By Nick Dazang
By dint of the legion of dastardly and wicked attacks by terrorists of all hues over the past seven years across the country, leaving in their trail deaths and mayhem, the chickens have been coming home to roost.
Only, and unfortunately, no one hearkened to them. Not even President Muhammadu Buhari whose solemn remit it is to protect and defend the country.
If anything, his aloofness, his complacency and smug indifference suggest, not to a few Nigerians, that he may have been at one with the terrorists. The government, under President Buhari’s watch, treated the terrorists, at best, as untouchables and at the worst with kid gloves. This is even as it dealt in draconian fashion with others in their ilk.
The government -until now? – has been slow and tardy in decimating the Boko Haram terrorists such that the terrorists became emboldened. And such that ordinary folks were tempted to conclude that government had betrayed them and that it was in cahoots with the terrorists.
This inclination was further fortified by an allegation – which is yet to be denied or contested – by a former big wig of the governing All Progressives Congress, APC, Kawu Baraje, to wit: that the terrorists were procured from neighbouring West African countries to fight on behalf of the APC should it either lose the 2015 general elections or should the former President, Goodluck Jonathan, stick to power, willy nilly.
Though Baraje modified his story last week, it is instructive that he reportedly made his disclosure in 2019. It is curious that he took so long to modify it in spite of the fact that it went viral as soon as he issued it and it had since been trending in cyberspace. Besides, the social media are so ubiquitous and so pervasive that he cannot pretend that he is just sighting his alleged misrepresentation three years after.
The Baraje spin notwithstanding, last week was a culmination and the height of the insolence of Boko Haram to Nigeria’s sovereignty and pride. Coming hot on the heels of its dastardly attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre and the ambush of the presidential convoy, it was further emboldened to ambush members of the elite Guards Brigade at Bwari, in the FCT, thereby dispatching to the great beyond some of its staff. It was a strident message by Boko Haram, heralding a week of reckoning and evoking a piteous fire-on- the-mountain scenario.
If the presidency, or whatever vestiges of it that remained, was in deep slumber or had earlier elected to play the ostrich, the terrorists sent a shrill message: They announced, with their intrepid ambush of the Guards Brigade, which mandate is to protect the president, that they had arrived, in full force, in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. And it suddenly became very clear that the Three Arms Zone (the Presidential Villa, the National Assembly and the Appeal and Supreme Courts and the Federal Secretariat) could be taken over, Afghanistan-style, and with ease, by the terrorists.
Little wonder, government found recourse in the panic button. It ran helter-shelter. Schools, across the FCT, were abruptly closed. The National Assembly scampered into a recess. This was after it made an incoherent threat to impeach the President on account of what the Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, referred to as “frightening” insecurity. The President was compelled to convoke an emergency meeting of the Security Council.
The consequences of the emergency security council meeting were that:1) government had now given the armed forces “full freedom” to deal with the terrorists; 2) the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Farouk Yahaya, effected a token reshuffle of his commanders; 3) in what is touted as “Operation Show Terrorists No Mercy”, subscribed to by all the Service Chiefs, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, ordered operational commanders in various theatres to “employ maximum firepower” and to “show no mercy against any terrorist and their accomplices”; and 4) the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, directed Assistant Inspectors-General of Police, Commissioners of Police and other strategic commanders to immediately begin “a special visibility policing operation across the country” and to map out crime-prone areas in their jurisdictions.
The fact that government is only now, at the twilight of the tenure of President Buhari, according our armed forces “full freedom” and the carte blanche to deal with the terrorists lends credence to suggestions earlier bandied in the grapevine that they were tethered and hobbled by a government which was not keen on decimating the terrorists. It also buttresses conjectures in the public space that there may have been a pact of sorts between the terrorists and some key elements of the APC government. This is further reinforced by the fact that prominent members of the APC government have disclosed that the security agencies had always been on top of their game by providing credible information regarding the location and disposition of the terrorists.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase, recently confessed to having sighted not less than 44 security reports alarming the government to the impending attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre. Rather than be proactive and pre-emptive, government allowed the attack to take place only to shed crocodile tears thereafter. Now that the President has given the armed forces the “full freedom” to decimate the terrorists, we expect not less. Thankfully, government claims it has provided all that the armed forces require. We are witnesses to the fact that government has acquired Super Tucanos and Attack Helicopters and other gear for the armed forces. We also have no doubt about the capacity of our gallant armed forces given their shimmering pedigree in various theatres of war.
From the Congo to the Sudan and from the Nigerian Civil War to the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, our armed forces had acquitted themselves excellently. Our armed forces must draw inspiration from this proud history. They also have a burden to discharge: they must, by a special display of derring-do and gung-ho spirit, decimate the terrorists once and for all. This will finally dispel the unseemly accusation that the war on terror is one sleazy enterprise in which the army bigwigs profit.
*Dazang, a former director in INEC, wrote via: [email protected]