Buhari’s Melodies of Deceit on Boko Haram
RingTrue By Yemi Adebowale
President Muhammadu Buhari’s assertion in Yobe State last Tuesday that he had decimated Boko Haram left me dejected. He gayly declared that God had helped his regime to clear Boko Haram in the North-east. The President noted that the threat of terrorism was the most critical security challenge inherited by his regime and expressed delight that normalcy had returned to affected states in the North-east. Buhari wants Nigerians to believe that he had fulfilled the commitment he made to them in his May 29, 2015 inaugural address to frontally and courageously tackle Boko Haram terrorists and stabilise the country. “In the North-east, God has helped us to clear Boko Haram, the economy has picked up,” declared the President.
Which victory over Boko Haram and by extension, ISWAP, is our President talking about? Perhaps, Buhari is talking about another country. This proclamation is preposterous, depressing and a disservice to the people of Borno State still under the servitude of Boko Haram. It is clearly a subterfuge. Buhari has in eight years failed to change the blood-spattered story of Borno State. Rather, Boko Haram terrorists have become emboldened and expanding territories with intense carnage. As I pen this piece, three local governments in Borno State – Guzamala, Kukawa and Abadam – are dominated by Boko Haram and ISWAP. The terrorists run a government and collect taxes from the traumatised people.
What is happening in these three local government areas is that security agents have abandoned them. So, there is hardly any story of Boko Haram attacking security agents or vice versa. Two other local government areas – Gwoza and Chibok – experience intermittent attacks. In all, 20 of the 27 local governments in Borno State are unsafe. Eight weeks back, ISWAP fighters stormed Malam Fatori, in Abadam LG of Borno State, killing and maiming. Hundreds of houses were destroyed and scores of innocent Nigerians killed.
An army base in Malam Fatori was also attacked with an undisclosed number of soldiers killed. The terrorists, who drove trucks fitted with machine guns, spent over 24 hours in Malam Fatori, committing atrocities unhindered. In the predawn attack on the base and the town, the jihadists hurled explosives to kill residents; some inhabitants drowned in a nearby river trying to flee. A military source said, “ISWAP terrorists caused huge destruction which we are working to quantify. They attacked the military base and engaged troops in a fight while a second group went on a killing spree and arson in the town.”
Abadam LG, on the western coast of Lake Chad, remains a stronghold of Boko Haram and ISWAP. ISWAP has its headquarters at nearby Kamuya village, which is the largest ISWAP camp in Lake Chad area, about eight kilometres from Malam Fatori. All the previous attacks on Malam Fatori were launched from Kamuya, a village ISWAP has fortified with mines and heavy weapons. The Nigerian military knows this. To destroy ISWAP, Kamuya must be taken.
Early last year, Governor Babagana Zulum picked up courage (though, still half-truth) to declare that Boko Haram controls Abadam and Guzamala local government areas of the state. “Government and people of Borno State, especially those from southern and northern parts of the state, are worried about the increasing number of ISWAP groups who have been terrorising their communities,” declared Zulum.
Borno State, the epicenter of Boko Haram is still bleeding. This is the crux of the matter. The blood stains in Borno represent the crux of the matter. Boko Haram and ISWAP are inflicting pain, controlling territories and collecting taxes in many communities in this state.
How can Buhari claim to have defeated Boko Haram when most parts of beleaguered Borno State remain largely in darkness for years due to the tenacious sabotage of facilities supplying electricity to the state by the terrorists. This is one big security failure that has persisted for too long. Even in Maiduguri, the state’s capital, though there is improvement, public power supply has not been fully restored to all homes. Terrorists have persistently bombed two of the power towers along the Damaturu-Maidugiri 330kV transmission line, which often plunge the Borno State capital city into darkness.
The other line feeding the city of Maiduguri from Damboa was destroyed by the terrorists years back. The towers are obvious targets for Boko Haram; yet, for years, an effective security arrangement can’t be put in place for them. In this modern security era, a good government should be talking about protecting the towers with drones from a preemptive and properly staffed control centre. Unfortunately, this has not been so in Nigeria. All these are happening and Buhari claims to have conquered Boko Haram.
It is depressing for a government to persistently make claims of degrading Boko Haram, yet, IDPs can’t return to their homes. There are still 18 formal IDP camps outside Maiduguri, with scores of informal ones. Governor Zulum forcefully and brazenly dismantled the 15 formal IDP camps in Maiduguri, even when their towns and villages are still unsafe. After almost eight years of Buhari, there are over 500,000 troubled people in IDP camps across Borno State.
