Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie has condemned in strong terms government position on the “technically defeated Boko Haram”, insisting that any government spokesman, presidential media assistant or service chief, who said that Boko Haram had been defeated, will be answerable to God for every life that Boko Haram has destroyed.
According to Okogie, the era in which government monopolised the flow of information has since gone; as such government must be honest and patient in relating with the citizens. He said that one of the biggest lies ever told by any government in the history of Nigeria is that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”.
“Boko Haram has not been defeated. It is, in fact, waxing stronger,” Okogie said.
Okogie is of the view that Nigerians have the right and duty to interrogate government on the level of insecurity in the country. “But instead of honest responses, they are insulted by Presidential spokespersons that combined insolence and mendacity. How many innocent Nigerians will be killed before our government and its functionaries admit that Nigeria is not winning the war against terrorism?
“Incontrovertible evidence abounds that government is simply incapable of protecting the land and the people. As the year 2019 was coming to an end, a faction of Boko Haram under the banner of Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) intensified its terrorist acts. On December 12, ISWAP executed a police officer and 14 civilians in northeastern Nigeria. On December 13, ISWAP executed 4 of the 6 workers it abducted in July 2019. One of the abducted workers had already been executed last September.
“On December 14, as many as 19 Fulani cattle herders were killed by Boko Haram near Ngala, close to Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. On December 22, near Maiduguri, 6 persons were killed while 5 were abducted by Boko Haram. On December 24, Christmas Eve, Boko Haram visited Chibok, a Christian town, killed 7 and abducted a teenage girl. On December 26, a day after Christmas, Boko Haram released a 56-second video of the execution of 11 Christians,” said Okogie, stating that the timing of release of the video was meant to dampen Christmas celebrations.
Speaking further on the killings across the country, Okogie said that there is a noticeable pattern. For instance, while Boko Haram has not spared members of the Muslim community, the fact of the affiliation with Islamic religion is undeniable. Neither is it deniable that many of their victims are Christians. According to Okogie, Young Christian women are abducted and forced to marry in the Islamic way. “While it is true that friendship in Nigeria does cut across religious boundaries, it is also clearly evident that some practitioners of Islamic religion are saying it is a crime to be Christian in Nigeria,” he stated.
“A democracy is not led by a monarch who is above and beyond questions. It would, therefore, be a great disservice to the government and people of Nigeria for government spokespersons to heap gratuitous insults on those who demand accountability of government. As government spokespersons, they are officials who are paid by the people. Of course, there is the mistaken assumption that Nigeria’s money is ‘government money’.
“But there is need to interrogate this assumption too. Nigeria’s money belongs to Nigerians, not to government. Such a mistaken assumption encourages mismanagement of Nigeria’s wealth. It also makes government officials ignore the fact that the people they insult by their insensitive and unguarded utterances are the same people who pay their salaries.
“Presidential media men tell Nigerians that the President is in control. But President Buhari has himself expressed shock and disbelief at the level of insecurity in the land. He expressed shock at the killing of Pastor Andimi. If, in the past, he said he did not know that the Inspector-General of Police did not relocate to Benue State, as he had commanded, and if he now expresses shock at the level of insecurity, can it be sincerely said that he is in control of the security situation? Are those working with him telling him the truth about Nigeria?
“While this country is burning, presidential spokespersons, allergic to dissenting voices, deceive Nigerians by peddling the myth of an omnipotent and omniscient President. The most potent dangers to our hard-earned democracy are the President’s men. It is disheartening that while the government they represent has failed in matters of security they tell lies and insult us. They are neither helping him nor helping Nigeria. A President who is really in control would have called them to order or fired them,” Okogie said.
SEYI JOHN SALAU