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Buhari, Leah, Hauwa and other hostages

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
18 October 2018   |   2:33 am
With the murder of Hauwa Liman, we have once again been starkly reminded of our lack of governmental bulwark against the savagery of those who are unmoored from all legal and moral boundaries in our midst.

Leah Sharibu

With the murder of Hauwa Liman, we have once again been starkly reminded of our lack of governmental bulwark against the savagery of those who are unmoored from all legal and moral boundaries in our midst.

Yes, it is only a reminder. Successive governments have abandoned the citizens in a gruelling struggle with their challenges. But the battle for daily survival only becomes more tormenting with the lurking reminder that these challenges are not just existential; they are unconscionably inflicted by a pestilential leadership deficit. Now, consider this: Despite the billions of dollars that are yearly voted by the government for electricity, security and other forms of infrastructural development, the citizens are saddled with the responsibility of providing these for themselves.

It is this state of government-spawned stasis that renders the citizens vulnerable to marauders and terrorists like Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram. And the grisly list of victims is endless. The fate of Hauwa Liman who has been on the list has been sealed by her murder by Boko Haram. Liman was an aid worker under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross who was killed by Boko Haram on Monday after the government of President Muhammadu Buhari failed to meet the deadline for the conclusion of negotiation given to it by the terror group. Before Liman’s murder, her colleague Saifura Khorsa had faced a similar grim fate at the hands of the terrorists. Another colleague of hers, Alice Loksha, is still being held by the terrorists. For the trio, it was double tragedy because here were humanitarians who left their comfort to succour Boko Haram’s victims who were settling in Rann, Borno State. Also, Leah Sharibu is still being held by Boko Haram. After the same deadline as that of Liman expired, Boko Haram announced that she had been converted to a perpetual slave.

The grim fates of these hostages and others are a price too steep for citizens to pay for the duplicity and incompetence of their leaders. In one breath, Buhari and his officials gleefully declare that Boko Haram has been routed. In another, they assure us that they know the hideout of the terrorists and they would soon smoke them out, or they are in negotiation with them. They underscore the certainty of their position by haranguing those displaced by Boko Haram to return to their rebuilt communities. But if Buhari and his officials really defeated the terrorists as they claim, why are they still inflicting these mortal blows on the citizens? Thus, the blame for these tragedies should go to Buhari and his officials who have blithely shirked their responsibility of protecting the lives of the citizens.

If Buhari really wanted to protect the lives of the citizens, it would not be necessary for him to politicise the defeat of Boko Haram. He would have been preoccupied with thoroughly routing them while leaving the victims of the barbarity of the insurgents to testify to this feat. It is because Buhari is more interested in politicisation, turning the tragedy of a people into a leitmotif of good governance campaign, that he has failed to hold his security chiefs accountable for the terror attacks.

What Buhari has demonstrated is the attitude that as long as it is not his family members who are being killed, the Boko Haram members can continue on the prowl. Or why would he retain the security chiefs who have failed to defeat the terrorists? Admittedly, the nuances of military response to insurgency may be beyond the ken of bloody civilians. Yet, it is not on record that Buhari gave the military leaders an ultimatum that if they failed to defeat the terrorists they would be replaced by those who possessed better strategies of a campaign against insurgency.

Rather, what is disturbingly clear is that Buhari has been shielding these security chiefs. The more they fail to defeat the terrorists and killer herdsmen the more their jobs are guaranteed. This explains why Buhari renewed the tenures of the security chiefs after they expired.

Buhari was elected because it was thought that as a general and former military head of state, he had the toughness and the strategy to deal with the insurgents. But it is now clear that such confidence was misplaced. Buhari does not have the strategy. And since he has lost the raison d’etre for being in government why should he remain in Aso Rock? After all, a major grievance by the citizens that in no small measure contributed to the unseating of former President Goodluck Jonathan was that he could not rescue the Chibok schoolgirls.

While Saifura and Liman have been killed, Buhari still has the opportunity to intervene. Sharibu and Loksha are alive and Buhari can still rescue them. If Buhari were assuaging his troubled conscience by saying that he did so much to save Liman, it should be clear to him that this argument would not help him. If Liman or any of the Boko Haram hostages were his daughter, would he allow them to be killed? Would it not be like the case of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar whom a hare-brained man threatened to shoot down his plane and rape his wife and daughters and whom the police ferreted out in a short time? Would Buhari not deploy all the nation’s resources to rescue his daughter as he demonstrated in attending to his own health in London and that of his son Yusuf who unlike Liman was so bored that the only way he thought he could best use his time was to be riding a motorbike in Abuja?

The empathy that Buhari wants us to see in his condolences to the family of Liman eludes us. Rather, what is clear to us is that Buhari and his officials still think that their lives are more precious than the lives of other citizens. The life of Leah Sharibu is not even as important as the life of the other Dapchi schoolgirls who were abducted along with her. These ones have been set free after the government met the condition it was given. If the life of Leah Sharibu were important to Buhari, he would have seized the opportunity offered by Boko Haram to rescue her.

Again, if Buhari were really concerned with rescuing the hostages of Boko Haram why were they outraged anytime they were reminded of the ordeal of the captives? It does not demonstrate sincerity of purpose when Buhari unleashes his security operatives on members of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) and others whenever they ask the government to rescue Boko Haram’s victims. Clearly, altruism on the part of Buhari would have made him consider these agitators as working with him towards the same goal.

Either through deliberate connivance or the import of his body language, Buhari remains a site for the festering of the religious bigotry that stokes the Boko Haram’s macabre quest. Boko Haram’s creed of superiority is replicated in Buhari. Like Boko Haram, Buhari sees the rest part of the country and their religions as inferior to his. So, Buhari would not allow senior military officers who are not northern Muslims to be service chiefs and lead the war against Boko Haram. Buhari would not appoint other people except those from his area and religion to fill other top vacancies in government.

Thus, beyond the façade of empathy and protestations of commitment to defeat the terrorists and rescue their victims, Buhari cannot win the war against insurgency until he weans himself off the proclivity of considering some citizens as not equal partners in the country. The least he can do in this regard is for him to imbue efforts to rescue Leah Sharibu, Alice Loksha and other hostages with zest. And he should sack now the security chiefs who have deceived him and the entire nation that Boko Haram has been defeated and that their negotiation with the group would climax with the release of Leah Sharibu and others.