By OBINNA EZUGWU
When in 2015, the All Progressive Congress (APC) with Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential candidate swept to power on the back of raging Boko Haram onslaught in the country’s Northeast, many in the region and elsewhere heaved sigh of relief. Buhari, a retired major general, had promised to bring his military experience to bear, and route Boko Haram whose kidnap of over 250 school girls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State in 2014, incurred global outrage and delivered final nail on the political aspirations of then incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Basking in the glory of a former military general, Buhari was ushered into office on May 29, 2015, having defeated Jonathan in the bitterly fought presidential election held two months earlier on March 28; an election which marked the first defeat of an incumbent president in the country’s democratic history; a milestone by all accounts. But five years on, the hopes of a better secured Nigeria, with thriving economy, which many looked forward to, have given way to despair and frustration. The economy has nosedived. Insecurity has grown into a monster, with sundry bandits of militant Fulani herders running rampage across the Northwest, parts of the middle belt and indeed across the country, while Boko Haram, by many accounts, have become even more daring.
The president’s honeymoon, which he never truly enjoyed, is effectively over. In the North where he was once worshipped as a cult hero, calls for his resignation have become loud, and across the country he faces mounting criticisms by all and sundry, including the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has renewewed calls for him and his party to step aside.
In a statement fortnight ago by its Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the Northern, the Northern Elders Forum demanded the president’s resignation, noting that life had lost its value under his administration due to the absence of political will to fight the Boko Haram insurgency and other threats such as banditry, rustling and kidnapping.
“Under this administration, life has lost its value, and more and more citizens are coming under the influence of criminals. We do not see any evidence of willingness on the part of President Buhari to honour his oath to provide security over Nigerians,” the forum had said. “In civilised nations, leaders who fail so spectacularly to provide security will do the honourable thing and resign.”
The opposition PDP which had through its national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, also asked Buhari to resign from over his inability to tackle the growing challenges, last week doubled down on attacks on the president and the APC, accusing it of having blood business with the rampaging bandits.
According to the PDP, “the revelations trailing the abduction and release of 600 students by bandits have further exposed the APC as a party in league with bandits, insurgents and terrorists ravaging our nation.”
The party argued in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbodinyan, that “such revelations further explain why the APC has been acting as the mouthpiece of bandits, rationalizing killings and kidnapping, showing express sympathy to terrorists, refusing to condemn acts of terrorism but attacking any person or groups that dare to criticize the activities of these bandits or demand unconditional release of abductees.
“Indeed, the Thursday’s statement by the Governor Mai Buni-led leadership of the APC in which it showed support to bandits by condemning genuine protest by Nigerian women and youth in Abuja, has further betrayed the party as a party that has vested interest in the proceeds of these reprehensible enterprises.
“Moreover, the statement credited to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, wherein he attempted to rationalize the abduction of the 600 students as a normal occurrence in other parts of the world, validates apprehensions of high-level conspiracy against helpless Nigerians.
“The outburst by the Buhari Presidency, blaming the killed 43 farmers in Borno state instead of taking steps to apprehend their assailants also readily comes to mind.”
The growing carnage had also prompted the more conservative Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) which had hitherto stood solidly behind the president, to break its oath of silence. In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe after its National Executive Council meeting held in Kaduna few days ago, the forum lamented the reality of the situation in the North and asked the president to sit up.
“News reports by the media speak of many dead and several others taken away by bandits for ransom. Nine students of French at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria on Tuesday educational tour were taken away and a whooping ransom of N270 million placed on their head,” Yawe had said.
Indeed, in the country’s North which now houses two of the most deadly terrorist groups globally, according to Global Terrorism Index (GTI); Boko Haram and Fulani militants, life has practically reverted practically to Hobbesian state of nature: nasty, brutish and short.
After months of relative silence, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of Jamaatu Nasril Islam, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, few days ago, let out a desperate call for help. The foremost religious and traditional leader of Nigeria’s North, had seen enough in a region practically sinking on account of insecurity, and a country fast approaching its day of reckoning.
“Security situation in Northern Nigeria has assumed a worrisome dimension. It is regrettable that no strong media platform could report this story to the world,” the Sultan had lamented.
“A few weeks ago, over 76 persons were killed in a community in Sokoto in a day. I was there alongside the governor to commiserate with the affected community. Unfortunately, you didn’t hear these stories in the media because it’s in the north. We have accepted the fact that the north doesn’t have strong media to report the atrocities of these bandits.”
The North, he continued, “is the worst place to be in this country. Because bandits go around in the villages, households, and markets with their AK-47. They stop at the market, buy things, pay and collect change, with their weapons openly displayed. These are facts I know because I am at the centre of it.”
The region has seen enough death and destruction, and too little effort by the government it welcomed with fanfare. Its leaders have gone up in arms over Buhari and his APC government’s handling of the monster threatening to sink it and the entire country into the Satan’s dark abyss. Across the country, the Buhari government is facing the growing frustration of citizens.
