Rev. Oladimeji P. Thompson, Founder & Senior Pastor of Lagos-based Living Waters Unlimited Church, is one man that would not stop talking on the threat posed by the Boko Haram Islamist sect to the unity of the country. For the umpteenth time, he has cautioned that the leadership must make conscious effort to stop the cancer, ravaging the nation. In this interview, he speaks on a wide range of issues, including what he describes as the ray of hope in the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket. Excerpts:
What are your reflections ahead of February 14 presidential elections?
For me, the Nigerian presidential election is a digression. This is, perhaps, the most dangerous election that this country has ever had since the early sixties. This is because the coming election is a digression from the most important thing that is happening in this country right now. The greatest force that would determine the future of this country at the moment is not the presidential election but the Boko Haram narratives. What can make this election useful is if it becomes a tool that would make the elections become the greatest force that would determine the future of the country.
But if it is normal elections that would be business as usual, then it will be partly responsible for burying Nigeria. As I am speaking to you right now, you know that, at least, 22 local government areas are under heavy Boko Haram influence.
Recall that I told you in January of last year that by the end of 2014, at least, three states would be under the thumb of Boko Haram narratives. As things are going right now, nobody wants us to get the truth. You know apart from being a security consultant, I am also a pastor and we are the ones that young soldiers are reaching out to for prayers.
These young Nigerians are dying everyday and many of them are deserting the warfront. These young Nigerians have not much faith in the war that they are being forced to fight. Now, this is where the leadership matters a lot in a country in times of war. You remember that three years ago, I had declared that the current president was a war time president. As long as we don’t accept that and continue to do as if he is not a war time president, the future of the country is in jeopardy.
The Boko Haram narrative is a documented global problem with its own local version in Nigeria. What makes the Nigerian version very dangerous is that it is a mixture of an ancient hybrid with the global one. It makes it more lethal, brutal and dangerous than the Alqaeda, ISIS, etc. Right now, the Nigerian version is very brutal and the second most dangerous in the entire world. Now, there is a court martial going on and involving many young Nigerian officers. The President and Commander in-Chief should be held responsible if those boys are killed.
This is because if a patient goes to the hospital and he has a typhoid fever, the doctor who says they should be treating him with drugs for malaria fever is the one that should be held responsible and not the nurses that are fixing the doses for the fever. One of the modus operandi of the Boko Haram narratives all over the world is what we call infiltration. You infiltrate the rank and file of the Nigerian Army, people in high places. A lot of these young soldiers and junior officers in the war front are aware and many of these officers’ confessions to their priests and pastors are pointing out that there is a division even in the Army.
Now, while the division is still small, it has to be checked quickly. What makes the division worse is this: there had been incidents where obviously senior Army officers have practically been fingered helping the Boko Haram. In those incidents, there had not been any case of court martial that resulted in death sentence. In the case of the young boys in the Army, you want to demoralize them further with the so-called court martial. We understand that in martial law, we must be very careful because there must be a chain of command.
But the break of the chain of command did not start with these junior officers but at the top.
If the Commander in-Chief is not smart enough to know that this will guarantee that we lose the war, we should not blame anybody in the chain of command. Why are we definitely going to lose the war and why is there going to be more bloodshed? These young Army officers are dying every day. In fact, one comment that one of the boys made to me is that many of his mates who hit the warfront did not live to collect their first pay. What are they getting that they are fighting for Nigeria?
They are paying them a pittance to go and take a bullet. Now when they die, the signal being passed within the rank and file of the Army is that it is more convenient for these young officers to die than for them to be wounded.
I have followed a few of the wounded ones and I have noticed that even in the so-called system, if they go to the hospital to be treated, the insurance for them does not even cover the treatment of soldiers. Go and confirm that many of the wounded soldiers may have to spend their own money to take care of themselves after they have been wounded at the war front to defend you and I in this country.
