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Worsening insecurity: FG stammers as anger spreads

…Why the Northern Elders Forum rages …Buhari’s promised ‘change’ has been in the negative - Yakassai …We can’t continue to live like animals – Emir of Katsina

Nigerian citizens in the northern parts of the country are in misery. They are gnashing their teeth in anguish over unabated slaughter of citizens of the north east by the dreaded terrorist group- the Boko Haram and allied groups tormenting the region.

But the situation is getting worse amid allegation of government’s helplessness to tackle the unmitigated terror. Thousands have been killed and many more displaced in the eleven years of Boko Haram’s dastardly activities. The latest in the series of violence against hapless citizens was the slaughter of over 43 farmers in a rice field in Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area just 20 kilometers to Maiduguri, the capital of the beleaguered Borno State on Saturday, October 28.

The grisly fashion in which the farmers were decapitated shocked the entire world as streams of condemnation trailed the callous acts. However, the frequency of these heinous acts raises serious suspicion as some experts are either accusing the government of conspiracy or complacency in the face of this grim situation.

Another perspective that ensued after the recent massacre is that the Federal Government has no choice but to take some decisive steps to end the unfortunate episodes. What are the possible options available to the Muhammadu Buhari administration?

While the Federal Government appears frustrated and at a crossroads, not knowing what next to do, there is anger in the polity over the worsening insecurity in the land.

Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah had in an interview recently told journalists that he had never seen Nigerians so frustrated as in the last few years, insisting that many of the challenges facing the country today were due to the failure of the political class to unite the country and tackle corruption sincerely.

He had said: “The frustrations mounts, the criminal political and bureaucratic classes get more daring in their exploits, stealing the country blind and leaving an entire nation bleeding.

“We had a joke called fighting corruption and we even set up a Commission. But guess what, from its inception till date, not one of its Chairmen has finished his or her term. The last Acting-Chairman whom the Presidency has continued to build a moral world around is now facing massive corruption charges. A case of what happens when the hunter becomes the hunted.”

According to him, “Nigerian conflict is a Molotov cocktail of anger, frustration, religious extremism, toxic politics, corruption and deep rot.

“Before Biafra, there were Odua Peoples’ Congress and the Niger Delta Militants, all before Boko Haram and the Islamists. So, Biafra is a consequence of the corruption of the Nigerian state. These youth groups are expressions of the frustrations that face their generation. They are not the problems and they are not the ones on the dock: The accused is the Nigerian state!”

A concerned citizen, Sanusi Sule posted on his twitter handle, “Fellow Northerners, Northern Nigeria is imploding! Bandits and kidnappers are having a field day, they no longer operate in the villages; universities. People can no longer sleep with eyes closed, go to the market or travel in peace again.”

Public Affairs Analyst, Katch Ononuju, who expressed pessimism, said that there was not much to hope for from the Buhari administration to end the crisis.

He told BusinessDay in an interview that Buhari has not punished people who killed in Katsina, in Plateau, in Kaduna, adding that the recent slaughter of 43 farmers in Borno was because the Governor Babagana Zuluim was bold enough to take the people back to their farms to become more productive instead of languishing in the Internally Displaced People’s camps. He noted that the strategy of government was to keep people in the IDP camps so that they will give up their land, especially with the report that the slain farmers did not get permission from the army before going back to the farms.

“Buhari is in collision with the army, if he tells them (Boko Haram) to stop in one week it is over. The terrorists you see doing banditry are the same ones doing Boko Haram, they want land. You see the pattern of killing in Kaduna is the same as the pattern of killing in Borno; it’s the same in Plateau to frighten the villagers. Don’t make the mistake of seeing the three platforms as different, Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen militia, Fulani bandits are the same, they are controlled from the same source,” he said.

“We understand that the farmers were trying to take back their village by force. So the government has an idea of removing them and putting them in concentration camps call IDPs so that they will use that to keep control over the land, but the people want to go back to their land. The governor was fighting to put them back to their land and not to depend on government because if they wait on government they will lose the control of their land.

“They went back to take control of their land and they were killed like this. The essence of the long stay in IDP camp is for them to give up their land.”

