The softness in the presidential address as it concerns the Boko Haram sect speaks volumes.
Many years ago, as a young boy, I had followed my mates to the Ikwu River that flows through my village, Amaogwugwu, in Ohuhu, Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State. The river had overflowed its banks that rainy season and we used it to determine the best swimmer where any of us was able to swim across the river. Despite our being told and warned of the tragedy that had occurred in previous years, we were not deterred and we would take an acrobatic plunge into the deep river. I swam across the river successfully and ran home to gallantly narrate my exploits to my mother. On that particular day, she asked me to pull my two ears, and told me the story of the redneck lizard (or Agama lizard) that was ubiquitous in most farms in the village. According to her, one day, the redneck lizard had mistakenly fallen from a tall tree and, on crashing to the ground, it waited for a while and started nodding its head, appreciating itself and encouraging itself by saying to himself, “if no one praises me for falling from such a height, I will praise myself.”
So it happened as expected that President Muhammadu Buhari set out in his national broadcast to the nation on the 58th Independence anniversary by calling on fellow Nigerians to join him in celebration. What was he celebrating?
Like the redneck lizard, President Buhari believes that as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, his men have done marvelously well in almost ending the Boko Haram war. Truly, a time was when the terrorist sect occupied 14 local government areas in the North-East. Truly, a time was when Sambisa forest was a no-go area. A time was when the streets of Maiduguri, Yobe and Adamawa were closed down before evening Muslim prayer.
Said he, “There has been a steady improvement in the security situation in the North-East.” Such admission is modest, unlike those of his civilian aides who use words like “technically defeated,” instead of using appropriate words and terms in war situations. The lizard that climbed the tall tree knew why it embarked on such a dangerous adventure. It could be either due to selfishness or it was propelled by circumstances.
It is remarkable that the President’s address pointedly captured essentially the major issues on the front burner of national discourse. This means the President feels the pulse of the people. This notwithstanding, since he assumed office in 2015, President Buhari’s sing-song has always been his plan to stop insecurity in the North-East. We all know that the insecurity in the North-East is the handiwork of the indigenous terrorist group known as Boko Haram. The history of the evil sect is known to everyone, even to every resident of the North-East who help in sustaining the sect by giving them a lifeline. It is rather unfortunate that 95 per cent of the youths that were recruited into the sect are sons and daughters of the North-East. One, therefore, wonders why parents, religious and traditional leaders from that area are not seen doing anything to intensify their support for either the military or government’s plan at reorienting and deradicalising the youth.
When a commander-in-chief is addressing his troops, there is always that fatherly touch and concern, not so when he is addressing terrorists whose criminal intentions have stopped commerce, education, free worship and movement in many parts of the North-East. The softness in the presidential address as it concerns the Boko Haram sect speaks volumes.
To many, that paragraph in the national address was not well couched with firmness, considering the enormity of the crime perpetrated by these criminals.
Sentences such as “we know that the goals of the Boko Haram terrorists include capturing territories, destroying our democracy and denying our children the right to education. We will not allow them to succeed.” What!? Where are statements like “fight to finish, until they surrender”? Where are warning statements like “you have no hiding place again”? Was the President begging the issue and avoiding to spit fire? The Independence anniversary was the most appropriate time for the President to spit all the fire to send a strong message to these criminals. After all, he is leading the country in a celebration, so why was he tongue-in-cheek when hundreds of his citizens were still in the terrorists’ den?
Why was the President using kid gloves, as if he was begging them by, picking his words?
Nigerians know that such an address should be concise but, no matter how engaged the President was to be on that anniversary celebration day, it was an omission for not bringing Nigerians up-to-date on the case of Leah Sharibu and the other remaining Chibok schoolgirls.
In all, the celebration was not really worth it.
Those that need to be celebrated are the uniformed men and women who sacrifice their lives so that we can have a country no longer under the tentacles of Boko Haram.