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Boko Haram: Is this the end?

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Nigerian troops rallied to flush out Boko Haram rag tag forces in Guzamala

Nigerian troops rallied to flush out Boko Haram rag tag forces in Guzamala

By Ifure Ataifure

I have seen several barbs on my social media handles to the effect that the real people pulling the strings of the puppets called Boko Haram terrorists are busy with electioneering hence the lull in the group’s murderous activities. Of a truth, ongoing political activities are in full gear without a single flag of Boko Haram being raised anywhere so one would agree that the terrorists have failed in all ramifications.
Compared to this period in 2014, Boko Haram had not only declared a caliphate for itself but even named a capital and collected taxes. The situation was dire enough that General Elections were postponed to allow time for dealing with the terrorists’ menace. The brazen attacks on military outposts in recent times could only have been targeted at creating the cycle of fear all over again. Gudumbali, in Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno state was apparently targeted to be a re-enactment of the months that preceded the 2015 elections.

In the wake the attacks, those who possibly put the terrorists up to it were quick to rush to town with half thought analysis to argue that a Boko Haram that has been defeated would not be in a position to attack a military base. But I am keen to know, why are these same analysts not interested in questioning who is reviving Boko Haram each time it is defeated or why its attacks are always conveniently timed to yield political points to certain individuals.

Whoever these individuals are, their arrangement with Boko Haram failed when they could not stop primary elections of political parties from taking place in every single ward anywhere around the country including areas they want the world to perceive as hotbed of terrorists’ activities. From Gundumbali to Damasak to Azare wards, all in Borno States, primary elections held and Nigerians went out to partake in a process that is defining of our democracy, which is a reminder that the people will always triumph.

Of note is that the restoration of normalcy is beyond the political sphere since some people will be desperate to create the impression that people took part in political parties’ primaries because of what they stand to benefit in pecuniary terms. Whatever that is. But markets are open everywhere in the area, which shows that Boko Haram has also failed to dislocate our economy and economic lifestyle of communities, including places where they once sacked towns and villages. This is providing the needed boost to the national economy since whatever figures are benchmarked at the national level is a collation of what citizens achieve economically in their local communities.

The greatest factor yet is the Nigerian Army that has made a fine art of holding tight to all Nigeria’s territory even as it continues to press on with efforts to rescue every single hostage being held by the non-repentant elements. This, sadly, is another area where politics is being played in manners that hurt the innocent population. In desperate attempts to undermine the achievements of the military, highly placed persons had been fingered in the events that make the abduction of Nigerians by terrorists possible. But the good news is that the Army has done much to rescue these people and reunite them with their families and reintegrate them back into their communities.
One must therefore commend the military for the feat they are achieving. In fact, we cannot thank our military enough that a day like this would ever come in our history as a nation again. The liberty to freely exist is one the terrorists had wanted to deny people especially the aspect about people partaking in choosing who leads them but the conduct of the primary elections successfully has proven that the Army has returned the lives of those in the northeast to them while strengthening democracy in doing so.

I must however point out that the military must not allow the terrorists enjoy their self-appointed holiday. This is the best time to flush out whatever is left of Boko Haram out of hiding and make them keep the right appointments – either with the law courts or with their makers, where they persist in doing battle. That remnant that the owners of Boko Haram have always used to regrow the terror group must not be allowed to remain this time around. The military should deal the decisive blow.
Oh ! Boko Haram, is this the end?

Ifure PhD contributed this article from Abuja.

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Opinion

Statesmanship: Like Jonathan, like Buhari

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Jonathan and Buhari

Jonathan and Buhari

By Muhammad Ajah

In 2015, while fanatics of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Orubebe were busy attempting to disrupt collation of results from states, the person they were fighting for and former President Goodluck Jonathan found it very necessary to ease the political tension by congratulating on phone his victorious opposition candidate. While Jonathan’s men could still not understand the spirit that pushed him to do that, that singular action has endeared him to Nigerian citizens and the international community.

Before the election, Jonathan had reiterated that his political ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian citizen. That was the spirit of true Nigerianism, the spirit of love and humanity. I think this spirit links both contemporary politicians and leaders of Nigeria, Jonathan and Buhari, the latter who has reiterated that he will accept the decisions of Nigerians in the forthcoming 2019 general election, especially the Presidential polls of February 16, 2019.

