider, Jonathan’s 2015 ambition will destroy Nigeria.
I carefully read through the one-page interview (page 58) but had to re-read the last quarter. In that section Mohammed criticized the manner the Nigerian army was conducting the current military operations against the Boko Haram insurgents, arguing that what the army was doing – in particular the killing of innocent people – amounted to genocide going by the Geneva Convention. I noted that several people – inside and outside the country – had expressed similar opinion.
Two particular segments of what Junaid Mohammed was reported to have said, however, disturbed me. First: “… some of the officers under this Ibo man, General Ihejirika, are doing what they like because they think it is their turn to avenge what was done to the Ibos during the civil war. Ihejirika has already finished the extended period given to him.
He is there to do a dirty job…” Second: “…If Dokubo or the Ibos who are now ruling the Nigerian army think that they can play with the intelligence of Nigerians let them continue and let the war start tomorrow, nobody is afraid of war. Only cowards make noise. Those who know the real implication of war don’t make noise about it and they do not go to war until war is forced out of them. If the Ijaws and the Ibo army officers now running the Nigerian army and Ihejirika want a war they will have a war.”
I was disturbed by these passages, as I said. But then, I quickly cautioned myself that they are not the worst of what our print media report from the “war fronts” and from both sides of the bitter power struggle now going on in the country. By the way, Kuku, Dokubo-Asari and Junaid Mohammed are not politically marginalized; they are not on the fringes of Nigerian politics; they are in the mainstream.
This hate politics – for that is what the forces for and against President Jonathan are playing – is not conducted underground; it is conducted in the open, using the media, especially the print media and the Internet. Several national newspapers have literally adopted hate politics as editorial policy. The current situation reminds me of the last months of the First Republic (1960 – 1965).
After this rather long preface, we may now look at the elements of the national crisis – or rather, power struggle – as listed in the opening segment; and, in doing this, we may have recall parts of the preface. I need to present the list again. There are, at present, seven main elements and they are necessarily linked: The politics of Boko Haram insurgency; the crises in the central, regional and partisan forums of Nigerian state governors; attack on, and defence of, President Goodluck Jonathan and the Jonathan presidency; the struggle between office and power; the politics of combination and dissociation (around the country’s two power blocs); the resurgence and intensification of “hate politics”; and General Olusegun Obasanjo’s politics.
We begin with the politics of Boko Haram insurgency and proceed by means of propositions or theses: One: If, for clarity, we make a distinction between a movement and its organisational expressions then it will be correct to say that the historical movement (at once sociopolitical, religious and cultural) within which a specific organisation now popularly known as Boko Haram sprang up a few years ago is an old one – older, perhaps, than independent Nigeria.
The specific historical conditions under which the movement was born and the conditions which continue to nourish it, enabling it to continually throw up organisational forms like the Boko Haram can be investigated. The specific historical conditions under which Boko Haram itself came into being can equally be investigated. But that is not the focus of this article.
Two: Thesis similar to the one on Boko Haram can be formulated on organisations like the Movement for the Survival of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF). The organisational forms listed above and similar ones not listed, as well as Boko Haram, are not the only types that had developed in the respective movements within which they came into being.
There had been, and there are, others whose methods are not “militant” or “violent”. Prominent examples would include the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and Afenifere. The irony or paradox here is that these “non-violent”, “non-militant” organisations are generally more resilient than the “militant” groups.
Three: The differences between Boko Haram and the other “militant” groups mentioned in the second thesis are: in the first place, that the former is more violent and aims not at obtaining concessions from the Nigerian state or its various governments but at over-throwing the state and establishing a new one – either in the country as a whole or in a substantial segment of it; and in the second place, that the Boko Haram developed in the period of global resurgence of militant political Islam which aims at liberating not a segment of the world, but the entire world.
Hence its “internationalism”. Some prominent scholars, including Ali Mazrui, have linked the rise of militant political Islam to the “decline of socialism and communism” and the end of the Cold War. All I would permit myself to say to this is that the three “ruptures” took place about the same time.
Four: The debate as to whether Boko Haram has “sponsors” or not appears to have run its full course. There now appears to be a national consensus: the organization has “sponsors”. The question now is who the “sponsors” are. Fingers are being pointed at different (and opposite) directions by different (and opposite) groups. Accusers have themselves been accused.
The Federal Government appears to know the “sponsors” or the directions in which to search for them; but it keeps the information to itself. But this we can say: We know from history, from logic and from social theory that an organisation like Boko Haram (with its record and credentials) must have not just “sponsors” (a term that chases shadows rather than substance), but big “collaborators” in the civil society, in the political class, and even in state institutions and security apparatuses.
• To be continued.