At a time the country is severely challenged on all fronts, Muhammadu Buhari, the president who’s not a president, takes a break from his hibernation in the fortified confines of Aso Rock. He’s in his hometown, Daura, Katsina State, on what’s officially described as a one-week working holiday. He has no qualms enjoying the immense benefits of his office without any commensurate discharge of the responsibilities.
Some hours after he got to Daura last Friday, the bandits, as they’re called, served him a rude reminder of their utter disdain for him and his hapless government. They executed an audacious raid on the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Council Area of the state late at night. They looted the school and kidnapped scores of students and staff members. Forty-eight hours after the raid, the state governor, Aminu Masari, confirmed that 333 out of 889 students were missing, most likely seized by the bandits.
The latest incident of the bandits brazenly terrorizing defenceless citizens is neither surprising nor unexpected. The more the government and its security agencies retreat from confronting the existential threat of insecurity, the bolder the terrorists become. They’ve got the full measure of this government and know that the president and all those who serve him, not the country, are a bunch of jokers.
What’s become clear is that Buhari seems to be still pinching himself that he’s president of Nigeria. He can’t get over the euphoria of Goodluck Jonathan readily conceding the 2015 presidential election to him. And he has, several times, expressed his shock and delight – and genuine admiration for his predecessor – for enabling him realize his ambition of becoming president after three previous failed attempts.
By the time he realizes he’s president, his second term will expire in May 2023. Or he may never actually reconcile himself to the fact that he’s taken the oath of office twice. This explains why he and his handlers seek to always deflect responsibility for his failure to get a grip on the security challenges from him.
Two weeks before the Kankara incident, Boko Haram had gruesomely killed over 100 farmers in their rice fields just 20 kilometers from Maiduguri, Borno State capital. This prompted the House of Representatives to ask that the president come and address them on what his government is doing to contain the ever-growing scourge of terrorism and kidnapping all over the country.
He had initially agreed to honour the invitation, apparently in panic. But soon after, he backed away from his commitment on the advice of his minders. One of them is the attorney-general and justice minister, Abubakar Malami, who issued what amounted to a most asinine legal sophistry to justify the president’s repudiation of the commitment he voluntarily made. Malami says that the president going to address the House of Representatives amounts to sharing his executive powers with the legislators. Which is a load of baloney, given that he seems more concerned about the imagined diminution of Buhari’s authority, which he never exercises in securing the people, than the derisive optics of the president again hiding from giving an account of his stewardship of the nation.
It’s time we all stopped looking up to Buhari for leadership and decisive action on the increasingly dire security situation. Lacking emotional intelligence, he’s simply unable to react differently. And for a man who’s totally reliant on those he trusts and who surround him, his appreciation of the urgency of the moment is badly compromised.
And because the military has proven again and again that it’s not up to the task of securing the country from the terrorists, Borno governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, recently proposed the hitherto unmentionable: Bring in private military and security specialists, a.k.a mercenaries, to help defeat them.
Even the United States of America, with the world’s mightiest military, routinely engages the services of such specialists for sundry tasks, including logistics supply management for its frontline military operations and direct combat with the enemy.
President Jonathan did that in late 2014, when he hired a private South African military and security company. Working with the military, they succeeded in driving Boko Haram out of most of the places it had occupied and declared its caliphate. That was why the general elections were postponed for six weeks. Unfortunately, the contract with the South Africans was terminated in March, 2015 before they finished the job, as the Jonathan administration, bowing to mounting political pressure, failed to fully honour its financial commitments to them. And the Buhari administration has not shown any inclination to re-engage them despite the deteriorating security situation in the north-east, especially Borno.
He and his party, All Progressives Congress, APC, continue to claim falsely that, over 20 local government areas, especially in Borno, were still occupied by Boko Haram at the time he became president. That’s a continuing attempt to discredit the engagement of the military specialists by the Jonathan administration.
I have, in previous columns, pointed out the anomaly inherent in such a claim. If 20 local government areas were under Boko Haram’s occupation during the 2015 general elections, how did people vote in those areas? Did the government then reach an understanding with the terrorists that allowed people to vote? Of course, no.
Which means that if the elections took place in those areas, then they couldn’t have possibly been under Boko Haram’s control at the time. And they weren’t because of what the mercenaries helped the military do – put the terrorists on the run, driving them deeper into Sambisa forest and to the fringes of the border areas with Cameroon and Chad.
If, on the other hand, the government propagandists insist otherwise, that inevitably implies that the elections didn’t hold in those ‘occupied’ places. Yet INEC duly declared results for all the elections, which favoured the APC. And what does that signify? The election results in those areas were all cooked up. Both realities couldn’t have happened simultaneously: Boko Haram’s occupation and election taking place under their occupation.
The government has run out of lies to tell on, and excuses to make for, its abject failure to stem the dangerously rising tide of insecurity. And Buhari’s meaningless directive to the military and other security agencies to go after the terrorists after every massacre of innocent Nigerians has become tedious. It’s no longer arguable that he doesn’t know what’s really happening and what to do about it. He keeps hiding as the country inexorably dissolves into chaos.
Even the military no longer takes his directive seriously. In any case, they have never done so. One clear evidence of this, is Lt. General Tukur Buratai’s statement that terrorism would continue to haunt the country for the next 20 years. The army chief made this startling assertion after the massacre of the rice farmers, and his commander-in-chief had, as usual, ordered him and his colleagues to deal with BoKo Haram for that outrage.
Buratai had forgotten the promise he made about a year ago, that the terrorists would be defeated in two weeks. That mendacious claim was an elevation of the previous lie repeatedly touted by the government and the military since late 2015, that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated” and “neutralized”.
So how do they square their claim that the terrorists have been technically defeated, with Buratai’s assertion that the terrorists are still alive and kicking and will be here for a very long time? Well, they cannot. Hence they’re putting out a new explanation – actually a lie – that the government is unable to buy arms the military needs to fight the terrorists. Which begs the question: where is Boko Haram and other terrorists getting their own arms from?
The responsibility for the military’s failure to contain the growing menace of insecurity doesn’t lie with the commanders and other security chiefs. It’s irreducibly that of Buhari’s. He’s neglected, and continues to neglect, doing his job as president and commander-in-chief. And he’s not doing his job because he doesn’t have the capacity and competence do it.
He had openly demanded that Jonathan resign as president in 2014 for what he perceived as his predecessor’s failure to decisively deal with BoKo Haram. Having failed even more than Jonathan, is he prepared to walk his own talk? Resign?
If he won’t resign, then what’s he going to do? He’s shown, indisputably, that he’s not equipped for the job of president. And his default position of lying permanently prostrate on the job has become extremely exasperating for Nigerians.
So when will he stand up and be president for real? Not just a ceremonial prop in the presidential villa, where he and his family are insulated from the sundry threats the people face daily. And all their needs are met by the state and taken care of by a vast contingent of personnel who serve them round the clock.