By Philip Agbese
Irrespective of what anybody thinks, the reality of renewed insecurities stares us in the face today unexpectedly. The painful reality is the frightful and barefaced insane resurgence of insecurities in the country since President Muhammadu Buhari changed his Service Chiefs. On January 26, 2021, President Buhari bowed to popular demand and gave us a new crop of Military Chiefs to the loudest of ovations from Nigerians.
What we wanted was a change of guards in the top echelon of the Nigerian Military leadership. We viciously campaigned, lobbied, pressured, maligned and blackmailed the Presidency to have our way. In the pursuit of this agenda, we sacrificed wisdom and suspended our senses on the altars of partisanship. We became the agents of the forces of power struggles within the Nigerian Military; we gleefully cursed any replica of Adam and Eve for daring to stand in our path of executing the populist “agenda.”
And President Buhari who was initially apathetic to these public clamours and national parliamentary resolutions to sack his former Service Chiefs eventually yielded to Nigerians. Of course, I doff my hat for him as a listening leader.
But deep down in his heart, President Buhari who has an in-depth knowledge of Military warfare and counter-terrorism combats, knew the ousted Service Chiefs secured the country in the most difficult of times. Mr President kept telling us, the Service Chiefs we wanted changed were doing their very best to curb insurgencies and insurrections in the prevailing circumstances. Regrettably, we rather scoffed and sneered at him; we were not appeased or consoled by his sense of judgement.
Today, the break of dawn has caught these quillers who garbed themselves as “patriots” in the activism for the sack of the former Service Chiefs, in the middle of the road, stark naked! The return of the heart-wrenching and bold atrocities of terrorist’s gangs and allied criminals have assailed Nigeria with confounding echoes everywhere.
These backstabbers have birthed and executed their evil mission on us successfully and perfectly; they are excited at the selfish victory. We are speechless! What remains with us is the guilt etched in our psyche with the unimpressive outcomes.
We laid landmines for our country’s gradually slide into a failed state on security. No foreigner betrayed us; we betrayed ourselves and our kith and kin in the spasm of anti-insurgency conflagrations and insurrectional wars. And we have collectively mortgaged our country to the aberrant Islamic jihadist campaigners.
We are back again to the days of Egypt; we see blood and arson every day; our sorrows, pains, grief and torments from Boko Haram’s atrocious and horrendous acts have pierced and deeply penetrated our hearts. We are only goaded to trudge on because we failed ourselves. The PDP is no longer issuing public statements berating the Presidency over the spate of rising insecurities in the country.
Trumpets of activists are muzzled now; the problem has defiled interpretation by security experts and so, they have retired to a dignified silence. The Englishman reminds us that sometimes, silence is golden. History is not a liar and if we don’t retrace our steps, the tales of tomorrow on counter-insurgency would be more replete with frightening gores than those of yesterday.
It’s not a devilish wish for my country. It’s just that I can’t blend the reality of yesterday with what is happening today on combating Boko Haram. I want my compatriots to savour the fresh air of absolute and enduring freedom from the claws of terrorists and bandits. But the reality today is very unappealing and I couldn’t have invented my version of pleasing tales from a nauseating narrative.
Unfortunately, the quislers are happier now that Boko Haram insurgents and ISWAP terrorists, armed bandits, kidnappers and their cursed cohorts are back with renewed vigour, recklessly striking us with courage and the braggadocio of Nebuchadnezzar. In our communities, towns and cities, streams tales of horror and pains or anguish rent the air. Terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, ethnic militias, and other armed criminals are on free rampage in Nigeria now.
They are stamping their authority of free reign only reminiscent of the gory pre-2015 days. I don’t want to align with the profane utterances of Boko Haram’s factional leader, Abubakar Shekau when the new Service Chiefs were appointed. But I remember his threatening words only to be confronted with a reality, which confirms each word, the cursed beast uttered. I will not glorify him, but I am pained inside of me.
With due respect to the new Service Chiefs; I acknowledge the difficult task on their hands and the various sacrifices they make every day at our behest in the frontlines. But in truth, our incumbent Military Chiefs have not demonstrated any enthusiasm, zeal and the determination to make sparkling first impressions as peculiar with fresh appointees on any job.
