LAGOS-When Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ascended to the presidency in 2015 for his first term, the security of citizens topped the list of his campaign issues and priorities.
Solving the country’s insecurity was a must-do, to be precise, as, at that time, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), ranked Nigeria as the fourth most terrorised country in the world. This was a direct result of the heated Boko Haram insurgency, kidnappings, communal conflicts, cattle rustling and several acts of banditry that made the life of citizens nasty and brutish.
Buhari’s background as a former military officer was touted by his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), as one of the sterling qualities of a leader Nigeria desperately needed to salvage her from the myriad of security threats. Beyond this, his reputation as a disciplinarian was expected to also play a significant role in nipping the tide of insecurity in the bud. Hopes were, therefore, high that he will not disappoint.
Unfortunately, this was not to be. Now in his second term he secured-despite having little to show for it-after elections held in February last year, the hopes of Nigerians got dashed. The level of insecurity tripled. The GTI moved Nigeria up to the third most terrorised country in the world. Reports of senseless killings, kidnapping, and wanton destruction of property are headline-grabbing issues in the mainstream media.
Trail of deaths and destruction
A Senator and immediate past governor of Borno State – the hotbed of the Boko Haram insurgency – Kashim Shettima, on December 1, confirmed that over 40,000 people had been killed, 2.5 million displaced while thousands of security agents have lost their lives at the hands of the insurgents, in the last 10 years. The banditry ravaging several States in northern Nigeria have snuffed the lives out of more than 8,000 innocent Nigerians since 2011, and displaced over 200,000 people, according to local media reports.
On February 12, some residents of Borno State could not hide their dissatisfaction over the insurgency in their towns and villages when the President’s convoy drove in and when it left Maiduguri – the State capital – during a condolence visit. The residents were heard shouting at the President: “We don’t want you, because you have disappointed us.”
Even the governor of the Borno State, Babagana Zulum, became a victim of several Boko Haram attacks, but survived.
In one of the attacks on Zulum’s convoys, on July 29, near Baga town, he said afterwards; “You people said there is no Boko Haram here, then who attacked us?” Zulum said, apparently doubting the Federal Government’s initial claim that the insurgents have been “technically defeated.”
However, in what appeared to be a dangerous twist to the heightened insecurity, on November 28, gunmen on motorbikes stormed Zabarmari community of the State, and killed no fewer than 43 rice farmers. While still struggling to come to terms with the gruesome murder of the farmers, over 300 students from the Government Science Secondary School (GSS), Kankara district, in Buhari’s home State of Katsina, were abducted by the insurgents on December 11.
That Buhari was on a week-long private visit in the State when the abduction took place-in his own backyard-has since been described as a slap on his face.
Besides, it was a sad reminder of the abduction of about 276 girls from Chibok Secondary School, Borno State, in April 2014 and the abduction of 110 students from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), in Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, 2018. Though the abducted GSS students have been freed, some of the Chibok and Dapchi remain kidnapped.
All talk, no action
Amid such grave security concerns, the President only issues statements in condemnation of the attacks. He seems to develop cold feet when the need to visit the troubled places arises to show empathy and sympathy.
Africa in Focus could not establish whether Buhari is helpless, lacks political will or is not committed to tackle the security challenges as his spokesman, Garba Shehu, did not pick his calls when contacted to shed more light on how they are approaching the problems.
Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Major Babagana Monguno, could also not be reached for a comment.
However, Confidence McHarry, a security analyst with SBM Intelligence, Nigeria, said the ‘monumental failure’ to tame the country’s insecurity is because of lack of political will by the Buhari administration.
“We are seeing a sense of lack of direction. Inherently, there is lack of political will to tackle this problem head-on,” McHarry said.
Kabiru Adamu, another security expert, blamed the rising insecurity to what he described as the ‘overwhelming involvement of the military in internal security operations’.
“At the last count, the military was involved in 34 states in doing one form or the other internal security operation,” Adamu said.
Several calls have been made for Buhari to radically rejig the country’s security architecture and fire his ‘incompetent’ security chiefs.
Monguno, on August 4, revealed that Buhari had instructed them to do an overhaul of the security top brass.
“Mr. President has directed that we must rejig our strategy both in terms of operations and intelligence to further prevent catastrophes,” he said.
This, however did not come to fruition as no meaningful changes have been done up until now.
Resignation bells toll
As it slowly dawns that Buhari is not going for the jugular, calls for his resignation have, lately, reached a crescendo.
The Senate, on December 1, insisted that the buck stops with Buhari, who is the commander-in-chief of all the security apparatus.
“If the President insists that the Security Chiefs are doing their work well, the implication is that the President himself as the Commander-in-Chief of the country has failed in his most rudimentary assignment of securing the nation.”
Similarly, the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) – made up of elderly Nigerians from the northern part of the country – called for Buhari to step down.
“We do not see any evidence of willingness on the part of President Muhammadu Buhari to honour his oath to provide security over Nigerians. In civilised nations, leaders who fail so spectacularly to provide security will do the honourable thing and resign,” said the NEF director of publicity and advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement on December 2.
Many are also questioning whether Buhari is the right tonic for Nigeria’s security challenges.