President Muhammadu Buhari led his country’s delegation to the United Nations 71st General Assembly meeting in September, 2016 in New York. During the meeting Buhari requested from UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to help Nigeria negotiate with the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram for the release of the abducted Chibok school girls. The alleged abduction of about 276 high school girls in April 2014 from their school in the middle of the night made news headlines around the world. It was further publicized through the Twitter hashtag; #Bringbackourgirls. When the wife of the United States President Michelle Obama joined the campaign on Twitter to condemn the dastard inhumane act of the Islamist terrorists the news went viral worldwide. Pressures came from several quarters to bear on the then Nigerian government of President Goodluck Jonathan to expedite efforts at trying to free the captured girls from the jihadists.
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau did not make things easier either when he boasted that he would sell the girls into sex slavery and do worse things to them. It did not take very long for him to make good his threats. Based on the horrific stories of some of the girls who were said to have escaped from their captors and, especially those of a particular girl who fortunately, could not detonate the explosive device with which she was laden in the marketplace; some of the people’s worst fears were finally confirmed. It became clear that Boko Haram was using some of the girls for their suicide bombing missions in markets and other public places. As the girls’ ordeals continued, the international community held its breath, wishing for some spectacular rescue mission to happen. Some people expected something, maybe similar to the famous Israelis’ 90-Minute rescue mission in Uganda’s Entebbe Airport in July, 1976. Sadly, and to the prolonged pain of the girls, the parents and the country, no such thunderbolt mission was forthcoming. Jonathan’s government became discredited.
With a built up frustration which turned into outrage there was a worldwide condemnation of the Nigerian government of Jonathan, a Christian president from the south for being unable to rescue the girls. So, the prevailing local and international anger set the stage for the need for the emergence of a Nigerian political messiah whose path was prepared by the pains and griefs of the captured girls’ families and a host of well-wishers scattered all over the world. At this point, any impostor; the devil himself or better still, an unschooled former dictator whose only credential is his place of origin, would have filled in that position of the anticipated Nigerian redeemer. Coming from and representing the section of the country which believes they are born to rule the rest peoples of the Nigerian union, Muhammadu Buhari was very qualified to be that redeemer. The most important thing that this Nigerian savior, as most saviors, needed to offer was a promise of future redemption both of the girls and a country without corruption in a future time. Though, in no time it became glaring that there was a major difference between the Nigerian savior and most other saviors, it did not matter anyway.
An important qualification of most saviors is eloquence or the ability to use words and say the right things at the right time in a coherent and comprehensive manner. But a Nigerian savior, because of where he comes from and the powerful people backing him, could mumble some unintelligible nonsense and the rest of the world which thinks that “Nigerians” do not know the difference would cheer. In the opinion of those cheering, a Nigerian or an African savior does not really need intelligible words to communicate with citizens or to participate at the world stage in discussions of international concerns. The body language, not verbal language of a Nigerian and other African leaders is enough. These great deciders who back these African saviors know what is best for Africans, after all.
Perhaps it was surmised that the kidnapped girls’ ordeals did not need any verbal explaining. Everyone already knew all there was to know about them. So, whoever that had the guts to (or at least promised to do these things in a future time) rescue the captured girls from the Sambisa Forest (one of Boko Haram’s strongholds) and can also destroy the well-known Nigerian problem of corrupt and sharp practices with the same blow, such a person is qualified to become Nigeria’s president. In the opinion of the great deciders, Nigeria’s complex problems can conveniently be reduced to just one: Corruption. Corruption has been “accepted” as the only thing responsible for all the deplorable human conditions, poverty, social and political crisis that are endemic in the Nigerian country. Therefore, Nigeria’s leadership candidate did not need to verbally articulate the problem’s ramifications and how he intended to solve it, everyone already knows.
However, just to satisfy some who still doubted and avoid making the whole charade to appear too simplistic, some superficial or maybe mischievous? analysts of the Nigerian problem also added leadership failure to the list of reasons for Nigeria’s failure. It had long been agreed to by all the “expert” analysts of Nigeria who “know the best,” that the faulty colonial structure of a united Nigeria should never be broached as the probable cause of the country’s failure as a nation state. It is more convenient to blame leadership failure and political corruption that are mere symptomatic effects of the real problem which is colonial structural failure. Yet, the truth is that the faulty colonial state structure is the foundational problem of the Nigerian country. But hitherto, the great deciders are still to accept this immutable truth; that Nigeria needs to be divided into smaller countries in order to solve Nigeria.
Muhammadu Buhari the man who will kill the Nigerian corruption
Buhari the current anointed Nigerian savior was a former military dictator who ruled Nigeria between 1983 and 1985. Through a coup d’état Buhari ousted the elected government of his fellow Muslim northerner Shehu Shagari. (It had long been established that the coup d’état was carried out to prevent Shagari’s Christian Vice-President Alex Ekwueme from becoming the next president after Shagari.) During the period of his rule, Buhari’s government began a program which was termed “war against indiscipline” and the public was flogged into lines and frog-jumped by mean-looking soldiers. Therefore, he was considered a tough leader and an easy choice by those who were eager for a Nigerian change. The efforts of Buhari’s horsewhip wielding soldiers who also pulled down people’s business and private buildings that were termed illegal structures were complemented by those of the special armed mobile police force infamously called “kill-and-go” by the locals.
