Nigeria’s main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress now has a tough time exonerating its leadership from the swirling insinuation that it represents the face of Boko Haram, writes Shola Oyeyipo
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to have discovered a potent weapon to dislodge its main rival, the All Progressives Congress (APC) as it has continuously alleged that the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group have political undertone orchestrated by the APC.
While the PDP has sustained this unconfirmed accusation against the APC, a growing international suspicion that indeed, the opposition party’s hand may not be clean, may also have negative impacts on the party’s reputation, except a conscious move is deployed to dispel the assertion.
The latest blow to the party’s image came last week with castigation by Mr. Alexander Nekrassov, Russian international political commentator and former Senior Advisor to the Kremlin, who tagged the APC and its leadership as “Muslim extremists.” He added that the concern in Russia is that “losing Nigeria to Muslim fundamentalists is simply a no go”.
Nekrassov, who is also a Russian military analyst, did a critical editorial opinion, published by Al Jazeera News and in it, revealed that Russia is concerned that Boko Haram insurgency is politically motivated, with the APC identified as the main benefactors.
Though he did not comprehensively state how, he tacitly fingered America as a factor in the problem rocking the African giant.
According to him, “the traditional view in the Kremlin on any conflict in different parts of the world, be it social unrest, a popular uprising, an overthrow of government or a rise in terrorist activity, has always come down to one question: What’s in it for the Yanks? Or, if we put it in the language of the statements that have been coming from Moscow in the past several months over Ukraine: What’s in it for our American partners?”
The premise of his argument was that Washington views the whole world as its backyard and pursues its agenda with remarkable determination and ruthlessness, especially when it comes to its economic and financial interests, including energy supply. As in, how this or that country is positioned strategically, whether it has substantial oil and gas and other resources, has important pipelines running through it or lies along major sea routes.
Concerning the Boko Haram menace, he said the question of “What is in it for our American partners?” is yet to provide any real answers for the Kremlin, but contended that the “view there is that had US First Lady Michelle Obama not lent her support to the very high profile “Bring Our Girls Back” hash tag campaign after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in the province of Borno, the US, and the West, would have probably remained indifferent to the crisis in Nigeria.”
The analyst underscored certain areas of confusion for the Russians and one of such is that Boko Haram, which is based in Northern Nigeria, is fighting to control part of the country without oil reserves, which to him, buttresses the belief that the problem is more political than religious.
“The interesting angle on the crisis in Nigeria is that it is seen in Moscow as political conflict rather than a religious one, even though the country is equally split between Muslims and Christians. As the thinking in Moscow goes, if it was a classic “religious war”, then Boko Haram would not have been indiscriminate in murdering both Muslims and Christians,” Nekrassov said.
As it is with the PDP, he recalled that a prominent APC member, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), had been accused of inciting a violent uprising after losing the 2011 presidential election.
There is also the economic consideration that Nigeria is the biggest oil producer in all of Africa and a big exporter of oil to the US whereas Russia’s trade at the moment with Nigeria amounts to only around $300m a year, a reason for which he said “the thinking in Moscow is that this situation has to change if Russia is to make a return to Africa.”
To him, the political gain to the incessant attacks by the sect lies in the fact that people are reminded that there is still no trace of the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls, while he is of the opinion that a kidnapping of such magnitude was obviously ordinarily intended to demean the President Jonathan-led government “because selling the girls for around $20 each was not really going to enrich Boko Haram. So this was more of a slap on the face of the government in power that could only benefit the opposition.”
With the anticipated Muslim-Muslim ticket by the APC, he said “all things considered, Jonathan’s regime is still a better option than a coalition of the Muslim extremists that is shaping up now with an aim to win next year’s elections.”
In the midst of accusations and counter-accusations, the APC has been worst hit and it has done all that could be done, perhaps, to excuse itself from the accusations of links with Boko Haram.
In fact, the Coordinator, Joint Information Centre for Security, Mr. Mike Omeri, last week, said some undisclosed politicians have been arrested and were being interrogated in connection with the wave of insecurity in the North after some items recovered from suspected members of the Boko Haram implicated them.
And at about the same time, a prominent member of the British Parliament, Mr. Andrew Rosindell, raised some vital questions for the UK Foreign Secretary, Mr. William Hague, concerning the country’s engagement with the APC.
While President Jonathan was yet to openly accuse the APC of links with Boko Haram, his party men have labeled the opposition as the sponsors of the insurgents.
