Why this State of Emergency May Fail

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

The world of security and

strategic thinking is not for the fickle minded; neither is it for the “go

along” person. In this world, knee jerk reactions are often not the right ones.

While emotions should give way to careful analysis, so should logic and

strength of conviction be carefully weighed and ingratiated in the decision

making process.

When the administration of

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) took to the waves last week, in one

last gasp effort to curtail the Boko Haram menace, not less than the majority

who seem to have had it with the terrorist sect (and rightly so) took to

voicing overwhelming approval. It seem like Nigerians were just asking for any

action (emphasis on any mine). After months of bombings, maiming, killings and

attacks- we wanted the President to lead! And he finally, did.

Not surprisingly, the rare voices

of caution either from the regular opposition (Action Congress) or the marginalized

but vocal northern elders (ACF) or from foreign governments (United States

or Human Rights Watch) have been roundly dismissed by ordinary Nigerians as

nothing but nagging nabobs of negativism when the policy of matching force for

force with Boko Haram is concerned. While like the majority of Nigerians I wish

nothing but success for the ongoing operations, I’m concerned that we’re

ignoring the risk of failure.

First, the history of application

of force to quell uprisings in Nigeria has been checkered and more recently has

been an abysmal failure. Short the full scale quelling that military strongmen

applied in Maitatsine and Ogoni

that only allowed these crisis to boil over years later, the force applied by

former President Obasanjo in Odi against Niger Delta militancy and State of

Emergency in Plateau by the same have proven many years later to be utter

failures. In the former, only a negotiated amnesty led to some temporary peace

brokered by his successor while in the later, peace to date have escaped the


Secondly, the Goodluck Jonathan

is notoriously inept. What will you call an administration that bungled the

renaming of a University after a popularly acclaimed icon of democracy? One

which can’t seem to get the simple task of getting a petroleum reform bill,

already speeding to conclusion under a sick predecessor, to become law in three

years? I can bet our dithering leader that occupies Aso Rock have not even

given the thought of how to pacify the North-East region after the assault. His

yes-men are busy buzzing around with braggadocio that they’ve forgotten that it

will be easier to win the war than the peace. What are Goodluck Jonathan’s

pacification plans for Borno, Adamawa and Gombe?

And just before you have enough

reasons to start doubting the inevitability of this “new tactic” working, we

should reexamine the reality of combating terrorism in other climes, and the

nature of the enemy. The ink had not yet dried up on Jonathan’s declaration

when bombs went off in Kano, and Katsina received the Boko Haram visitation – blowing up the Daura emirate’s

police station after sustained battle that killed several security agents

including soldiers and policemen. Right on cue, a church leader in

Maiduguri was killed by Boko Haram thirty minutes after the President went

on TV talking tough!

Fact is Boko Haram is more likely

to disperse to surrounding states- melt away for a moment and return more

virulently- than just disappear. The process of creating a terrorist is a

gradual and long road, that sudden match of force is unlikely to convince the

adherent to reverse course. The first rule of combating terrorism like any open

wound is to stop the bleeding. In Nigeria, we’ve ignored this lesson. The North

of Nigeria educates less people, breeds more poor and despondent Nigerians and

has the lowest development indices comparative to their Southern Nigeria peers.

This condition cannot be allowed to persist and without quick emergency action,

we’re losing the plot and may live to regret it.

Nigerians and Nigeria

unfortunately is also a fertile ground for any potential insurgent. With a

mixture of ethnicities and religions, and a thoroughly corrupt elite class

feasting large on the scarce resources of the land and increasing the gap

between them and they very large pool of the poor.

This social structure is

encouraged by an exploitative faith system of religions falling on themselves

to replace a non-existent government, and a strong believe in miracles

including “sudden riches” syndrome that keeps the poor subdued: but clearly not

for too long. It is this Nigeria that Jonathan administration is trying to

apply a quick fix of matching fire for fire; a problem that requires a thorough

cleansing will not tolerate a quick fix. Will the entire country or half the

country become the theatre of open warfare if Boko Haram disperses and refuse

to surrender as most analysts expect?

While we ponder that point, imagine for one second the

impact of internal militarization on the polity. What foundations are we laying

by putting soldiers on civilian streets, instructing some perhaps to apply

their tactics of violence on civilian population that are sometimes their kits

and kins? Well, think back what happened in 1966 and remember how the

foundation of those first coups like many across Africa was laid by the

injection of military power to internal conflicts that soon took on a life of

its own. Well, analysts call this the law of unintended consequences; I hope

the President’s men are thinking.

Of course, as the government

realize in about a year or two that the state of emergency that allows

unbridled show of force won’t work forever, I expect their inept self to keep

hitting harder and loose international support. If anything, this will amount

to winning the battle and losing the war. We will rue the day we went to war

with Boko Haram the day these insurgents and rag tag mercenaries of death start

dictating the terms of peace like the Malian

Tuareg rebels are doing under the auspices of the French today. Our

government should step around this carefully, as it could be the fatal blow

that grants these terrorists the legitimacy they do not deserve.

All said it might be the external

factors rather than the internal that will ultimately lend itself to the

failure of GEJ’s mission. Boko Haram under persecution may attract an influx of

support of the strong international network of funders of terrorism, now losing

ground in their familiar theater and seeking new homelands in the deserts of

Africa where governments have long abandoned their responsibilities.

Indeed, the answer to terrorism

may just be what Goodluck Jonathan and Nigeria’s group of elites and their yes

men find most difficult to comprehend or adhere to- good governance. For why

will a people turn to death as an end to itself if they have a reason to live

under a government that guarantees their general welfare and eschews


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