For the umpteenth time, Gov. Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno state has cause to rake over perceived sabotaged in the lingering fight against insurgency in North-east, particularly in his state known as the epicenter. As the number one citizen and chief security officer of the worst affected frontline state, the concern persistently raised need to be considered.
It’s no longer news that Zulum has within the past one year of his election gone round all the 21 local government sreas of the embattled state reaching areas never visited by any top ranking government official since there recovery from insurgents in 2015. Based on his reach out, Zulum has seen and heard a lot, to the extent that ignoring his concerns can amount to act of sabotage. And more so, even the Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari, recently endorsed such concerns in north east when he said the best so far by those in charge of the fight is not satisfactory.
And what Zulum has been saying or alleging were nothing new except that the governor has amplified the concerns from his vintage position. Former governor of Adamawa, Murtala Nyako, once reacted that way during Goodluck Jonathan administration, a development that many believed led to in his impeachment, and subsequently assisted in the lost of election by the Jonathan administration to Buhari.
In fact, any leader whose people are under such dicey situation that portend bleak future if nothing urgently is done cannot afford to keep quiet. The military who knew Zulum as a team player in the fight against insurgency based on his contributions should therefore, just accept the outcry with equanimity and consider it a wake up call from a committed major stakeholder by investigating and making amend on things slowing this urgent fight against insurgency.
Zulum and the people of Borno in particular and North-east in general appreciated the excellent job by the military in recovering areas under the insurgency, and the degrading of the insurgents capacity to occupy and hold on to territories, but the next level of the final push to get rid of the terrorists from identified black spots around fringes of lake Chad, Sambisa Forest and Mandara Mountains from where they continue to launch successful attacks is what many feels has been delayed for long, and has continued to contribute to resurgence of the insurgency.
The onslaught by Chadian troops which forced many insurgents to cross over to Nigeria side where such onslaught was not done in spite of repeated calls by concern Nigerians including National Assembly only helped to heighten the suspicion of sabotage.
Most of what happened after the Chadian troops’ onslaught was a noticeable increase of attacks on populace and troops with heavy casualties! And most of the attacks were initiated by the insurgency who put our troops on the defensive. Military formations were harassed almost on a daily basis in what portrayed our soldiers as lions in chain being harassed by hyenas. People want that perceived chain to be loosen so that the lions can go all out on to deal with the hyenas. Our military have all it takes; the troops, weapons and air cover needed for a thorough job that will make any surviving insurgents think twice before contemplating any attack on Nigerian troops or villages under the troops’ protection.
A statistics from a national daily over the week indicated a total of 375 deaths from January 2 to August 2 in three front line states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa as a result of the insurgency. Out of the 375 deaths, 223 are civilians, 111 soldiers, 31 insurgents and 10 policemen. Just take 111 soldiers killed to only 31 insurgents within the period and you will realize why some people are crying out loud.
There is also that viral video of boko haram attack on Monguno where the insurgents showed how they moved unchallenged firing, and finally burnt down three vehicles comprising armoured personnel carriers and a tank belonging to the army. That video is disturbing and a source of concern, it raises more questions on the fight against insurgency.
Baga town which remains at the centre of recent concern only reinforces the resurgence of Boko Haram and it sustain effort to embarrass the military who said they are in control of the commercial town. If boko haram are responsible for attacking the governor of Borno and other dignitaries in his convoy, forcing him to abort his confidence building visit to the town, then the soldiers in Baga have failed at a critical moment when they are supposed to be on red alert, creating more room for the existing concern.
The rife speculation about Baga where multi million naira fish and other businesses thrive is that many soldiers are into fish business. Some say the soldiers dominated the business and reduced the locals to onlookers or small partners in the businesses! Such act of compromising professionalism is sabotaging. Where is that discipline that constitutes the soul of an army if the army is to be formidable?
There are also claims from farmers in fertile communities who could not assess their farmlands, but some soldiers are doing just that! To such farmers, many still in camps, such soldiers are sabotaging the fight for concentrating on farming instead of their assigned task of fighting boko haram and securing the farmlands for the farmers whose poverty level is among leading factors for the insurgency. The more their poverty level continue to increase, the more fertile environment is created for boko haram recruits.
We need more boots and drastic security action in Borno as the kid gloves approach is encouraging bandits in other parts of Nigeria to become bolder taking cue from the insurgents who of recent even extended hands of fellowship to other bandits in a quest to subdue the entire north and by extension Nigeria. There is already the US warning of Al-Qaeda and ISIS penetrating Nigeria!
However, the recent North-east Governors meeting in Maiduguri where security issues top the agenda has provided useful advice on how to generate more momentum to the fight against insurgency by calling on federal government to deploy more state of the art military hardware to the armed forces deployed to Borno. It also recommended that the manpower shortage of the Nigerian Armed Forces be bridged by allowing the Police to carry state of the art weapons where necessary and be provided with strategic equipments like high velocity tear gas, trackers and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC).
The governors meetings in Maiduguri and the latest one they held with Mr President in Abuja all stressed the need for the federal government to address the causes of insurgency, which are not limited to endemic poverty, hunger among others.
“One of the root causes is that of access to farm lands, people need to go back to their farmlands, people need to be resettled in their original homes so that they can restart their means of livelihood. This is one of the reasons the insurgents are recruiting more into the sect’’, the spokesman of the governors, Zulum had pointed out.
A statement regarding the Abuja meeting also attended by the service chiefs, said that President Buhari has given strong assurances on improving security nationwide and Borno in particular.
“Things will improve very soon. We are acquiring modern equipment; some are here, some are being cleared, and others still coming. We need patience with acquisition of equipment. You need to train the trainers for their usage ahead of their deployment to the field…
“I assure you, the Northeast Governors, especially that of Borno, that we go to bed and wake up thinking about you, how to secure our country, that is the responsibility of every government. Our party campaigned in 2015 on three major objectives, among which is Security. We said the same thing in 2019 and Nigerians believed us. We are doing our best and we will continue to do even better, ” President Buhari was quoted as saying to the governors by his spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu.
The COAS, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was also quoted in that meeting as saying that the insurgents had been cleared in other states with the remnants now cornered in Borno, and that all is needed was patience for the last push, while his counterpart, Air Marshal Saddique Abubakar of the Air Force also spoke of the acquisition of military aircraft and imminent arrival of drones.
They are cheering news but as we wait for the final push, we want them to ensure the needed discipline in the armed forces, and to make the best use of the available arms and other resources at there disposal in making the insurgents realize that we, the people of Borno in particular cannot continue to breath through their (boko haram) nose as it is now; a situation where many cannot go to farm and can only ply with a limited ease only one of the four major roads that linked the state with other parts of Nigeria and neighbouring countries is suffocating.
Keep them (insurgents) on the run while we exercise the needed patience for the final push.
Uba writes from Maiduguri