Though, Buhari in the opinion of many Nigerian experts is an epitome of a typical corrupt Nigerian leader “of the first order,” yet change mongers who were anxious to duplicate the American “Obama change” in Nigeria wanted change by all means. Despite the fact that there are abundant public records of Buhari’s unsavory corrupt trails, his backers like himself believe in Buhari’s private personal interpretation of what corruption is. By his private definition, the universally acknowledged corrupt former Nigerian maximum military ruler Sani Abacha “was not corrupt.” By this incredible declaration, like the legendary king of old, Buhari has been dancing naked in the public to the Nigerian corruption music while wearing an invisible garment which he believes perfectly covers his dirty corrupt warts from public view. With such false public image of the untainted Nigerian saint who was beatified by a gullible college of blind cardinals, Buhari became the mythical quintessential Nigerian tough saint-ruler who would kill the Nigerian corruption because “himself, like Abacha is not corrupt.”
Sending an S.O.S. to the United Nations
In the meantime, many watchers saw President Buhari’s request to the United Nations to help Nigeria negotiate the release of the Chibok girls as reading from a rehearsed political script; a gimmick. His critics believe that the request was planned and delivered at an appropriate time and place to produce the desired dramatic effect. It was meant to refresh the mind of the international community on the unfolding political drama in Nigeria. The suspense was thus heightened and the audience was like told to expect the next big thing on the agenda – the release of the kidnapped girls. It was seen by most observers of the Nigerian political scene as a ploy or a sort of mockery of the global community’s collective intelligence.
However that maybe, it’s expected that the joke would not be completely lost on the UN and other members of the international community. No matter what, there will always be some who can read between the lines. Nonetheless, it is clear that President Buhari and his handlers have convinced themselves that the whole world will always collectively fall under the spell of the religious/political antics of the Islamists of northern Nigeria. From all indications northern Nigerian Muslim fundamentalist, like their counterparts in other parts of the world have come to believe that they can actually succeed in “fooling all the people all the time.”
The emergence of Boko Haram
The Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram emerged about a decade and half ago as a militant pressure group conceived to violently enforce the political and religious mandates of Nigeria’s Islamic north. Just before the emergence of Boko Haram group; as a political block, the north adopted the Islamic sharia as its legal system. Now, sharia runs pari passu in the northern region with the presumed Nigerian secular constitutional legal system. Part of Boko Haram’s declared goal is to maintain a tight-fit Islamic hegemony over the entire country or when that is not possible to create an Islamic state out of the present Nigerian country. Which is why when the former Nigerian President Musa Yar’Adua, a Muslim northerner died in office and his vice president Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner replaced him, the north vowed to take back the leadership of the country at all costs. A northern representative Lawal Keita declared: “We will make Nigeria ungovernable for Jonathan. Anything short of a northern president is tantamount to stealing our presidency. Jonathan has to go and he will go . . . he will be frustrated out of office.”
Before being elected president, Buhari warned Jonathan’s government when it planned an expanded military pressure on Boko Haram strongholds in the northeast. Especially after the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, Buhari said that northerners would view attacks on Boko Haram as attacks on the northern region. In the same token, some critics have often analyzed the circumstances that surrounded the well-publicized captured Chibok school girls, and concluded that it was an elaborate political web of deceit weaved by the Islamic north to wrest power from a southern Christian president.
The critics cite as hints to the puzzles, the fact that the principal of the kidnapped girls’ school, instead of being censored or reprimanded for negligence, was rewarded. Following some months after the kidnapping of the girls the school principal Asabe Kwambura was compensated with a plum government job as Bornu State’s Board of Education Commissioner. Another point which the critics make is that only a few weeks after Buhari publicly expressed helplessness in the matter and requested for UN’s help, a part of the girls, 53 of them were released by their captors. There was no indication that United Nations negotiators were involved in helping to free the girls. Nigeria’s Vice-President declared that the girls’ freedom was not obtained by any military force or through the swapping of any captured Boko Haram fighters. Soon after the first batch of girls was released the administration’s spokespersons boasted that more girls would still be freed. Now, people are asking why the sudden change of heart by Boko Haram? The freed girls were in captivity for over two years and were supposed to have been married off, given away or sold into sex slavery for that period. Yet of those who came back, except one none had babies, pregnancies or any visible physical signs of severe sexual abuses.
After considering the above points and more, most critics insist that the whole campaign; #Bringbackourgirls may have been a mere political practical joke contrived by Nigeria’s Muslim north to take back the country’s leadership. It is believed to be a web of lies which unwittingly caught off guard many notable international personalities like the wife of the President of the United States of America, United Nations Ban Ki-moon and many others. Without knowing it, these otherwise decent people may have been taken for a ride, dragged and sullied in the muddy waters of the Nigerian political conundrum.