“Insecurity is now everywhere,” said economic consultant, Dr. Boniface Chizea, CEO of BDC consultancy. “All the food belt areas in Nigeria are facing one form of insecurity or the other, so that means that people are not free to go to farms. For instance, 43 rice farmers were slaughtered in Borno and they said they didn’t get clearance from the military to go to the farm.
“Look at Olu Falaye for instance, how many times have his farms in Ondo been attacked? Now, this is somebody who is a former secretary to the government of the federation. You put that in the foreground and you say to yourself, what about the common man who is merely a subsistence farmer, how will he go to the farm? So, the security situation is very worrisome. Now everybody is coming out. All these primordial proclivities that he is our person, we can’t criticize him, have all been thrown out of the window.”
Few weeks ago, the gruesome murder and slitting of throats of 43 rice farmers’ throats in Borno by Boko Haram terrorist group, jolted the country and sent shockwaves across the globe. But the event was soon overtaken by numerous other gruesome attacks by the terrorists and bandits who now run amok across the Northwest and Northeast.
On Friday, December 11, in a daring kidnap heist reminisce of the 2014 abduction of over 250 schools girls in Chibok – and the subsequent February 2018 kidnap of 110 schoolgirls from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi in Yunusari, Yobe State by Boko Haram, bandits riding on a convoy of motorbikes invaded Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State and kidnapped over 300 hundreds of students, in what signalled a dangerous escalation of the reign of bandits in the country’s Northwest region. Although the boys were eventually freed on Thursday night, after six excruciating days in a unknown forest with the heavily armed bandits, their ability to pull off the kidnap, observers have said, represents a troubling dimension to the banditry in the region.
On Saturday, two days after the boys were freed, another group of students, this time, those of Islamiyya school in Mahuta town, Dandume Local Government in the same Katsina were abducted on their way home after they graced a maulud procession at Unguwar Al-Kasim, a nearby village. But they were subsequently rescued by a team of policemen, vigilante and other security agencies.
The same Saturday, suspected members of Boko Haram invaded Ajiri village of Mafa Local Government Area of Borno state and wrecked havoc, killing yet to be ascertained and destroying many properties.
Ajiri lies less than 50km drive from Maiduguri, a hitherto a ghost town, until mid this year when the governor of the state, Babagana Zulum who hails from the same area, through the ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RRR), constructed about 500 housing units, in which its Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) taking refuge in Maiduguri were relocated back home.
The attack itself came barely 24 hours after insurgents laid ambush along Maiduguri- Damaturu 125km road, killing over 5 people and abducting dozens. This was followed by the abduction of not less than 35 travellers at the weekend.
Still, between Thursday and Saturday, attacks and reprisal attacks between herders and community youths led to the death of at least 14 people and the destruction of properties in Southern Kaduna.
But these are only some of many cases vilent deaths in a country fast caving in to armed men in its different parts. In May, International Crisis Group in a report titled, ‘Working Document — Fulani Militias’ Terror: Compilation of News (2017-2020),’ said between 2017 and May 2, 2020, Fulani herdsmen alone conducted 654 attacks, killed 2,539 and kidnapped 253 people in the country, mostly in the North Central and Kaduna.
“Nigerians are suffering widespread and systematic terrorist attacks by, mainly, Boko Haram, the ISIL-aligned Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), Fulani militias and Ansaru,” the report had said.
“The Global Terrorist Index 2019 published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, indicates that the primary driver of the increase in terrorism in Sub-Saharan Africa was a rise in terrorist activity in Nigeria attributed to Fulani extremists: in 2018, Fulani extremists were responsible for the majority of terror-related deaths in Nigeria (1,158 fatalities), with an increase by 261 and 308 percent respectively from the prior year.”
The group warned that the armed gangs in the North West and Central could be developing links with groups such as Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the North East.
The group said bandits have killed about 8,000 people since 2011 till May, and forced more than 200,000 to flee their homes. The number would have risen exponentially, with attacks and kidnappings now more regular.
Over the past few days and months, hundreds have been killed and even more kidnapped. Not long ago, Nasarawa State chairman of the All Progressive Congress, Phillip Shekwa, was murdered by bandits in an operation that lasted for about 49 minutes. The killers gained entrance into his bedroom, took him away with his car key before killing him a meter away from his house. The same week, Alhaji Lawal Dako, Peoples Democratic Party chairman in Sabuwa Local Government of Kastina, met his end in the hands of bandits.
On October 20, at least 20 villagers were Tungar Kwana, Talaka Marafa local government in Zamfara State. Before then, on the 12th of the same month, 14 people were killed in Katsina and Niger States. Earlier on the 11th, 12 were killed in Giwa Local Government of Kaduna. Attacks have become a daily occurrence, even as observers like the Sultan, insist the killings are under reported.
