The clock ticked 1am on a Tuesday. President Mai Geskiya still awake in his office shook his head. He wasn’t even feeling sleepy or tired. Holding his forehead, clad in his two palms, he slowly suspended it atop his office table in deep contemplation. He was angered, evening of the previous day.
He came out of a midnight meeting with top-notchers of the ruling party-the All Peoples Congregation (APC). When he got notice of the meeting, he felt some unusual heat and inexplicable indignation. He knew the agenda for the meeting, which first irritated him, and thinking of the expected weird lobbying by politicians, he got really weary.
And the hour and his fears came to pass when he attended the meeting. All what party men and women scrambled to mouth was what appointments they could get for their states or acolytes.
Ignoring the unnecessary attention, perpetual lobbyists, after the meeting, he ordered his driver to navigate his way back to the office. And instead of the residential wing of the palatial presidential villa in Aso Oke, where his family was anxiously waiting for his warm greetings, he proceeded to the office.
He had merely texted his wife, informing her of the night’s meeting with party members. “My darling Hajiya, please expect me back late today. I have a meeting of my party,” he wrote in the text.
“But they can wait,” he said. “At least, if no one else understands my predicament, my family should know.”
He muttered aloud, “the meeting is over, but I can’t get home, with all these pending issues on my mind. Politicians are wicked people. The career ones. Now, they want me to do everything in a hurry and make mistakes. If our party fails Nigerians, they will blame me because I am the leader.”
Still in the office, seated on his swivel chair, he rotated from one direction to another, as he gazed at the marbled ceiling. “So, none of my comrades in politics has bothered about merit or national service,” an inner voice vibrated it in his mind so thunderously.
“But they should have known, I am taking my time, to select the best hands to pilot this change agenda we promised the people of Naija,”
Truly, the President had not formed his cabinet nearly two months in office. And party members were worried. Phone calls, text messages and facebook messages minutely flooded his GSM handset and the volume was enough to write a whole book. So, notice of the meeting with party members had the same agenda. And his spirit instantaneously became dull and hesitant.
He struggled so hard to resist the temptation of attending the meeting personally. But at long last, all of the reasons he contrived as excuse to hold himself back from the meeting failed to pass his own integrity test. After the meeting, he was moody all through the night, as he sat in his office thinking of how best to please his party members, without displeasing the people of Naija who voted for change.
He performed ablution and offered a short prayer, invoking the spirit of Allah to show him the way. Thereafter, he started fiddling with the files on his in-box folder on the large table. The first file he picked was labeled “Governor’s Forum” reminding him of inherited workers salary debts. He brushed it aside tenderly. He picked the next file, just labeled “secret.”
The President opened the first page and behold, a copy of the party’s manifesto stared him in the face. He grabbed it and looked at the contents and eventually paused at the security item of the manifesto and nodded severally. Memories of his campaign promises flashed back at him in torrents.
“ I promised the people of Naija to first tackle insecurity, end Boko Haram terrorism and fight corruption to a standstill. They were my priority promises and after it, I can take my leadership direction from there, ” he muttered to himself. This realization changed the gloomy mood that had arrested him all night.
He looked at the wooden plated, shining clock, hanging on the wall of his office. It was 3am dot. He called Sani, one of his aides to switch unto Al-Jazeera TV station for News flash. The station came up alive and the first news item was “Scores Killed in Another bomb explosion in Maiduguri, Nigeria’s Northeast.”
He screamed out aloud, “This must not continue. It must stop,” his emotions almost overwhelmed him to a tearful, nerve-breaking point.
“Walahi, these Boko boys, cannot spoil my administration in the name of any ideology.” No way! He swore.
The next day, he summoned a meeting of the Service Chiefs he inherited, thanked them for service to their country and bade them farewell in their future endeavours. Two days later, he announced their sack and the replacements.
Among the new appointees was a middle aged man, darkish in complexion, who headed the Multi-National Joint Task Force against terrorism, Tukur Yusufu Buratai, a Lieutenant General. He scrutinized his file among the three recommendations sent to him for the position of Chief of the Army. And to his greatest amazement, the soldier was unblemished and had an excellent record of service, anywhere he served.
“This Army General can do this job. If Buratai heads the army, he can bury terrorism. All he needs is logistics, support and encouragement,” he said to himself.
