Interview

February 5, 2023

Exclusive: How official bungling, negligence, complacency, collusion made Boko Haram a terrifying force — Buratai

Buratai

• Admits terrorist group took tens of thousands of lives, captured several towns, villages

• Says most Nigerians thinking the war against terrorism had not been productive are wrong

• ‘What we are doing to make Tinubu President’

By Kingsley Omonobi and Dickson Omobola

A former Chief of the Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai (retd), has fingered official bungling, negligence, complacency and collusion as reasons Boko Haram terrorist group became a terrifying force in Nigeria’s North-East.

Buratai also said connivance with the proponents and leaders of Boko Haram for selfish reasons was responsible for the failure to tackle the terrorist group.

The army chief who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2015, barely two months after the Nigerian leader was first sworn into office, and served until January 2021, one and a half years into the President’s second term, also said he is now a democrat and an All Progressives Congress (APC) member, saying Nigerians, having tried the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for 16 years, should give APC the benefit of the doubt for another eight years.

Buhari of the APC is finishing his maximum two terms of eight years in May.

According to him, when the President took power in May 2015, he was resolute to extinguish Boko Haram terrorism and restore peace in Nigeria but the nightmare continued.

Making his startling revelations in an interview with Sunday Vanguard last week, Buratai said: “When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in May 2015, he was resolute to extinguish Boko Haram terrorism and restore peace in Nigeria.

“The President came fully prepared with all the right information about the root causes of the insurgency and terrorism.

“He rightly said that an eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and a following by his extrajudicial murder at the hands of the police.

“Since then, through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion, Boko Haram became a terrifying force, taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages, covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.

“This is the true summary of the Boko Haram armed insurrection”.

The former army chief went on: “The murder of Muhammad Yusuf by the police was clearly extrajudicial.

“Negligence, complacency and collusion with the proponents and strategic leaders of the Boko Haram insurgency for selfish reasons caused the insurgency to degenerate into a full-blown nightmare.

“In that (inaugural) statement, President Buhari made it clear that there were lapses in the way the police operate.

“He also made it clear that the methods used by members of the sect qualified them to be labelled as mindless and godless human beings. He told Nigerians and the international community that the terrorists were not true Muslims.

“President Buhari came on board with a clear-cut strategy to subdue the Boko Haram insurgency and restore peace to the North-East region and Nigeria in general, saying the command centre would be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued.

“The point I am trying to make is that he used the word ‘subdued,’ and I say this with every sense of responsibility that the Buhari administration has subdued the Boko Haram insurgency and terrorism. “As his premier Chief of the Army Staff and the longest one that served under him for that matter, I think I owe it a duty to Nigerians and the whole world to say it as it is.

“The President subdued Boko Haram.”

Wrong

Buratai added that most Nigerians were wrong for thinking that the war against terrorism had not been productive, saying internally displaced persons (IDPs) taking refuge in various camps in Maiduguri, Borno State capital and the epicentre of the insurgency, had moved back to their home towns.

According to him, no fewer than 100, 000 insurgents had surrendered to the Buhari administration.

His words: “This is where most Nigerians get it wrong because they think victory over Boko Haram terrorists means a total cessation of hostilities.

“Total cessation of hostilities will happen only when the terrorist group agrees to forsake their ideology, embrace democracy, respect our Constitution and cling to peace.

“To such people, I will say that they need to understand what insurgency is, its rationale and modus operandi, and, of course, its complexities and peculiarities. They will have to counterbalance this with the principles of human rights.

“You got it wrong when you said many Nigerians are complaining that the military is not doing enough; you got it wrong!

“On the contrary, many Nigerians appreciate the military. It is only those who don’t see anything good in the country that don’t appreciate the effort of the government in terms of dealing with insecurity across the country.

“What the Nigerian military confronted and subdued is an insurgency with international collaboration and support. It is what Mali is facing that despite the presence of Operation Barkhane of the French Army and the United Nations peacekeeping, Mali couldn’t cope.

“At the moment, the Russians have been summoned to come and assist Mali to tackle the jihadists. But the Nigerian military has subdued the insurgents, terrorists and jihadists. The North-East region is now calm and very stable. All the local government area councils that were hitherto under the control of Boko Haram have been reclaimed and people displaced from these areas have since gone back to their localities”.

‘APC can safeguard Nigeria’

On his APC membership and 2023 polls, he said: “As you can see, I am now a democrat and an APC member. I have ideas and ideals that the APC can safeguard this country.

“I also believe that the party means well for Nigeria, and also stands a better chance of winning the presidential election.

“We are working round the clock to ensure that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu wins the election. I encourage you to vote for your choice, but if you want to hear my opinion, I would say vote for the APC.

“My advice to Nigerians is to shun violence and dissociate themselves from any politician who wants to use violence to disrupt the system.

“Let’s allow the process to work as it should. I am confident that INEC is going to do a better job this year than in 2019, and Insha Allah, the elections will be peaceful, free, and fair.

“The PDP has been tested for 16 years; Nigerians should give APC the benefit of doubt for another eight years.

“At the end of it if the APC does not meet their expectations then they may wish to take decisive action including democratic revolution. “Nigeria should be much better than what it is today. The foundation laid in 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari must be carried on”.

•Read the full interview next Sunday