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Metele as price of national swindle


Nigerian military troops salute Nigeria’s President during his visit to troops on front lines of Boko Haram conflict, on November 28, 2018, in Maiduguri as part of a military staff annual conference. – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari urged troops to show more commitment in fighting Boko Haram despite scores of losses in a recent assault as he visited the key northeastern city of Maiduguri. (Photo by Audu MARTE / AFP)

Aside from the occasional death of soldiers in their battle against Boko Haram, the nation is now confronted in Metele with a seeming culmination of the military’s losses to the insurgents in the north-east.

The government has often fumed at the obduracy of its traducers who instead of trumpeting the wonders of its military in Sambisa Forest have rather warned that more still needed to be done to defeat the insurgents in the light of the occasional suicide attacks on civilians and losses of two or four soldiers to the insurgents.

But the recent killing of about 100 soldiers in Metele, Borno State, so shattered the charade of triumph over the insurgents that President Muhammadu Buhari had to dispatch his defence minister to Chad for more collaboration in defeating them.

Clearly, the dead soldiers deserve all the garlands for their bravery and patriotism for which they have paid the supreme price.

Yet, we should not ignore the important fact that the worse tragedy that sired the recent loss of military personnel is that we did not think that Metele was a catastrophic possibility only waiting for the appropriate time to happen.

The auguries were there. But we chose to ignore them. It is in this regard that as a nation, we cannot escape collective guilt over this monumental catastrophe.

In other words, Melete is only the consequence of a Buhari government-perpetrated canard that has come to haunt us. As a nation we accepted the lie the Buhari government told us about its defeating the insurgents.

Buoyed by our inability to see the deception, the Buhari government told those who had been displaced to return to their communities after reportedly being rebuilt with billions.

We were sucked into the swindle of the billions really going into the rehabilitation of the displaced until the uncovering of the fraud of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, let us into a most-guarded secret of how the fight against insurgency has turned into a treasure trove.

Yes, we ignored the contradiction that the Sambisa Forest that the government claimed to have denuded of insurgents was still breeding terrorists who kill and kidnap not only in the remotest parts of the north-east but in cities like Maiduguri.

Again, while accepting that the insurgents have been defeated, we also agreed that it was necessary to allow the government to withdraw $1 billion from the excess crude account to finish the battle.

We considered some governors who protested against the withdrawal as those who chose to be saboteurs because of their opposing political leanings.

The Goodluck Jonathan government was accused of not buying weapons for the military to fight insurgents. Under the Jonathan government, soldiers were said to have been compelled to fight Boko Haram with their bare hands.

The Buhari government has felt so outraged by this betrayal of the military that it is unrelenting in its resolve to go the whole hog in violating court orders for those responsible for the killing of our unarmed soldiers by Boko Haram to get their comeuppance.

This is why a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, is being incarcerated for allegedly being the one who disbursed the funds to political cronies at the expense of equipping the military.

But if the Buhari government has remedied this situation, there is no evidence. Our soldiers complain that the insurgents are more equipped than them.

How could the insurgents be more equipped when billions are being spent on procuring equipment for the soldiers? But here, we may not get the right answer.

The House of Representatives that has resolved to probe how the $1 billion has been spent may not be able to give us the right result. Or have we forgotten the dilettantism, partisanship and more importantly, the cash-induced silence that often trammel such probes?

Do our lawmakers not have the loathsome history of using threats of probes as a means of extorting money from the executive and other citizens and organisations?

It was after the Buhari government claimed to have defeated the insurgents that the abduction of 110 schoolgirls of Dapchi happened.

Yet, the government claimed to be in touch with the insurgents. It claimed to be negotiating with them. And with the release of the girls except one, the government felt vindicated. But the fact that the government has been unable to release Leah Sharibu is a warning against the claim of the government that it has subdued the insurgents.

Obviously embarrassed by the cheap murder of the soldiers, Buhari was reported to have met with his service chiefs. But we do not expect the meeting to change anything even after Buhari himself has gone to Maiduguri to meet the leaders of the soldiers at the battlefront.

Before these recent killings Buhari did not demonstrate that he was in charge of the service chiefs even though he is statutorily their commander-in-chief.

Buhari had enough time before now to set deadlines for the military leaders to win the war against Boko Haram or be sacked but he did not.

It was as if the inability of the service chiefs to contain the insurgents was a sure licence to the prolongation of their stay in office. Or why did Buhari renew their tenures after hey failed to defeat the insurgents?

Even if Buhari had used some esoteric criteria to reach a verdict of top performance by the service chiefs, the position of the citizens is that they have become a huge impediment to the fight against insurgency and they must be sacked now. They do not deserve the benefit of more time to prove he mettle that they do not possess.

Buhari could not make the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris to discharge his responsibility of restoring peace in Benue when hundreds of citizens were being killed by Fulani herdsmen.

He could not sanction the sacked Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, when he repeatedly opposed his choice of Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

So, why should we think that the service chiefs would obey whatever directive he gives them? Are the service chiefs, like Daura and Idris, not prosecuting their own agenda? Or if the service chiefs were executing the directive of the president and they still have not won the war, it means that he has only succeeded in giving out ideas that have not been helpful in defeating the insurgents.

In that case, if Buhari and his service chiefs have run out of ideas on how to defeat the insurgents, the president definitely needs fresh strategies that could be injected from other senior military officers who would be ready take over the responsibilities of these current service chiefs.

Since Buhari came to office, he and his political party have repudiated many of their electioneering promises. But they still consider some as the cornerstones of the pact they have with the citizens.

These constitute Buhari’s tripodal transformative governance hinged on improving security, fighting corruption and revitalising the economy. Buhari has not succeeded on any of these promises.

His fight against corruption has remained selective as his cronies and members of his political party are shielded from the anti-corruption agencies while he disparages other people as corrupt.

On his watch, millions of jobs have been lost as his mismanagement of the economy has only constricted the employment space.

Now that it is glaring that he has failed on security, it would only amount to a reinforcement of a national swindle to still think that he is the only one who can fight insecurity because he is a former military general.

Of course, the purveyors of the grand illusion of alternate reality of the Buhari era may snigger at the hell-raising pessimism of this column .

These ones are far removed from the fact that there is another looming Metele of a more apocalyptic consequence as long as we have chosen to regard the incompetence and dithering of Buhari as the touchstones of good governance.

Thus, while we must once again note that the death of the soldiers is painful, we should appropriate the Melete tragedy as a fortuitous reminder again of the un-electability of Buhari for the nation’s presidential office in 2019.

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