By Philip Agbese
Former Senator for Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, is a man to watch. He should be watched not because he is some star boy or role model that must be recommended to the upcoming generation to emulate, he should be watched closely because he has degenerated to a point where he has become a danger to himself and the society.
In the dire times the country has found herself in, at a time when the opposition has all but fizzled out from being a warming fire to become a mere heap of ash, with the best it has on offer being a career candidate who has made a habit of appearing on the ballot every other four years, Shehu Sani is exploiting the lacuna to posture as an influential voice. But far from it, if Sani’s voice is anything then it is in the league of a siren , one that will lure the unwary into ruins.
Sani plies his poison on Twitter and for good reasons. First, he knows social media in Nigeria is a space where trolls can cowardly hide behind their keyboards to malign others without repercussions; he would need to have more than the below two million followers he currently has for Twitter to consider his posts significant enough for moderation. Secondly, his tweets address an audience whose mental faculties are limited to 280 characters when processing information. Sani’s quality of intervention will not stand up to scrutiny when dissected by persons that are intellectually engaging.
This is why it is no surprise that Sani took to the same medium to unfairly castigate the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General TY Buratai, whose offence was stating that terrorism could persist another twenty years. This assertion, in Shehu Sani’s estimation is an admission of failure, one that should make Buratai resign. Of course, Sani’s band of urchins are jubilant at the barb he threw without taking time to understand the assertion beyond the limitation of 280 characters.
First, Sani’s followers failed to deconstruct their demagogue. Had they a deeper understanding of the man, they would have appreciated that the only credential he parades is that of being an activist, one that could not serve him usefully during his stint at the Senate, a position he lost because he never bothered to cultivate the needed democratic skills required for serving his constituents. His idea of democracy is limited to buying camels to slaughter for the electorates during Sallah. This should not be misconstrued as the failed senator being militarily savvy because he is not a good democrat. Far from it. Sani will fail more in the military than he failed at politics. He simply does not have the discipline to understand the nuances associated with securing a sovereign territory.
Now to the main issue. The point General Buratai made is trite. It is something that several people, a few of them experts had made in the past. It is that: the military may obliterate all Boko Haram’s members in a scorch earth campaign overnight, but the ideology already sowed by the terrorists will take a long time to wipe off just as the damages they have done will take possibly five decades to reverse, hopefully.
General Buratai’s assertion further speaks to the reality currently on ground. The Military is doing all it can to decimate and defeat Boko Haram. That assignment is like mopping water in a flooded room. Until the tap dripping water is turned off then the mopping will be eternal; even when the tap is turned off the broken and leaking pipes as well as seepages must be addressed for the mopping to work. So, as General Buratai and his troops continue to mop up Boko Haram terrorists, the tap must be turned off by way of stopping the foreign interests that prop up the terrorists, geo-strategic intervention like arming militias in Libya, Iraq and Syria must end so that arms destined for these groups do not flow into the hands of Boko Haram terrorists, countries that pay ransom for their conveniently abducted nationals simply to put money in Boko Haram’s coffers must stop.
The leaking pipes and seepages are the criminal politicians that make capital out of terrorist activities, the terrorist moles in the military and security architecture that provide credible intelligence to terrorists, the cyber warriors that unwittingly promote and publicize terrorist propaganda, the unscrupulous business men of diverse persuasions that sell arms and provide logistics to terrorists, the rogue clerics that preach extremism and indoctrinate young people, the foreign organizations that need the crisis to continue for them to sustain donor funding for their so called relief or human rights monitoring work, the war entrepreneurs that need crises to get contracts, corrupt officials that need the crisis as subheads in the budget to steal money, the perverts that finance the operations of the terrorists and a host of other undesirables.
Militarily defeating Boko Haram without attenuating these identified variables means that they will somehow interact and regroup the fighting arm of their operations within the shortest time. This is what has been happening and it is something that will continue to play on loop until Nigeria is able to identify those that fall into these categories and deal with the specific problem they constitute. It is the reality that will allow terrorism to persist for twenty more years and that is hoping that in that span of time the country somehow manages to unmask who these people are. It does not matter whether General Buratai is the one in the saddle or another commander. It is a problem that would not disappear overnight.
Perhaps one should recommend Shehu Sani to study countries that are dealing with terrorism to understand the dynamics and the life cycles of this problem, if that will not be too difficult for him. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philipines and Myamar are dealing with terrorism at a phase that is different from what Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are dealing while the phases in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are also different. In each of these countries, killing the leaderships of the terrorist organizations had not translated to instant peace. They adopt long term approaches to dealing with the residual and associated components of terrorism even when the militant arms of the terrorists have been decimated or defeated.
Interestingly, in the case of Nigeria, some of these problem components could be addressed with robust legislation. Something that Shehu Sani could have initiated when he was in the Senate. But he wasted the four-year chance he had to make impact because in the entirety of that time he confused activism for governance and never truly did things that matter. It is provident that the constituents he accidentally represented realized their mistake and promptly voted him out of the Senate, lest he would have been abusing their mandate to pursue his personal bitterness.
Unfortunately, with the much we have seen of Shehu Sani, he simply does not have the intellectual capacity to decode what General Buratai has said. He would need to go back to school to learn modern tricks like critical thinking in order to understand what is being said.
Agbese is a human rights activist based in the United Kingdom.