The story is that of tragic reversal. The famed no-nonsense, sandal-wearing ascetic (apologies to THE ECONOMIST) is no longer what they think he is. The General who was once associated with tough talk and tough actions has lost his verve and vibrancy. His much vaunted magic wand has dissipated into thin air. Those who once believed in him are recanting. They seem to have been aroused out of a bad dream. Truly, their dream of a President has gone sour. Their cheers have turned into a morose gaze at a presidency that has been rendered impotent by insecurity.
The reality of the failure that is the Buhari administration today naturally throws up a paroxysm of remembrances. It reminds us of the frenzy that attended his ascension to the presidential throne. Then, nothing else mattered except the Buhari presidency. The imminent coming of Buhari ignited a feverishness that was never seen or known in the history of elections in Nigeria. The fanaticism of those who believed in the man approximated to that of the ascetic saints. They were intolerant of any opinion that painted a different picture of Buhari.
Somehow, the Buharists had their way. Their principal was voted into office on the basis of his assumed capacity. They said he would rejuvenate the Nigerian economy. They said he would clip the wings of insecurity. They said that all it would take for Boko Haram to become history was to vote Buhari into office. The Buhari adherents saw the end from the beginning. They took off on the basis of a predetermined outcome. It was in the bid to arrive at a given answer without going through the rigours of equation that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, within six months into the Buhari presidency, declared triumphantly that government had defeated Boko Haram. The declaration was made for the sake of it. The evidence on ground did not support it. But Alhaji Mohammed had to say what he said because it suited the false narrative that brought Buhari into office. Even though doubts were expressed here and there, the Minister was insistent on taking his fairy tale to a logical conclusion. So, he resorted to telling us that Boko Haram has been badly degraded. He he is still making that claim up till today. This is in spite of the fact that Boko Haram has castrated the government to the point of impotence.
However, regardless of the sophistry from the Lai Mohammeds of the Buhari presidency, the reality of the situation is that government and its agents can no longer assume the moral high ground on security matters. The government has become an embarrassment to itself and to Nigerians. The country is now a huge killing field. But the big regret is that government is looking helpless in the face of all this. Its ultimate Achilles heel is the recent massacre of over 70 Rice farmers in Koshobe, Borno State, by Boko Haram insurgents. Nigerians are bewildered by this development.. Shock and disbelief have disrupted the people’s sense of proportion. They are yearning for rescue. But President Buhari says that he has done all that could be done to stem the tide of insecurity. He said he has given the Service Chiefs all that they need. Regrettably, all his efforts seem to have failed him.
Obviously rattled by the tidal wave of insecurity under the present order, Nigerians are, for once, saying it the way they know it. Even those who used to be dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the president are incensed by his failings in this matter. The governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, has said clearly that Boko Haram is still very strong in Borno. He wants Nigeria to engage the services of foreign mercenaries in the war against the insurgents. His message is that the country lacks the capacity to deal with Boko Haram. His call has since been backed by his fellow governors from the North East. Former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, has reminded the president that the primary responsibility of government is the protection of life and property. He said any government that fails in this regard cannot lay claim to legitimacy. Shettima is simply saying that the Buhari administration has lost every claim to legitimacy.
The Northern Elders Forum has joined the fray. It is embarrassed that insecurity is bringing the country to its knees. The forum is disappointed that Buhari is more interested in power than in governance. It regrets that the country has lost its value under the present president. Speaking through its spokesman, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, the forum wants the president to toe the path of honour and resign for failing to secure the lives of Nigerians. There are more outcries from across the country, particularly the north over the crippling insecurity in the country. All these worries, when viewed holistically, translate into no confidence vote on the president.
In a confused state such as the one government has found itself, there is bound to be a motley of voices proffering one solution or the other. The Senate has called for the removal of the Service Chiefs. We understand what they mean. They are saying that the supposed experts in warfare who should know how best to rein in the terrorists have constantly been caught napping. They have no idea about what to do. If that is the case, and many believe it is, it then means that the service chiefs are of no service to the commander-in-chief and to the Amed Forces. They do not therefore deserve the position they occupy. To this extent, the position of the senate deserves consideration.
Beyond the controversy over the usefulness or lack of it of the service chiefs, Governor Zulum, supported by five other governors from the north east, wants the introduction of mercenaries into the war against terror. This suggestion sounds bizarre. It even looks extreme. Introduction of foreign mercenaries will be a bad story. It may turn out to be the worst disservice to the armed forces of the federal republic of Nigeria. Right now, the excuses that keep flying about have to do with the welfare and morale of the fighting forces as well as issues bordering on provision of adequate arms and ammunition. If foreign mercenaries are brought in, the story it will tell will be that our forces lack capacity. Can this be the case? It will be most regrettable if that is the level of desperation we have descended into. Such a set-up will cast a slur on the country’s military capacity. More than 50 years ago, Nigeria engaged foreign mercenaries in its fight against Biafra. Certainly, Nigeria’s military capacity has gone beyond the pre-1970 state. But the talk about mercenaries will be suggestive of lack of capacity. Is Boko Haram actually too tough for our military to decimate?
All these scenarios are sobering. They point to the fact that government has become a lame duck in its war against Boko Haram. We, as Nigerians may, for some reason, sympathise with our incompetent government. But when some agents of the same government refuse to accept the true position of things and seek, instead, to lead us by the nose, we cannot but revolt against such an assault on our collective intelligence. Somebody should tell Lai Mohammed to refrain from telling us that Boko Haram has been degraded. Such a bare-faced lie offends our sensibilities. Nigerians are no fools and cannot be cajoled into believing any balderdash dished out by government.