Cally Ikpe, a culture activist/broadcaster and Convener of Road to a Violence-free Nigeria writes that Nigerians are eager to see how the Muhammadu Buhari administration eventually resolves the challenge of the missing Chibok girls, given that it is one of the promises upon which the All Progressives Congress government was elected
By 2015, insecurity had become palpable, not only to the directly affected areas but all over Nigeria. Being an election year it became a basis for why there had to be a change of government believing a different approach may just be the solution to the lingering challenge of insecurity. This, it is believed, more than anything else cost former President Goodluck Jonathan the exalted position.
In his stead, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Major General and former Head of State was overwhelmingly elected president. Many believed his antecedents will be brought to bear on the war against insurgency in the North-east and the issues of banditry generally in Nigeria. Many were quick to cite the decisive manner with which he dealt with the Chadian incursion into Nigerian territory in 1982 as a military officer. His legendary War Against Indiscipline while he reigned as Head of State remained a reference point.
President Buhari’s inaugural address as President where he emphatically ordered the Armed Forces to relocate their operational headquarters to the theatre of war at Baga, Bornu State was heavily applauded. The President also sought and obtained special legislative waivers to speedily procure armaments. Between 2015 and 2020, the Nigerian government had expended USD3 billion in the prosecution of the war and other security challenges.
Five years on, Nigerians observe that there has been significant success with efforts at repelling the Boko Haram incursion. Though not as expressly desired, almost all territories previously occupied by the insurgents have been retaken by the Nigerian military. Also of significance is the cessation of occasional bombings of select locations within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. While all of these may sound pleasant, renewed incidents of banditry in other parts of Nigeria especially the North-west and Middle-belt area seem to have eclipsed those successes. Riffle wielding herdsmen became even more audacious, with minimal consequences, leading many to believe that the Federal government was being sympathetic with them.
These same criminal elements within the herdsmen became notorious for looting and kidnapping across the country. The menacing trend of these criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen more than anything else may have triggered legislations by individual states that prescribed harsh punishment for offenders with the climax being the establishment of state-controlled security outfits. While the actions of these states may seem controversial, especially as it alters the status quo, the fact that the Federal Government is able to accommodate it should count as a plus to it.
Indeed, expectations may have ran overboard as even supporters of the President started crying out; a case in point being Khadira Ahmed, a veteran broadcaster from Zamfara State who in 2019 made a public show of her grouse.
Posterity hangs delicately in judgement on how the Buhari government eventually resolves the challenge of the missing Chibok girls, given that it is one of the promises upon which the All Progressives Congress (APC) government was elected. As at the first quarter of 2020, at least 112 of the girls are still in captivity.
In a daredevil manner, Boko Haram repeated the Chibok experience, this time on Dapchi town in Yobe state, an act many consider as an affront on the no-nonsense General Muhammadu Buhari. Though the girls have been rescued, one Leah Sharibu remains in captivity. The delicate thing about Miss Sharibu is that, she is a Christian and her faith is very much in contention in the general dynamics. This surely is an embarrassing albatross the government would rather do without.
The world is also watching to see how the Buhari government handles the El-Zakzaky episode especially as it bears a close semblance to the Boko Haram movement during its nascent days.
Finally, it must be noted that the dynamics in security matters require much more than military might and intelligence to tackle. The political will, handling of the unemployment scourge and controlled rhetoric will matter greatly in checking the situation. A violence-free Nigeria is possible.