I have no intention to undermine their outings, but there is no resounding spark on the job, even in the first weeks as evident with the everyday magnitude of attacks, abductions and quantum of destructions by terrorists and bandits. We can’t say, it’s exhaustion yet!
Scarily, a few days ago, Zamfara state Governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle at a press conference in Kaduna state addressed by his commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Dosara, revealed the presence of a minimum of at least one hundred different bandit camps in Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, Kaduna, Niger and Sokoto states of the Northwest and North Central. And by his knowledge, each of the camps has no fewer than 300 bandits armed with sophisticated weapons with them.
We can only appreciate the dilemma of inhabitants of these states to understand, that 24 bandits transit routes have been established in the Northwest. In Zamfara alone, its foot soldiers’ number 4,825 bandits and led by about 232 leaders. So, with this capacity, the unmolested everyday operations of the armed bandits lead to loss of lives, kidnapping of scores of victims and rustling of livestock in large numbers.
In Kaduna, the commissioner for security, Mr Samuel Aruwan told us in March 2021 that during bandits single raid of Igabi, Giwa and Kerawa villages, no fewer than 41 corpses were buried in one of the villages. Acts of arson and looting were also perpetrated by the bandits. That’s the portrait of banditry in the Northwest today.
The Northeast is one region the Boko Haram insurgents and the ISWAP terrorists have ever wished to control swathes of territories after they were displaced by the former Service Chiefs. Boko Haram’s unfruitful struggles to retake these territories have been tough over the years. But they have gone berserk again in serial chants of victories against the Nigerian Military. The recent displacement of an entire military formation in Borno cannot be less worrisome than the killing of over 100 soldiers in Borno alone, under the watch of the new Service Chiefs in barely a few weeks of operations in the tormented region.
I am not casting aspersions on the serving Service Chiefs or attempting in any way to disparage their efforts in counter-insurgency. But frankly though, since the former Service Chiefs quitted office, it has been one thrashing of Nigerian troops in the frontlines or killing of security agencies in many parts of the country by terrorists or bandits. This is not the bargain Nigerians genuinely sought when they demanded a change of Service Chiefs.
So, I am prodded to ask whether there is a secret on combating Boko Haram terrorism which the past Service Chiefs haven’t revealed to their successors in office now? I honestly plead with the former Service Chiefs to close the gulf, if there is any. We want to be free; we wish to savour the freedom and goodies of life like citizens of other countries.
I am pained at the reality today and my mind wonders wide in cogitation. Is there something we all need to know about those who ardently mounted the campaigns against the former Service Chiefs? The opposition PDP and its bigoted acolytes in the national parliament particularly have been very quiet these days in the face of the worsening insecurity situation in the country.
The party is no longer mouthing every day and tongue-lashing the Buhari Presidency. Is this what they bargained for in Nigeria with the stampeding campaigns for the change of Service Chiefs? Anyway, time alone solves all mysteries and it shall reveal the truth.
We must face the truth, no matter how bitter. Except the current Service Chiefs gird their loins because their coronet of triumphs over terrorists is very invisible. The reality facing us today is plainly and undisguisedly that the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) have become something akin to a banana Military again. Past gains on anti-insurgency campaigns are glaringly and speedily eroded on the waterfront now.
I am my entire existence; I have never seen where the Military of a nation in wartime allows its airspace to be so carelessly violated by the enemy as it is happening in Nigeria today. The recent downing of the NAF jet by Boko Haram terrorists has shown clearly that we are in serious troubles. The recent resumption of hostilities in the Southeast and South-South against security agencies who are killed daily and pockets of unchallenged gruesome killings elsewhere confirms my worst fears as a person.
I am beginning to nurse the feeling that President Buhari would have not succumbed to the public pressure of changing the former Service Chiefs; he should have simply left us alone as we were in 2020 or the years earlier. The change of guards has brought us to where we are now.
It sounds like crying over spilt milk now! May God also imbue the serving Service Chiefs with the necessary wisdom; protect them together with our troops on the waterfront and empower them with the needed strength to conquer our enemies. Happy Easter to all Nigerians!
Agbese wrote this piece from the United Kingdom.