I personally admire Jonathan for that action. According to him, while receiving the African Sun Times Man of the Year award conferred on him by the international magazine, hehonourably handed over power to Buhari, as a clear indication that election can be conducted without bloodshed in Nigeria. He expressed gratitude to Nigerians, not only his party, for standing by him. This was apparent appreciation to the General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s Peace committee which did a very wonderful job throughout the electioneering period in 2015. “That, to me, is a most worthy testimonial of the character of the Nigerian nation and the resilience of our people”, he averred.

Jonathan never regretted his action. Rather he has been proud of it; boasting of it everywhere he goes and whenever he speaks to people. He believed that Nigeria’s enemies were defeated. “We, the Nigerian people put to shame naysayers and prophets of doom and in 2015, we held a most transparent, violence free and credible elections that transferred power from one political party to another and from an incumbent to the opposition, without rancour, bitterness or strife. In the process, we proved that nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian or any national of any country for that matter.”

I hope that Nigerian politicians will imbibe this spirit and eschew the spirit of “do or die” politics. The political situation in 2015 was very tense, indeed. The level of hate speech was unprecedented. But Nigerians were free and associated with their chosen parties and candidates. Observations and reactions from feelers portray that the situation is not tense ahead of 2019 and hate speech is not pervading the air. Nigerians are freely associating with their candidates. The incumbent President Buhari is not showing any sign of desperation, thus the needless call for heating up the politics. I pray that the political situation will remain so and that no Nigerian will be killed or forced to die for the cause of the elections.

Jonathan placed national interest ahead of personal ambition; that is why there was smooth transition. In short, despite his show of statesmanship by accepting defeat, there were speculations that his men would have scuttled the handover processes. He stood his ground as the leader of his party and ensured that Buhari was sworn-in, despite controversies that ensued afterwards. I am sure that the spirit is still with him so that his party will accept the outcome of the next election without rancour. For this, it is hoped that all anti-democratic tendencies of some politicians and the tensions they often generate during elections should be monitored by the security agencies. Those extremist politicians who use political campaigns of terror against Nigeria and her citizens should have a rethink.

Buhari holds Jonathan in high esteem. He has, in many fora, expressed the shock he received when Jonathan called and congratulated him. He said at a dinner organized for members of Kannywood (Hausa-language movie industry) at the State House in Abuja that Jonathan endeared himself to him. “As they were thinking of what to do with the result which they were unable to manipulate because of the card reader and PVC, Jonathan phoned to congratulate me,” he said. “I kept quiet for a while when he called me. He (Jonathan) then asked whether I didn’t hear him, I said I did and I thanked him.”

Jonathan, to me, is a strong pillar of Nigeria’s democracy. He has continued to preach peace and the spirit of sportsmanship in defeat to his party men and Nigerians. One of the instruments for the smooth transition in 2015 was the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by all the presidential candidates. That is being planned but it should be properly executed for 2019 elections. Thanks be to God that the committee has begun its work in earnest. According to its chairman General Abubakar, after a meeting with a delegation from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by its Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, the MoU will not only be to check violence-free campaigns, but also to avoid hate speeches and unguarded utterances during campaign activities.

This is a good move. But as I have always maintained, Buhari is a trustworthy patriot who always put the nation above self. He will do better. There are assurances that the 2019 general elections will be freer and fairer than ever before. Therefore, with or without signing any pact, he will ensure smooth elections and transition in 2019, hitch-free handovers to democratically elected officers. I join millions of Nigerian patriots to hail him for not accenting to faulty electoral bill. He must remain focused to deliver credible polls in 2019 but he must not be cowed by the selfish interests of anti-democrats who are attempting to create lampoons in the electoral act in the name of amendment. May God bless Nigeria at all times.

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Opinion

AISHA BUHARI: THE MAN STANDING IN APC

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Aisha Buhari

Aisha Buhari


By Yinka Odumakin

Shortly after I started work as General Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman in 2011, Mrs Aisha Buhari approached me to facilitate some media exposure for her. She didn’t need to spend time to convince me that we needed her face and voice out there. I saw her as an intelligent, sharp-witted and gutsy woman who could add a lot of value to the campaign, especially in the South where womanhood in the North is largely perceived as purdah.

