By Bayo Adeyanju
Borno state Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, you need to “calm down” and look deeply inside the inner workings and actions of people of your state to discover and go for the right solutions to uproot Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism in Borno. It is a serious issue which should be devoid of half-measures or public display of empathetic emotions and blame games.
If the Governor is truly committed to extricating his people from the pangs of terrorism, he must be prepared to take a delve deep in the ocean of the veiled darkness in Borno which nourishes Boko Haram. Borno state deserves peace and he must calm down to sight the real problems and actors to hit at them really hard. Other states have achieved this feat and it is not beyond Zulum, only if he calms down and wears his thinking cap.
Understandably, the issue of insecurity is very touchy and the refusal of Boko Haram to abate in Nigeria and particularly, in Borno state needs sterner action. It is sorrowful to see innocent lives wasted and properties destroyed. The social dislocation it creates and the concomitant humanitarian crisis it has continued to generate are problems of grave concerns to everyone, the Military inclusive.
Unfortunately, the hysteria and clattering noises as championed by Gov. Zulum is nowhere near the panacea. He must assume the full responsibilities of a leader and Chief Security officer of his state. Playing public empathetic modes and dragging the image of soldiers destructively into the Boko Haram inferno in his state is counter-productive. He has played the ostrich game with the real roots of terrorism in Borno enough.
Nigerians know the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari and the determination of the Nigerian Military to end the violent campaigns of these religious militants in Nigeria. While both the Presidency and the Military have thrown their hearts into the anti-terrorism combats, the political class in Borno state is most disappointingly aloof. They have only mastered public empathetic wailings; but embolden Boko Haram variously.
In recent times, one has observed the inclination of the political leadership in Borno state to regale and stoke tension by resorting to blame games. Borno State Gov. Babagana Zulum is too eager to play this game of blaming the Military each time Boko Haram militants attack any part of the state.
It is like Gov. Zulum goes out every day to scout for perceived or imaginary loopholes in the counter-insurgency operations in order to parrot on the Military or soldiers who are battling day and night to salvage his ensnared people. This is very improper to say the least and capable of causing disaffection or disenchantment in the Military.
Gov. Zulum needs to look deeper to appreciate the problems surrounding him. He has to look beyond the veneer to discern the underlying problems of festering Boko Haram in Borno. He must necessarily bend down to understand why Boko Haram bloody campaigns or other violent crises have waned in several states, but Borno still dogmatically celebrates terrorism.
Like the analogy of the Lagos little boy versus his mother and Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, which is somewhat like a parable now, Gov. Zulum needs to please “calm down,” and look critically inside to discover the stop-gaps. He is too much in haste to impress politicians and so, ignoring the basic steps.
Again, Zulum needs to ask himself candid questions and proffer genuine answers on why Boko Haram has considerably gone extinct in other parts of the Northeast like Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, and Gombe states. Or why states like Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger and hordes of others are feting peace from violent and bloody clashes now, but Borno still swims.
It is largely because their genuinely committed political leaders calmed down; assessed the problems, identified the causative factors and tackled it from the roots. They shunned the zealotry of grandstanding and uprooted it from the foundation. But on the contrary, it is apparent Gov. Zulum’s most cherished philosophy on Boko Haram in his state is opposed to dispassionate actions against the problem of insecurity in his domain.
To be frank, Gov. Zulum is stiff-necked and precisely blind to reason. Those who eulogize him are doing so because the Governor is more disposed to applying medicine after death. Since he became Governor of the state a year ago, he has severally blamed the Military operating in his state for any unfortunate incident of Boko Haram attack in his state.
The Governor’s latest outbursts when his convoy was attacked by Boko Haram operatives near the town of Baga on July 29, 2020 was quite unfortunate. But to blame soldiers for the attack on his convoy is most unfortunate and farcical. Much more, to even contemplate blaming it on sabotage by the military is repugnant to logic in every sense and irritatingly repulsive.
Gov. Zulum’s current approach is wrong and he knows it plainly. He has got the passion to work against Boko Haram, no doubt; but the same has betrayed by his emotions basically because he looks at the issue of insurgency in his state more from the periphery. The other day, he was in Chad to ask its Military to come and assist him battle Boko Haram in his state. But a man who has refused to solve his domestic problems need not disturb the peace of his neighbors.
