By Wilfred Eya, Geoffrey Anyanwu, Sunday Ani, Stanley Uzoaru and Noah Ebije
The pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari’s media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu, that the president would soon publish names of sponsors of Boko Haram and banditry has drawn the ire of prominent Nigerians and various groups.
Representatives of various ethnic nationalities and Nigerians across the divide have continued to react with many saying it was a big joke and challenged the president to release the names without further delay.
Among those agitated with the statement is the National President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus. For him, the government is complicit in the ugly trend.
“The fact that people are kidnapped and government is sometimes involved in the rescue through payment of ransom and it has never ordered the military to go after the kidnappers shows that government is complicit in the whole saga. So, to try to create a diversion by saying they will tell us who the sponsors are and then mentioning somebody from Chad who purportedly supplies them with drugs is a total joke.”
Bitrus noted that many high ranking Nigerians have said on several occasions that helicopters drop weapons for the herdsmen and bandits, even when it is clear nobody controls the airspace but the government. He said there was evidence all over the place that bullets fired by non-state actors have the signature of the Nigeria army on them.
“What does that show you? It simply shows that the government is the sponsor,” he alleged.
He urged the government not to divert the people’s attention because Nigerians are wiser and smarter than they think.
“The earlier the government stops its killer machine so that we can have peace, the better for everybody because nobody will listen to their propaganda anymore. Nigerians know better than they think. So, the propaganda by Garba Shehu or anybody else is unacceptable. The government should better mend its ways and tell the criminals occupying the space in the jungles and bushes to stop and let us have peace in Nigeria,” he advised.
National Publicity Secretary of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Alex Chidozie, wondered why the president, who is the chief security officer of the country is just claiming to know the sponsors of the criminal elements. He stated that as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Buhari ought to have known the sponsors long before now.
He said: “What I am saying is that the president is not supposed to have delayed in letting Nigerians know the sponsors of these enemies of the state. So, the earlier he makes the sponsors of these criminal activities known to Nigerians, the better.”
Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) urged President Buhari to go ahead and publish names of the alleged sponsors of Boko Haram without further delay.
National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Emmanuel Yawe said Boko Haram has caused a lot of damage to lives and property in the country, and if the sponsors are known, it would be a good development for justice to take its course.
“If Mr. President knows the sponsors of Boko Haram and he said he will publish their names, why then is he delaying to do so? He should go ahead to publish the names without delay. Boko Haram insurgency have caused colossal damages to human lives and property, irreparable loss for that matter. Garba Shehu said he has the names of the sponsors. Then, why the delay in releasing such names,” Yawe queried.
But for the President of ACF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, the statement was more of a cliché because such statements have been made in the past without any positive outcome.
“What is the ceremonies about it? Do we need answers to our problems or rhetoric? Nigerians are tired of rhetoric. The government cannot continue to promise that it will expose or publish names of Boko Haram sponsors because this is not the first time. We have heard over and over again that the army has subdued the Boko Haram insurgents and decimated them to a certain level but the problem increases on a daily basis. So, this is no story. They should tell us a different thing that we have never heard before because we are tired of getting old stories.”
Also, former General Secretary, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, believes the statement was a lip service because if the government knows the people behind the Boko Haram insurgency, it should just go ahead to pick them up and announce their names, instead of advertising its intention in the media.
“In Nigeria, we have always heard such promises as, ‘We shall soon announce the people behind corruption,’ ‘We shall soon announce the people behind the killing all over Nigeria,’ We shall soon announce the people behind this and that,’ yet they will never announce anything. Before you know it, they will show pictures of awaiting trial people in the prison and tell you they are the sponsors. We know all those tricks,” he thundered.
He decried the lackadaisical attitude of the current government, saying, “a serious government will not keep making empty promises. Who told them not to release the names? They should go ahead and release the names and stop making empty promises.”
Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, did not see any seriousness in the statement, since according to him, he was aware government had always known the sponsors but would not mention them.
“I can see that the presidency has finally broken its silence on the sponsors of Boko Haram insurgency. But, I didn’t take it as anything because I know they know, but they will not say, since those who sponsor Boko Haram were those who wanted former president, Goodluck Jonathan, out of power.”
He said he would prefer to keep a sealed lip until the government finds the courage to publicly name the sponsors.
“I think there is a limit to everything, even bad government wants the persecution of innocent people. But why the teaser announcement? The government should descend on all promoters of insecurity. There is something dishonest about the announcement.”
Air Commodore, Luke Ochulor (retd), former military administrator of Delta State dismissed the threats of Garba Shehu as “face saving.”
Ochulor maintained that the threat would not hold water as Nigerians do not take what they do in their party serious again.
“We all know who the Boko Haram are, they are a group of Islamic extremists; what we don’t know is who are those sponsoring the killer Fulani herdsmen. Let them tell us what we want to know. If they are still talking of sponsors of Boko Haram, nobody will take them serious,” Ochulor said.
For Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba: “If they know those behind it, they should start naming them but what they should not do is using it as a personal vendetta against their perceived enemies. If they know those behind it, they owe Nigeria the duty to name them and not keeping or advertising it before they do.”
For Bishop of Kaduna, Anglican Communion, Timothy Yahaya, “you don’t need to be telling us you will publish the names, we don’t want that announcement, we want to know the people…I call on government not only to name the people but also to arrest them.”