I told her I was going to organise a media parley for her and that a cerebral journalist in Lagos had been asking me about the wife of my principal. We agreed on a date. When it was two days to to the appointment, something told me I should clear with my principal what I was about to do. I walked up to him to inform him about the media session for madam. His eyes became red. It was the only time he raised his voice against me: “Don’t ever.” I had to call the journalists to cancel the meet. The genie was kept in the bottle for another four years.
Then came 2015 and the APC experiment. Abimbola Adelakun with her versatile pen wrote a classic in The PUNCH of January 8, 2015, entitled: “Where is Mrs Buhari?” and reference the botched 2011 parley with the General’s wife:

“For a man who preaches “change” and desires to rule a country made up of men and women in almost equal halves, I wonder why he finds the anomaly of an ‘invisible wife’ wholesome.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that Mrs Aisha Buhari would be left behind in her husband’s aspiration.

“In 2003, she was not prominent when he lost to Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘moonslide.’ Four years later, not much had changed though one could argue that his biggest opponent, Umaru Yar’Adua, did not ‘use’ his wife to campaign either. In 2011, when the presidential election was on, I asked one of Buhari’s closest aides where Mrs Buhari was and why she was practically unseen in her husband’s various campaign efforts.

“My query sprang from his image: If you are being termed an ogre, furnish reasons why you could not be one. His wife standing side-by-side with him would, I told the aide, soften his unimpressible image.
“This Buhari’s aide agreed with me that his wife would be strategically invaluable for his persona. He said she was coming to Lagos at that time and he would arrange press interviews to introduce her to the public.

“The aide called shortly after to say Buhari was not sold to the idea. The aide was apologetic while explaining why Buhari did not want his wife displayed like a ware even in the heat of campaigns. He said Buhari himself could be rather reticent; then, I should consider the religious factor, and that the General was too disciplined for such and several etceteras. I wished him the best and left it at that. By then, Patience Jonathan was criss-crossing the country and canvassing votes for her husband in her peculiar ways. Even though she was being mocked for her lack of sophistication, she was winning some hearts because of her confidence.”

She went on to hazard why Buhari would not want his wife to be seen:
“There are several reasons one can adduce for Buhari and his wife’s photo hide-and-seek. One, the culture of lovey-dovey is simply not him. Like the Igbo proverb that says a man cannot learn to be left-handed in old age, I wager that this is a left-handedness that Buhari has not learnt and is probably a far harder lesson than removing his cap during a church service.
“Two, he probably thinks being seen with a woman will detract from his famed militarist discipline and Spartan image. He has done a lot of bending just to project himself as a non-Islamic fundamentalist pan Nigerian statesman but the woman aspect just does not resonate well with him – yet.
“Third, the religion and culture Buhari has known all his life do gift a second-class citizen status to women.”

The APC strategy room at this point must have convinced him the wife could no longer be in the background. She was allowed to mount the podium in Abeokuta. That was coincidentally strategic. She launched out on the soil that razed Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the radical woman who first drove a car in the county and led a revolt that made an Alake to flee the throne. It was the place where Funmilayo trained Sawaba Gambo.

In her three and a half years as wife of the president, Mrs Buhari has shown she is in the mould of a Gambo Sawaba. In a sorry season in our land when we don’t have a Gani Fawehinmi, when many of the voices that railed against injustices in years past are either mute or incoherent, Mrs Buhari has somewhat become the conscience of the nation in her interjections on national issues.
For those don’t know, Gambo Sawaba was a fearless woman of the North with whom Aisha shares some traits.

After Gambo lost her parents in 1943, her education stopped and she was forced into an early marriage at 13 but separated from her husband over irreconcilable differences.
Gambo joined politics when she was 17. A branch of NEPU was formed in Sawaba’s Zaria but meetings had to be held in secret for the safety of all involved. Gambo Sawaba joined this party and quickly rose to become the women leader in the branch.

Eventually she would leave Zaria for Abeokuta where she was to meet Funmilayo Kuti. Mrs Kuti had become Gambo’s role model after the latter read about some of the former’s exploits in Abeokuta, especially Funmilayo Kuti’s struggle for the rights of women in tax related matters which culminated in the brief exile of Oba Ladapo Ademola.

