By Ikechukwu Amaechi
Watching the otherwise boisterous Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, make his heartrending plea to President Muhammadu Buhari to come to the aid of his people in their insufferable predicament, I couldn’t help but also drop a tear. How are the mighty fallen!
My tear was not an act of solidarity with Shettima. Far from it. I cried for my country. How did we get here?
For those who may not be abreast of this story, here is a retelling.
On Monday, January 7, Shettima led a delegation of the state’s political, religious and traditional leaders to Aso Rock to plead with the President to do something urgently about Boko Haram before Borno becomes desolate due to their deleterious activities.
It is perhaps a measure of the seriousness the President attached to the meeting that he had with him the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.), who is also from Borno State; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Acting Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar, and the Director General of the Department for State Services, Mr. Yussuf Bitchi.
The governor who earlier chaired an emergency security meeting in Borno where a decision was taken to meet with Buhari in Abuja broke down as he delivered his opening remarks.
The dreaded terrorist group has intensified attacks in the state, taking over and physically occupying some towns, including Baga, a prominent fishing area.
Shettima urged Buhari to stop the insurgents, who now attack communities at will.
After massaging the President’s ego, telling him how he had dealt a mortal blow to Boko Haram, Shettima finally got to the meat of the matter.
“We rushed here because of the recent upsurge in the activities of the demented monster called Boko Haram, especially in Borno North Senatorial District.
“ … We are here because we thought that Allah will use you to fully reclaim Borno’s traditional glory of being the home of peace. We are here as a people who worked, prayed and waited for your presidency in the firm belief that with you as the Commander-in-Chief, Boko Haram will become history in Borno.”
That hope, despite all pretensions to the contrary, has waned considerably.
Buhari, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, was said to have reassured Shettima that his administration would strengthen the Nigerian military to neutralise the insurgents.
Is this not the same Boko Haram that has been ‘technically defeated’ more than two years ago? Is this not the same terrorist organisation the President claimed long ago had been so degraded it now only attacks ‘soft targets,’ the last spasms of a dying monster? Is this not the same group that has been so diminished that the military was only carrying out mop up operations?
Lies! Propaganda! Deceit!
The greatest tragedy that has befallen the country is being saddled with a government whose actions and inaction leave it open to public distrust. But this vice, like chickens, which as the half a millennium old proverbial expression goes, always come home to roost.
And in 2019, the chickens have indeed come home to roost. Nigeria is in dire straits, a fact which no less a person than President Buhari acknowledged on December 14, 2018, when he admonished Nigerians to brace up for tougher times.
The biggest irony of the Buhari presidency, which in itself is a calamity for the country, is the fact that insecurity is turning out to be its Achilles heel. Who would have ever believed that insecurity would be the President’s albatross?
It is the President’s poor performance in what ought to be his area of core competence that reduced an otherwise ebullient Shettima to that pitiable sight.
Yet, the Borno State governor is not alone. While he was wailing in Abuja, Aminu Bello Masari, governor of President Buhari’s home state of Katsina was lamenting at home.
On Wednesday, January 2, Masari summoned an extraordinary state security meeting where he mourned that the state was under siege.
“The citizens are on a daily basis being harassed by bandits and kidnappers that are on rampage in the state.
“Our state is currently under serious siege by armed robbers, kidnappers and armed bandits who arrest rural people at will and demand ransom, which if not paid, results in the killing of their victims.
“The people of Katsina in the 34 local governments now sleep with one eye closed and the other opened.
“Our state is in a dangerous situation. Travellers are afraid of being stopped on the highway and arrested by kidnappers who demand ransom,” Masari bewailed.
Zamfara has become a huge slaughter slab. In February 2018, after 39 people were slaughtered in his state, Governor Abdulaziz Yari, just like Kashim, lamented how he supported and campaigned for Buhari on the strength of his vaunted capacity to end insecurity in the country.
So helpless was he that he offered to give up his nomenclature as the chief security officer of the state. Then on Thursday, December 27, 2018, a completely exasperated Yari took the unprecedented step of backing the call for the declaration of a state of emergency in his state “if it will save the lives of people of the state”.
It is instructive that the three governors are not only members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, but also dependable allies of the President.
So, their lamentations have nothing to do with politics, religion or ethnicity. It is not the antics of naysayers who want to sully the Buhari government. They are Nigerians who are lamenting the tragedy of insecurity that has befallen their country under the watch of a man whose primary strength ought to be security.
Despite all these, some Nigerians believe the President deserves a second term. To do what?
If President Buhari cannot deliver on his area of core competence, which is security, how much more on other areas where he has zero competence?
Recently, the International Strategic Studies Association, ISSA, a Washington-based non-governmental organisation with a worldwide membership of professionals involved in national and international security and strategic policy, published a damning report on the security situation in Nigeria.
The report blamed alleged corruption among top military chiefs appointed by President Buhari for the country’s woes in the war against Boko Haram.
“It is fair to say that the Nigerian intelligence community itself is no longer sure what groups even comprise ‘Boko Haram,’ nor has it addressed the international logistical, ideological, and support aspects contributing to the ongoing viability of the groups,” the report read in part.
“The conduct of the war in the North is tied to the corruption in the military, and Buhari — ring-fenced by his own team — is unable to tackle the issue.”
The conclusion was damning.
“No significant economic or political progress can be achieved in Nigeria until the issue of the Boko Haram insurgency is resolved … all questions of the viability of Nigeria as a candidate for inward foreign direct investment, FDI and international cooperation are dependent on a resolution of the Boko Haram issues.”
Anyone who is still in doubt of President Buhari’s sheer cluelessness, may well watch his interview on Arise TV on Monday.
While admitting, tongue in cheek, that the performance of the security chiefs he appointed “may be disappointing”, as everyone else knows, he nevertheless accepted responsibility for not changing them because he doesn’t know “the ambition of the ones coming up.”
Nigeria deserves better.