The last segment ended with the fourth thesis on Boko Haram and its insurgency. We continue from there.
Thesis Number Five: In some historical conjunctures the balance of forces may permit the identities of big “collaborators” (“sponsors”) of armed insurgents or terrorists not only to be known publicly but also to be able to operate publicly and even to receive semi-official recognition (Check the recent histories of Northern Ireland and Spain). The people carrying arms and the “big collaborators” (inappropriately called “sponsors”) are in the same game, playing different roles. Boko Haram may have reached that stage of development or may be rapidly approaching it.
Six: The response of the Nigerian state to insurgencies and rebellions had been to act like Nigerian fire fighters, that is: recognize very late that there is fire; move in to stop the fire if it can, or allow it to run its natural course; and then withdraw – to await the next fire outbreak.
This was the response the Nigerian state initially had for Boko Haram. In 2009 the Nigerian state discovered that it could no longer ignore the existence and reality of Boko Haram and the threat it posed to its own authority. It attacked. But, after the attack, the state could not “withdraw”. Why? Because the insurgency quickly bounced back – more ferocious than before and expanding rather than
- Today, the Boko Haram insurgency is the strongest armed challenge to the Nigerian state since the Civil War. The insurgency has become a factor in the general power struggle in the country and, more specifically, in the battle for 2015. You just need to observe the politics of the Boko Haram insurgency as played by the vanguards and organs of the frontline combatants for 2015.
Seven: the present situation is that of war between the Boko Haram and the Nigerian state. Before the declaration of state of emergency in three northeastern states of Nigeria and the formal proscription of the sect, Boko Haram had – according to President Jonathan himself – taken control of a sizeable territory of the country and had hoisted its flags there. The war has now become international: the insurgency has formally and openly called for foreign support, and the “international community”, represented by the government of the United States of America, has joined the war on the side of the Nigerian state – but reserving for itself the right of independent action. I do not now know the status of the “talks” and “amnesty” I had heard earlier.
Eight: The ruling classes, in general, and the political class in particular, are so deeply divided both on the nature of Boko Haram and on how to respond to it that it can now be proposed that the Boko Haram has a solid bloc of allies in them. And the battle for Election 2015 has been engaged: a battle in which, it would appear, all weapons are allowed. So? The way I see the situation suggests that only a united ruling class and a united nation can resolve the Boko Haram question. This dual – unity cannot be achieved by either Election 2015 or politics of hate. We are back to the imperative of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) or a special national conference organised specifically to respond to the present conjuncture.
Politics of combination, association and dissociation (around the country’s two power blocs): I assume that many readers of this column are conversant with my concept of Nigeria’s power blocs (not power blocs in general). For those not familiar with the concept, three recent references from this column can be offered: Provisional report on Election 2011 (May 12, 19 and 26, 2011; and June 2 & 9, 2011); As the succession battle begins (April 26 and May 3, 10, 17 & 24, 2012) and The presidency and Nigeria’s power blocs (June 7, 2012). The last reference is quite sufficient for those who do not have much time. The following summary may however be offered here: Nigeria’s power blocs are sociopolitical forces that are strong enough to push for power at the centre. There are only two of such blocs in the country.
This thesis first appeared in this column about 1990.
For clarity and to guard against misrepresentation: Nigeria’s power blocs are not ethnic groups, although they have ethnic cores; they are also not religious groups, although some religious beliefs may be particularly strong in them. Nigeria’s power blocs are not political parties, although they are present in political parties – in some of which they are dominant tendencies or factions or pressure groups. Nigeria’s power blocs are capitalist blocs.
Each of the two power blocs mobilises and attaches to itself non-power bloc sociopolitical forces in order to achieve hegemony over the other power bloc (and hence over the nation) or to achieve a balance with the other power. The Jonathan presidency is currently under fire from the two power blocs. “We are not only in office, but also in power”, General Babangida once declared when he was military president. I doubt if President Goodluck Jonathan can confidently make such a declaration. He cannot because Babangida was referring not to the Armed Forces Ruling Council over which he presided, but to a power bloc. I shall come back to this.
What has here been called “politics of combination, association and dissociation” within and between political parties and their factions are the results or manifestations of the aggressive mobilisations currently being conducted by the two power blocs. This process will continue and intensify. My fear now is that the Boko Haram insurgency which is already having impacts on the process will – sooner than later – become part of the power-bloc mobilisation. Should this happen, Nigerian politics will become militarised. This, history teaches us, is a prelude to civil war.
It is because of the fear expressed in the preceding paragraph that I am now proposing that the Boko Haram insurgency be part of the agenda of the urgently needed special national conference to respond to the current crisis. I hasten to say that the special national conference is different from the Sovereign National Conference (which I understand and have promoted and theorised for over 20 years) and the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities (which, I confess, I do not understand). The special national conference will not only involve the forces in combat, including the current government, but also popular
– democratic and patriotic forces that are not in the current power struggle as defined. The labour movement is an example.
The special national conference is proposed on these grounds: first, it is increasingly clear that the Nigerian state as presided over by the Jonathan presidency – with or without foreign support – cannot resolve the Boko Haram crisis; and secondly, history teaches us that elections – even when they are democratic, free and fair – do not resolve all crises of political legitimacy, authority or confidence; in particular, a democratic, free and fair election is not a magic solution to power struggle. In certain historical conjunctures national dialogues and conferences aimed at arriving at fundamental agreements must precede elections. It is the agreed principles and fundamentals that give elections a chance of success. Otherwise elections might simply inaugurate a new, more serious, phase of the
- Algeria teaches us so; Mozambique teaches us so; and South Africa teaches us so.
On the last example, we may note that by the time Nelson Mandela was released from jail (in 1990), the apartheid system had been decreed out of existence not just by the forces that created it; but also by the forces of history. However, it took another four years of discussions, negotiations and agreements (on principles) before a genuinely national election – through which Mandela emerged president – was conducted.
In Algeria and Mozambique the lesson of history stated above was (initially) ignored in the early 1990s. We saw the results. Older readers may recall the election conducted in Southern Rhodesia under the contraption “Zimbabwe – Rhodesia” in the late 1970s and how the election created a farce. The combatants went back to the “drawing board” and thereafter went into an election that produced “black majority” rule.
Power and Office: Power is superior to office; power determines and shapes office in the following sense: Since a Nigerian power bloc’s objective is to rule over the whole country, it necessarily has to seek (subordinate) allies to which it may have to concede office. But the power bloc rules while office holders govern. How contradictions between power and office are resolved is a study in concrete history, not theory. But do not envy a Nigerian office-holder, however highly placed, who is at loggerheads with the two power-blocs at the same time! The way forward is two-pronged:
Collective Presidency with rotational headship based on the existing geopolitical zones AND urgent and massive deployment of our national resources to the rescue of the desperately poor, the “wretched of the earth”, the “rejects of life”.
• These Notes will now continue under different titles.
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