The massacre of 67 rice farmers by members of the Boko Haram sect in Zabarmari, Jere Local Government Area of Borno State is heinous and condemnable. The gruesome murder can be regarded as one of the worst attacks by the terrorists in recent times. The victims were slaughtered in cold blood, in the most barbaric, despicable and inhuman fashion. The world is shocked and Nigerians are speechless on the dastard incident. The helplessness of Nigerians, their frustrations and virtual impotence in the face of such extreme provocation is difficult to ameliorate.
We are at a loss on what else Nigerians should do in the midst of the mindless attacks. Nigerians have borne the burden of the extremely high cost of this insurgency, as well as the national humiliations of having our daughters taken hostage from their hostels. Nigerians have borne the embarrassment of fighting this war for more than 10 years. Two years ago, President Buhari pushed for and obtained a $1 billion extra-budgetary appropriation for the prosecution of the war against insurgency. Eyebrows were raised in objection, but if that was what was needed for victory, Nigerians nodded in agreement. The Zabarmari massacre has demonstrated that almost all the country’s sacrifices and efforts have not yielded the desired results. The question is no longer whether we are winning or losing. It is now clear that we are losing because we are not winning.
No amount of sweet-talk, sleek-messaging or propaganda can change the reality in which we have found ourselves. The “technical defeat” of Boko Haram is beginning to sound like the greatest lie ever told to Nigerians. The Federal Government, apparently, has done its best. Those in government can see that government’s efforts have failed dismally. In 2015, President Buhari gave Nigerians the impression that the Boko Haram insurgency would be over in less than three months. Indeed, it was chiefly the reason Nigerians accepted the “change” slogan. President Goodluck Jonathan, as honest as many thought he was, could not be trusted to be able to execute the war on the insurgency.
In Buhari, we thought we had a true war fighter with plenty of experience to rein in the terrorists in record time. It is nearly six years, and even the government itself cannot explain the difference it has made between today and 2015 when it inherited the war.
The universal and received wisdom about wars is that no strategy survives the first contact with the enemy. In other words, there is need to keep tweaking and changing the war plans until it is won. Liberians and Sierra Leoneans, who experienced the hard-fighting Nigerian Army in the 1980s and 1990s, will be puzzled that the war against the insurgents has lasted so long.
Nigeria did not invent the non-conventional system of warfare. Therefore, our troops must adapt to the new challenges to win the war. They need adequate information and intelligence to win the war. Why do Boko Haram catch our troops napping instead of the other way round? Why is the Sambisa Forest still a sanctuary of Boko Haram? Who are the sponsors of the terrorists? Until a month ago, Nigeria could not identify a single financier of Boko Haram. Thanks to a court in Dubai, we read of five Nigerians being sent to long prison sentences for funding Boko Haram. It will be difficult to defeat an enemy whose financier cannot be identified.
Now, Nigerians believe that there is urgent need for change in the command chain of the war against terrorism considering that the war is not yet over. It is easy to feel the frustration of senators and other members of the legislature who have for years called for changes in the command structure of the nation’s security architecture. Last week, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau argued that the president may have violated the law by keeping the service chiefs beyond their tenure. But even as a practical matter, it is the practice even in corporate management to try out ideas of middle level officers and see how they work. Nine months is enough time to know whether an officer has the creative ability or not.
In the death of 67 farmers, the government has breached Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by failing to protect them. The Presidency’s argument that the farmers did not obtain permission to go to harvest their crops in the area sounds like blaming the victim. Even the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar laments the pervasive insecurity all over the north. We think that the government should go back to the drawing board, as what is happening is the opposite of what Nigerians expected in 2015.