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Security: Where is the Commander-in-Chief?

By Editorial Board
23 December 2020   |   3:05 am
The relief that followed the release of 340 students captured two days earlier in Katsina State could not have adequately compensated for the distressing, agonising, and traumatic experience they went through

A child wraps himself in a blanket while gathering at the Government House with other students from the Government Science Secondary school, in Kankara, in northwestern Katsina State, Nigeria upon their release on December 18, 2020. – More than 300 Nigerian schoolboys were released on Thursday after being abducted in an attack claimed by Boko Haram, officials said, although it was unclear if any more remained with their captors (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

The relief that followed the release of 340 students captured two days earlier in Katsina State could not have adequately compensated for the distressing, agonising, and traumatic experience they went through when the students were captured.

For the third time in about six years, Nigerians were subjected to the insufferably embarrassing experience of young innocent pupils kidnapped by the extremist Boko Haram religious insurgents. And even before the dust of the release settled, another set of about 80 students of Quaranic School, still in Katsina, was again abducted for some hours before, mercifully, they were rescued by what appeared to be a combined effort of the police, military, and local vigilante groups.

Hundreds of students of Government Secondary School, Kankara, in President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina, were abducted while sleeping in their school’s hostels. The heinous act was executed on the day that Buhari began a weeklong private visit to his village of Daura, a distance of about 200 km southward. In effect, from where the insurgents struck, it would take little more than two hours’ drive to reach Daura. As perceptive observers have noted, this ‘‘enemy action’’ was not only dangerously close to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, it signalises the brazenness of the insurgents to take their dastardly acts to Buhari’s doorstep. Did these enemies of the Nigerian state have a foreknowledge of the President’s visit or was it a coincidence? Anyway, it was a daring ‘‘thumb-on the-nose’’ act pregnant with meanings. The president and everyone with any responsibility to secure this country, has much reason to worry.
Besides their confident affront to federal power, the insurgents have repeatedly betrayed agreements reached to assuage them. In August 2019, Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari initiated a Dialogue/Amnesty programme to settle with the criminals that terrorise the state.  At a reported cost of N30 million, the programme was to settle with repentant bandits including paying for the weapons surrendered.  Not a few commentators deemed a deal with criminals inappropriate. In a subsequent interview on the BBC Hausa radio service, the governor was to express his frustration that the bandits reneged on the agreement and continued to attack the state. Alleging that they come from Niger Republic and collaborate with their ilk in Zamfara, Kaduna, and Sokoto states, he vowed to deal firmly with them.

Deriving from the current unhappy situation, groups and persons have expressed their concern with the seeming incapacity of the government to protect the citizens, old and young. The major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has found ammunition to berate the president and his APC government. ‘‘This particular abduction, in the President’s home state, under his watch, raises further serious questions over his government’s capacity to fight insurgency,’’ said the party spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) lamented: ‘‘that this is happening in the president’s home state at the time of his visit is not only serious but calls for concern.’’

The abysmal failure of intelligence, failure of proactive measures, failure of response strategy that allowed the taking away of hundreds of school children for the third time reeks, at every level of authority, of tardiness on the one hand, and crass incompetence on the other. How could the state, with the benefit of past experience run a school of about 800 students protected by a few ill-equipped policemen? And when the criminals struck, it is not surprising that they literally had enough time to invade the staff quarters and proceeded from there to the students’ hostel where they gathered and marched students into the bush. And then reinforcement came! A disappointed Amnesty International (AI) did not mince words to say that ‘‘the ongoing failure of security forces to take sufficient steps to protect villagers from these predictable attacks is utterly shameful.’’

It may be recalled that, before this December 11 incident at Kankara, 276 schoolgirls were seized from Chibok Secondary School in Borno State on the night of April 14, 2014. On the evening of February 19, 2018, 110 school girls were forcibly taken away by men of the same sect, then from another school in Dapchi, Yobe State. They were eventually released, except Leah Sharibu who refused to renounce her Christian faith in exchange for freedom. To the perennial agony of their parents, she and a number of the girls are yet to be delivered from the kidnappers’ den by the state under a government on oath to secure them.

Experienced security experts have suggested that, given the non-conventional tactics of the Boko Haram group, a specialised anti-insurgency military corps be set up. If this does not exist already, the government should consider it with the utmost seriousness. There have been concerns too that fifth columnists, conflict entrepreneurs, and other sinister interests that profit from the ongoing situation may be at work to sustain it. The abiding duty of constituted authority is to consider every possibility and address it. This is what any government worthy to be so-called is about. And, when and where it is not equipped to do this, it makes absolute sense to seek help where it can be found.

In all these, leadership is key. To the extent that Buhari is not showing the leadership that Nigeria urgently, desperately, requires in these times, it is inescapable to ask in exasperation: where is the Commander in Chief? Any wonder that calls for his resignation is growing louder and more persistent. As the saying goes, whoever cannot stand the heat should simply get out of the kitchen? Consider that, in such a symbolic act of empathy, he did not pay a visit to Kankara, a mere two-hour drive from where he was, to meet the parents of the children and staff of the affected school.

Emotional Intelligence is a sine qua non of good leadership. But it is not the only requirement. The constitution which Buhari swore to ‘‘preserve, protect, and defend’’ ‘‘to the best of my ability’’ demands of this president and commander–in–chief that ‘‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of [his] government.’’ Therefore, it is a matter of integrity, the very reason that Nigerians voted for him in 2015, that this president lives up to his oath to the constitution and the people. All failure, incompetence, and inefficiency of federal agencies and functionaries are, ultimately, attributable to Mr. Buhari. For, the buck stops at his desk.

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