Boko Haram: U.S. leaves Jonathan to his luck

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Boko Haram:U.S leaves Jonathan to his luck


Her visit to Nigeria, August 9, was a short stop. It was less than four hours on the ground. It left no lasting impressions, no visible footprints. she left her host with no succour to his present despair. Apart from a few assuring words that made the visit of the U.S secretary of State something to remember, Clinton left Nigeria making the President look like someone who was bounced from a garden party but placated with a drink on her way out. At last, Nigeria got what might be a farewell visit of Clinton' who is widely speculated to step down from that coveted post very soon.

On the side of the Nigerian government, it helped to squash earlier speculations that she had snubbed Nigeria, and indeed President Goodluck Jonathan, in her ten-day diplomatic shuttle to seven African nations which began August 5, with Kenya as her first stop.

The fact that Nigeria was not originally listed in her itinerary was something government the opposition feasted on for a few days. That she adjusted her schedule to accommodate Nigeria did much more than sooth frayed nerves. Right from the time her plane touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, where she was gracefully greeted by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Viola Onuwuliri, and straight to the Presidential Villa, where she was ushered into the warm embrace of President Jonathan by the Minister of Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, expectations were high on what she would discuss with President Jonathan. Security concerns, many had thought, would dominate other issues.

A long, distressing sequence of events had taken place in Nigeria before Mrs Clinton arrived. For close to two years, the sect has been giving government a bloody nose. And yet no solution in sight on how to tame the sect. But it wasn't to be. She was completely silent on Boko Haram. She only mentioned the word security once in her terse statement, and no definitive stand of the Obama administration on the spate of terrorist attacks in Nigeria. Expectedly, her departure from Nigeria immediately set off alarm bells.

Quite a few questions were asked: was her silence deliberate, or the result of a division within the intelligence/information apparatchik in America? Or better still, was Clinton apparent indifferent a sheer diplomatic stratagem a clear case of lack of courage to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), a move reportedly favoured by the US State Department but opposed by the American Central Intelligence Agency(CIA)and the Homeland Security? These are legitimate questions that many Nigerians wanted answers not in secret but in public. Many Nigerians were delighted to see Mrs Clinton talk about the "limitless" future of Nigeria and that reminder to government all the citizens' better opportunities, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

The way she responded unhesitatingly to other matters, in her words, " the extremely kind and generous words" by President Jonathan, and the promise of the intention of the U.S government to "remain very supportive" of government reform efforts, including the government's anti-corruption efforts of Jonathan's administration, gave her away as deliberately stonewalling on the crucial matter of security which the U.S government has been championing in other hemispheres. Her assurance to President Jonathan that the American government will be "by your side as you make the reforms and take the tough decisions that are necessary."

Has the connotative meaning of telling Jonathan 'you have to work out your own salvation' by looking for home-grown solution to the menace of Boko Haram. That, perhaps was what Mrs Clinton meant when she said that one of the ways forward is for Jonathan to "create an intelligence fusion cell" from difference intelligence agencies. These are by all means kind and generous words that needs political will to carry out.

But does the President have the audacity to take those tough decisions that Clinton talked about? Is that why he (Jonathan) has been left to his own fate, with an ally like America watching from a distance? This is also in spite of the letter written to her by President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in which it expressed strong reservations the way Boko Haram has been unleashing attacks after attacks on Christians in Nigeria. CAN president had, in his letter dated July 7, 2012, and catalogued a series of attacks on Christians and their places of worship.

Sources in Washington say Mrs Clinton decline to make a definite pronouncement on Boko Haram was deliberate. For an outspoken personality like Mrs Clinton, described by her biographer, Carl Berasten as "a woman in charge" to pander over terrorism in Nigeria, is indeed surprising. In an election year, politicians in Washington maintain that the Obama administration is rather dodgy and diplomatic on the "clear and present danger" posed by other extremist groups in the Arab nations that may be sympathetic to the cause the Boko Haram in Nigeria. Therefore, become her visit throws the puzzle back to Jonathan.

Having proved over time that it has grown from a small religious sect, and now, to a flexible dynamic organization capable of changing tactics and targets, if Jonathan must overcome, this he must do: take control over his strongholds. These are personal inhibiting factors that limit one's effectiveness and render him helpless. There are deep-seated doubts, even doubts on the part of the President some forces so formidable are behind Boko Haram that taking them on could imperil his presidency.

Such thoughts can only keep a president in bondage, because the things one often dreads is what befalls him. That, of course would not reassure many Nigerians, especially now that the sect has employed an urban guerilla tactics that sometimes defy military might. That is the conundrum, which perhaps was the reason why Mrs Clinton reportedly advised the Federal Government before she left, to look beyond military option.