By Imamudeen Abba
Two persons have governed Borno since the advent of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. Ali Modu Sheriff and Kashim Shettima who governed the state within the period, used different approaches in tackling the menace though they also have their faults.
While Sheriff can be accused of not taking the necessary steps that would have nipped the Boko Haram scourge in the bud, his approach in handling the issues definitely did not exacerbate the security situation in the state.
If anything, he cooperated fully with the federal troops which enabled the Yar’adua administration to clamp down on the terrorists that led to the capture of their leader, Mohammed Yusuf and made them go underground for more than two years.
Shettima on the other hand handled the matter with maturity and also cooperated fully with the military, though he at one time alleged that the terrorists were more equipped than the military.
But his comments which caused uproar then, showed sympathy to the troops as he was only wishing they had more weapons to fight the terrorists with. But the current governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum who has the benefit of learning from the experiences of his predecessors, seem not ready to do that as he seems more absorbed with playing to the gallery.
Prof. Zulum, unlike Sheriff and Shettima, who would rather be discreet and allow the military to do the talking about the security situation in the state, has become loquacious, using every platform and occasion to go gibberish about security issues
He has done that one time too many that he is beginning to sound like a broken record talking from both sides of the mouth. This is a complete departure from the norm in security circles where discretion is seen as the better part of valour. Worse still, his stock in trade has been to openly accuse the military of one act infraction or the other.
This has gone on for some time that many are beginning to suspect his public outing on security issues.
His first major gaffe was in January when he accosted military men on check point duties and accused them of extorting travellers. He drew his conclusions based on hearsay without giving the military the benefit of fair hearing.
Days after he made that blunder, the Maiduguri- Damaturu road, which used to be the safest in the state became impassable as the military not wanting to be seen as benefiting from check points as accused by the governor, momentarily withdrew. He was later to apologise saying the swiftness with which the army announced readiness to immediately investigate conducts involving stop and search of passengers in Maiduguri was commendable.
He said the speedy response from the army headquarters only reaffirms what every Nigerian already knows about the exceptional leadership credentials of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, and many others that have done so much for Borno and Nigeria. But before the apology, many hapless travellers have fallen victims of the insurgents.
About a month later when there was an attack on Auno, near Maiduguri, Zulum accused soldiers of abandoning residents at the mercy of Boko Haram insurgents alleging further that soldiers meant to secure the community desert the people around 5pm on a daily basis. The military replied that the troops were conducting clearance operation at other locations when the attack happened and that it will not deliberately allow people to be killed by insurgents. But by then, the harm has been done.
Zulum seems to have a different understanding of his role as the chief security officer of the state as he interprets that to mean he must be in confrontation with the military. Before Zulum became governor, the military had dome excellently well in its field operations recapturing 11 local governments hitherto captured and placed under the authority of the insurgents.
The military had also killed a vast number of the insurgents making many of them to flee to other countries. It was the sustained efforts of the military that made it possible for elections to take in place in Borno state and for Zulum to be elected governor. Even after Zulum became governor, the military did not relent in its efforts
When the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai relocated to the Northeast in April, Nigerian troops within a short time were able to sustain repeated onslaught against the terrorists.
Between April and July when the Chief of army Staff went to present reports to the President, the military had killed over 1400 of the insurgents including not less than 20 of their top commanders while many of their informants were arrested.
Many of the terrorists also surrendered having come under superior fire power. The height of the victory was when the Boko Haram leader was heard crying in an audio message about how he and his men have been overwhelmed by the troops.
But the Zulum vituperations undermines all that. It portrays the military as lacking in discipline and professionalism that a civilian had to be the one intervening to remind them of how to go about doing their jobs. For instance, the governor has even threatened that after Sallah that he is going back to Kukawa and that if the military are not ready that he will use hunters. He said, “After Sallah, we will go back to Kukawa. We will give time to the military; but if they will not clear Baga, we will mobilise our hunters and vigilantes to recapture Baga… we can’t continue like this. People have taken their destiny in their hands.”
This is mere playing to the gallery as everybody knows that hunters lack the sophistication to engage terrorists.
Such comments from the governor are totally unnecessary and amount to asking the people to ignore the military and take laws into their hands.
Such statements should not come from a governor who has sworn an oath to defend the constitution.
Abba wrote this piece from Maiduguri.