UN’s Thought-Provoking Dispatch on Boko Haram

Muhammadu Buhar

Muhammadu Buhar

Ring True

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

President Muhammadu Buhari must swiftly rejig the sagging war against Boko Haram to save Borno State from unprecedented anguish. This is the long and the short of the dispatch to our President from the United Nations on Wednesday. The  announcement by the UN that it had withdrawn 260 aid workers from Monguno, Kala/Balge and Kukawa LGAs, following the resurgence of attacks by the terrorists, and that its humanitarian service delivery in the troubled region had dwindled, are confirmations that things have gone from bad to worse in this war against terrorism.

The communication by the UN was thought-provoking. It expressed concern about the upsurge in attacks and informed further that more than 30,000 people had arrived in Maiduguri from Baga following Boko Haram’s attack on the town. Its Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said:“Clashes on December 26, 2018, between Nigerian government forces and non-state armed groups in Baga town, on the shores of Lake Chad, about 200 kilometres north of state capital Maiduguri, triggered the massive displacement, with most women, men and children converging on already congested camps for internally displaced people in Maiduguri or Monguno town. A subsequent attempted attack on Monguno on December 28, 2018, has exacerbated the situation, generating further displacement.”

Kallon, who visited the Monguno and the Teachers’ Village IDP camps, added: “The impact of the recent fighting on innocent civilians is devastating and has created a humanitarian tragedy. It is heart-wrenching to see so many of these people living in congested camps, or sleeping outside with no shelter. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict and the United Nations is extremely concerned about the impact that violence in north-east Nigeria, especially in Borno State, is having on civilians.

“30,000 internally displaced people have arrived in Maiduguri, mainly from Baga, in recent weeks. The majority of these people have arrived since December 20, 2018, often after arduous journeys with young children. These people include an estimated 20,000 internally displaced people who have arrived in Teachers Village camp in Maiduguri, stretching the camp’s capacity beyond the limit.”

The reality from the theatre of war in Borno State, as dispassionately presented by the UN, does not tally with the stories that Buhari and his war commanders have been telling Nigerians. We are in a mess in this war as seen from the Baga debacle; this is the truth that must be told. Our President must wake up; else Boko Haram will overrun Monguno and move on to Maiduguri. 

Our gallant soldiers are doing their best but lack the force and firepower required to eliminate Boko Haram. I am not sorry to say that Buhari has not, in practical terms, shown commitment to end this Boko Haram tragedy. Else, he would have gone for the best manpower from tested countries, coming into the theatre of war with their equipment and munitions.

Our chivalrous troops can’t handle Boko Haram alone.  We need seasoned mercenaries from Israel, Russia or South Africa. They will come in with their armoured helicopter gunships, mine-resistant APCs, drones and the most modern machine guns. This is the only way Nigeria can end this war. This country must employ the best fighters from anywhere in the world to end this trauma called Boko Haram. The ultimate aim is to genuinely decapitate them.

Our President must swiftly ensure the release of the $1 billion approved for this war and expend it on the recruitment of mercenaries. Our gallant soldiers are ill-equipped, poorly motivated and battle weary. They struggle for field allowances and equipment on the war front. Many of them have over-stayed on the war front, contrary to the rules of engagement. That was why some soldiers openly protested at the Maiduguri Airport last year. The military urgently needs a change of leadership. The service chiefs have spent almost four years, yet, no result. This slide in the war against the terrorists, is to a large extent, a failure of leadership. 

Just on Monday, the terrorists came close to Maiduguri, when they attacked three villages – Auno, Sajeri and Dala Lawanti – in Konduga Local Government Area, burning scores of houses in the process. At least three civilians, including an Islamic cleric, were killed, while hundreds fled the communities into Ngomari area of Maiduguri. Things are evidently very bad on the war front.

Buhari must also be bold enough to act on the recent Defence and Foreign Affairs report on the Nigerian military, published by the United States-based International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA). It reported that massive corruption among top military chiefs appointed by President Buhari is responsible for the sagging war against terrorism. The intensity of Boko Haram assaults across villages and towns in Borno State in the last few months is a further confirmation that this report is on point. If our President is genuinely interested in ending the bloodshed in the North-east and parts of the North-west, he should get a copy of the ISSA report and engage it proactively.

