BY OKEY MUOGBO
Governor Kashim Shettima could be said to have begun his governorship tenure of Borno state with tears over Boko Haram menace. He shared the crying with former President Goodluck Jonathan but unfortunately because the two men didn’t know how to cry, they shed their tears with quarrelling. Both men were deeply hurt by the atrocities of the BH group but because they did not know how to address the problem as a national crisis, they resorted to blaming each other. It consumed Jonathan’s Presidency because it was actually the last and strongest straw that broke the backbone of his Administration. Don’t mind these propaganda called corruption fight. Some of us thought that Gov Shettima had the last laugh over Jonathan. Not only did his APC Party vanquish Jonathan’s PDP, the APC President, Muhammadu Buhari is an army general, who throughout his election campaign promised Eldorado to a country whose citizens do not produce enough to merit the kind of wealth/affluence they want to command and unfortunately, do not understand the basis of their poverty. Part of the Eldorado was that the cowards called Boko Haram would be wiped out like the men of Maitasine Islamic religious sect. There were the other sweet melodies the APC was churning out during the last general election campaigns like: N1 to $1 exchange rate, automatic end to corruption, just the kind of things an emotional man tells a loose woman so that she can open her legs for him. I still can’t understand how majority of Nigerians swallowed those cheap lies as if we were same as or worse than a loose woman. It was all cheers for the likes of Gov Shettima. An army General had come to power just as we literature students would say that a Daniel has come to judgement. In our mental calculations, the days of the insurgents had been numbered. Jonathan (probably) wept and left office in defeat.
But few days ago, Gov Shettima came to Abuja, the Presidential Villa to weep over the resurgence of Boko Haram activities on a level not known before. Under Jonathan, the insurgents were killing defenceless civilians. Under Buhari today, they are mowing down highly trained, armed soldiers of the Nigerian Army. These are soldiers on whose strength civilians live in times of war. If a kidnappers comes for your child, he runs tot you the father for Defence/protection. If the kidnapper disposes you, then your child becomes take away food for the evil kidnapper. This analogy best describes the situation of our brothers and sisters in the frontline communities in northern Borno. That was why Shettima wept but how much of the BH pains can his tears wipe out? Very little of course. For those of us for whom Borno state or the entire north east is a first or 2nd home, the current narratives on insurgency will remain a puzzle. A place and a people who 12 years ago were not pregnant with trouble have given birth to an untamable monster.
By going to the Presidential Villa, Abuja to shed tears, Gov Shettima has now joined the league of crying governors of Nigeria. But more worisome, his tears have confirmed that we have either come back to where we were in 2015 or have actually slipped downwards from where Buhari Administration started. I can not convince myself that we have benefitted meaningfully from having a General as our president as far as this war is concerned; I stand to be corrected. I weep for Nigeria; in particular, I weep for Borno state. I am not striving for social or political correctness if I say Borno state is my second home. It actually is. Nobody who lived in Borno of old leaves it mentally or emotionally. I lived in Old Maiduguri of old and I lived in Borno of old. I left there 19 years ago, but I can’t forget my people, my people over and not even the minutest of the the memories had faded. Yet I can not reconcile a whole lot of things going on there. Where did this violence-gene sprout from? It can’t be from the Kanuris, not from the Bura, not Gwoza, not Marghi not from any of the tiny minority ethnics groups there. May be, one day, we will come to know how Borno state gave birth to a baby named Violence.
Now that we have been forced to come back to square one, can we tell our selves the truth and begin afresh. First we have to put away foolish talks and foolish mentality about this crisis. Recall that there was a time when Boko Haram and their activities were hailed because they were at that time attacking only policemen and facilities of the Nigerian Police Force. It is unimaginable how a people would jubilate over the assassination of their policemen even when the policemen acted wrongly but we did that once. Book Haram disruptive activities of the sect were welcome then because they were seen as a necessary tool to inconvenience a usurper president as Goodluck Jonathan was known in some parts of the country. That mentality and perception generated some talks that rightly qualify as foolish talks. Then Boko Haram was said to be sponsored by the federal government. If the Federal Government of Jonathan was sponsoring Boko Haram, who is sponsoring Boko Haram of today? Is it the Buhari Government? I agree that Jonathan’s level of open empathy with the people of Borno when he was in power fell below my expectation, but to guile the the people of northeast that his government was sponsoring Boko Haram was the most uncharitable deceit anybody can spread. Recall too that even Buhari was carried away by the frenzy of throwing mud at the Jonathan and his government. He was attributed with the following statements: “The declaration of state of emergency to fight Boko Hara in 3 northern states is a grave injustice against the north.” “Boko Haram members should be pampered and given VIP treatment. It’s injustice to kill them.” If he said these, I have no doubt that by now, he must have retracted his comments if not openly, down inside his head.
One Abel Audu in a recent publication titled: “Shettima’s Tears and Fear Mongering” claimed that Gov Shettima and Borno elders during their recent visit to President Buhari had suggested their own ideas on how to contain Boko Haram. According to him, their demands included: “asking for the Civilian JTF to carry automatic weapons and for all Borno State Indigenes in the Police and military to be redeployed to their home state, Borno, to fight for him. He premised these demands on the grounds that he no longer trusts the current Nigerian Military. He also made points that the Borno state government already pays the allowances of the Civilian JTF members in addition to procuring the hardware they use in their operation against Boko Haram terrorists.”
But Shetiima’s frustrations with the fight against Boko Haram should not push him back to the lies and over simplification that we have used all along to address the insurgency challenge. We have been fooled for too long. No cheap talks, no more sentiments.
Come to think about it if Borno indigenes come home to fight for Borno state, the insurgents would just relocate to Yobe state where they will find a very similar environment like Borno and attack Borno from there; what about the international dimensions of the Boko Haram operations? What is the total budget of Borno state that will be sufficient to execute a war? What indigenisation of the fight will be better than what obtains now that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai is from Borno state, the National security Adviser, Gen Babagana Monguno is from Borno, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar is from neighbouring Bauchi state and was once station commander of the Maiduguri Airforce base?
Gov Shettima has told Buhari point blank that the war against Boko Haram has failed when he said, “We are here because we thought that Allah will use you to fully reclaim Borno 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.” It is left for Buhari to act timely and adequately.
The Buhari Government should declare war against the insurgents and run Nigeria like a country in a war situation. Divert the national budget to the war, make soldiers in the war front to feel ready and prepared to die for Nigeria. All these talks of providing boreholes and building culverts must wait until the war is won. Since guerrilla warfares linger long, our military must be equipped to perpetually maintain superiority over the Boko Haram insurgents as long as the war lasts.