Buhari, Please Use Your ‘Back Channel’ to End Boko Haram

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Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (Text only)

Internally Displaced Persons in Rann, Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno State spent most of Tuesday burying their camp mates killed in a fire outbreak early that day. Scores were also injured in the blaze. The number of dead IDPs on this disastrous day remains a closely guided secret. Those killed were mainly women and children who were obviously slow in reacting to the inferno. Hundreds of IDPs in this camp now sleep in the open because over 200 tents were razed by the fire. Many lost their entire belongings in the outbreak.
The Rann camp houses over 60,000 Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram. Daily, these IDPs dream of returning to their homes because life is miserable in this camp. Food supply is inadequate, with many struggling for just a meal a day. Daily, scores die of hunger, poverty, malnutrition and disease. Worse still, Boko Haram and even the military that is supposed to protect them, constantly pummel them.
Many will never forget how our military dropped tons of bombs on Rann IDPs last year, killing over 300. The insecurity in the Rann IDP camp is indeed frightening. Just last month, the terrorists invaded the camp, killing four international aid workers. Scores of IDPs were also killed. The military post nearby, meant to provide security at the camp was overturned by the terrorists. Virtually all international aid organisations have pulled out of the Rann camp, leaving the IDPs dejected and further exposed to hunger and disease.
Just like Rann, there are IDPs in 26 other camps ravaged by hunger, disease, poverty and malnutrition in Borno State. Food shortage aside, sometimes, Boko Haram will enter their camps and kill them. There are several other “illegal” IDP camps in parts of the state, where people die daily of hunger. In all, an estimated six million Nigerians have been displaced by Boko Haram and are languishing in various unhealthy places in the North-east. Few weeks back, frustrated IDPs, mostly women and children, at the camps in Fufore and Malkohi (Adamawa State) staged peaceful protests over lack of food in their camps. Many families in these camps are in critical living conditions due to hunger. Malam Adamu Bukar from Malkohi camp said his wife and three children only eat once in a day. “Since early January, when they distributed the normal thirty days food items to us, we never received anything again,” he lamented.
What about thousands of IDPs in the sprawling Muna Garage camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri that are equally traumatised daily? Last year alone, they were attacked 13 times by Boko Haram bombers, with scores killed. IDPs across the North-east are clearly desperate to return home, but can’t, because their towns and villages are still very much under the control of Boko Haram.
In the last nine years, this country has also needlessly lost hundreds of its gallant soldiers to this madness called Boko Haram. Many will not forget in a hurry the massacre of soldiers in places like Sasawa, Magumeri, Malam Fatori, Gashigha, Rann, Kanama, Gamboru-Ngala, Mafa and Kunduga. What about the unprecedented and persistent killing of officers by the terrorists? Those we have lost include Lt. Colonel O. Umusu, Lt. Colonel K Yusuf, Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar and Captain Victor Ulasi. What about the gruesome attack on an Army post in Buni Yadi? This insanity must not continue.
Mr. President, please use your “back channel” knowledge of Boko Haram to end this madness. The way you used the “back Channel” to secure the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls is a clear indication that you are the only person capable of ending Boko Haram’s psychosis. One has to be familiar with a territory and the occupiers to be able to use the back door. One has to be familiar with a house in order to gain access through the back door. Buhari and his cohorts have openly told Nigerians that they know the back door into the kingdom of Boko Haram leaders. This is what they used to end the Dapchi schoolgirls’ saga.
My appeal to Buhari and his cohorts today is to end the Boko Haram lunacy immediately using the “back channel.” The pain persistently inflicted on the North-east in particular and the country in general by these terrorists is excruciating.

