Musings on Buhari’s Failed Boko Haram Promises

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

One of the promises President Muhammadu Buhari made to Nigerians while campaigning for the 2015 presidential election was to tame Boko Haram. I remember a very close friend of mine back in November 2014, celebrating in advance and telling me that it would take Buhari just few weeks to destroy the terrorists as soon as he became President. “Buhari neutralised Maitasine sect within few weeks and chased them out of Nigeria. He will do the same to Boko Haram,” declared this friend of mine. I was convinced that the Buhari I knew lacked the capacity for this, but remained optimistic about the military ability ascribed to him because I desperately wanted an end to the terrorism crisis. Of course, any right-thinking Nigerian would want a quick end to Boko Haram’s madness. Then came Buhari’s swearing in on May 29, 2015 and the long wait to end Boko Haram’s insanity began.

The Boko Haram that had been pushed to the fringes of Lake Chad by the Jonathan government suddenly came back stronger under Buhari. Yes, Boko Haram had been substantially degraded when Jonathan handed over to Buhari. This is the truth that must be told. They came back strongly because they were emboldened by the slipshod military tactics of the Commander-in–Chief and his war commanders. Our President Buhari simply went to sleep while his commanders failed to provide leadership and equipment to the troops on the war front. So, the terrorists took full charge in Borno State. The murder of 43 Zabarmari farmers eight days ago was just one of the attacks that have seen thousands of innocent Nigerians slaughtered by Boko Haram.

Under Buhari’s watch, Boko Haram became the deadliest terror group in the world, with thousands of Nigerians killed in the last five and half years. Even in IDP camps, displaced people are persistently attacked and killed by Boko Haram, as seen in Rann, Muna Garage, Dalore and a number of others. The words of the former UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Yassine Gaba resounds: “Innocent civilians continue to suffer daily from direct and indiscriminate attacks in the North-east of Nigeria. Endless numbers of explosions, brutal killings, abductions and lootings continue to uproot the lives of women, children and men daily. Women, children and men face daily grave human rights violations and sexual and gender-based violence.”

In Borno State, the terrorists still control territories. As I pen this piece, I can confidently report that 20 of the 27 local government areas in this state are unsafe. This is why over two million IDPs can’t return home. They are living in squalid conditions in camps, struggling for a meal a day. Daily, they dream of going home, but they can’t because their towns and villages are still dominated by Boko Haram. The few that returned home had to scamper back. These facts and figures punch holes in the lies that the Buhari administration is making progress in the war against Boko Haram. It is depressing for a government to persistently make claims of degrading Boko Haram, yet, IDPs can’t return to their homes. The big question is: Why would a man, his wives and children remain in a squalid IDP camp if his village has been recovered from Boko Haram?

There is also an unprecedented long list of officers lost to Boko Haram under the Buhari government. I will never forget the likes of Colonel D.C Bako, Lt. Colonel O. Umusu, Lt. Colonel K Yusuf, Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar, Lt. Col. Yusuf Aminu, Captain Victor Ulasi, Lt. Col. A. E Mamudu, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba and Lt. Col. Azubuike. I will also not forget in a hurry the massacre of soldiers in places like Sasawa, Magumeri, Malam Fatori, Gashigha, Rann, Kanama, Gamboru-Ngala, Mafa, Kunduga, Pridang-Bitta and the rest. How I wish the murderers were smoked out and slaughtered.

The terrorists are getting away with a lot of killings. For how long will the killings persist? They seem to have better intelligence network. This is why Boko Haram often ambushes our soldiers. There is also a long list of successful waylays by the terrorists. The one I will never forget was the deadliest massacres of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram in Metele, Borno State, in November 2018. Scores of soldiers were killed at 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele. The exact casualty figure is still a closely-guided secret till today. The commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba was also killed.

We only hear of billions of U.S. Dollars released for the purchase of equipment for the military, yet the soldiers are persistently complaining about being poorly equipped. Buhari is the only one unaware that the war against Boko Haram will not end with the likes of Army Chief, Tukur Buratai, Air Chief, Sadique Abubakar and DSS boss, Yusuf Bichi, managing this country’s security. These men have no business staying a day longer in office. They must go because they have done more harm than good to the war against Boko Haram. A forward-looking government would have overhauled this languid leadership. I find it difficult to comprehend why terrorists consistently take the fight to our soldiers.

Our soldiers under the control of Buratai persistently gift weapons and ammunitions to the terrorists. This occurs when the terrorists attack and sack military posts. In the last five years, many of such military posts have been sacked, with hundreds soldiers killed. Some of the sacked military posts were located in Gajiram, Mainok, Rann, Geidam, Sasawa, Magumeri, Malam Fatori, Gashigha, Kanama, Gamboru-Ngala, Mafa, Damasak, Gudumbali, Garunda, Kunduga, Kareto, Jilli, Arge, Zari, Arege, Metele and Buni Gari.

