NATIONAL election campaigns are supposed to chart new, alternative ways to solving major problems. Nigeria has more than a few.
With only four months to the presidential election, the airwaves, newspapers and soapboxes should be awash with competing ideas on how to solve the myriads of problems facing the nation and citizens.
Ideally, Nigerians should, at this time, be spoilt for choice. But, typically, Nigerian politicians are not serving up solutions to the problems we are very familiar with: from non-existent to broken public utilities, corruption, sterile policy frameworks and the dragon in the house – insecurity and outright terrorism.
Today, I am focusing attention on the very acerbic and partisan discussion (or rather shouting match) among politicians on the problem of general insecurity and terrorism and its implication now and later for Nigeria.
The current situation does not make any sense at all. While thousands die and the economy of Nigeria (especially the North) suffers, the ruling party and opposition groups make the brutal onslaught by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, a political weapon in their armour.
The press, too, sees itself as having no stake in the war against Boko Haram. All blames are heaped on the government or person of President Jonathan. The armed forces are ridiculed routinely.
Primarily, the inability to contain Boko Haram’s terrorism has been blamed on the President’s lack of interest in the carnage and kidnappings in the North in general and the Northeast in particular.
Also, he has been accused of lacking the initiative, political will and “spine” to fight Boko Haram. The most outlandish accusation has been that he sponsored Boko Haram as part of his “plan” in the ethnic cleansing of tribes in the North.
While it is right to question the government’s commitment to fight Boko Haram, as well as its readiness to address other problems Nigeria is facing, I think it is a dangerous game to single out and put President Jonathan on trial on this matter.
It does not help when the accusations made against the President, especially on Nigeria’s numerous news websites, are linked somehow to his Ijaw origin and to the Niger Delta region.
Additionally, I am worried when leaders of the main opposition party, All Progressives Congress, easily claim that Boko Haram’s terrorism will end when they take over power. That leaves a whiff of conspiracy against the President.
It goes in line with a yet to be denied claim by a leading opposition figure in 2011 that Nigeria would be made ungovernable if Dr Jonathan became president.
That leaves us with two claims of conspiracy: one against the President and another against the opposition.
There is no doubt that the confidence with which Boko Haram has terrorized Nigerians is linked with that infighting among Nigerians and their political leaders. As far as I can see, no matter who takes over government next year, the infighting will continue. Now, that is really dangerous.
Against the background of the ongoing distasteful political speeches, if President Jonathan loses power, we might actually have another upsurge of conflict in the Niger Delta. That will leave Nigeria with two insurgencies to fight: one in the North and another in the Niger Delta.
The prevailing acidity in political discourse, attacking persons and their tribes or geopolitical zones will create a more dangerous atmosphere of “we against them” after the elections.
Typically, we Nigerians like dealing with problems when they arise. However, now is the time for the opposition to modify its language in such a way that the Ijaw man or woman, the Niger Delta man or woman, does not see himself/herself as a loser if Jonathan were to lose.
Additionally, we cannot wish away Jonathan’s role in containing the crippling insurgency in the Niger Delta when he was the vice president.
If the opposition continues to feed the conspiracy theory that there was a plan from the outset to frustrate the Jonathan presidency, the first one ever of a southern minority, his removal will lead to more upheaval in the Niger Delta.
Let us not forget that by the end of the Jonathan presidency, it will take nearly another half a century for a South-South president to emerge if the current power rotation plans were to continue. That is another reason to make that bitter pill a bit more palatable by sweetening the political language.
Demeaning the President, ignoring the fragility of the Niger Delta region and giving the impression that there was a preconceived plan to frustrate him out of power by encouraging insecurity does not taste like a sugarcoated pill we want the Niger Delta to swallow if President Jonathan were to lose.
Akor, whose research is in mass media and policymaking processes, wrote from Manchester, UK.