Boko Haram: Deadline that never was

Posted by News Express | 24 December 2015 | 3,997 times

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By now, it should be clear to one and all that the deadline given by President Muhammadu Buhari for the defeat of Boko Haram has turned out to be a mirage. Buhari had, in a fit of self-adulation some four months ago, charged the service chiefs to ensure that Boko Haram was defeated by the end of December 2015. The presidential deadline is here but there is nothing to suggest that Nigeria is about to be freed from the vice grip of Boko Haram insurgency.

The deadline, we must admit, was a tall order, a day dream most unbecoming of someone who occupies such a high profile office. If it was meant to shore up our sagging morale over the inability of our governments to defeat terrorism, then it was misplaced and misguided. It was not well thought out. The statement was thrown down for the sake of it. It was never meant to be achieved. It came in the fashion of one of those fanciful statements, which the president, strangely, is given to lately.

Let us recall that Buhari set us off with one of those ill-considered statements. He had, on the day of his inauguration as president, told Nigerians something like: I belong to nobody. I belong to everybody. This declaration, when it was made, generated a lot of interest among commentators. They made so much out of it, depending on the way it appealed to them. But I did not spare a thought on it because I knew that someone scripted that line for the president. The man could not have meant to say that. He simply regurgitated it without knowing its import. In fact, I felt a sense of vindication when the president began to act in ways and manners that suggested that he did not belong to all. If anything, his action so far gives him away as someone that belongs to someone.

If we want to illustrate this assertion, we will simply say that a president who excluded a whole geopolitical zone of the country from his kitchen cabinet cannot say that he belongs to all. He belongs to some, in this case, the zones of the country that he has unduly favoured in his appointments. In the same vein, we cannot say that a president who is shielding some corrupt elements while focusing his attention on others belongs to all. He belongs to the privileged group that he is protecting. If Buhari knew the meaning of what was written for him, he certainly would have chosen to say otherwise or leave it out completely if the subject matter was too unpalatable to broach. But that is by the way.

The issue before us here is the misguided presidential declaration. As I have noted earlier, the marching order given to the service chiefs was never intended to be accomplished. It is one of those idle statements intended to ingratiate the ego of the one dishing it out in the hope that it would give those listening to it some sense of assurance.

Those behind the ill-considered declaration on Boko Haram apparently thought that we believed them. That was why they began to backtrack on the statement, just weeks before the expiration of the deadline. First to broach the issue was Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture. While on a visit to an Inter­nally Displaced Persons camp in Borno State, the minister said that the president’s ultimatum to service chiefs should be understood in context. That it should not be understood to mean total defeat of Boko Haram but substantial decimation of the group and the fire power at its disposal. The president was to step in days later. He said that the deadline was not absolute. That it was only a guide. He also said that the deadline would not be met because there were other security flash points in the country that the armed forces was dealing with.

If you accuse the minister of engaging in a sleight of hand, you will be right on target. He dodged the issue. He did not want to confront it as it is. Otherwise, it would have been interesting to have him demonstrate to us how Boko Haram has been decimated. In fact, at the time he was speaking, we were inundated with reports of how the terrorists shook Chibok to its knees, destroy­ing many houses and leaving scores dead. A weakened terror gang cannot have the capacity for such monumental mayhem.

As for the president, his clarification was an after­thought. He spoke as if he just woke up from a trance, as if he just realised that there are other volatile regions of the country that need the attention of the military. We are not taken in by this rigmarole.

We are, indeed, faced with a rigmarole over the Boko Haram menace. Here was an issue that Buhari spoke about during the electioneering campaigns as if he possessed a magic wand. While he was struggling to be­come the president of this country, Buhari gave us the impression that once he was elected into office, the Boko Haram headache would leave us. It was even on account of his military background that THE ECONOMIST of London erroneously endorsed him for the office of president. The magazine had said then that Buhari was more likely to defeat Boko Haram because as a General of the army, he would command the respect and loyalty of the military. The magazine also said that as a northerner, Buhari would win the confidence of the locals, who would be more willing to cooperate with him as one of their own.

Several months down the line, all the expectations from within and outside have come to naught. Buhari has done possibly the best he can do. He has transferred the command and control unit of the Nigerian Army to Borno State, the seat of the insurgency. Yet, nothing has changed. That was Buhari’s selling point. But it still leaves us where we are. That is why we are faced with this endless rigmarole. But whereas we will paper over the issue and treat it as normal, the outside world is saying it as it is. Buhari has not lived up to his promise.

But among Nigerians, there can never be any consen­sus on this or any other issue because we look at everything from the prism of partisanship. Right now, two major tendencies exist in Nigeria over Buhari’s deadline. Whereas some gleefully believed that the end of Boko Haram was in sight, others felt that the deadline was a huge joke.

Of course, we know those who were predisposed to swallow Buhari’s declaration hook, line and sinker. They were those who thought that Buhari had a magical formula with which to root out Boko Haram. For such people, every word of the president is as good as action itself.

Those who were persuaded to the contrary also had their reason. They were the people who felt that the deadline was not well thought out and that Buhari was acting on the spur of the moment. Indeed, they argued that the declaration was in line with Buhari’s new-found, but often misplaced, enthusiasm. They wondered what the president had put in place, even if hurriedly, to war­rant such optimism. In fact, the overriding impression among them was that Buhari had, once again, thrown down a weighty statement in a hurry.

But I do not blame the man. I blame politics, which teaches people to lie. Buhari of yore was not like this. Politics has changed him. We may have to live with this oddity. But someone should please tell the president that it is too dangerous to politicise terror.

•This piece column originally appeared in today’s edition of Daily Sun. Amanze Obi can be reached via

Source: News Express

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