Commanders who complain about the poor working condition of our troops are usually dealt a solid blow by the military authorities. That was what happened to the former Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. General Olusegun Adeniyi. A video, in which Adeniyi was seen complaining about a lack of military equipment to combat Boko Haram went viral. He also complained that insurgents were outgunning troops, noting that intelligence failure was responsible for an attack by insurgents that claimed dozens of soldiers. The revelations by the major general led to his removal from the insurgency war and subsequent suspension by the military authorities. The Nigerian Army then filed charges of “military social media guideline violations” against him. Last Tuesday, a Court Martial in Abuja convicted and demoted him. Yes, that was what he got for openly saying the truth. He said it discreetly without result. So, he decided to go public. Adeniyi has been seriously bashed for doing this.

Few weeks back, the Coalition of North-east Elders for Peace and Development, led by Zana Goni urged our president to inject new hands with fresh ideas into the leadership of the military. Goni remarked: “We have seen that the security situation under the current service chiefs has reached an unbearable state. There is no denying the fact that at this moment, the entire nation is distressed by the incessant mind­less killing of our citizens and pillaging of defenseless com­munities by insurgents, ban­dits and kidnappers. There is also no denying the fact that these have resulted in indescribable torment of Nigerians. The President must remove the service chiefs and bring in new hands to effectively confront the secu­rity challenges staring us in the face as a nation.” Nothing happened thereafter and the result is the Zabarmari massacre.

It is pertinent to note that residents of Zabarmari alerted the military about the impending attack. They foresaw danger after they arrested one of the terrorists few weeks back and handed him to security operatives. They also told our military about the large number of terrorists in their community. But our soldiers failed them. They failed to act on the information given to them. This is how they have also failed so many communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.

Statements by the President after the Zabarmari massacre were disgusting. In one, he was quoted as saying that he had directed the nation’s Armed Forces to take the anti-terrorism fight to the insurgents. He is just giving this directive after almost six years as Commander-in-Chief. It is obviously clear that Buhari is unable to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. Nigeria is becoming a failed state.

Another drawback to Buhari’s war against Boko Haram is persistent deceit. Until the Buhari government is ready to end all the deceits surrounding Boko Haram, the senseless killings will persist. Just imagine Army Chief, Tukur Buratai coming up with a preposterous tale that his men had killed 1,428 terrorists and the Commander-in-Chief is not asking questions. His employers did not ask him when, where and how. The other day, when the Chadians killed hundreds of Boko Haram fighters, we all saw it.

Nobody queries Buratai’s fantasy successes. It’s so depressing. We are persistently told stories of thousands of Boko Haram fighters killed, their meetings disrupted and their logistic suppliers slayed. Nigerians are shown aerial bombardments with footages of terrorists scampering for safety, without ground troops mopping up. They follow up with suspicious figures of terrorists killed after the offensives. The dead bodies are hardly seen. That has been the trend in the last five years.

The Boko Haram terrorists that had been “slaughtered” by our soldiers often return to life, to kill thousands of Nigerians, unhindered. That was how in 2019, the “degraded” terrorists entered Zowo village in Gubio LG of Borno State, operated for over three hours, leaving 89 people dead. That same year, they also invaded Monguno and Gajiram for hours, killing and maiming, unimpeded.

These attacks expose the deceit of the Buhari administration about having decimated the terrorists. The peak of this reckless falsehood was the wild celebration of a fantasy victory over the terrorists in December 2016 by Buhari. I shed tears on that day that Buhari, a retired general, accepted a flag and Quaran purportedly captured from Shekau, as a symbol of victory over Boko Haram from the Army Chief.

What about the persistent falsehood that no Nigerian territory is under Boko Haram’s control? This government knows it is not true but keeps repeating it for selfish reason. Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State once confronted the service chiefs with the fact that some local governments in his state were not accessible. The state’s Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Mustapha Gubio, provided more facts and figures on these deceitful statements, saying, claims by Buhari that all local governments had been secured and are now inhabited is false. Gubio said five local government areas – Guzamala, Kukawa, Abadam, Marte and Abadam – were totally inaccessible and largely uninhabitable due to the presence of the Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters.

Our gallant soldiers lack the capabilities to end this war. My submission has not changed: We must hire the best brains from anywhere in the world to assist our military to end this war. The ultimate aim is to decapitate Boko Haram. The strategy for getting result against Boko Haram is largely through aerial power. Technology, quality equipment and quality manpower will also be needed. It requires quality fighter jets and quality armoured attack helicopters. Our gallant military lacks the competence and equipment for these. So, our President must hire Israeli, South African or Russian mercenaries to finish this war. This is the only way forward.

The Northern Elders Forum’s call on President Buhari to resign over unending Boko Haram killings is instructive. Life evidently has no value under Buhari’s government. “Under this administration, life has lost its value, and more and more citizens are coming under the influence of criminals. We do not see any evidence of a willingness on the part of President Buhari to honour his oath to provide security for Nigerians. In civilized nations, leaders who fail so spectacularly to provide security will do the honourable thing and resign,” remarked the NEF. Unfortunately, it does not happen in third world countries. But the truth Buhari can’t run away from is that the buck stops on his table as the Commander-in-Chief. This will naturally haunt him.