By Philip Agbese
Thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari, the North is actually healing. Once upon a time, the North was bleeding. But today, the narrative has significantly changed. Who says it isn’t.
It is no longer news that the security crisis in Northern Nigeria indeed disrupted socio-economic activities. It is also a statement that since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgent group began a violent campaign, there has undoubtedly been a regime of sorrow, tears and blood. But thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari, whose efforts at addressing the security challenges in the country, northern Nigeria inclusive has been outstanding. Who can disagree with this?
In Nigeria, I have observed a penchant for turning the truth on its head. Some do this for financial reasons, while some do this for mischief purposes or to score cheap political points. I would go with both reasons because some of the issues been peddled in the media space with regards to the situation of things in the north remains the figment of the imagination of a select few that have in their wisdom become disillusioned because its no longer business as usual.
I recently stumbled on a statement credited to a group- Coalition of Northern Groups demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari returns Nigeria to the Boko Haram days pre-2015. I was alarmed but not surprised that such a call could elicit media attention. It was a most puerile attempt by the group’s promoters to insult the sensibilities of Nigerians, especially victims of the fangs of the Boko Haram group in North-East Nigeria.
I was also amazed how any right-thinking individual or group would elect to be so forgetful to the situation of things then and would wish that Nigeria returns to such an era where the Boko Haram group almost succeeded in bringing Nigeria to its knees. I am forced to ask if those individuals were so forgetful not to remember that at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, nowhere in the country was safe.
How did they forget so quickly how places of worship, public motor parks and other critical government infrastructures were severely hit by bombs detonated at will by the Boko Haram insurgents? Ordinally, it is curious that this request comes from a group whose supposed spectrum area is supposedly northern Nigeria.
One thing readily comes to mind, which is that indeed some vested interest in the north are, after all, not happy with the healing process in the north. We all know that the Boko Haram insurgency was big business for most of these nomenclatures; however, it remains absurd that some would elect to play politics with human lives. During the day, they are advocates for good governance, but at night, they are vampires looking for human blood.
From the preceding, it seems their thirst for blood is insatiable. It also seems their pockets have run dry since the Nigerian Army gained ascendency over the Boko Haram insurgents since 2016. And the list is endless. However, for emphasis’s sake, I would remind them of a few instances where the north really bled and why no right-thinking human would ever wish that Nigeria returns to such inglorious years.
Have they forgotten in a hurry the story of the Chibok girls? Have they also forgotten the Buni Yadi massacre where fifty-nine school boys at the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi in Yobe State were slaughtered? Have they also forgotten the Baga massacre where hundreds of thousands innocent people were killed and the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force overrun by the Boko Haram insurgents? What about the Nyanya Bomb blast that left over 200 persons dead?
In Nigeria, was there a time when the Boko Haram group controlled over 16 local government areas in North-East Nigeria? Was there a time when the Boko Haram group attacked communities in North-East Nigeria at will, and the Nigerian Military seemed handicapped with little or no meaningful response to the constant attack on women and children.
Is the Coalition of Northern Groups aware that in most villages recaptured by military forces, all social infrastructures had reportedly been destroyed? The education authorities reported that 338 schools had been damaged or destroyed between 2012 and 2014 in the States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. In some areas, Boko Haram destroyed bridges linking villages, such as in Kubroshosh, in Borno State ? On 6 April 2015, in Kwajafa village in Borno state, Boko Haram set fire to a local mosque, leading to an unknown number of casualties. In June 2015, it used improvised explosive devices and suicide bomb attacks against a church, in Postikum. On 7 July, two separate bomb attacks on a restaurant and a mosque in Jos, killed 44 civilians. And the list is endless.
Is the Coalition of Northern Groups saying that all they wish for the Northern part of the country is a return to those anomalies? Your guess is as good as mine, and I dare say we might be dealing with the actual sponsors of crime and criminalities in Northern Nigeria. Now let’s assume it was a political statement since its politics time; it goes a long way to tell any discerning mind that something is fundamentally wrong, and Nigerians should look no farther than those that came under the umbrella of Coalition of Northern Groups.
In my considered opinion, they are the real Boko Haram insurgents and recently bandits attempting to disrupt the healing process in Northern Nigeria since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed leadership of the country. At this point, I am afraid for this country and only God knows what these groups aim to achieve at the end of the day.
But the good news is that President Muhammadu Buhari indeed matched his words with actions. Today, over 80% of those displaced have returned to their communities. Today, the Boko Haram group does not control any local government area. The factional leaders of the group (Abubakar Shekau and Al Barnawi) have met their waterloo. This is aside from other top commanders that have either been eliminated or surrendered to the superior power of the Nigerian Military.
Nigerians can also testify when was the last time a bomb was detonated in any public place. Nigerians can also attest that those road barricades have disappeared from our streets and roads. Nigerians can also testify how the once dreaded Sambisa Forest was overrun by troops who dislodged the Boko Haram insurgents.
More recently, Nigerians can also testify on the intensity of the military’s efforts in addressing the threats posed by bandits in parts of Northern Nigeria. Nobody can doubt what our Air Force has been doing in the last few weeks. The stats are impressive and most commendable because the prosecution of the war against terrorism and banditry have conformed with internationally accepted standards.
I also need to mention that the level of coordination amongst the security forces has been outstanding for emphasis. The troops are well equipped; Nigeria recently took delivery of some Super Tucano fighter jets and many more positives recorded under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Let us also look at the agricultural sector in Borno state that was badly affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. The Coalition of Northern Groups may wish to be reminded that Benue State recorded the highest rice yield in the country last year. Thanks to the improved security situation that allowed farmers to return to their farms once again. The herdsmen and farmers crisis has equally disappeared from the north gradually and almost completely.
This is same for other states in the North Central that has had issues with farmers-herders conflict. And if this is not healing I wonder what else to call it. Maybe the Coalition of Northern Groups in their wisdom can help us out.
Suppose the Coalition of Northern group does not recognize these feats. In that case, they should develop a counter-narrative with stats and stop wishing the country a return to Armageddon. If indeed they are a group, they should do us well to reveal their identities and not masquerade under a nomenclature with a northern tag.
They should spare us their diatribe and allow the healing in the north to continue until final peace returns.
Agbese is a UK trained human rights activist and publisher based in London