The recent attacks on the convoy of the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, is a disturbing development, writes Olaseni Durojaiye
The deadly attack on the convoy of Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, last Tuesday, was both a very audacious move on the part of the anti-social group and a hint at the group’s rising boldness might have been buoyed, perhaps, by some of their successful raids on some military formations in recent times, during which they made away with military hardware from the armouries of the military formations.
The attack, which occurred along the Maiduguri-Gambu road, leading to the Chad Republic, however, claimed about five lives including that of a soldier. The governor was on a campaign mission to Gamboru-Ngala late Tuesday, when his convoy came under attack by the Boko Haram upon arrival at Logomani Village, a notorious Boko Haram hideout.
Early reports suggested that the attack may have been avoidable, yet it didn’t take anything away from the import of the attack, which includes the fact that the terror group is far from being defeated as claimed by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the reports, the governor ignored warnings from the soldiers on the ground in Dikwa town not to continue on the Maiduguri-Gambu road since it was dusk.
Upon the insistence of Governor Shettima to continue on the campaign trip, the soldiers allowed the governor’s convoy to continue on the Gamboru-Ngala road but refused to accompany his convoy and provide it with security cover.
Only last December, Governor Shettima had cried out that the state was under siege. Before then, the terror groups had conducted several daring raids on military formations in towns and villages in both Borno and Yobe States.
At the meeting with President Buhari, Shettima wept like a baby deprived of his cherished toy and pleaded for help to curtail the raids on different parts of the state by the Boko Haram fighters.
The picture painted by the governor during the meeting was reminiscent of the pre-2015 reign of terror in the North-east. At the time, Boko Haram hoisted their flags in several towns and villages it had captured from fleeing Nigerian troops.
The photographs of tearful Shettima elicited a deserving response from the president, who assured him that security would be stepped up even as the military re-jigged its operations and personnel at the theatre of war.
The latest onslaught on the convoy of the governor is a confirmation of his fears that the gains recorded in the fight against insurgency particularly in the state, are being gradually lost for whatever reasons. It is also a confirmation of the concerns by some Nigerians, who had held the position that the fight against the Boko Haran was either losing steam or had come to its tether’s end strategy-wise.
Instructively too, the attack came barely four weeks after the United States Government through its embassy in the country alerted that the group was planning to launch series of attacks in the North-east of the country aimed at disrupting the general election.
According to the alert posted on the website of the United States embassy in Nigeria, the insurgent group planned to attack security and infrastructure, as well as markets, hotels, and malls.
The United States embassy in Nigeria, in the post on its website in January, had stated in late January that, “There is an increase in ISIS propaganda videos specifically directed to Nigeria and the ongoing civil unrest in Borno State and the Northeast.
“ISIS West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram have both stated they plan to disrupt the upcoming 2019 presidential election by conducting attacks on Nigerian Security and infrastructure, as well as places of gathering such as markets, hotels, and malls.
“While we have no specific threat information to the U.S. Embassy or within Nigeria during the election season, U.S. citizens in Nigeria should remember to follow personal security precautions on a regular basis.”
Analysts contended that the failure of the nation’s military to prevent the attack even after the intelligence heads-up from the Americans was suggestive of the tardy handling of intelligence reports on the part of the nation’s military high command.
Some other analysts added that the excuse that the terror group fights unconventionally does not exonerate the military from flaks on account of the recent strikes in which towns and villages were pillaged and lives lost.
Commentators maintained that not even under the Jonathan administration did the group launched such a bold move on a sitting governor. Though the campaign convoy of the incumbent president was then attacked by the group while he was still a candidate, the Jonathan administration was quick to rise in defence of candidate Buhari and subsequently repelled the insurgents.
Up until now, it is unthinkable that the group could contemplate attacking the convoy of a sitting governor much more carrying out the attack, given that the governor’s convoy would ordinarily be heavily guarded due to the security challenged in the North-east, particularly Borno State.
Now that it has happened, the attack is suggestive of the group’s growing boldness and question the claim by the President Buhari administration that the terror group has been technically degraded.
The revelations that some towns and villages in the state have fallen under Boko Haram control further buttress the conclusion that the terror group was far from being technically defeated even if they no longer held as many local government areas as they held at the height of their reign in the region in 2014. Rather, it calls for a re-evaluation of the war strategy being adopted by the Nigerian state and its troops.
It is noteworthy that many analysts and commentators maintained that the country strategy in the fight against terror is reactive rather than proactive. Those who held this view argued that after fighting insurgency for so long, that the country’s forces were yet to infiltrate Boko Haram is worrisome.
They added that the in-fighting within Boko Haram, which led to the split that gave rise to the Islamic State of Islam for West Africa (ISIWA) presented the country a golden opportunity to infiltrate the group.
Former Governor of Cross Rivers State and Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Donald Duke shared this view recently during an interview with THISDAY. Mr. Duke had argued that Nigeria’s approach to security was still reactive as against being proactive, adding that after fighting the Boko Haram for so long, the country should have infiltrated the group. “There is no thinking in the way we do things. We have been fighting Boko Haram for seven years and we’ve not infiltrated Boko Haram. By now, we should have infiltrated them. That is intelligence gathering, so what we are doing is reactive. 80 per cent of security is intelligence gathering,” Duke stated.
It is however sad that security has degenerated so badly in the country, even beyond the North-east. In the North-west states of Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna, cattle rustling, banditry and kidnappings are still of troubling proportion.
In the latest attack, much as supporters of the administration may want to blame it on Governor Shettima on account of the fact that he did not listen to security warnings by the soldiers, it has dented the much vaunted claim of the administration that it has technically defeated the terror group.
Rather it suggested that the administration has failed in its core duty of securing the lives and property of Nigerians, who voted it into power particularly, the people of the North-east, who live at the mercy of the terror groups.
As it is, the attacks have further heightened fears that the election may not hold in the North-east particularly in Borno State. And if it holds, clearly, it would be coloured by an atmosphere of fear caused by a prevailing security challenge and not due to political tension orchestrated by political gladiators in rival political parties.