Nigeria's invented problems and Azazi's political 'incorrectness'

Professor Jubril Aminu is a distinguished Nigerian by any standard. With a first class degree in medicine from the University of Ibadan, he has held several important positions in the country.

He has been executive secretary of the National Universities Commission, minister of education, minister of petroleum, an ambassador and a senator, among many other influential positions.

And as a politician, he is a founding member of the ruling PDP.

However, with all the exulted positions he has held, not many people are great fans of his.

As education minister some people still remember the parochial and sectional tendencies he displayed especially the needless controversy concerning the huge cross in front of the Christian chapel at the University of Ibadan when he was education minister during the Ibrahim Babangida military regime.

But a recent encounter with the professor of medicine in his Asokoro home in Abuja, showed Aminu as a philosopher king.

The interview centred on the state of the nation and Aminu talked about what he called Nigeria’s invented problems.

Aminu’s position was that other countries that had gone through crises had fundamental historical issues and once they settled those problems through any means, dialogue or constitutional conference or referendum, the problems disappeared and those countries are now at peace. He cited as examples Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda, etc.

However, in Nigeria’s case, where there was no problem, we invented one and allowed it to grow and fester. Over time, these problems seem overwhelming that we have become helpless in tackling them.

One such invented problem is the current crisis of insecurity which has engendered a lot of fear and apprehension in the country.

To prove Aminu right that the Boko Haram insurgency is an invented problem, Owoeye Azazi, national security adviser (NSA) was at pains last Friday at the South South Economic Summit in Asaba, Delta State, to explain to Nigerians the cause of the bombings in the country.

Azazi’s thesis has put him on collision course with both President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

A day before Azazi spoke, a suicide bomber had rammed through the gate of THISDAY newspaper in Abuja and as usual, left destruction, blood and tears behind. As in almost all such cases, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack.

Azazi’s statement was in response to a question by a participant at the summit who sought to know what the government was doing about insecurity and the spate of bomb blasts in the country.

As I write now (Sunday) just four days after the bombing at Thisday, Boko Haram has struck again at Bayero University in Kano, where Catholics had gone for Sunday worship, killing not less than 14 worshippers (still counting) including two professors.

Azazi said: “The extent of violence did not increase until the declaration by the current president that he was going to contest (in 2011).”

And to drive home his point, he added: “PDP got it wrong from the beginning, from the outset by saying, ‘Mr A can rule, Mr A cannot rule’ … According to PDP’s convention, rules and regulation and not according to the constitution and that created the climate for what has manifested itself.”

Azazi who also linked the bombings, suicide attacks and jail breaks in the North to what he described as “politics of exclusion” of the PDP in the region, condemned the politics of anointing candidates including what he sees as the “do-or-die attitude” of the political party.

“Why is it possible that somebody was thinking that only Mr. A could win, and that if he could not win, there would be problems in this society?

“Let’s examine all these issues to see whether the level of violence in the North East just escalated because Boko Haram suddenly became better trained, better equipped and better funded, or something else was responsible. It takes very long for somebody to be a sniper.”

Azazi spoke the minds of most Nigerians, a belief long held as to the sudden confidence with which Boko Haram now operates.

In simple terms, what he meant was a section of the northern elite, who lost out in the 2011 election is behind the Boko Haram bombings to make the country ungovernable for Jonathan. There had been a threat by the Northern Political Leaders Forum, a faction of the PDP led by Alhaji Adamu Ciroma to make the country ungovernable should Jonathan go ahead to win the 2011 election. What is happening now, therefore, is a manifestation of that threat.

Coming from the National Security Adviser, it means that the government indeed knows those behind the spate of bombings and lacks the courage or political will to go after them.

For somebody holding such a position, it was not politically expedient for him to make sure outburst. If he wanted to be politically correct, he would have come up with the usual government platitudes and promise that the government would contain the terrorists.

But Azazi elected to be politically incorrect. One may discern a certain level of frustration in his body language. As national security adviser, Nigerians feel he is not doing enough to contain the situation.

But coming out to attribute the increasing terrorist attacks to the northern wing of the PDP, he might consciously or unconsciously be proding President Jonathan to take the bull by the horn and move after the kingpins that are believed to be the sponsors of Boko Haram.

Azazi sounded like a man who is frustrated that he has made recommendations that are gathering dust on his principal’s table and is waiting anxiously for a green light to move into action.

Expectedly, both Jonathan and the PDP have distanced themselves from Azazi. Speaking with journalists when he paid a visit to THiSDAY on Saturday to commiserate with the management and staff of the the newspaper over the suicide bombing of Thursday last week, Jonathan said he only read Azazi’s statement in the papers and that he would want to hear from Azazi himself. For good measure he said he did not believe PDP’s practices were anti-democratic.

The PDP, on its part, has cautioned the national security adviser against making enemies for the president.

If Azazi’s thesis is anything to go by, a clique in the North would rather have the country collapse than have a southerner as president. For this, they bomb there part of the country, kill not only non-indigenes but their own people as well, destroy properties and places of worship.

That means that this clique does not love its people let alone love the country. The Boko Haram insurgency has caused untold hardship in the North and led to the exodus of much-needed skilled manpower from the affected areas.

From available reports, the internally generated revenue of states worst hit by the bombings has nosedived owing to the relocation of businesses and outright shutdown of others, yet these sponsors of the bombers see no reason for a ceasefire.

Lawal Kaita, a close associate of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who contested the PDP presidential ticket with Jonathan last year, has said Nigeria would break up if the North does not produce the president in 2015.

Junaid Mohammed, another northern irredentist, has said if Nigeria breaks up, Abuja would remain part of the North.

To these people, Nigeria can only remain one if a northerner is in power. For several years until 1999 when Olusegun Obasanjo came back to power as civilian president, power had remained in the north. There was no southerner who threatened the corporate existence of the nation on account of political dominance of the Hausa/Fulani. If such a suggestion was made, the person would probably have been charged with treason.

Nigeria has never been so divided as a nation

and even though 2015 is still three years away, the race for it has started.

From what is happening, the strategy may be to weaken Jonathan and drastically diminish his credibility such that he will not think about running for re-election in 2015.

Using Jubril Aminu’s postulation, Boko Haram is an invented problem. It was never there but some people invented it and have allowed it to grow. While Rwanda, Angola, Mozambique have put their historical problems behind them, Nigeria is stuck with its cycle of violence waiting for 2015.

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