“You will henceforth not only head the Nigerian Army, but also lead the battle, with other service chiefs to end Boko Haram terrorism,” the President told Buratai. “From today, let Maiduguri be the temporary headquarters of the Nigerian Army until the war is over.”
“Yes Sir!!! I will do my best, to give you positive results, sir,” Buratai replied.
At office the second day, Buratai had already summoned all GOC’s and heads of military units to a meeting with him. The session was the briefest ever. “Thank you my colleagues. Mr. President has given a directive to us to end terrorism in the country,” he said.
“We are leaving here today with the conviction that terrorism will end in the next few months,” he said. “That is the promise I am making to my Commander-In-Chief and Nigerians. And we must work to fulfill it,” he added.
“Issues of outstanding salaries and allowances will be cleared. You will have new weapons to fight on the battlefield. So, no one has cause to fear,” Buratai assured his commanders.
“ We shall fight the battle on the field together. I will be with you in the jungles and forests of the Northeast. I want to feel your pains, your hunger and frustrations. If terrorists attack you, it means they have attacked me and I will pull the trigger of my gun first. If I do not suffer any of these, none of you will suffer it. But we must win this war,” he said and declared the meeting closed.
The following week, Gen. Edosa of Ejo Military Cantonment phoned, Gen. Chidi of Nugu military Battalion.
“General, how is your day sir,” he asked.
The receiver replied, “My brother, its ok and you?.”
“ Its alright. But just received a letter of redeployment,” the caller informed.
“To where?, ” asked Gen. Chidi.
“Maiduguri,” replied Gen. Edosa.
“No regrets, officer, we must serve our country, anywhere and God will see us through,” said Chidi.
A few hours later same day, it was Gen. Chidi who phoned back his friend, Gen. Edosa to also inform him of his transfer to Maiduguri. “Our new boss looks serious and he is determined to end Boko haram insurgency,” Gen. Chidi quipped.
And the redeployment spree affected almost all divisions, as soldiers were massively moved to the Northeast.
The following weeks were really hectic for soldiers in the Northeast. The Army Chief appeared unannounced at various camps and gave field directives personally. Both at Baga and Gwoza, like elsewhere, he addressed troops and led the nocturnal battles against insurgents. Terrorists in a long convoy were headed for Gwoza that night to cause more atrocities. Gen. Buratai signaled adjoining commands and he led troops from the center to confront them in a fierce battle.
Sensing the advancement of soldiers belatedly, insurgents attempted to retreat. But it was too late. They were massacred in the same measure they had been killing civilians. In that raid, and several others, arms and ammunitions of terrorists were recovered. Gwoza was reclaimed and insurgents’ flag pulled down. The operations were replicated everywhere in the Northeast. And six months into the battle, all the sixteen local governments captured by terrorists under Naija’s territory were reclaimed.
Internally displaced persons, who ran to Cameroun or Niger for safety, felt the breathe of fresh air and relief from terror. They marched back to their abandoned homes in droves.
“Please tell our people to come back now. Never again shall your land be taken by terrorists,” Buratai told a crowd of returnees at Gwoza.
“Sanu, Mallam,” the crowd echoed in chorus.
A little boy of 12 years, in the crowd, walked up to Buratai in appreciation. But at the feet of this General, words could hardly come out of his mouth. He was visibly famished. Instead, he knelt down and exploded in streams of tears of joy. “Sanu Malam,” he uttered inaudibly.
Buratai raised him up, held his hand and chanted to the crowd, “this is the sign of your innocence. Never again would this fate befall you.”
In faraway “No Man’s Country,” President Mai Geskiya was addressing the 71st General Assembly of the congregation of Nations. “We have defeated terrorism,” he said. “They are on the run. We have reduced their atrocities to occasional attacks on soft, obscure targets,” he bellowed into the microphone.
Heads of nations nodded in awe and excitement. It was an indication that they were aware of the defeat of terrorism by Nigeria and that President Mai Geskiya was only officially confirming and repeating somewhat stale news.
At the end of his address, there was a standing ovation for him, as he walked down the aisle to his seat. “We shall give Nigeria, global award and recognition for defeating terrorism,” a Head of State whispered into the ear of his colleague- President, who nodded approvingly.
Orinya writes from the United Kingdom.