From the North Central through the swaths of North West and North East, life for millions, is lived in fear because death is lurking. But while the escalating monster had for a season, looked like an exclusively Northern problem, recent incidents across the South suggest the region is also entering neck deep in the crisis.
A fortnight ago, gunmen shot and killed two siblings, Ifeanyi Anyanwu, 47, and Tochukwu Anyanwu 45, architect and surveyor respectively, in Owerri, Imo State. The same week, a young footballer, Emmanuel Umunna, who only recently signed for a new club, Cofine FC, was killed by hoodlums in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
On Thursday, November 26, 2020, the people of Ondo State were thrown into mourning when the king of Ifon, the headquarters of Ose Local Government area of Ondo State, a first class traditional ruler, Oba Israel Adewusi, was killed by suspected kidnappers. Less than 48 hours later, a Chinese construction worker was killed in Ekiti and another kidnapped. A sign of the nationwide dimension the situation is assuming.
Ogun state as well has continued to witness spates of insecurity, with robbery and kidnapping seeing an uptick in the last few months, carried out by those identified as Fulani bandits. Last week on Lagos-Ibadan highway after Ogere in Ogun, some Baptist Pastors were kidnapped by the said bandits. These acts, many say, are reason enough for a government to throw in the towel.
“The five and half year-old drama of piloting 200 million people from one avoidable mistake to another in a most uninspiring and directionless manner, should be put to a halt now, because the people just can’t take it any more. President Buhari has proven to all, that he lacks the capacity to manage the complexities of Nigeria, let alone, make her great,” said Evangelist Elliot Uko, secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA).
“Since June 2015, we have been drifting around the ocean of life, not as a focused, committed nation, but rather, as a confused, rudderless country, run and managed by an unfit, unprepared leadership, experimenting with the future and destiny of 200 million citizens, and believe me when I say: that everyone is tired. Let truth be told.
“From running the country for six months without ministers, while issuing and countering same orders to the central bank, to the enthronement of brazen nepotism, and total display of ineptitude, the inability to secure the country has confirmed beyond any doubt whatsoever that Nigeria is in big trouble, as the leadership the whole world put so much hope and trust in, six years ago, is clearly unable to secure, unite, let alone, move Nigeria forward.”
The increasing attacks on farming communities in a region that accounts for the bulk of its food produce represent another big threat in a country that has just entered a second recession in five years, and which now houses the most poor people in the world – nearly half of the estimated 200 million population live below the poverty line – according to World Poverty Clock: food insecurity.
In November composite food index rose sharply by 18.3% in November, from another high of 17.38% in October, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Prices of staple food items are rising exponentially and supply has reduced considerably. The times, for observers, can’t get more desperate.
“Food crisis is staring us in the face. But you know, in these things, there is often a lull effect before it strikes everywhere,” said Dr. Chizea. “If you profile the structure of our inflation and you look the data, you see the spike in food prices. But it’s morning yet because it will happen.”
It is not in doubt, the growing spate of insecurity in the country, especially in the Northeast, Northwest, North Central and parts of Southern Nigeria has wreaked havoc on the nation’s economy, upending critical economic sectors and leaving millions of Nigerians accross the country without work and enough food on their tables. But apart from further thrusting the nation’s vulnerable economy into a precarious situation and pushing many states, businesses and families towards insolvency, the worsening security situation has, observers say, exposed the incompetence and unpreparedness of the incumbent administration for governance.
In many villages, the bandits audaciously move around with AK-47 rifles and tax civilians. And while the North West is the new hot-spot of violent attacks, in the North East, over a decade old Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgency which has led to the death of about 40,000 and displaced over 3 million, is showing no sign of letting up. The killing of at least 43 farmers days ago is a sad reminder. Earlier last month, the terrorist group killed 12 in a raid near Chibok, the community where the group kidnapped over 200 school girls in 2014.
On October 13, the group killed 15 farmers in Ngwom village, 14 kilometers from Maiduguri, and cut their throats, reports had said. Days earlier, they reportedly killed 10 soldiers in an ambush in Marte, Borno State.
In September, an attack on the convoy of Borno governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, left at least 30 people, including soldiers, dead. Similar attack on a military convoy few days ago led to similar outcome. And despite claims to the contrary by the authorities, many say the terror group still holds territories in the region.
“Facts on the ground support what we say,” Baba-Ahmed argued after releasing the statement asking the president to resign. “The president swore on the Qur’an as president of of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to secure the lives of citizens, but he has failed to do so over and over again.
“This is his 5th year in office. The situation under him is getting worse and there is no indication that it is likely to improve. So, what else is left other than to ask him that if there is honour, in democratic countries, what leaders who fail to protect citizens, particularly at the scale at which our people are dying, is to resign? Clearly, he has failed.”