It is difficult to discern where he got the wisdom to mouth endlessly that the Military are sabotaging their own efforts in terrorism combats; how does he want the world to reason with him that the years of sacrifices and hardships faced by troops are now sabotaged by the same soldiers. Some have even paid the supreme price in the process. It is incredulous for a leader in the throes of crisis to reason this poorly and Zulum’s pedigree should make him rise above pedestrianism.
Gov. Zulum has lived long enough in Borno state and under the spell of Boko Haram terrorism to understand the matrix of terrorism in that region. Should anyone necessarily remind Gov. Zulum that the COAS and Leader of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai’s convoy has been severally ambushed and attacked by terrorists in Borno state at different locations? So, soldiers sabotaged themselves and their boss by Zulum’s verdict?
The former Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi’s and others have had their convoys attacked by Boko Haram in the same Borno state; troops have repeatedly been ambushed and attacked by terrorists also in Borno. And each time it happens, troops battle the terrorists to a standstill. It now defeats sound logic for Zulum to postulate that when his convoy was attacked, the soldiers fighting to end terrorism were responsible. It is infinitely offensive.
It is disheartening that almost all the times, Gov. Zulum places himself in a position of public exchange of words with soldiers on the frontlines. And sometimes, in very derogative and demeaning manner, which tends to portray or deride the professionalism and competence of soldiers. It is embarrassing and insulting to the institution of the Nigerian Military and least expected of a Governor. There is no synergy or partnership between Zulum and the Military.
Someone needs to tell Zulum to please calm down and adopt the right approaches to ending terrorism in his state. In truth, his disposition and strategy does not complement the efforts of soldiers and certainly does not assist in terminating the reign of Boko Haram. His approaches right now are wrong. The Governor can summon the courage like his colleagues in other states to break the mountains rather expending his energies on molehills.
When the Auno Boko Haram incident occurred and President Buhari visited the people on condolence, he offered a clue in exposition of why Boko Haram has refused to let its hands off Borno state. A downcast President was explicit that Borno political leaders and elders are not assisting the counter-insurgency operations in the state.
Buhari bluntly told them that without the support of leaders of Borno, Boko Haram cannot penetrate their communities to kill, abduct and destroy. This angle does not interest anyone of them and the irony is that Zulum has gleefully not bothered to explore it.
This sort of worthy clue should not only excite Gov. Zulum, but a dutiful state leader would immediately set the machinery in motion to unravel the behind-the scene mysteries and the veiled actors promoting and emboldening Boko Haram terrorists in Borno. If Gov. Zulum does not know how to start or confused at this point, he could begin with a Commission of Inquiry; hire the right advisers who will be able to tell him the truth without shirking at any force.
The Governor should assemble the hard facts and truths on why Boko Haram has refused to desert Borno state. And thereafter, Gov. Zulum should work on the suggested remedies and go after every actor in this sordid saga to end terrorism in his state. The solution lies in his hands and it is not the time to play detrimental politics at the expense of the people.
A Commission of Inquiry constituted by Gov. Zulum will unravel the truth and it will shock the Governor and Nigerians, that his Kanuri kinsmen are behind the insurgency or atrocities of Boko Haram in Borno state. He would also discover to his utter amazement that those who supply the terrorists with arms and ammunitions are his own citizens. He should descend mercilessly on the identified actors and culprits. The Military is there to assist him.
The thriving smuggling business around that axis despite the war is done by his own people and it is one of the major sources for the funding of Boko Haram. Who does these illicit businesses, if not his citizens? Frankly, His Excellency can do better to complement the efforts of the Military in combating Boko Harm terrorism in his state, if he religiously adopts these measures.
Gov. Zulum needs to calm down to see better; but blaming soldiers at the slightest opportunity, while overlooking the basic actions to be taken is reprehensible absolutely. It is nowhere near an end to Boko Haram terrorism in Borno. Again, if only Gov. Zulum calms down, he would see why peace has returned to Adamawa, Yobe and other states and emulate the same steps their leaders adopted.
Adeyanju wrote from Kabba, Kogi State.