President Muhammadu Buhari needs at least a morsel of sympathy and cooperation. Buffeted from all sides by a myriad of challenges, an economy in recession, accompanied by falling oil prices, stagflation, depreciation of the currency, terror attacks from North East and now, South-South of the country, the President is playing defensive ‘Change’ which he promised, he now says “cannot happen over night.
In less than sixteen months into his presidency, Buhari has become an incredibly shrinking president. His popularity has nosedived to an all-time low. Renewed militancy in the Niger Delta is the latest challenge snapping at the President’s heels. No thanks to the emergence of a new militant group that calls itself the Niger Delta Avengers.
With the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East still far from over, and the whereabouts of the missing Chibok Girls unknown, the Niger Delta Avengers which have destroyed many oil installations in the Niger Delta, and some military personnel and policemen drowned in the Creeks, Buhari’s administration needs bipartisan support to win the war against the militants.
Last week, Rivers state governor, Nyesome Wike stood up to be counted as a strong backer of the current military operation against the militants, code named ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’. The operation which was launched recently by the Nigerian Army is to contain militancy and other crimes in the Niger Delta.
Wike’s unflinching support matters. It shows exemplary leadership that we win when we work together. Speaking last week when he received the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai at the Government House, Port Harcourt, the governor said the state government is fully in support of the ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’. He said he had been fully briefed by the Brigade commander and his administration will fully associate itself with the programme because, “It will make the Niger Delta safer”.
Undoubtedly, cooperating with the military operation has numerous advantages. One of them is that hoodlums who have caused the Buhari government sleepless nights and worsened the economic woes facing his Presidency and the entire citizens, would be given a bloody nose if the operation succeeds. It is our wish the operation doesn’t fail.
The governor made his assurance clear; “Rivers state government will sustain its support for security agencies to create the right atmosphere for democratic governance”. In that connection, Wike said that his government had already procured six new armoured personnel carriers for the police and is currently in the process of concluding the acquisition of 10 gunboats for the Nigerian Navy.
Why do these equipment matter? Events become significant only when looked back on. Only recently, the fight against the militants suffered a setback as four soldiers reportedly drowned following a boat accident in Bayelsa state. The tragedy happened along the Brass waterfront in the Brass Local Government Area of the state. Service rifles belonging to the missing soldiers were also reportedly missing.
Therefore, if the Operation Crocodile Smile must succeed, it needs more equipment such as the Rivers state government has provided. The neighbouring states of Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom need to emulate Wike’s example. It should not be left to the Federal Government alone. The Chief of Army Staff had pointed out that soon, another aspect of the Operation would witness the army intervening in critical areas of need for the communities. This is good news
Things go wrong when government fails to act fast, or governors take a purely partisan approach to issues that threaten national security. That was how a small religious fundamentalist group Boko Haram metamorphosed into a terror organization, same way the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which President Barack Obama once dismissed as the “jayvee squad”, became an army of terrorists that today threatens global peace.
One lesson in what Wike has done is that the military needs everybody’s support in its operation against insurgency anywhere in the country. Wike’s support against militancy is also significant in another respect. It puts to rest vicious allegations that he was one of the sponsors of the Niger Delta Avengers, an allegation the state government had unequivocally denied.
The falsehood might not be unconnected with the governor’s speech at the last month’s conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) in Port Harcourt, where Wike publicly declared that he and other stakeholders in the state have prevented militant groups from sabotaging oil installations as was the case elsewhere. No doubt, Wike has been a target of many plots and devious machinations by forces that want to see him fail in Rivers State. The opposition APC in the state has state that publicly.
The emergence of Niger Delta Avengers is a lesson of not heeding warnings. Just before former President Goodluck Jonathan lost his bid for reelection, former Niger Delta militants had issued threats against the country if the former President did not win a second term in office.
But the militants were speaking for themselves. They were not speaking for Jonathan, who recently denied allegations that he was one of the sponsors of the militant groups.
Let all political actors spare a thought for the country and take a cue from Wike. Insecurity in any part of the country will have a spiral effect on other constituent units of the country. The devastating effects of the Boko Haram insurgency have taken their toll on the socio-economic milieu of the country.
The war threats from the Niger Delta Avengers and other terrorist groups/agitators should not be seen or treated as an incipient popular revolt against the Buhari government. It is a threat against the sovereignty of the country. It requires conventional military capability to crush, provided the operation follows the ‘dictates of the constitution’. Taken together, a new generation of terror groups are emerging in many parts of the world, drawing inspiration from ISIS. That’s why Wike’s support to the military operation in the Niger Delta goes beyond its political significance.