I want to let you know that in many cases where they have to go for x-rays and all that, they may not wait for the official bottlenecks that have been erected. If you are a wounded soldier, would you wait for these bottlenecks to be cleared before you sort yourself out medically? Corruption that is everywhere in the nation has entered the Army. Without removing the scourge of corruption, we cannot win the war against Boko Haram and which means that we should actually be looking forward to the end of this country.
Do you share the impression in some quarters that the APC government would be able to reposition the country?
I do not know about that and I do not know whether I am going to agree with you on that a 100 per cent. The solution to the Boko Haram narrative is not a military solution. The military option to the solution to the Boko Haram narrative is between 12 to 18 percent maximum anywhere in the world. As long as we continue to think that it is going to be a military affair mainly, we cannot beat Boko Haram and the end of the country may not be far. Now, let me look at the presidential hopefuls.
Whoever becomes the president, if he lacks the moral and political will to execute what I am about to tell you now, we are going back to square one. The worst is that after the melt down, people would be saying why did anybody not foresee it? By that time, everybody would be blaming and pointing fingers. But where we are right now, the future is very obvious. There are things that the person who will become the president must do for the election to become a factor and not a nuisance. Whoever comes as the president of Nigeria must make plans to destroy corruption first in the Army.
If corruption is not destroyed in the Nigerian Army, we have practically no defence. The Boko Haram is not just better equipped, they are better motivated and they have the capacity to sustain hostilities for much longer. There is something imminent that has to be dealt with very fast.
In 1914 when we had the amalgamation, the key ingredient of that arrangement is the key factor that is helping the Boko Haram in Nigeria. I have left many things to zero in on this factor because of its importance. One of the elements of the amalgamation under colonial rule is that the two parties you are joining together, you must make them distrust each other. Their joining must be based on division, strife, distrust and mistrust. Why do that? It is to make sure that the union is forever dependent on the person who supervises it. You will recall that Ahmadu Bello had said that the idea of a Nigeria is the figment of the imagination of the British. I want to remind you that he had said that Nigeria was a mere geographical expression and I want you to recall that Obafemi Awolowo agreed to that. I think that the only one who had a pan-African vision was Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Tafawa Balewa went further to say that if all the elements that were joined together were left on their own, they would never on their own come together. They were products of social engineering of colonial power. There is no northern leader in Nigeria that did not benefit from the policy of northernisation of the country.
There is no southern leader who did not benefit from the division in Nigeria. We have foolishly been building the country on a foundation that cannot be built upon. President Goodluck Jonathan is a product of compromise and accommodation. In any other country at any other time, he could have been an asset but not when you are in a country whose foundation is on division.
Compromise would never bring progress. That is why you find out that a man like Jonathan would go to Minna to go and greet a former president of the country.
But what would say in the APC ticket where Buhari is the Presidential candidate and Prof Osibajo is his vice?
If I want to talk about that, I would say that I see a ray of hope. But I want to state categorically that President Buhari like Babangida, Abdulsalami and others are all products of the northernisation agenda of Nigeria. The only thing in favour of Buhari is that he seems to be a more principled person and would not use underhand tactics to advance his own cause.
However, if push comes to shove and have to choose between the Southern and Northern parts of the country, I can bet you that Buhari will choose what has helped him in his Army career and what distinguished him.
For Osibajo, what he brings to the table is very unique and I will tell you why. Just as Buhari is known to be a man of integrity, Osibajo is a man of more integrity. Many Nigerians may not know this much. I would tell you that many of the people like me who would never have thought of voting for Buhari before are already thinking of voting for him now all because of Osibajo.
This is a combination that if they choose to work, will work and can make things better. There is one thing that we would like to hear from Buhari and we know that Osibajo is a constitutional lawyer and it will help us.
Between Buhari and Osibajo, if they are able to come together to say that what has been happening since 1914 which is that Southerners are in competition, mistrust, distrust with their brothers from the North, it will save the nation. If they can come out to say that we are going to erase the line of division, everything shall be well again. If they can come together and agree that the North and South should work together, the reason why corruption is growing in Nigeria would be removed. -SunNews