A year prior to the 2015 General Elections, marked the apogee of criticism and damning condemnation of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan over his perceived misrule and cluelessness on issues of governance and low return on electoral mandates by way of democracy dividends and ancillary deliverables.
This brutal and limitless attack on the PDP and the President Jonathan was as damning as it was sporadic, so much so that Jonathan described himself as “the most abused President the world has ever known.” If the President thought his pliant cry and admission was going to buy him some reprieve, he immediately was knocked back into reality as the attack on his person and his government reached its crescendo following theabduction of over two hundred girls from a Government Secondary School in Chibok on 15 April 2014.
The orchestrated criticism of Jonathan and PDP, which helped to humble the duo, could not have been that possible without the relentless effort of the APC media and propaganda machinery led by Alhaji Lai Mohammed [now Minister of Information]. The ease, speed and frequency by which the APC churned out press releases and interviews in the media to play up the failure of governance in carrying out its primary mandate of securing lives and property of citizens was legendary.
Undoubtedly, the polity was witnessing a robust engagement of the ruling party by a vibrant opposition party in Nigeria’s re-nascent democracy and the citizens witnessed how the latter described the former as insensitive, clueless, irresponsible and not proactive in protecting the Chibok girls. Like a boxer, who had closed in on an already weakened and out-of-breath of opponent, APC pummelled Jonathan and the PDP on that weakness – the abduction of Chibok girls – for a full year till it knocked the duo [Jonathan and PDP] out completely at the electoral ring. In knocking-out Jonathan and the ruling party, Buhari and APC rode on the crest of several gargantuan promises, including totally annihilating Boko Haram within ninety days of coming to power.
In fact, at various campaign rallies, Buhari said “I will crush Boko Haram in my first three months in office.” Even for the leader of a bunch of incurable optimists, it was as ridiculous and laughable as it was naïve and insensitive of a general trained in the art and act of warfare to impose on himself a – ninety day period to crush the 4th ranked deadliest terrorists group in the world. Even a junior officer in the army would know better than to promise to wipe out terrorists within ninety days borders on the absurdist thinking.
The battle against terror is an endless one. However, as ridiculous as the promise was, it was the opium the people of Nigeria needed. They simple were drowning in the ocean of depression stemming from the uncertainty and fear of where next will another Chibok happen and who will be the next victim; they were wallowing in the sea of hopelessness as they didn’t know if there was any ray of hope that the innocent Chibok girls would be saved and they were anxious to see the end of this terror group. Accordingly, when Buhari and APC put themselves forward as the saviour of the Nigerian people and promised the ridiculous – the extermination of the 4th ranked terrorist group in the world within three months, the drowning people, with their last breath, grabbed the straw for safety.
The result of which, was the electoral victory of Buhari and APC at the polls on the promise of wiping out Boko Haram within ninety days. Of course with the said victory of Buhari and APC comes the challenge to fulfil the said campaign promise. Wary of the great expectation he had brought upon the people, six months after taking over power [not three months], a – tongue-in-cheek Buhari did not have the courage to pronounce total defeat on Boko Haram. Instead, in a rare display of grammatical prowess, which he surely does not claim to possess, the President enriched the Nigerian polity with a new phrase when he said “Boko Haram has been technically defeated.” He was being smart by half and economical with the truth when he said the fiery group had been “technically” defeated. He made an unqualified campaign promise to “crush” the nation’s enemy within ninety days.
He never said he would crush it “technically” and sadly this is one of the things manifestly wrong with successive Nigerian leadership, and many who voted Buhari thought he would be a departure from the customary half-truths and innuendos that irresponsible and spineless leaderships have often offered. But how wrong he proved them to be.
A courageous and responsible leader should simply have been brave enough to admit that the terrorist group was more deeply rooted than he thought outside office. With such honesty and sheer goodwill that he rode on to electoral victory, he would have asked the people for an extension of time within which to truly [not technically] defeat Boko Haram. Instead, since pride and ego would not allow the voice of reason prevail, he and APC insisted on using a phrase – “technically defeated”, the semantics of which would imply something ominous akin to a cobra which was allegedly killed, but its head wasn’t cut off. The myth of the cobra’s imminent resurrection is here with us.
It is imperative to clarify further that no Nigerian, including the most incurable optimist expected Boko Haram to be defeated within three months or even four years tenure of the President. But the General brought this burden upon himself when he made a – ninety days promise to totally annihilate the group. This utopian and unassailable task he brought upon himself has done enormous disservice to the admirable progress made in the efforts to tackle these insurgents. While there has been no denying the fact that the heightened barricades across various government formations have been eased, attacks of churches and mosques are no longer as frequent, laying bogus claim to defeating insurgents just to cajole the people into admitting that the Buhari led APC government has delivered on its promise is self-serving, retrogressive and opens the entire security efforts to laxity and nonchalancewith grave consequence – the sucker punch; the abduction of one hundred and ten girls from a school in Dapchi, Yobe State.
Indeed, this government has suffered a plethora of sucker punches anytime they are charioted into phantasmagoria on the wing of self-delusion; the delusion that Boko Haram has been decimated or technically defeated. History of the activities of the insurgents and the counter activities of government forces have often revealed the fact that whenever government, seeks to take pat itself on the back over the anti-terror war, it almost always leads to taking its eyes of its opponent and in consequence, gets knocked down by the opponent’s sucker punch.
One wonders if this is how much a bad teacher history has become even when there are well documented venomous responses of the terror group to claims by government that it has been defeated. The example of the terror unleashed in Dalori village would suffice. No sooner had Buhari declared Boko Haram technically defeated when the said village was attacked in a seeming show of its potency. The said attack began when three female suicide bombers detonated their explosive belts in the name of the terror group. Four hours after the women’s onslaught, the terror group firebombed houses with people locked inside, killing eighty-six men, women and children. The recent abduction of the one hundred and ten Dapchi girls is the latest sucker punch by Boko Haram and a more than cursory observer would be alarmed at the change of narrative.
When the Chibok girls were abducted, APC, the Civil Society, Nigerians and all people of goodwill said the buck stopped on the table of the then President, Dr. Jonathan whom they described as insensitive and responsible for the plight of the Chibok girls for failing to protect them. In what appears to be symptomatic of a people hypnotised, one hundred and ten Dapchi girls have been abducted and Buhari and APC rather than take responsibility are quick to point vaguely to political enemies who want to embarrass this government ahead of the 2019 Polls. What makes it more disturbing is that the civil society and others are quickly buying into the irresponsible and buck passing narrative. If the buck stopped on Jonathan’s table over the chibok abduction during his reign, then surely, the buck must stop on Buhari’s table since Dapchi has happened under him.
The citizenry must eschew primordial sentiments in every shade and appearance and hold the present leadership accountable. Buhari cannot play the ostrich. The buck is on his table and he must stop the confidence demolishing exercise of blaming its failures on any political enemy or opposition. A good way to start is to take responsibility, admit that the terror group is yet to be defeated to avoid another sucker punch, rejig security strategies and architecture, equip and motivate the security and military forces better. If nothing else is clear – one thing is – Boko Haram’s abduction of Dapchi 110 is a sucker punch that says it loud and clear that this fight to crush insurgency is far from over.
Lemmy Ughegbe is the Executive Director of Make A Difference [MAD] Initiative, a good governance and human rights advocacy organisation.
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