Richard SoleTuesday, May 27, 2014
Washington D.C., USA




igeria's confusion of succession after President Yar'Adua's death In May 2010 quickly cleared, the smoke settled and Goodluck Jonathan was named the new President. For many, his very name inspires hope and confidence. It was a sign of better things to come and not lost on many is the worthy tiding in his journey as the new commander- in-chief.

Goodluck Jonathan was deputy governor of Bayelsa State and as good luck will have it; Alamieyeseigha the governor of the state at the time was charged with official malfeasance and consequently discharged from office. This act paved the way for Goodluck Jonathan to become governor.

Bayelsa State is the bread basket of Nigeria and as such when President Obasanjo's attempt at a third term was scuttled and, a running mate is to be picked; Goodluck Jonathan emerged as the chosen one. Every step of the way, Jonathan's fortunes appeared to have been buttered, even showered with blessing, particularly one resulting from divine intervention-some say from his name-Goodluck. The lore goes on to conclude that Nigeria will be awash in good luck with Jonathan's stroke of good fortune, economic prosperity will descend on the poverty ridden, and, Nigeria will be restored to a past glory.

The transition from President Yar'Adua demise to Goodluck Jonathan administration was peaceful, the rule of law prevailed, and the constitution worked. The sacrifice of many a compatriot that shed blood and sweat for Nigeria's glory yielded dividends- Nigeria's constitution was tested and it survived.

Since then however, Nigeria has been mired in dysfunction, weak governance, large scale corruption and a brutal insurgency. Not that His Excellency is responsible for this ailment- he is perhaps culpable in some ways. This is a culture of corruption that has Nigeria trapped for eons, and as we know, change-whether social, political or otherwise takes time and determination- albeit a scarce commodity in the Nigerian polity.

Vast-heaped corruption breed horrors that would never die and, intractable malfeasance sustains a corruption of its own, worse than the corruption of death itself, obscene and shameless to the light, it seethe's in voracious appetite- it can simply not be wished away. In venomous impurity does it fester, decaying, all-consuming, renewing itself and spreading like a virus and leaving nothing in its path but a mangled morbid carcass.

The basic structure is observable everywhere- at the airports, seaports, hospitals, universities, places of worship etc. It is an entrenched policy that springs from Aso Rock, into federal agencies, state and local government; it is imprinted indelibly upon the fabric of the Nigerian mind. Like a python, it wraps itself around, and, into Nigeria's fabric snuffing growth, progress and bringing the country to a stalemate. It is within this milieu that Africa's deadliest terror group, Boko Haram finds expression and thrives.

Lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq

After the attack on America's World Trade Center in 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden and expel al-Qaeda from its territories. The Taliban led government refused. In an effort to dismantle al-Qaeda and eliminate its safe haven for Osama Bin Laden, NATO and the United States- the greatest military power of our time attacked Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq March (2003). In the process, American forces encountered brutal insurgencies. In fighting the war in Afghanistan, President Bush's furtive thoughts were that it will be a wise decision to once and for all remove Saddam Hussein from office- a bellicose tyrant who was a threat to the stability of the region - Sort of killing two birds with one stone.

Once the Taliban was defeated, and with his soldiers still stationed in Afghanistan, Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003. In the fog of war -uncertainty regarding combatants' mental capability during an engagement, some American military units went against the grain of regular warfare, seized the local population, and subjected them to torture, indiscriminate killings and other carnages.

Sergeant Dustin Flatt, who served in Iraq in 2004, recounted how troops protecting a convoy that passed his position near Mosul opened fire on a civilian car behind them: "Basically they took shots at the car. Warning shots, I don't know. But they shot the car. Well, one of the bullets happened to just pierce the windscreen and went straight into the face of this woman in the car. And she was, as far as I know, instantly killed... Her son was driving the car and she had her three little girls in the back seat... And they came up to us, because we were actually in a defensive position right next to the hospital... she was obviously dead and the girls were crying."

Another soldier, Geoffrey Milfred, told the Nation about an incident he knew of that occurred at a checkpoint: "This unit sets up this traffic control point and this 18-year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-calibre machine gun. This car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that, that's a suicide bomber and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts 200 rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, father and two kids. The boy was aged four and the daughter was aged three.

These actions, and there were many, effectively alienated the American soldier from the local population. Age-old divisions in Iraqi society resurfaced, rebellion grew and insurgency flourished. 4,488 American lives were lost and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives were snuffed out. With more than 32,000 Americans wounded, and $2 trillion in financial costs to the United States the fate of Iraq is unclear. According to Iraq Body Count Project, there were 123,284 civilian deaths from such violence in ten years from March 2003 to March 2013.

Sad and tragic, Americans have had considerable experience with insurgencies of the Boko Haram type that Nigeria experiences today.

"We have been urging Nigeria to reform its approach to Boko Haram," said Robert P. Jackson, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs. "From our own difficult experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, we know that turning the tide of an insurgency requires more than force. The state must demonstrate to its citizens that it can protect them and offer them opportunity. When soldiers destroy towns, kill civilians and detain innocent people with impunity, mistrust takes root."


Please Read Part 2