Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has again faulted President Goodluck Jonathan’s approach in handling the Boko Haram insurgency in the country. Obasanjo had in a recent interview with the Cable News Network (CNN) carpeted Jonathan for using the stick strategy alone instead of applying what he described as “carrot and stick” praxis. Obasanjo believes that deploying force alone has not worked well in containing the Islamic sect’s militancy in the restive North.
Such approach, he insists, would not lead to timely resolution of the insecurity unleashed by the sect in the country since 2009. In a swift reaction to Obasanjo’s confusing prognosis, the president’s spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, faulted him and affirmed instead that the Jonathan administration is working hard to end the insurgency. Abati also berated Obasanjo for castigating the use of force which he applied in Odi and Zaki Biam. Essentially, Abuja has not reckoned with any of Obasanjo’s recommendations on how to end the sect’s insurgency in the country.
We recall that this is not the first time that Obasanjo is condemning Jonathan’s manner of handling the Boko Haram menace. He had earlier accused Jonathan of not using the required amount of force to quell the insurgency. In his latest recommendation, Obasanjo is advocating the use of appeasement and force at the same time. From the foregoing, it is apparent that Obasanjo has not got a firm formula that would deal decisively with the festering insecurity in the North. Offering criticism at intervals for the sake of it without having a clear-cut objective, as Obasanjo has been doing, is not helpful in this matter. Obasanjo’s flip flops notwithstanding, President Jonathan’s administration is also not handling the matter well.
The administration has not demonstrated enough will, whether politically or militarily, to end the insurgency. What Nigerians have observed over time is that Jonathan condemns the sect after each terror attack and promises to contain them while the vicious bloodletting continues unabated. It is perhaps such a helpless and unfortunate scenario that gives Obasanjo the impetus to interject at intervals with his contradictory recommendations. If Jonathan had been on top of the situation, as he often claims to be, Obasanjo would not have had the opportunity to lampoon him on the issue.
We believe that whether stick or carrot, Jonathan has not got it right. The president has not really applied the stick in the real sense of the word. He has only used the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) to keep Boko Haram in check. His selective state of emergency in parts of the North did not rein in the insurgency as anticipated. His handling of those arrested and detained over the sect’s terrorist activities leaves much to be desired. Government has been foot-dragging in prosecuting them. If Jonathan’s administration wants to apply the stick, nothing stops him from arresting top sponsors of the sect.
That he is not doing this is, indeed, a sign of weakness on his part. His insistence on keeping the peace has not yielded any result. There is even no hope that it will yield the desired result at the end of the day. It must be stated that the use of carrot or appeasement in resolving the sect’s menace as being suggested in certain quarters is untenable in view of the fact that Boko Haram is a faceless group.
No government worth its name will negotiate or dialogue with a group whose members cannot be identified. If the sect is desirous of talking with the federal government, it has to unmask itself. All those behind the group should make themselves public before the government can offer the carrot as being suggested. In so far as it has not done so, government should go all out to continue to fight them. In fact, the solution to the insecurity caused by the sect does not lie in Obasanjo’s armchair criticism. It also does not lie in Jonathan’s cowardly approach.