By Charles Ibekwe

The true worth of leaders is measured by their consistency. True leaders are known for jutting and upholding truth; avoiding actions which might erode public confidence in them. That’s why Bulgarian-born writer, Maria Popova Maria reasoned that “Greatness is consistency driven by a deep love of the work.”

In today’s world, most characters speak before they think. That’s the accident of nature and the burden destiny has foisted on others. Leaders should try as much as possible to avoid what is commonly referred to as slip of the tongue.

That’s why true leaders are not flippant. A leader measures his words and actions. A leader does not recklessly parrot like a woman under menstruation. Leaders who speak based on spur of the moment are the most untrustworthy specie of homo sapiens. Jack weatherford cautioned that “if you can’t swallow your pride, you can’t lead.”

Borno state Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum is fast becoming a mere shadow of an ideal leader. In Nigeria’s Second Republic, some politicians were reputed for frivolous public comments. He was later derogatively branded as suffering from diarrhea of the mouth. It is Zulum’s greatest undoing and nightmare at the moment. Reed Markham says, “Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty, rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.”

Gov. Zulum praises the Nigerian Military and President Muhammadu Buhari over counter-insurgency operations today and by the break of dawn, he begins to chant all manner of abusive hallucinations on the same people he eulogized over the same matter. A Governor should rise above such prisms. A Professor should not reason or act like an infantile.

Unfortunately, that’s the toga Gov. Zulum garbs now. The Governor feels no one else in Nigeria is concerned about Boko Haram insurgency and ISWAP terrorism in Borno state, except him. It’s a wrong impression by whatever interpretation. Gov. Zulum is prodded to learn some wisdom from Brian Tracy’s counsel; “Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” Zulum is not a follower, but a leader of his people.

Zulum has committed too many gaffes on the counter-insurgency operations in Borno, his home state, where he is also the Governor and the Chief Security officer. He spites others, but avoids a step in the direction of the glaring solutions on containing Boko Haram in Borno.

Every life is sacred and so also, the lives of others who stake their necks to ensure the people of Borno have peace and security. They are also human and have families. They have blood running in their veins like any other human being. Gov. Zulum cannot elect upon himself to constantly disgorge upbraids on the same people.

When the Auno Boko Haram attacks on travellers happened, President Buhari cut short his foreign trip to pay a condolence visit to the people of Borno. In Gov. Zulum’s remarks, he spoke of resurgence terrorists’ attacks in the state, which ironically happens to be the only state still held on the jugular by Boko Haram terrorists.

Zulum paid glowing tributes to the administration of President Buhari for dousing the fires of Boko Haram in the state. The Governor was detailed that before the Buhari Presidency, over17 LGAs in the state were under the serfdom of Boko Haram.

And not long ago, Gov. Zulum paid an official visit to the leader of the counter-insurgency operations and Nigeria’s COAS, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai at the Army Headquarters in Abuja. Zulum released a carefully crafted symphony of eulogies, on the Army and the Nigerian Military for their relentless efforts in putting out the fires of Boko Haram insurgency and ISWAP terrorism in his state. Many mistook his utterances as genuine and reflective of the true realities in the warfront in Borno.

Undeniably, the Nigerian Military have been doing their best in the counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast. Even an outsider knows this fact! Why Boko Haram still strives in Borno state is because it has been commercialized and politicized by Zulum’s tribesmen; himself a recent recruit into the clan of sabs. No amount of blackmail or diatribes by the Governor against the Military would distort this truth.

And from every indication, it appears some political elites in the state, as now symbolized by Gov. Zulum enjoys the business of terrorism in Borno. It is rash for Zulum to think he can mesmerize Nigerians or callously and deviously reprimand the Military over the endless Boko Haram in his state. In the whole of Northeast now, only Borno still glamorizes Boko Haram.

The Chief of Army Staff is not a fool! He is a knowledgeable soldier and a unique professional infantry combatant with a record of excellence in all assignments for many years, within and abroad. As soon as he stepped on the hotbed of leading counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, he introduced the “stick and carrot” approach, combining both kinetic and non-kinetic weapons in battling terrorism.

