Three deadly attacks in two months on the Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, should elicit concerns, writes Michael Olugbode
Borno highways are, perhaps, the riskiest in the world going by exposure to terrorist attacks. This fact is supported by no other person than the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Garbai El-Kanemi, who told President Muhammadu Buhari about two years ago that, “It is unfortunate that despite all efforts put in place to restore peace in our land and the North East, we the people of Borno State are still under Boko Haram siege.
“Nobody can dare move out of Maiduguri by 10 kilometres without being confronted, attacked by Boko Haram. Quite a number of farmers are being killed and kidnapped on a daily basis around Molai General Area, which is just 10 kilometres away from the metropolis, along Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu road. Most of the surrounding villages and communities in Konduga, Damboa, Mafa and other local government areas have been razed down in the last two weeks.”
That statement was when the governor was not attacked, but when his convoy faced a second attack early this year while he was returning from Konduga, 40 kilometres east of Maiduguri, to distribute food to returning displaced persons and inspect a 500-unit housing project for the returnees. The Shehu was loud enough to shout: “Borno State is no longer safe.”
The attack was in the very risky Baga area, and the ruler just has to say, “Your Excellency, we are not happy about what happened in Baga the other time. It is very unfortunate and a great pity to expose people’s lives to Boko Haram terrorists. If the convoy of the chief security officer of the state would be attacked, then, I swear that nobody is safe, because he is the number one citizen of the state.”
The fact is there for all to see that there is no highway within the Borno territory that is safe to traverse. Many people have been killed on these highways or perhaps, now cooling off in bushes having been kidnapped by Boko Haram.
The case is so bad that the United Nations agencies do not allow their workers to take the road into Maiduguri. For any staff to travel in and out of Maiduguri, it has to be by flight. The insurgents are always on the prowl on Borno highways.
The former governor of the state, Ali Sheriff escaped death by the whiskers on Maiduguri-Damaturu road earlier this year, when he traveled from Abuja into Maiduguri to bury his father. Some of those on his convoy were not so lucky as they were killed few kilometers into Maiduguri.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, with the retinue of soldiers and gun trucks, had been sized-up by the fearless Boko Haram on the Borno highways.
One of the Theatre Commanders of the Operation Lafiya Dole only escaped death by luck, when comforted by Boko Haram.
So numerous were military escorts attacked by Boko Haram on Borno highways. To them, the bigger your status, the higher the stake and the name you make from the attack. They fear no adversary for the reward. In their philosophy is a great heaven.
As long as Zulum would want to achieve his agenda, which includes security, education, job creation, and good governance and to return displaced persons to their homelands, his life shall always be at risk and might need to continue to tackle insurgents.
For he cannot retrieve Borno back from Boko Haram without getting into the trenches, for the terrorist group has come to show to all that they do not have any clear cut target and mission. They are just the enemy of the system and friends to no one.
And if everyone or thing has to be with a mission, then, theirs is destabilising and terrorising the entire society. Ask them what they want they may not be able to put up anything meaningful forward and that might have been responsible for their shunning the roundtable after so many public invitations.
It is often said that there is no one without an enemy, should this ring true, it means Zulum should have enemies, and for daily taking decisions that affect the lives of many, he should definitely have enemies aplenty. He has, often, because of his passion to give his people the best and many times, because of the frustration of his position spoken against the powers that be and perhaps, powerful individuals and groups.
He has been involved in shouting marches with soldiers. He has spoken against profiteers. He has changed some hitherto status quo in the Borno system. He has shouted and stood by his people both in boardrooms and on the streets. He has been both diplomatic and undiplomatic to get the best for his people. Definitely, he has ruffled some feathers.
But one question is, has he done enough to make some people wish him dead? And how far can they go to bring their wishes into reality. It is better to think that the attacks on Zulum were just not predetermined and solely targeted at him.
The fact is that Borno highways are dangerous and the more you travel it, the more you are open to attacks. Apart from the attack on Zulum’s convoy that took many lives with it, the other attacks were skirmishes. And should the attacks be with the motive to kill him, the one he was in the convoy should have been with major casualties, which they did not. Or perhaps, God was at work.
It is also pertinent to mention that should it be about killing Zulum, who would have given the task to Boko Haram and not use any other method?
But whether Zulum is wanted dead or not, the frequency of the attacks on him gives a bad narrative of the security of governors in the country and is bad publicity for the country. President Buhari needs to speak much louder against the development and act accordingly. It is a call that much more needs to be done to tame menacing Boko Haram.