The Shame of Lagos APC

Those familiar with the tactics of the Lagos chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), will not be surprised by the violence that aborted its campaign flag-off on Tuesday. In my dear Lagos, motor park touts are keysupporters of the party; the APC leadership uses them to oppress political opponents and fix election results. These touts, mainly members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association (RTEAN), also provide the APC leaders with security. On this tragic Tuesday, NURTW chieftains decided to settle their superiority battle/struggle for APC cash at the Skypower Ground, Ikeja, venue of the campaign flag off, with guns, daggers and other dangerous weapons. Other party members ran in different directions to avoid being hit by bullets fired indiscriminately by the NURTW guys. Even the Lagos APC leaders had to scamper to safety.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who was making a speech, had to leave the stage immediately and was guarded out of the venue together with his deputy, Idiat Adebule. The APC governorship candidate, Babajide Sanwoolu, and other prominent members of the party also took to their heels. Many people were dispossessed of their phones, money and other valuables by the gangsters. By the time the bloody fight ended, one of the touts had been sent to an early grave; several others, sustained severe injuries. Innocent people were not spared.

I am happy that the Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the party, Joe Igbokwe, admitted that the hoodlums are all supporters of his party, Mustapha Adekunle and MC Oluomo. The Lagos State Police Command’s spokesperson, CSP Chike Oti, also confirmed this. Oti said: “The said Mustapha Adekunle aka Seigo, an NURTW chieftain, came to the rally with a group of people and were identified at the entrance as supporters of the party. However, at the tail end of the event, Seigo and his group, for a reason yet to be determined, violently engaged other supporters of the party.”

Yes, the Lagos APC leaders dine and wine with established outlaws like MC Oluomo and Mustapha Adekunle aka Seigo. This is the shame that has been going on in Lagos for almost 20 years. What a country! But for how long must this continue in Lagos? Forces of good must team up to save Lagos from motor park touts. I believe Lagosians know what to do on March 2.

On the flip side, the remarks of the Lagos PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje, on the use of thugs by the Lagos APC, is instructive. He said: “Lagos State needs peace and everybody must work hard towards entrenching this much needed harmony. Therefore, it is unacceptable for any individual or group to endanger the peace and stability in our state. The APC as a political party must be conscious of the consequences of its actions. The party must be reminded that our dear state needs peace for us to achieve the stability and progress that we need. We also call on APC to rein in its thugs and other undesirable elements that are potential threats to our electoral process.

“The issue of hooliganism and use of thugs have remained our major concern in the forth-coming general elections and we will continue to express our fears. We raised this issue when our billboards and posters were attacked by thugs at the kick-off of our campaign. We are again, drawing the attention of Lagosians to this politics of bitterness.  

“This disgraceful conduct by the APC and its supporters reinforces our position that a level playing-ground must be maintained. We also insist that appropriate sanctions must be handed out to those who break our laws and endanger our collective peace as a people. Lagos State cannot afford this new level of violence and hooliganism in politics.

“Those who want to govern must focus on the issues, not by threatening and attacking people for holding a different view. That is why our message is essentially on freedom and democracy. We promise to end this circle of violence and death if voted in the coming governorship election, which is what we have resolved to do and nothing shall stop us.” 

There is nothing else to add. Agbaje has said it all.

Khadija Ibrahim’s Game Plan

In Nigeria, we see ministers resigning to contest governorship elections. It is very unusual to see a minister resigning to contest for a House of Representatives seat. Well, that is what the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Ibrahim, has just done. Khadija, wife of the former Governor of Yobe State, Senator Bukar Abba-Ibrahim, turned in her resignation letter this week, to contest for the Damaturu /Tarmuwa/Gujba/Gulani Federal Constituency seat scheduled for February 16. She picked the APC ticket in October last year.

Why did Khadija dump the Foreign Affairs job? Sources in the ministry said the junior minister had actually been idle for years because of the dominance of senior minister, Geoffrey Onyeama. “Khadija felt it was better to return to the House of Representatives instead of idling in the Foreign Affairs Ministry,” said another source. Well, Khadija looks good to win in Damaturu. I guess it is better to go and represent her people than hang around in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

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