Musings on Bill Gates’ Submission on Nigeria
The plea by philanthropist and founder of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates, urging the Nigerian government to spend more on human capital development, gladdens my heart. This is what I have spent almost four years agitating for. In Nigeria, you will find governors building worthless bridges when hospitals and schools are in tatters. Citizens lack access to things as basic as public water supply and drivable inner streets, yet, you will find the state governors buying bullet proof cars and building stupendous offices/fly overs. For Gates, the present economic templates being used by the Buhari administration lacks the ability to address the unique needs of Nigerians. This also applies to our governments at all levels. Gates said Nigeria has the ability to attain upper middle-income status like Brazil, China and Mexico, but added that achieving this status depends on the choice Nigerian leaders make. This is true, but weak, insensitive, corrupt and inept leadership have been our bane.
Gates’ comments at the special and expanded National Economic Council held in Abuja last week on investing in people were penetrating: Our leaders should ruminate on these take away: “The most important choice Nigerian leaders can make is to maximise the country’s greatest resource, which is the people. Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive. If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities- the human capital we are talking about today, then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognise that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.
“Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished. In upper middle-income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68; in low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years.”
Asked by CNN why he was very blunt during his remarks in Abuja, Gates said: “While it may be easier to be polite, it’s more important to face facts so that you can make progress.” This is the spirit Nigerians must embrace, if indeed, we genuinely want progress in our dear Nigeria. We must be persistently blunt with our leaders at all levels. Unfortunately, this is what is missing in our country. An average Nigerian is always economical with the truth. Even when it is obvious that Nigeria is in a mess, we still find a legion of sycophants around Buhari dancing naked in public. Even when TI reported that corruption in Nigeria is higher under Buhari, some still want us to believe the converse. Things have just got to change.

Magu’s Fantasy Recoveries
The fabulous figures the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, often presents as recovered loot frequently leave me bewildered. I repeatedly wonder why the federal government still takes loans with close to a trillion Naira recovered for it by the EFCC in almost three years. My fears were confirmed this week, when it emerged that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had asked Magu to clarify where the cash recoveries from May 2015 to January 2018 had been deposited and provide accompanying evidence. This is because the information available to the Office of Accountant-General of the Federation contradicts Magu’s claims.
In her letter to Magu dated February 9, 2018, Adeosun said the recovery figures in the media reports by the EFCC were not in agreement with the records of the ministry.
I strongly suspect that Magu’s figures are evidently not adding up. Something is fishy. Perhaps, we are getting this fabulous cash recovery figures just to show Nigerians that the EFCC is working. Those in government have kept quiet for this long because it helps create the impression that this government is fighting corruption. Magu has to properly account for these cash recoveries if they have not reflected in government books. I hope the cabal running this government will not go after Adeosun for poking her nose into the shenanigans.

Citizen Victor Oluwadamilare vs Communications Minister
For those who have not been following the story, Victor Oluwadamilare, was Media Assistant to the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu until 19 days ago.  He has an appointment letter to show for this. However, for supposedly failing to pay his N13 million emoluments, Oluwadamilare has decided to expose the alleged stupendous wealth of Shittu, alleged to have been garnered within his less than three years as minister. Oluwadamilare is not kidding. He told me on Wednesday that he has his fact and figures intact. Concerned Nigerians are suspected to have forwarded this letter about his “greedy and wicked” boss to the EFCC for investigation. Besides, it is already a public document for all, EFCC inclusive, to view. Oluwadamilare wants Nigerians to know that Shittu has been living a lush life as minister contrary to the austere posture of the Buhari administration.
I have a copy of Oluwadamilare’s letter dated March 12 on my table as I pen this piece. The said assets and money are mind-boggling. According to him, Shittu, within a space of 29 months in office, now owns no fewer than 12 luxury houses in Abuja, Lagos, and Ibadan. He also claimed that a few months ago, the minister bought a brand new N93 million printing press. He also alleged that Shittu bought over 25 luxury vehicles for himself, his family members, concubines, and cronies, despite having eight official vehicles attached to his office. This ex-media aide likewise stated that the minister had spent way beyond his legitimate earnings on his gubernatorial ambition in Oyo State, sponsored no fewer than 22 members of his family and cronies, including under-aged children on Muslim pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia.
“Thus, in a space of 29 months in office and from ground zero in 2015, you now have no fewer than 12 luxury houses in Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan.  While you have been living in sudden and extremely outrageous opulence as a public servant at the expense of your dutiful and hardworking aides, you seemingly forget your pitiable socio-economic status and experience in Oyo State before you got this job, as you have all of a sudden become insulated to common sense, justice and fairness, the mantra on which many people sheepishly believed in you in your struggling days–including myself,” purported Oluwadamilare.
I am shocked that Shittu, a public servant, has not deemed it fit to respond to these allegations, 19 days after it was made by his ex-media aide. I sincerely hope that Shittu’s Principal, President Buhari, who claims to be fighting corruption, will dig deep and do the needful to this incriminating letter. I also hope that Buhari will secure justice for Oluwadamilare by ensuring that he gets his dues. As for the EFCC, Oluwadamilare’s letter must get priority treatment because we are in an era of change.