When Gambo returned to Zaria, during a political lecture, many of the attendants (most of whom were male) refused to speak out for fear of political victimisation, Gambo climbed unto the rostrum to speak, challenging everyone present. On that same day and a NEPU leader, Alhaji Gambo Sawaba, was to speak at that event, he was so impressed with her that he gave her a nickname, Sawabiya, which means the redeemer. Later on, the name was shortened to the more masculine version, Sawaba. And it stuck. Thus, Hajaratu Amarteifo became Gambo Sawaba.

Gambo made a name for herself when at a political lecture in Zaria, she climbed a podium and spoke out in a room full of men. She campaigned against underage marriages and forced labour. She also advocated for western education in the North.
She also organised several meetings with women who were not allowed to attend political activities because of their gender.

As a result, Gambo was arrested at age 20 alongside 200 other women for not obtaining a permit before the assembly. They were sentenced to one month imprisonment each.
The vibrant woman was sent to jail 16 times in her lifetime and she was often brutalised by the police. Despite low education and coming from the northern part of Nigeria where women are least encouraged and their education neglected, Gambo struggled through all these obstacles to emerge as a dynamic, independent political activist, helping to educate many people.
Her (Hajia Buhari) latest outing was at the national women leadership summit organised by Project 4+4 for Buhari & Osinbajo 2019, a political group.

She spoke against two men who have dominated a government which emerged through the votes of over 15 million people.
“Our votes were 15.4 million in the last elections and after that only for us to be dominated by two people… this is totally unacceptable,” she said.
“If 15.4 million people can bring in a government and only for the government to be dominated by two people or three people, where are the men of Nigeria? Where are the Nigerian men? What are you doing? Instead of them to come together and fight them, they keep visiting them one after the other, licking their shoes (I’m sorry to use those words).”

Quite reminiscent of her interview with BBC Hausa two years ago where she said Buhari’s government had been hijacked by only a “few people.”
Her words: “The president does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years… some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position.”
Aisha Buhari asked “Where are the men?” Maybe she should have asked “Where are the APC men?” She needed not ask though as the men she was asking after were no longer men but sissies. The man she called out at the event, Mr Babafemi Ojudu, who was said to have tried stopping her from bursting out, was a fire-eating man in the days of Abacha.

The transformation of yesterday’s men was what made the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, to look at Chief Bisi Akande straight in the face at Senator Abraham Adesanya’s 10th anniversary lecture in Lagos months back and declare “Chief Akande, when we arrived at a point where people like you cannot speak truth to power because of APC card, there is problem in the land.”
Mrs Buhari should make no mistake about what defines a man. It is not the third leg they work with in the “ozer” room. The artificial of that can now be picked on the shelf for a fee. What makes a man is the strength of conviction, the ability to speak the truth, no matter whose ox is gored and raise your voice when sinful silence is convenient. That quality is in short supply in what she erroneously called “men,” especially the ones that populate the ruling party today. In such a situation, Mrs Aisha Buhari is the man standing.

It reminds of this popular Yoruba singer, Odolaye Aremu, who sang about a powerful woman called Amina Abiodun, the Iyalode of Ibadan, who died on Saturday. She was a strong woman who struggled for the same space with Lamidi Adedibu and Arisekola Alao. She once cracked a hard one at an encounter with Chief Adisa Akinloye, Chief Richard Akinjide and Dr Omololu Olunloyo. I will not recount it but the two living will remember it.

Odolaye got to a point and said what was under Amina was masculine. Some women are men! And in a land where men are no longer men, some women will always be men.
If the maiden of Arewa now resolves to remain in purdah despite Aisha Buhari, it’s a sad story.

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Opinion

Nigerian Military And The Act Of Victory

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Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin

Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin


By Richards Murphy

Sun Tzu, the Chinese war veteran, strategist and tactician of world repute, throbs military leaders with this enriching warfare philosophy. Its catchy phrase prescribes thus; “What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”

I know some Nigerians would be surprised at what prodded me to begin the exploration of this piece with this enthralling wisdom of Gen. Sun Tzu. It’s because Sun Tzu remains the most coveted encyclopedia of war shrewdness ever exposed to mankind.

