Governor Zulum is Simply a Coward

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

Ring true  with Yemi Adebowale         Phone number 08054699539

At a point, I thought Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State had the capacity to lead the pressure on the federal government and the military to end the Boko Haram madness. I assumed he had the ability to emancipate his people from the shackles of terrorism by saying the truth to the federal government and the military about the botched war against terrorists. I believed this governor had the capacity to resist being cowed by the federal might. But suddenly, Zulum buckled under little pressure. That was what he did last Sunday when he ingloriously declared that despite all the Boko Haram killings in his beloved Borno State in almost six years of Buhari, “Borno State is better off security-wise under the Buhari administration.” All my expectations crashed as Zulum spoke out of both sides of his mouth.

Off course, I am aware that the Presidency and the military have been unhappy with the manner Zulum persistently punched holes in the war against Boko Haram. The governor once confronted the service chiefs with facts that some Borno local governments were not accessible. He made his assertions in the presence of the Defence Minister, Bashir Magashi; the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai; and the Chief of Air Staff, Abubakar Sadique. The powers that be in Abuja view Zulum’s recent call for the engagement of mercenaries in the war against Boko Haram as a vote of no confidence in the military. Some powerful forces told Zulum to his face that he can’t afford to fight Abuja, as if saying the truth about the failed war against the terrorists is a fight against the federal government. These people are also angry that Zulum had been complaining and criticising heads of security agencies over the raging insecurity in his state.

I guess they expect Zulum to just fold his arms and continue to watch his people butchered by the terrorists. They want him to be parroting questionable progress.My dear Zulum was eventually cowed. What a country! He is now making political statements at the expense of his people. Zulum is now unaware that the Jonathan government had pushed Boko Haram to the fringes of Sambisa forest and Lake Chad before the 2015 presidential election. Suddenly, this governor is unaware that during the Jonathan era, there were 11 formal IDP camps in Borno State, with less than 100,000 people. Under Buhari’s years, the number of formal IDP camps grew to 33, with over 700,000 people. More Borno indigenes are relocating to IDP camps in Buhari years because their towns and villages are dominated by the terrorists. So, how did Borno State fare better under Buhari?

The deadliest Boko Haram attacks in Borno State took place under the Buhari government. Four local government areas – Guzamala, Kukawa, Abadam and Marte – are now totally inaccessible and largely uninhabitable due to the presence of the Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters. In the last five and half years, over 3000 indigenes of this state have lost their lives to Boko Haram. Do I need to remind Zulum about some of these killings? He knows quite well, but I still need to remind him; perhaps, it would help this governor recover his nerve. On June 20 this year, with Zulum as governor, terrorists entered Zowo village in Gubio LG, operated for over three hours, and left 69 people dead.

The lethal massacre of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram in Metele, Borno State in November 2018 was under the Buhari government. Scores of soldiers were killed at 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele. The exact casualty figure is still a secret till today.
Auno, a settlement located on the major road leading to Maiduguri is one community that is persistently attacked by Boko Haram in this Buhari era. The terrorists have struck here 10 times, killing scores of people. The attack last February was also brutal, with Boko Haram killing 30 people. Many women and children were abducted in that late night raid on blameless people waiting to cross into Maiduguri.

Another gruesome Boko Haram killing took place last year when 65 mourners were murdered during a funeral procession in Badu, Nganzai Local Government Area of Borno State. Yes, 65 human beings murdered in one day! No news yet on bringing the killers to justice. Zulum should not forget the abduction of Saifura Khorsa and Hauwa Mohammed Liman, both Red Cross workers by Boko Haram in the IDP camp in Rann, Borno State. They were subsequently murdered. I need to remind the Borno governor about the day our own military, while searching for Boko Haram fighters, dropped bombs on hapless IDPs in Rann, killing over 300 people. It was also under this Buhari government.

The insecurity at the Rann IDP camp assumed a frightening dimension under the Buhari government. In 2018, the terrorists invaded the camp, killing four international aid workers. Scores of IDPs were also killed. The military post nearby, meant to provide security at the camp was overturned by the terrorists.
What about thousands of IDPs in the sprawling Muna Garage camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri that are equally persistently traumatised? In 2017 alone, they were attacked 13 times by Boko Haram, with scores killed. The University of Maiduguri has been attacked severally. I can’t forget how Boko Haram strolled into the university in January 2017 and killed Professor Aliyu Mani and five others.Thousands have been killed in assaults in Magumeri, Malam Fatori, Sabon Garin Kimba, Gashigar, Dalore.

I also need to remind Zulum that within 36 days of Buhari’s assumption of office in 2015, 406 indigenes of Borno State were slaughtered by Boko Haram. The facts and figures are there. I will never forget the 17 people killed at an abattoir in Maiduguri on June 2, 2015; the 40 people killed at Jimeta night market on June 5, 2015 ; the 48 people killed in Mussaram I and Mussaram II near Monguno on June 30, 2015; the 98 people killed in Kukawa village on July 1, 2015; the 11 people killed at Malari village along Bama/Konduga Highway on July 2, 2015 and the 29 people killed in Mussa village, Askira-Uba LG on July 3, 2015.

