President Goodluck Jonathan got yesterday a wake-up call from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) Time is running out on excuses, the party said, calling for a counter-terrorism strategy to combat insurgency in the Northeast. The party, which also renewed its advocacy on new intelligence gathering infrastructure, said improved intelligence, de-radicalisation, information management and peace building processes should be accompanied by economic development plan for the troubled Northern Nigeria. Also, the APC emphasised the importance of negotiation with the Boko Haram sect, instead of the government passing the buck to the opposition party to discredit perceived political foes. APC Interim National Chairman Chief Bisi Akande noted that Nigeria “is at war”, adding that a stupendous national disaster was imminent, unless the government wakes up from its slumber.
He said: “Our nation stands on the rim of crisis. A stupendous national disaster beckons. But, this current leadership can help avert disaster, if they wake up to what true governance is. The time for excuses and half-measures is long past. The wellbeing of the nation hangs in the balance. SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>>>>>
“If we do not act decisively, the demands of the moment will find us wanting and history will issue a terrible verdict against us.”
The eminent politician spoke with reporters in Lagos on national security and the Federal Government’s inability to restore order into a state of pandemonium. With him were other party officials, including the Interim National Vice Chairman, Senator Annie Okonkwo, Interim National Secretary, Alhaji Tijani Tumsah, Interim National Treasurer Hajia Sadiya Farouq, Interim National Women Leader Mrs. Sharon Ikeazon, National Organising Secretary Senator Osita Izunaso, Alhaji Kashim Imam, Lagos APC Vice Chairman Chief Funso Ologunde and Lagos APC Women Leader Mrs. Kemi Nelson.
Frowning at government’s “ineptitude”, Akande said the only thing that mattered to President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is power retention in 2015, and not the security of life and property.
He said since Boko Haram launched its terror campaign, over 1,500 people, had died. The figure excludes the 95 who died in the two bombings in Nyanya, Abuja and another 150 who were killed in Gamboru, Bornu State last week.
Akande said: “Twenty-six days after the abduction of iver 200 girls in Chibok, Bornu State, we neither know where they are nor are we close to knowing it, going by available information. Yet, 11 more girls have been abducted in Warabe.”
The party leader pointed out that, following attacks by the sect, the government had often boasted that it was on top of the situation, stressing that, when Nigerians became weary of the empty boast, the Federal Government shifted the blame on to the opposition, particularly the APC.
Akade said that the blame game had not ended the insurgency, recalling that more lives have been lost this year, owing to the government’s inaction.
He stressed: “Amid all these, valuable time was lost to deal with the insurgency. And now, we have reached a sorry pass. The government has lost the initiative to the terrorist.”Hailing the military for risking their lives to battle the insurgency, the former Osun State governor said the APC did not share the pessimism that soldiers lack the ability and capability to deal with the situation.
He said the military could surmount the challenge, if they are given the wherewithal.
Akande added: Our optimism stems from empirical facts. The Nigerian military has excelled in peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions around the world since our independence in 1960 to such an extent that Nigeria has become one of the top troops contributing nations around the world.
“However, stories emerging from the front in the battle with Boko Haram have been saddening: low morale among our troops, obsolete equipment, including guns that fail to fire and armoured personnel carriers that won’t move, given to our troops, and cases of deserters.
“When Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno called the attention of the nation to the fact that the insurgents’ morale was higher than that of our troops and that they were better armed than the soldiers we are sending to battle, he was roundly pilloried and shouted down.”
Akande renewed the APC’s call on the National Assembly to institute a probe into how the huge allocations for security had been spent.
He said after series of finger pointing and name calling, the reality of the grave danger looming on the country dawned on the President who acknowledged the abduction only 19 days after, when the opportunity to pursue the abductors and rescue the girls had been lost.
Akande recalled that President Jonathan was forced to acknowledge the abduction, ahead of the World Economic Forum on Africa hosted by Nigeria, because the attention of the international community shifted to the country because of the terrorist attacks.
He also alluded to the President’s wife, Mrs. Patience’s summoning and humiliation of government officials as if they were behind the abductions.
Akande chided the PDP Women Leader, Mrs. Kema Chikwe, for doubting the abduction and insisting that the names and pictures of the victims should be published without sparing a thought for the stigma that may assail the girls when they return home.
He, however, praised the offer of assistance by the international community, including Britain, Canada, China, France, United States, the Economic Community of West African States and the United Nations, pointing out that their proposed intervention had confirmed the belief that terrorism is a global battle.
