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Buhari’s take on terrorism at UN


Muhammadu Buhari President of Nigeria speaks during the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith

President Muhammadu Buhari had seized the opportunity of the current session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to highlight the challenge, which terrorism continues to pose to Nigeria. It was indeed an appropriate forum to reiterate the global nature of the Boko Haram insurgency and the herdsmen menace to the Nigerian polity.

At such for a, issues which require multilateral cooperation are canvassed. Terrorism is a global scourge that requires the cooperation of all stakeholders. This is because territorial integrity of nations is being challenged by hoodlums. All hands must be on deck, therefore, to put an end to the uprising.

Despite all the assurances and vaunting from the seat of power, life in the Northeastern part of the country remains uncertain. The insurgents still carry out guerrilla attacks on towns and cities. Suicide bombings have become a part of the social landscape. Thousands have been displaced and have found refuge in poorly maintained camps. Some of the Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram are still missing. Leah Sharibu, the only Christian schoolgirl from Dapchi remains in the custody of her abductors. Soldiers dread being posted to the war theatre because they are not sufficiently motivated. Fallen soldiers have not been accorded proper respects. As a result families are in distress. How do we get out of this quagmire?

It was in recognition of the fact that terrorism is a global problem that President Buhari paid visits to some of our neighbouring countries – Benin Republic, Cameroun, Chad and Niger shortly after he took office. Once it was established that Boko Haram crisscrossed national boundaries a new strategy was necessary to deal with the problem. The President declared that Nigeria would have more resources for infrastructure development when we ‘are in good terms with (our) neighbours,’ because fewer funds would be committed to security issues.

Since then, the Buhari government has declared a ‘technical victory’ over the violent group. No doubt, whole territories that were under Boko Haram control have been recaptured by the gallant forces of the Nigerian Army. The dreaded Sambisa Forest has been neutralised and no longer serves as a hiding place for the then rampaging scoundrels. Also, the government has committed resources to the effort aimed at stamping out the scourge that the group has become.
And story of international support, in this regard, has been different as the United States government has agreed to supply equipment, which was hitherto denied the Nigeria government under the previous administration. These are all commendable efforts.

But no one can beat chests to claim that the insurgency is over. After the negotiations for the release of some of the abducted girls Boko Haram seems to have been energised with the funds that they reportedly received. They have thus continued to trouble the Northeastern parts of the country. They have become emboldened and have been attacking some military targets. The war, Mr. President, is far from over, no matter the political denials.

That is why the thrust of the President’s speech at the United Nations blaming resurgence of terrorism on Iraqi and Syrian fighters as being responsible for the unending violence is curious. It is true that the dysfunctional ambience of the Maghreb states has grievous security implications. Was there a follow-up after the lamentation with the appropriate governments and international bodies on what to do to cut off the links between local insurgents and their foreign counterparts?

It will be recalled that the president once blamed stragglers from the Libyan conflict for the imbroglio. He had also blamed politicians for sponsoring the herdsmen-farmers conflict across the country. Once, he admonished people of the Middle Belt to learn to live with the herdsmen instead of dealing decisively with the murderous herdsmen. What exactly is going on and what exactly is the president saying? What strategy has this government put in place to firmly and decisively put an end to the violent activities of all terror groups? Why has the government not taken a decisive action against the marauding herdsmen? These are questions that have been blowing in the wind. That is not how government should be run. The president and commander-in-chief should be concerned about his failure to end this serious security challenge.

If the government has committed so much men and material into the war, why has Boko Haram continued to attack even military formations? Certainly, the government needs to go back to the drawing board. From all indications there is a failure of leadership. The men of the armed forces are not happy. There is low morale. This led to a rebellion by some soldiers a few months ago. Has the military high command become complacent? Is the inter-agency rivalry taking its toll on the security strategy? The government must come clean about the costs and losses in the war. The men are over-stretched in some cases. Furthermore, the president has to carry all stakeholders along and show some transparency.

It is trite to say that there will always be problems in life. The president was elected to contain hitherto serious challenges, which confront the nation. So far the Boko Haram scourge remains a problem – less than eight months to the end of his four-year tenure. There should be no question, Nigeria’s leader must galvanise the whole nation behind his efforts. His military commanders must be up and doing – and come up with fresh strategy. The sub-regional discussions should continue. Important stakeholders ought to know what exactly is going on. At the moment, the activities of the army in the war zone appear shrouded in mystery despite massive perception challenge that has trailed the operations.

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