He however, warned that the attitude of the Buhari Government may stretch other Nigerians to the limits where they might resort to self-defense and this might tear the nation apart,” he further said.

Also speaking to BusinessDay, a senior lecturer with the University of Maiduguri, James Saliba (professor of History), lamented the worsening situation, stressing that the only option left for the government is to brace up and do more in order to secure lives because it is really becoming difficult to live normal life in Borno now.

He said the issue of insurgency has persisted and whatever gains may have been made have not made any difference to the level of insecurity that people are experiencing particularly in the rural areas. He added that the mood of the people was summed up by the suggestion Governor Zulum gave to the federal government adding that those staying on Borno can only align themselves with the governor and hope that the Federal Government will do more than it is doing now,” Saliba said.

According to him, “We all know that insurgency is not a conventional war, fighting it is not easy and we sympathize and appreciate the efforts of the military so far, who may not have been particularly trained to handle asymmetric warfare. They have been doing their best but the situation has not come under control and we feel that the Federal Government should give the military more support so that they can do what they can do to improve the security situation in the state. So, we don’t know what else to say apart from appealing to the governments to rise up to the occasion.”

Reacting to the insinuations of complicity by elements within the government to escalate the terrorism for personal gains, Saliba said, “Those insinuations have been made before, people have asked questions for example regarding why is it that for eleven years now, no single sponsor of Boko Haram has been identified, which to many, suggests that except and until we are able to identify their sponsors and actually cut off the source of support of the insurgents, the insurgency is likely to continue. And this has been said before, which feeds into what you are saying regarding whether there are some vested interest sustaining the insurgents. Of course an insurgency like this must have a base and support somewhere. Now whether the support is coming from outside the country or within the country, whether there are people within government circles that are supporting it, it is difficult to say.

“But we know that we have intelligence agencies and units that are saddled with the task of identifying those people in order to help other arms of government that are dealing with issues like this to take it up from there and deal with the situation. So, if until now, we cannot identify the lifeline of the insurgents through intelligence reports and cut them off, then there always will be all forms of insinuations but it is difficult to say.”

“I don’t know of any in particular that I can point at, so, all I can say is that government should live up to its responsibility of securing lives and property of the people. The government knows what to do. All the security agencies are within their control and they are trained to do what they have to do notwithstanding the difficulty of fighting asymmetric warfare.”

The Gombe state–born history teacher also warned that if the problem is not addressed, it will worsen the food insecurity amid the pangs of the second recession that has hit Nigeria in the last five years as the north east grapple with the grim realities of increasing insurgency.

He said further that “Most of the displaced people in IDP camps in Borno use to be farmers in their various local governments but they are now dependent on NGOs and governments, and it is not easy to keep sustaining such people on food stamps. Meanwhile as long as this insurgency continues, the volume of agricultural productivity is bound to continue to decline. The Zabarmari incident is only one out of several that will affect the quantum of productivity. So, definitely next year may be worse than this or even previous years.”

Buhari’s promised ‘change’ has been in the negative – Yakassai

Tanko Yakassai, an elder statesman said the crisis persists because of widespread hunger and poverty in the land, which push frustrated youths into the hands of those who manipulate them.

He said that because in Nigeria there is poverty, many of the youth are educated yet they are unemployed. He added that there are so many young people, who are discontented, who are not happy with the situation in the country and a lot of them can easily be persuaded by any demon to do his own bidding.

“So, until we get out of this predicament, we will continue to have these crises. Other countries have passed through this kind of situation we are passing through but one day they were lucky to have good leadership and they have surmounted their problems.

“We can take an example of Rwanda which had crisis but they have a good leader in Paul in Kagame. After years of killing themselves in millions, God gave Rwanda Kagame, a good leader and they are out of the woods now. So, when we are tired of those half-baked leaders in Nigeria we will be able to select good leaders,” he said.

The 95-year-old Yakassai, however, criticised the Buhari administration for allegedly failing in its campaign promises.

He said, “Buhari promised three things- he will fight poverty, he will fight insurgency and provide jobs and security but all the three promises have not materialised.

