The best way to predict your future is to create it – Abraham Lincoln
The “kidnap” of old man Shettima Ali Monguno didn’t surprise me. What left me gawking was the sheer temerity of the act itself. What kind of desperation will make those involved in this clearly silly misadventure to over play their hands? Only the naïve in today’s Nigeria will swallow the tale that Boko Haram is the bad guy.
I smelt something fishy when the Joint Task Force (JTF) warned that these chaps were going to resort to kidnappings to fund their pastime – mayhem. So I held my breath thinking who it was going to be. The JTF has designed a future, I strongly suspected, and it had predicted it.
But in choosing Monguno, it has misfired. For several reasons, the elder statesman didn’t, still does not, look like a candidate for abduction by gun totting, bomb throwing, cash seeking juveniles. He was more like a bad dream the state would wish away. One, he was known to be critical of JTF operations. Not once or twice, he had sought to have them expelled from the troubled city of Maiduguri. When the President went visiting, he did the unlikely…he told truth to power. Send the soldiers packing. Second, he had a better understanding of the insurgency that is called Boko Haram than most. So why would they abduct the octogenarian?
Seventy two hours after the abduction, the usual suspects have not claimed responsibility. And the usual suspects are not shy of taking responsibility for misguided bravado. Expectedly the Monguno family is skeptical of the insurgents’ link to this latest drama.
And the state? The authorities clearly have over reached themselves this time around. The kidnap is reminiscent of the witch crying in the night and the baby dying the following day. I recall a scene in a romantic comedy I watched 20 years ago with Tom Hanks as the lead character. In a defining scene that established him as the leader of the comical pack, he swore on his mother’s grave to his unimpressed heartthrob who reminded him that his mother was alive and therefore his oath was null and void. To this he retorted ”I will kill her if I go back on my words”.
This is exactly the Monguno situation. The state has cried foul where there was none. And to justify that, it had to create a ‘phantom’ abduction. The CIA and the FBI routine conduct ‘red flag operations’. The Pearl Harbor attack in the second world war was an example; 9/11 attack was another.
In the preceding three years, I have seen a lot of bizarre events including the unlikely instance of an elephant passing through the eye of the needle. But this kidnap carries the prize in sheer inanity.
Don’t be carried away by the title of this piece. I am aware that it is not a ‘transformative’ or ‘revolutionary’ revelation. All Nigerians informed enough to know the difference between ‘transformation’ and ‘degeneration’ agenda know this. There is a puppeteer somewhere in the cosy chambers of power where political decisions are hammered out on the anvil of provinciality wearing an elaborate head dress, pulling the strings.
The President, Goodluck Jonathan, himself admitted this. Once in a moment of Freudian slip, he revealed that Boko Haram elements have permeated his government. Early in 2012, a sure footed president told a bewildered nation before the least amused worshippers that elements of Boko Haram were ubiquitous. Listen to him: “Some of them are in the executive arm of government; some of them are in the legislative arm of government while some of them are even in the judiciary.
“Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won’t even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house. That is how complex the situation is.”
This was at an inter-denomination church service to mark the 2012 Armed Forces Remembrance Day. I trembled. But I trembled too early. The uninitiated about presidential perfidy jumped for joy. They expected the president, being the Commander-in-Chief and ‘the oga at the top’ to name names. But the shout of joy stuck in their throat because months later, Jonathan made a u turn. He recanted. In his 3rd media chat since he mounted the saddle, in June last year, he described Boko Haram as faceless and, therefore, talking with them was fruitless.
Incurable optimists were not crestfallen. They waited and prayed. But those who don’t trust the president (I am among the legion) knew that to expect a change of heart on his part is like persuading the sun to change its timeless monotony of rising in the east and setting in the west. The idea looks as remote as to invite the word “impossible”. Jonathan didn’t disappoint both optimists and pessimists.
During a visit to Yobe and Borno states after much prodding ,he declared emphatically that Boko Haram members have moved a notch higher from being ‘faceless’ to being ‘ghosts’. He told another bewildered crowd in Yobe state “…. you cannot declare amnesty for ghosts… Boko Haram is still operating as ghosts. You don’t see the person…. …… you don’t see anybody who says he is a Boko Haram (member). As such, you cannot declare amnesty. For you to declare amnesty, you have to be communicating with people. You cannot declare amnesty for people that are operating under a veil, so we cannot even discuss the issue of amnesty”.
I have had this gnawing feeling that Boko Haram has been a handy facility for some elements in the precincts of power. The President’s Awilo dance steps with it, are giving credence to the fast spreading idea that it is, indeed, a government tool. But either for bread or safety, those who could tell truth to power about government complicity have kept mute except perhaps for the likes of Monguno.
Not too long ago, maverick politician, Orji Uzor Kalu, said something profound. I was expecting a firing ‘cover’ for those genuinely interested in ending the mayhem in this troubled region. But his ‘transformative’ insight was conveniently swept under the carpet. Obviously alarmed by the scope and the spate of destruction in the north, Kalu accused security agents and, by extension, the state for being responsible for the ‘bombing campaigns’ that have become to the region what spots are to a leopard. The former Abia governor is not your typical myopic politician from the east. Having been a representative in the ill fated Third Republic and governor for eight years, he wouldn’t say something as weighty as accusing the state of complicity just because he wanted to exercise his voice box. Hear him: “When people like me speak, they label us. The security agencies are planting some of these bombs, not Boko Haram. This is the truth I am telling you, and people wait to see Nigerians die for them to say this is Muslims and Christians fighting.”
He was on target. It is reprehensible to blame the dead. Turn-coats wishing to rewrite history like to present the late Abacha regime as the worst in human rights records. No doubt, it was a dictatorship. It was not known anywhere to be ‘voter friendly’. I recall with morbid fascination how NADECO was routinely blamed for occasional bombs that went off in Lagos and elsewhere. Years later after the exit of the regime, it came to the fore that it was actually an internecine battle between some elements within the army. And the fall guy was NADECO.
In most traditional African societies, leaders are seen as gods or their earthly representatives. Their words are viewed as sacrosanct, bordering on divinity. Leaders don’t lie or double speak for political or material gain. I am, therefore, convinced that the president said the truth about Boko Haram being ‘ghosts’. They couldn’t have abducted Monguno except those the president said have infiltrated his government.
The best way to predict your future is to create it – Abraham Lincoln