However, he maintained that the security and safety of Nigerian citizens are the primary responsibilities of President Jonathan, adding that the Commander-in-Chief must not abdicate this duty simply because foreign powers have offered to assist Nigeria.
Akande urged vigilance and speed, saying that the decisions and actions taken in the next few weeks and months may determine whether Nigeria will overcome violent terrorism or sink deeper into lawlessness and disorder.
He said: “The challenge we face is much bigger than the pursuit of office or individual ambition. Even without the Boko Haram crisis, the nation ran itself as if on auto-pilot. The Jonathan Administration did little and depended on the ingenuity of the Nigerian people to fend for themselves and cover up governmental shortcoming.
“However, a crisis has come which no amount of private ingenuity can resolve. Only government can answer this call. The time has come for strategy and action. The time has come, but government has been found sorely wanting. Just as they have left the girls in the forest and at the mercy of armed terrorists without mercy, this government has left the nation in the cold.
“We must acknowledge that the nation has been brought low. We now suffer more violence and destruction than many places that are formally at war. For too many, Nigeria has become not a place to live but a place to die. We must change this evil equation. At moments like these, Nigeria needs a leadership that is bold, coherent, sincere and focused. Unfortunately, that is not the case right now for our dear nation.”
In Akande’s view, only a non-partisan approach can resolve the crisis. He urged that President to stop buck passing. He said: “Having imposed a state of emergency on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, he has assumed full responsibility for the security of those states and it is disingenuous of him to point accusing fingers at the governors of those states, who cannot even move around their states freely without clearance”
Noting that the Federal Government’s response has reached a strategic stalemate, Akande called for a multifaceted strategy to combat the crisis.
He urged the government to develop a counter-terrorism strategy. His words: “Presently, there is poor coordination between and integration of military means and political and economic objectives. There is currently no publicly known counter-terrorism strategy guiding the response to BH, and the impact of this can be seen in at least three ways: first is the chaos and confusion surrounding the government’s intention to explore a negotiated settlement by dialoguing with BH.
“One minute the government favours and seeks to dialogue and grant amnesty to Boko Haram; the next minute government rules it out. There are mixed signals from the government. Second is the lack of use and coordination of military, political and economic means, yet successful counter-insurgency requires close coordination of military, political and economic means and objectives.”
Akande also asked the government to buuild a new intelligence gathering infrastructure. He said: “In 2012, Nigeria announced plans for a new intelligence fusion centre to coordinate, improve and integrate intelligence gathering and sharing across agencies. We need to obtain more timely and actionable intelligence from local sources in the areas affected by Boko Haram. We would also establish an office of the Special Anti-Terrorism Coordinator.
On the need to improved intelligence, he said: “The solution to preventing, limiting and responding better to BH attacks does not lie in deploying more troops but in improving intelligence and increasing force enablers. The fight against BH will be enhanced if government focuses on these two elements.”
To the APC Chairman, an improved contingency planning can also be helpful. Major militaries around the world have plans for the major challenges they are likely to face, he said.
Akande also suggested an alignment of military and political solutions, pointing out that Boko Haram is unlikely to be defeated militarily.
He added: “Most insurgencies are ended through some form of negotiation. Government must develop a strategy along the lines of the policy followed by President Yar’Adua (over the MEND insurgency in the Niger Delta) at least to the extent that we use employment and other rehabilitative incentives to separate the rank and file from Boko Haram’s leadership.”
On the de-radicalisation strategy, he said: “The Northern region is in urgent need of a counter-radicalisation programme to prevent many more young people (illiterate and unemployed) from being radicalised. Such strategies would require initiatives to counter violent extremist ideology and create positive incentives against radicalisation (beyond the current focus on punitive measures – arrest, detention and killing), give voice and representation to young people in the region.”
The APC Chairman called for the regionalisation of the ECOWAS and AU response to ensure multinational security operations across the Sahel to track and hunt down Boko Haram insurgents.
He said the government should always reform the way information is released and managed on Boko Haram.
On the “Economic Development Plan for Northern Nigeria”, Akande said: “The proposed recovery fund for the Northeast is grossly inadequate window dressing. A real and massive effort is needed. Clearly, more financial resources are needed.
“Economic revival goes beyond providing substantial funds. It has to be guided by clear objectives, roles of public and private sectors and civil society groups, and must include social (education, health, religion, culture and traditional institutions), environmental, and political aspects, in addition to economic issues.”