“Most Nigerians who voted for Buhari did so as if Buhari has all the solutions to our problems. But now the situation is different. So, we have to open our eyes so that when people come to power we should assess them properly. Until we educate ourselves about leadership recruitment process, we will continue to have these crises.”

Yakassai further said: “When Buhari came to power, the slogan was “Change” but what has changed? If anything has changed, it is not for the better it is for the worse. This is a lesson for all of us. There is a saying in Hausa that bad strategy is a strategy in itself, because if you do it and failed you will learn you lessons.

“We made mistake because we did not investigate enough about Buhari. We did not know Buhari, and most of the governors. In the future, let us think hard; let us interrogate whoever comes to look for power and what they have to offer.”

No end to terrorism?

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen Tukur Buratai, said that terrorism in Nigeria may continue for another 20 years, as Boko Haram might keep terrorising and killing Nigerians till 2040.

Buratai disclosed this on his verified Facebook page a day after over 43 rice farmers were slaughtered by Boko Haram in Borno State. The army boss said things can only improve if both military and civilians come together to tackle terrorism.

“There is general misunderstanding of what insurgency and terrorism entail. There is likelihood of terrorism persisting in Nigeria for another 20 years. It only depends on the level of escalation and the appropriate responses by all stakeholders both civil and military authorities.

“Also, by both local in international actors. Citizens’ responsibility is equally important and imperative. All must cooperate to contain the lingering insecurity. Let there be collective action and responsibility,” he said.

Reacting to this, former lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani, criticised the Chief of Army Staff for saying terrorism may persist for another 20 years in Nigeria.

Reacting to the statement, the former lawmaker, who tweeted on his verified Twitter handle on Thursday, said the statement by Buratai showed the ‘bankruptcy of new ideas and strategies’ to win the insurgency war.

Shehu Sani wrote: “Telling our people that the insurgency will last twenty years after repeatedly misleading claims of victories attest to the failure of those saddled with the responsibility of leading the fight. It also signifies the resignation and bankruptcy of new ideas and strategies.”

Why the Northern Elders Forum rage

Speaking on behalf of a group that identified themselves as Northern Elders Forum,

Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spokesperson, explained the reason President Buhari should resign on his honour.

“The President swore on the Quran as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to secure the lives of citizens; he has failed to do so, over and over again. This is his 6th year in office the situation under him is getting worse and there is no indication that it is likely to improve. So, what else is left? That is the question to ask him,” Baba-Ahmed said.

According to him, “In other democratic climes, what leaders who fail to protect citizens, particularly at the scale and the level at what our people are dying, is to resign. Clearly, he has failed in his number one responsibility as a leader which is to protect citizens. We have taken our time, to assess the situation; we did not want to rush to judgment; we wanted to give him a chance like everybody says, leadership is very difficult.

“He is leading; he has a very challenging responsibility but four, five, six years – this is the same president that was saying two years before he assumed responsibility; he was saying to President Jonathan to step aside and give him the responsibility to run the country. So, he had a lot of time to study the situation, he is a general, he is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, he is a military man; so, he does not have an excuse of not knowing how to fight wars. He put people in charge, they are still in charge; we are losing this war.”

He also noted that more security challenges are becoming manifest, and that more people are dying.

“Every single day people die in this country. Lives have lost their value. One individual was kidnapped; one American citizen was kidnapped somewhere in Niger or northern Nigeria; the US sent military through Niger Republic to Nigeria with the consent of the Nigerian troops; foreign Americans came into our country and rescued the person. What do you say to the Nigerian President under whom our people are dying?

“How do you explain what happened in Borno? A failure of security; a failure of leadership. What else do you say other than to say to Mr. President, Mr. President clearly you can’t secure the lives of Nigerians; if there is honour; if there is respect for public opinion, really there is no reason why he should continue,” he further said.

Following the heightened insecurity in the North, Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, was quoted as saying: “We can’t continue to live like Animals. Every day, I receive reports of kidnapping and killings from district and village heads. It’s very unfortunate. I have not seen this kind of country. How do we live like animals? Nobody is safe now… wherever you are”.

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