All these killings took place under the Buhari government. Our President has clearly not performed better in the handling of Borno’s security challenges. In fact, he has failed woefully. We all have to help Zulum resist the pressure from Abuja. He is suddenly confused by the Abuja force; or else, how can one explain his sudden remark that no one should be “blinded by the recent killing of 43 Zabarmari rice farmers” to pass judgment on the efforts of President Buhari to checkmate Boko Haram. Zulum lost 43 indigenes of his state in just one day, and precipitously turned around to start praising the Buhari government. That is what pressure does to a fraidy-cat.

The fear was obvious in Zulum’s voice while addressing northern elders from the Arewa Consultative Forum in Maiduguri last Sunday. This governor has been browbeaten. Forward-looking people of this state must help Zulum recover his bravado. He must be helped back on track. Only the truth can set the devastated people of Borno State free from the fetters of Boko Haram. It is pertinent to continue pressurising the federal government and the military to do the needful for peace to return to Borno State.
On the flip side, the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Audu Ogbeh, showed a lot of courage in his speech during the visit to Borno State last Sunday. Ogbeh, a former Minister of Agriculture, described the security situation in the North as depressing, adding that elites in the region now have nothing to leave behind as legacies for the future generation: “We are depressed, very depressed. And anyone of us, of our age, who is not depressed was not well-born, because we have nothing to leave behind for our children and violence will not sustain us. The tragedy of the North today is that the only industry left is politics, and politics alone has never grown any society. We have no industries, agriculture has declined and our own children have now turned to violence as a means of livelihood.”
This is the truth that will set the North free. God bless you Ogbeh.

No Wisdom in Keeping Our Land Borders Shut
The continued closure of Nigeria’s land borders is one of the biggest contributors to the dwindling value of the Naira. Yes, dwindling price of oil is a major factor, but border closure is also a key factor. Just check out the value of the Naira before and after the land border closure in August last year. Companies doing genuine business with our West African neighbours and earning forex are the ones truncated by the border closure. The closure is obviously counterproductive to the Nigerian economy. The pains outweigh the gains. So, I can’t understand why this government is still foot-dragging on the issue. Buhari should just reopen our land borders.

Smugglers of drugs, small arms and agricultural products are still in big business. Those who still don’t understand what I am talking about should visit the rice markets in Sango Ota, Ogun State and in Lagos. Here, you will see varieties of imported rice. Closure of the formal borders only means the smugglers now follow longer informal routes, with higher cost. The smugglers pass the extra cost to consumers. So who is feeling the heat? Certainly, not the smugglers.
Petroleum products are also still being smuggled out through illegal routes. I always shudder when I hear the Nigerian government talking about a reduction in consumption of petroleum products following the border closure. Which reduction? If we have a good government in place with good policies, then, this country should be exporting refined petroleum products to the rest of West Africa and earning forex.

Those still in doubt about the closure not affecting illegal businesses should also visit border posts between Nigeria and Niger Republic up North, where smugglers use illegal routes to sneak in bags of rice, bales of second-hand clothes and other contrabands. In bush paths, crooked security operatives work with these smugglers.

As for illegal arms and ammunition, those who smuggle them in don’t follow the shut border posts. Most of them come in through illegal land routes and the sea ports. This is why Boko Haram, armed robbers, bandits and terrorists are still getting quality arms and ammunition despite the border closure. What has to be fixed here is our failed leadership; not shutting of land borders.
The smugglers are well-known to our security agents. Without official connivance, smuggling cannot thrive. Just visit the land borders and experience Customs-sanctioned smuggling.

I can vividly remember the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, saying the Customs is still drenched in corruption even under the Buhari administration. He said: “There is no difference in Customs since May 29, 2015. If you go to Tin Can Island, it is business as usual.”Customs boss, Hameed Ali has not pragmatically responded to Sagay’s allegation.

Fighting corruption in the Customs requires more than grandstanding. We need a brilliant and tactical head for Customs. Again, this government should start thinking about privatising the collection of Customs and Excise duties. This is another way of reducing the sleaze in this agency and moving close to the N10 trillion annual revenue target from our ports, which I often talk about.

Uzodinma Should Pay Street Sweepers
Governor Hope Uzodinma is not giving hope to anybody in Imo State. It was the turn of street sweepers to protest the poor performance of this governor as they blocked the entrance to the Imo State Government House, Owerri last Monday. They were complaining about non-payment of salaries since January when Uzodinma assumed office. The sweepers are largely widows who depend on the monthly stipends to take care of their families. The last 11 months have been horrendous for these unlucky women, with many of them living from hand to mouth. The governor could have at least addressed them. He did not. Uzodinma gave them no hope. For how long will this suffering continue? Today, I challenge Uzodinma to clear all the salary arrears of these poor women, if indeed, he is the governor of Imo State.