Vanguard (Lagos)

17 November 2012

West Africa: Mali Islamists, Boko Haram - the Log in Jonathan's Eye

The beat of drums of war in Mali has reached unprecedented crescendo. Hence, Nigeria and other ECOWAS member states last week arrived at a consensus to dispatch no fewer than 3,300 soldiers to help recapture the northern part of that country overran by Islamist fundamentalists.

The troops, according to the marshal plan will mostly comprise of Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. Though, other West Africa states and two other non-Africa states will be expected to join forces with the ECOWAS' soldiers. President Alassane Quattara who spoke to newsmen shortly after deliberations with African leaders in Abuja, disclosed that modalities have been properly worked out as the regional body is only waiting for the United Nations to endorse the plan which he said, was drawn up by experts in Bamako.

Under the arrangement, the first phase will be meant to train deployed soldiers on the modus operandi of their operations, establish a base in Mali's South and to be closely followed by combat operations in the Northern region of the country.

The ECOWAS leaders also considered among other recommendations made by the Mediation and Security Council which comprised mainly of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of member countries as well as their Defence counterparts.

President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Quedraogo who read the communique to all leaders present at the meeting, said authority reiterates that dialogue remains the preferred option in the resolution of the political crisis in Mali.

However, regarding the security situation, recourse to force may be indispensable in order to dismantle terrorist and transitional criminal networks that pose a threat to international peace and security.

Already, the UN Security Council had issued a 45-day ultimatum to Africa leaders to draw up plan for military intervention to save northern Mali from Islamists.

In his speech to the ECOWAS leaders, President Goodluck Jonathan insisted that the deployment of troops to Mali must be done to avert costly consequences on the sub-region in particular and the African continent in general.

Guinea Bissau and Mali, he stated "need our help to stabilise and recover lost grounds. The long suffering peoples of Guinea Bissau and Mali will be looking up to us to end their nightmares and open the door of security and prosperity to them. We must not fail them," he declared with a tone of finality.

Nigeria's donkey role

Again to reiterate Nigeria's preparedness in putting the recalcitrant Islamists in Mali to check, President Jonathan pledged to join forces with other member states until the foes in that country are vanquished.

His words: "On our part, Nigeria must continue to play her role in close collaboration with other member states and indeed the AU including other members of the international community until peace and democracy are restored in these countries.

As leaders of our various countries, we cannot turn a blind eye to potentially destabilising situation in our sub-region. What has been happening to Guinea Bissau and Mali the past several months go against our collective vision of a peaceful, stable and economically prosperous region."

The log in Jonathan's eye

"It's better to remove the log in your eye first so that you can see clearly to remove the one in your neighbour's eye," says the Holy book. That aphorism para-phrases the wisdom behind President Jonathan's articulated role in the Mali's political imbroglio.

For most political analysts both in Nigeria and diaspora, Nigeria has chewed more than she can swallow. The insurgence of the notorious terrorist group, Boko Haram in Nigeria and the quantum atrocities perpetrated by these fundamentalists surpassed what have been witnessed in Mali.

"That Boko Haram, the dreaded "Islamist" group has not politically taken over the reins of governance in the north, does not mean uhuru for the people," stated a political analyst who will not want his name in print.

But beyond the prism of mundane criticism, the nation is already bogged down with three monsters terrorism, corruption and dwindling economic fortune.

For most people in the north, they sleep everyday with one eye closed as the faceless terrorist group can strike at anytime of the day.

It is needless recounting the ordeals most Nigerians experience on daily basis in the hands of these fundamentalists who unleashed horror on unsuspecting Nigerians under the veil of Islam. Everyday, every hour and every moment basis, churches, homes were destroyed with reckless abandoned, human beings equally slaughtered like sheep and business activities crippled. Yet, the people wailed helplessly in their miseries, waiting patiently like a vulture to rescue them from the jaws of heartless terrorists, who see the killing of their fellow human-beings as past-time.

Though all efforts made by the President Jonathan's administration to put the Boko Haram nefarious activities to check failed to yield appreciable result. The Nigeria soldiers who were detailed to check the menace of these terrorists have thus far recorded insignificant result in taming them. Ironically, these same men of the Nigeria soldiers have been detailed to help in conjunction with others to recapture northern Mali overran by Islamist fundamentalists.

The President speaks

A blow-by-blow analysis of President Jonathan's speech to ECOWAS leaders on the Mali crisis however confirmed his immediate predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's allegation that, "The President lacked the political will to tackle the menace of Boko Haram. According to him, President Jonathan has failed to implement recommendations submitted by a committee raised to oversee how to address the challenges of terrorism in Nigeria.

According to the President, "Guinea Bissau and Mali need our help to stabilise and recover lost grounds. The long suffering people of Guinea Bissau and Mali will be looking up to us to end their nightmares and open the door of security and prosperity to them. We must not fail them."

But the President has failed Nigerians as most of them, particularly those living in the north and most particularly those who had suffered one painful loss or the other still live in nightmares.

There is no gainsaying however, that the economy of the nation still wobbles today mainly because of the activities of Boko Haram.

Again, the President echoed Nigeria's godfather role in Africa's crisis. He said: On our part, Nigeria must continue to play her role in close collaboration with other member states and indeed AU and other members of the international community until peace and democracy are restored in these countries."

This resolve by the President calls to questioning the focal point of our foreign policy which seems to sacrifice our comfort for regional integration.

The National Publicity Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) while reacting to the development, advised the Federal Government to be more diplomatic in the meddling with the Mali's internal crisis.

He recalled that in the days of apartheid regime in South Africa, Nigeria had Africa as the centre piece of its foreign policy. Quite frankly so. But things have changed. The South Africa will strove hard to build and longed to extricate from the shackles of apartheid rule has grown to be a regional power economically, politically and militarily.

"South Africa's brand of democracy has inherent conferment of sovereignty on the people. In Nigeria, sovereignty lies in the hands of those who control the security forces. Nigeria is still grappling with the essence of nationhood. Nigeria military is over-stretched because of the festering self inflicted wounds of the indiscretion of our political leadership.

Whatever might be the opinion of our leaders, it is high time we change our foreign policy thrust to be Nigeria centred rather than be treated as a donkey and eventually be dispensed with.

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