A former APC member, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, who recently defected back to the PDP, made the matter worse for the APC with his orchestrated campaigns of accusing some top members of the opposition party as sympathetic to the course of Boko Haram.
But the Publicity Secretary for the APC in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, however felt that the accusations were all parts of the ruling party’s antics to cling to power.
“It seems that the harassment of the opposition, Boko Haram insurgency, and impeachment of governors are all geared towards 2015 presidential elections,” he said, adding that “the ruling party is only making political gains out of the issue of Boko Haram by labeling the opposition party as the sponsor of the dreaded sect because every right thinking Nigerian knows the genesis of Boko Haram.
“The late National Security Adviser to the president, General Patrick Azazi told the world that Boko Haram and the overwhelming state of insecurity in Nigeria is a product of PDP’s infighting and struggle for power.
“What happened to the independent day bombing in Abuja, which introduced the evil of bombing in Abuja? Even as MEND claimed responsibility for the bombing, the Jonathan government claimed that it was his Northern enemies. We dare ask, what happened to the investigation on that incidence?
“Ordinarily, I would not intervene on this stupid tag, which the PDP and its supporters feel will win them the sympathy of the same Nigerians they have raped and bestially decimated in nearly 16 years of corrupt and visionless government. What makes a so called Muslim party? Is it a party created for Muslims? If so, why is there large number of Christians in our great party?
“Our National Chairman, His Excellency, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun is a Christian and so are many of our governors and party chieftains. Come to think of it, how come that at this age and time, PDP is more interested in dividing Nigerians into Christian and Muslim tendencies after it had failed to use the enormous resources Nigeria has made in the last 15 and half years to make Nigeria livable for both Christians and Muslims?
“In a religiously heterogeneous society as ours, it is disheartening that a ruling party will spend its energies, not in bettering the worsening lives of Nigerians but in stealing and inciting Christians that it is stealing for them. What a shame! Christians should
affirmatively protest this and tell PDP to face Nigerians on the strength of its scorecards and not on its pretensive religious inclinations.
“Let me ask you, did Diezani Madueke spend N10billion hiring planes for Christians? Is the fate of Christians better than those of Muslims in this holocaust of PDP’s government? Are Christians spared the array of plane disasters that has marked PDP’s infection of the nation’s aviation industry? Do Nigerian Christians travel on better roads than the Muslims?
“Are our collapsed educational, health sectors courtesies of PDP’s thieving government, benefiting Christians more than Muslims? I can go on and on and on to enlist the shameful failures of the PDP. Indeed, Senator John McCain summed it when he dismissed the Jonathan PDP government as non-existing. Senator Hilary Clinton summed it up when she said the Jonathan government is riddled with corruption and lack of clue.
“I won’t waste time refuting a nonsense that is not rooted in reason and logic. But I would tell that the APC is a party for Christians, Muslims and traditionalists. We have no limits to membership and we do not believe that leadership is by deception, as the PDP believes,” Igbokwe said.
But the Minister of State for Defense, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro insisted that all indications point to the opposition as the party fueling the Boko Haram insurgents.
“Without sounding like a broken record, Nigerians needed no soothsayers or the international community to tell us what we already know that the seeds of these extreme religious sentiments that gave rise to the Boko Haram insurgency were fueled and nurtured by some overtly ambitious politicians, who have found a comfortable nest in the opposition camp. However, we have been vindicated, but we won’t stop at that. We are working very hard to stamp out this insurgency.
“This extreme religious sentiment into our political space is subtly being introduced to the South-west. For instance, there was no time in the political history of Yorubaland where religion was promoted as a basic requirement for contesting public office, as is being propounded in Lagos State for the selfish interest of a few individuals.
“Like I have always said extreme religious sentiments bring about intolerance and when there is intolerance, people begin to exhibit tendencies that could wreak havoc on the society. This present administration has confronted this monster head-long despite obvious challenges in terms of shortfall in military hardware, which is presently being taken care of.
“All we are doing is to clean up the mess that they and their friends, who have sympathies for Boko Haram created. To now turn it into politics and try to get political mileage out of it is not fair to the people of this country,” he stated.
With this latest development, it does appear the APC no longer find it easy, either to convince the people that it is not a Muslim/Muslim party or that it is not sympathetic to the cause of Boko Haram. However, if this stigma goes on unchallenged effectively, it means it could spell a major setback for the APC and whatever chances it stands to appropriate in next year’s general election.