In 2015, history was made. An incumbent president being defeated in an election (and leaving office!) in our part of the world is rare to say the least. We were excited, things looked like they were going to be different. Big promises were being made. The question was, could the new President Buhari now keep those promises?
As someone who has worked and travelled extensively across our lands, I was particularly sceptical about the situation in the north. This is what Buhari told us then:
“I will urgently secure the territorial integrity of the nation. I will never leave the defence of the nation in the hands of hunters, children, and Civilian JTF through the following: one, urgently address capacity building mechanisms of law enforcement agents in terms of quantity and quality as this is critical in safeguarding the sanctity of lives and property; two, establish a well-trained, adequately equipped and goals driven serious crime squad to combat insurgencies, kidnapping, armed robbery, ethno-religious and communal clashes, nationwide.”
It sounded good. In fact, it sounded great. Furthermore, candidate Buhari told us that, “I will; one, establish a Conflict Resolution Commission to help prevent, mitigate, and resolve civil conflicts within the polity; two, bring permanent peace and solution to the insurgency issues in the North-East; the Niger Delta; and other conflict-prone states and areas such as Plateau, Benue, Bauchi, Borno, Abia, Taraba, Yobe, and Kaduna in order to engender national unity and social harmony.”
These claims were wild and misleading. To bring “permanent peace” to war-torn, unruly lands without resources is one thing, but to do them without a strategy is another. His ad hoc approach simply did not work. Despite international support and a nation united behind the president’s vision, not only is the North-East far from peaceful, it is worse than ever.
And it’s not just Islamist terrorism. According to the Coalition on Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Nigeria, over 2000 lives have been lost to violent activities and clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country in the last few years. Anyone who lives in Nigeria, watches the news, and reads the newspapers can’t miss it. Sadly, those who live in the states of Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Adamawa, Kogi and Nasarawa states have felt the brunt of the violence. The residents of these areas live in permanent fear.
So while the Middle Belt and parts of the North tore itself apart, Boko Haram, now a household name all around the world, has dramatically increased its violent activities all across the North East and Lake Chad region. Since July 2018, we have seen at least 18 attacks on military bases, almost all of them in the region around Lake Chad. In addition, its successes have spawned new, ideologically similar groups.
The Islamic State (IS), which was originally a Middle Eastern phenomenon has killed well over 100 people in a collection of operations in Nigeria in the last two years. The attacks are spreading. On November 18th, jihadists murdered scores of soldiers (survivors claim the figure is over one hundred) in an attack on a base in Metele along the border with Niger. Meanwhile Boko Haram continues to take control of villages in the area, in places where our military is weaker than ever.
This failure on the security front is especially noticeable following the incredible declaration by the president that Boko Haram had been ‘technically defeated’ already, back in 2015. Unbelievably, at the beginning of this year, the president shocked onlookers when he doubled down and stuck by that claim.
As we move into 2019, not only has the organisation not been defeated, but all expert analysis suggests it has actually strengthened. How does “a virtually defeated terrorist organization” cause absolute mayhem, death and destruction on an almost daily basis?
The answer is unfortunately simple. They have not been defeated. Violence in Nigeria is more widespread than ever. And while Candidate Buhari did not lie, (he aspired, he hoped, he prayed), President Buhari did lie. He lied and he did not deliver. And today, Nigeria’s security situation is significantly worse than when President Buhari took over almost four years ago. It is therefore perhaps, his greatest failure.