- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
Boko Haram: Jonathan Needs Cooperation –Princewill
Former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate in Rivers State, Prince Tonye Princewill, speaks on the vexed issue of security challenge posed by Boko Haram. LEON USIGBE presents excerpts from the interview he granted some journalists.
The security situation in the country appears to be deteriorating with the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, pushing the country to the precipice. What is the way forward?
It is a very unfortunate situation that we are in. A multifaceted, multi-pronged approach will be required. Unfortunately, what tends to happen with these things is that if you don’t catch them early, it becomes very difficult to rein them in. The white man would say, the horse has already bolted. When the horse has bolted, if you close the door, it does little or nothing to alleviate the situation. I am afraid that in the next few weeks, maybe days, the horse will have bolted. I will suggest that the leadership of the country — the political leadership and all forms of leadership — sit down around the table to discuss the way forward. Book Haram and the bombings are a symptom of a wider problem. It is not something that we can defeat by bravado. There is the need for a deeper understanding of where they (the sect members) are coming from. Boko Haram, it seems to me, is not just an institutional battle. It seems to be a political one; it seems to be a religious one; it seems to be an ethnic one as well. But more importantly, it also seems to be global. So, if you look at Boko Haram simply within the context of the Nigerian borders, you will be losing value. It is very easy to box things; to say that something is one way. But what if it is also the other? I don’t think that the leadership can afford to simplify the problem. They need to go into it and understand it in detail.
We have seen the way the Americans are operating with Al Qaeda. They are pursuing it on all fronts, including its home front, but they are also infiltrating it. They are also part and parcel of it. They seek to understand it. If there is a transfer of leadership, they know it. What does that tell you?; that they are inside the system. The Israelis have also dealt with terrorism on their borders with people who are a lot more determined than Boko Haram, yet, the Israeli state is thriving today. A variety of things are being put in place, intelligence being the most significant. So, I think that we need to beef up our intelligence. We need to look seriously whether the security we have put in place is actually sufficient. The budget for security was very high and people were shouting. I felt that if that budget actually goes down to the field and it is actually used in the field of operation, so be it because our security infrastructure is woefully inadequate. I have no doubt that if the government takes the problem very seriously, it can be brought to an end.
Terrorism and the like are things many civilised countries have had to deal with. I witnessed the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the United Kingdom and how eventually Tony Blair was able to negotiate a ceasefire. Whereas they had a military presence in Northern Ireland, they also had dialogue and ultimately, the dialogue produced result. But if you look at it, the IRA problem was political, it was religious, it was global and it was ethnic. Why do I say that? It was political because if you remember, there is Sein Fein, the political arm of the IRA. So, they had a political component in what they were doing. Why do I say it was religious? Because it was Catholics versus Protestants. Why do I say it was ethnic; because it was Northern Ireland, the Irish versus the English. Why do I say it was global? Because countries, including the United States, were entertaining Sein Fein politicians whereas the British government refused to entertain them. In fact, if a Sein Fein person speaks, they would blackout his voice. You cannot hear what he is saying. That was on all channels in the UK until recently. It was a hydra-headed problem, but it was eventually resolved. So, politicians and leaders need to think outside the box. They need to understand the nature of the problem and deal with it accordingly.
What would you say about the way President Jonathan has handled the problem of Boko Haram?
It is so easy to criticise the leadership, but I think that is not what we need now. We need to see how we can help the leadership to resolve our problem. I know that there are things that could have been done differently but that is in the past. What we should be looking forward to now is how do we address these issues? I am hoping that the president will listen to words of wisdom that will come from all quarters and adjust his strategy accordingly. One of the things I have seen is that when you have a plan and you find out that it is not working, you adjust it because they say, if you want to keep getting what you are getting, you keep doing what you are doing. So, if you are not happy with the result, you adjust your plan. I think the president will need to make adjustment to his plan to ensure that what we end up with is even more effective. I think that the president needs our help. The people voted for him massively because they saw in him, a man that they felt deserved a shot at the presidency. This is the president that we have, and we just have to work with the president that we have, to get the president that we want. I hope that Nigerians will pray for him and give him a chance. I don’t think criticism is our best medicine at this point.
How do you see the blacklisting of some Boko Haram leaders by the United States?
It is a standard thing. I am not going to read too much meaning into it. The Boko Haram people have not been identified. To have put them on the watch list, I think, is perfectly typical of the Americans to want to go about things the way they normally do.
What is your take on the event in the House of Representatives; the subsidy probe and the allegation of bribery that appears to have tainted the report?
Our legislative arm is in a series of unfortunate incidents that have tainted its image. What happened recently is no exception. I pray they handle it in a satisfactory manner. We have a lot of work to do to restore the confidence of Nigerians in government, particularly the legislative arm. As leaders, we have a responsibility to allow due process to take its course. So, we won’t make any judgment. But what we see again is just an example of why Nigerians have lost faith in government and of course in politicians. As a politician myself, I find it most distasteful because even if you speak well, somebody will be reminded that so did Farouk Lawan. So, when you sound well, are you sounding well just because you want somebody to put something in your hands? And when they give it to you, you revert to the status quo. The credibility of politicians has once again been put to question, and rightly so. Only politicians can redeem their own image. It is their responsibility to do so. Nobody has been found guilty of anything yet, so I will reserve my judgment. But I believe that it behoves all politicians to prove that they are above board and that they are not in any way part of what is widely seen as a corrupt and a retrogressive system.
What do you think will be the fate of the subsidy report?
It goes without saying that the report cannot be credible. It is unfortunate because there is an issue there. We must get to the bottom of the issue. So, if that report is not credible, the issue about its credibility should be resolved quickly. It is important that the House understands that Nigerians are watching; that they are expecting results. The presidency also should understand that Nigerians are watching. We cannot continue like this. It is not sustainable. The young generation that is coming behind is beginning to see politics as being too important to be left to politicians. Ultimately, what will happen is that the people will stand up and say, enough is enough! It is in their interest to get to the bottom of the matter and resolve it and have heads roll. One of the biggest problems we have in Nigeria is the absence of consequence for actions. If you do bad and nothing happens, there is the tendency that you want to continue to do bad. Unless we set examples, we have no chance of turning things around. Nigerians are watching and they want examples to be set.
Lawan is one person. He may have done wrong. We will find out soon enough. There was a reason for setting up that probe and that reason has to be secured. But if (Femi) Otedola gave money and filmed it, then there must be several other people who gave money and didn’t film it. This is something that requires deep investigation. Just like with the plane crash, just like the power report, we are watching. If they don’t self regulate, then the country will regulate them. They have seen the Arab Spring. They saw what happened in Libya which is just around the corner; they saw what happened to the man in Ivory Coast. They should bear in mind that Nigerians will not take much of this much longer and they will rise up and do what needs to be done.