The questions for Buhari are: Why would a man, his wives and children remain in a squalid IDP camp if his community had been recovered from Boko Haram? Why would they be struggling for a meal a day in the IDP camps, with scores killed daily by hunger, disease and malnutrition, if they can safely return home? The truth is that these people can’t return to their homes because Boko Haran controls these towns and villages. Rann, Customs House, Muna Garage, Elmiskin, Gongulong, Fareyi are some of the sites overflowing with IDPs struggling for limited food. There is severe hunger in these encampments.
President Buhari persistently saying that he has technically defeated Boko Haram is heartless. Under Buhari’s watch, Boko Haram became the deadliest terror group in the world, with thousands killed in the last eight years. Even in IDP camps, these traumatised Nigerians are persistently attacked and killed by Boko Haram and ISWAP.
Buhari was in Borno State a few months back and one of the dizzying developments during his one-day visit to the state was that he was on ground in Maiduguri, and still virtually inaugurated 500 resettlement houses at Molai, on the outskirts of the town. Why? For fear of Boko Haram and ISWAP. On that day, Buhari went physically to inaugurate the Teacher’s Quarters at Bulumkuttu Railway junction, but was panicked by terrorists to virtually inaugurate the houses at Molai. Molai is just about 25 minutes’ drive from the centre of Maiduguri, yet, the security report did not favour the President, with his armada of security, from venturing there. This same President goes around echoing that the terrorists in Borno State have been decapitated.
The truth is that Boko Haram and ISWAP are very much alive and kicking in many parts of Borno State, sustained by unending deceits by those charged with the responsibility of ending this reign of terror. Many in Borno State Government have also cowardly chosen to remain silent. Simply put: They are unwilling to speak truth to power. Only the truth can set this state free.
Boko Haram/ISWAP aside, the security glitches under the Buhari government are frightening, ceaseless and consuming too many innocent lives. He inherited Boko Haram and brought Fulani militias, killer herders, bandits, kidnappers and other terrorists roaming freely across Nigeria. The Jangebe, Kankara, Kagara, Greenfield University, Afaka, Tegina, Yauri, Abuja-Kaduna train and other abductions/killings carried out with so much ease, shows frightening ineptitude of the Buhari government. How will Buhari explain hundreds of AK47-wielding Fulani militias in the forests of Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger and Kaduna states, killing and maiming? Culprits are hardly arrested to account for their crimes. As usual, our President openly orders the arrest of these criminals but it hardly happens.
Human lives are sacred and must be protected. Indeed, governments exist to protect human lives and any regime that can’t do this is a failure. This is the truth all forces of good must persistently hammer on the head of this current federal government. Buhari is a big failure in this area of securing Nigerians. This ugly situation for almost eight years now is unprecedented.
My Take away from Obasanjo’s New Year Letter
For me, the most important part of Obasanjo’s New Year letter to Nigerians was his appeal to everyone to put the past injustices behind us and move forward as one country, with equity as a driver. Yes, we need to build a new Nigeria. We must ensure that equity is dominant to achieve it. Surely, this is the only way we can build a peaceful, united and prosperous country.
Obasanjo’s words of wisdom resonate: “Just let us agree to move forward together in mutual forgiveness, one accord, inclusive society, equality and equity. Together and without bias and discrimination, fear or favour, we can have Nigeria of one nation in diversity, in truth and in practice. Let us honour, cherish, respect and even celebrate our diversity which is the basis of our potential greatness and strength.
“If we will only continue to harp on wrongs done by each of us individually or collectively, we will never be able to stand together. If we will continue with wide brush to paint a national or sub-national group as bad and never to be trusted with leadership because of past error or mistakes that some of them were responsible for and treat their offspring as inheritors, it will amount to great injustice that will surely lead to no peace, no security and no stability for development and progress.
“First, no group is faultless; second, for the greatness of the whole, we need one another as constituents of the whole; third, we cannot be talking and working for Africa’s integration and for Nigeria’s disintegration at the same time. Why for instance should I be stigmatised or despised because of my place of origin, place of birth or where I come from? Where I was born, by whom I was born and when I was born were not choices made by me. They were choices and prerogatives of God.
“Any antagonism against me on that basis is unfair and is tantamount to fighting against God, the Creator. Such a derogatory attitude and mindset do not build any human institution let alone a nation. While not forgetting the past, let us put the past behind us for it not to continue to mar our present and our future and that of the coming generation. We must rise above primordial animalistic instincts and behaviour. Yes, we are human and higher than animals in the wild. Let us develop national ethos and national characteristics that can take us collectively to the Promised Land.”
These are words of wisdom. I cherish them so much. So, what next after this letter? We have to pick a President with capacity (physical and mental), in order to build a new, united and truly egalitarian Nigeria, where equity rules. The man at the apex matters a great deal. As we prepare to vote for a new President in less than six weeks, we must ensure a radical departure from the past. Nigeria needs an “Obama.” I will elucidate in subsequent weeks.