Again, the nation is in mourning and outrage, despair and an ominous sense of collective foreboding pervade the general atmosphere. The entire world, as one, focused on Nigeria in the past week and no Nigerian anywhere felt safe and confident about the country anymore since the ugly event at Zabarmari, Borno State this last week.
On that weekend, Boko Haram insurgents rounded up rice farmers and executed them like animals. The number, which is put at between 63, 73 and 110 is beside the point. The truth is that the life of one Nigerian should count for something, and over 3,000 people have been killed from over 300 attacks this year alone by the terrorist groups with little response from the government and its security forces.
Even as volatile and insecure as some countries, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria etc are, horrific stories as the ones coming out of Nigeria last week are novel and rare in those places. Yet our leadership is essentially indifferent and largely unperturbed. The same attitude of impervious resignation, rather moral outrage and righteous indignation, has been the usual and characteristic response from the president.
In a saner clime, the massacre at Zabarmari, the obvious lies from the military and the fumbling of the presidency is strong enough to bring down any government. But here we are unsure of the mind of the president and the future of the country, as a conspiracy of silence reigns supreme. It seems that loyalty to the president has been placed above the lives of Nigerians and the future of the country.
Even the most routine step of dismissing the clearly incompetent and corrupt military chiefs who have not only served beyond their statutory tenures, but have outlived their usefulness, and now a cog in the wheel of progress, and the prosecution of the war on insurgency, seems herculean and impossible.
It is said that we are not telling ourselves the truth about the war on Boko Haram. The first lie we were told was the claim by then-candidate Buhari that he would defeat the terrorists in six months in power; six years after the war is getting worse. The second lie that President Buhari, who is the commander in chief of the armed forces, and his military told us, is that Boko Haram has been technically defeated or degraded.
Technical defeat is a concept invented by this government, as nowhere in the world in the fight against terror is it used. Apparently, the government’s understanding of defeat seems to be far removed from its military lexicon. The third lie they have told is that it is not a religious war because Muslims are being killed. The truth is not what we think or say about the insurgency is irrelevant, but what they say is their motive; and they have not left anybody in doubt that they are fighting a jihad – holy war, as even their name suggests.
Again, the prolongation of this war will kill the nation economically. Massive famine and food crisis is looming in the country and already prices of food items have gone roof high. It is frightening to imagine what it will be like one year from now if the war does not end. As Gov. Zullum said of the rice farmers, who were butchered, if they went out to their farm the terrorists would them; if they stayed at home hunger will do the same.
The final line is that Nigeria can win this war. The truth from all indications – fighting capacity, weaponry, motivation, and strategy – is that the insurgents are ahead of the country and it is a solicitous absurdity to believe otherwise. And it is here that every Nigerian should be concerned about the future because the continuation and perpetuation of this war portend serious danger to the corporate existence of the nation and development of democracy.
President Buhari’s failure to resolve this problem is a time bomb that will truncate future regimes in the country. The war is bringing Nigeria to economic and financial ruin and creating massive migration quagmire. The humongous budgetary and extra-budgetary allocations going into the war efforts has become a huge burden on the economic and currently unsustainable. There is an immediate and direct correlation between the war and Nigeria’s position as the poverty capital of the world.
It is also going to be a source of political instability for regimes coming afterwards, as the violence is exported southward, making the entire country insecure and ungovernable. Democracy cannot possibly thrive in an atmosphere of insecurity, and many ambitious military officers had used such situations in different countries in contemporary history to overthrow legitimate governments.
As a newspaper, we are fully persuaded that President Buhari and his government has not only failed Nigerians in discharging this patriotic duty he not only imposed on himself but also owes Nigerians; as well as disappointing the millions of his supporters. There is no plausible and possible explanation for his inability to rise up to the occasion. We are, therefore, unequivocal in not only calling for the immediate sack of the service chiefs but a comprehensive overhaul of the security architecture.
There is also an urgent need for a new strategy. It is said that you can’t be doing the same thing and expect a different result – that is insanity – which seems to epitomize the whole approach to the war. For over 10 years, we have done the same thing with evidently the same result.
First, Nigeria must find a way to put more boots on the ground, which may explain Gov. Zullum’s suggestion to hire mercenaries.
There should be massive recruitment and training of the civilian JTF on guerrilla warfare because they know the people and terrain. Second, there is a need to equip the army, which has become a major source of corruption in the system; but it is unavoidable.
Third, Nigeria must involve its neighbours – Chad, Niger, and Cameroun – in this war. It is not about foolish pride; there is no pride in failure. Nigeria must fund the war cost in those countries; it will be money well spent if we get the result, rather than throwing it down the drain through corruption. Only collectively can the war be won.
Instead of borrowing $1.9 billion to build a railway to Maradi, in the Niger Republic, the safety and operations of which no one can guarantee, we should plough it into winning the war. Otherwise, this war will go on forever, as the COAS Lt. Gen. Burutai, as admitted, jeopardizing our unity, democracy and economic well being.