The non-kinetic approach has yielded impressive results over the years with the massive surrenders of Boko Haram top commanders and foot soldiers since the last quarter of 2015 to date. It was a master stroke in insurgency combats.

It is expected that the political, religious and community leadership of Borno would buy into this agenda as a secured means of ending terrorism in the state. But Gov. Zulum has ignored it; his other political elites have shunned it and the business class in the state have never and do not ever contemplate it. They are just playing politics with it. And Gov. Zulum goes out unconscionably to scout for scapegoats to blame.

The recent comments of Gov. Zulum in Jakana, where Boko Haram sneaked an attack on travelers, where he berated the Army and accused them of failing to protect commuters along the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway were truly reckless and unguarded. Zulum harshly reproached the Army, the Rapid Response Squad, vigilantes, local hunters and everybody involved in the counter-insurgency operations. It was nonsensical of him!

Gov. Zulum outrightly proclaimed that ‘the Nigerian Army has failed in discharging their responsibility of protecting the commuters and quite expectedly forecasted that “… how can they (military) keep us with the hope they will defeat the Boko Haram?” This statement betrayed Zulum’s inner plots and his co-conspirators who are unprepared for the exculpation of Borno state from Boko Haram for purely political gains.

It absolutely nonsensical for Gov. Zulum to arrogate to himself the power and clairvoyance to determine when Boko Haram would end or the impossibility of defeating it. Let Zulum and his partners in this evil tell Nigerians why only Borno and the Northern axis of the state is refusing to let go Boko Haram terrorism?

Zulum knows the game plan and intentions of his political godfathers. That’s why he praises the military today on counter-insurgency operations and lambasts the same Military on Boko Haram. Stupidity is nobody’s baptismal name. Its not good to tag a Professor as foolish. But the arguments canvassed by Gov. Zulum in Jakana are sadly foolish and silly.

A professor should reason better. He should know that in an unconventional war like Boko Haram insurgency combats, occasional security breaches or setbacks could occur. It happens everywhere in other countries under the spell of terrorism. But it does not qualify those dousing this fire as failures as preached by Zulum.

Zulum and his political godfathers have first failed their people. They are exploiting Boko Haram for political and commercial gains. Its an open secret now. If Gov. Zulum doubts it, let him courageously come out publicly and challenge former Borno Governors like Senators Ali Modu Sherrif and Kashim Shettima on whose wings he has ascended to the prime position of Borno’s Governor.

This is the problem. Gov. Zulum knows the truth. He is a man entangled in the web of godfatherism at one end and his ethnic stock who have refused to tackle the Boko Haram problems. Zulum hedges the convoking of a broad-based stakeholders dialogue in Borno over Boko Haram to speak truth to themselves. He is afraid such a forum would a platform for some people to spill the beans and the vaunted secrets on why Boko Haram has refused to depart from Borno.

Gov. Zulum knows, his immediate political godfather, Sen. Shettima beats him in dark rooms each time he publicly tells the truth about Boko Haram and the effectiveness of Military operations in the state. Shettima is a soulless leader and he threatens Zulum with withdrawal of re-election ticket for 2023, if he supports the military. These are things known to many Borno people.

For the Machiavellian Sen. Shettima, Boko Haram should not vanish and there must not be any local government elections; there should be no accountability to the people in order to keep milking Borno. And Boko Haram insurgency offers an automatic excuse-there is no security in the state. So, they cannot make the Nigerian Military their scapegoats!

The persistence of Boko Haram diverts attention from probing Shettima’s past tenure as a two-tenured Governor of Borno. Gov. Zulum should be more circumspect henceforth. Let him demonstrate his sincerity by fighting Boko Haram on the open dialogue plane in the state. They should not force Nigerians to believe Leo Tolstoy’s ideology that “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Ibekwe wrote this piece from Abuja.


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