Tzu was somewhat magical, if not prodigiously extraordinary in thoughts and actions. No frustrations or setback of the enemy ever dissolved his resolve and determination to win. It is the innate inclination of a soldier.

Of course, many of us have read the military exploits and adventures of this great Chinese military celeb. All over the world, craggy military officers, who aim at victories in battles, imbibe his wisdom and style in combats. They are inspired by his combat wits, tenacity and valor. They strive to emulate him.

And for three years and more, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin knows, he is not just the super engine room of President Muhammadu Buhari’s counter-terrorism war in the country. But the march to terminate the reign of Boko Haram terrorism is an assignment, which must be won and splendidly.

His mien all the times, tells me, the CDS cum military strategist is less concerned by setbacks in the counter-insurgency operations. But he is a thousand times concerned with extracting the victory from terrorists, at the cost of anything.
It is indubitable that anywhere wars are fought; there are countless entrapping impediments and challenges, which can cancel even an already won victory. But careful deployment of uncommon wisdom and the utilization of every resource at your disposal earn you the victories.

And I believe, there is no military rendezvous in warfare, which victory comes easy and smooth. Despite Sun Tzu’s versatility in warfare and acclaimed expertise, not all his victories came on platter gold. To be candid to myself, I have a passion for this warrior. What he never consented was a weakened spirit at the battlefront.

At all times and in all circumstances, he was confident victory would descend at dawn undeniably and kept cracking the hardest of nuts. And truly, he got the results in his favour.

But in the course of the usually stiff struggles peculiar to the trenches, I don’t want to believe there were no depressing moments’ or the unexpected never happened, such as troops vehicle accident or death on the warfront. But Tzu’s sheer determination and the courage to succeed kept the candle burning to a victorious end.

I see a facsimile of this resilience in Gen. Olonisakin. When any of his troops is mowed down in battle by enemy forces, it gives him sleepless nights. But it has never enfeebled his determination to the point of surrendering to the enemies of his troops and the nation. Instead, it spurs more grandeur planning and deafening confrontations of the enemies more vehemently.

Throughout the time, I keenly observed the actions and dispositions of the CDS in the engagement of Boko Haram insurgents; no challenge or setback in the prosecution of the war has slackened his pace and focus even for a minute. This is reason the Nigerian military has sustained the winning streaks against terrorists. Insurgents attacks on military formations has now bubbled by a personal revenge in the hearts of troops.

That’s the lesson taught troops by the archetypal Gen. Olonisakin. As a true and inveterate Military General, coordinating and leading counter-terrorism operations in Nigeria deemed one of the world’s most difficult wars has been his passion to end a glorious career.

The CDS has conditioned the minds of his troops to have their eyes fixated on victory; and only victory, at all times, regardless of any obstacle. The CDS knows the whiff of victory is what keeps an Army or a troop going in a battle.

I am glad they have not deviated from this path of glory. And troops have lived it and appear even better at their most tormenting moments; which outsiders like me fear a possible retreat. This is the victorious side of our military, unknown to many of us.

I have observed consistently that whenever Boko Haram terrorists roar against our troops, with such gusto, reenacting their triumphant past, the insurgents deployed for the missions hardly escape unscathed.

We may not know. But many of us have not heard the voice and braggadocio of Boko Haram factional leader, Abubakar Shekau for a long time now. The last time I heard about him was six or so, months ago, when he led his rebellious sect members in tempting Nigerian troops.

The insurgents were not only munched en mass by Nigerian troops, but their Kingpin, Shekau quite possibly escaped with severe injuries. Some reports claim, Shekau has hoed himself in the Cameroonian caves and mountains recuperating. It’s possible he must have died in the course of treatment.

The only factional Boko Haram leader still flexing feeble might is the Musab Al Barnewi faction. But I am sure, fragrance of his day of reckoning have polluted everywhere in the Northeast. I know his waterloo is also near.

And it is one conviction, which has persistently obsessed Gen. Olonisakin. He knows he can do it; the troops are confident that Al Barnewi cannot escape their swords, no matter the hardness of the bulwark he erects around himself.

With ground and air troops at his effective command and control, the CDS is pretty sure, the enemies have; but little chances of survival. Only time is the dividing factor, which he also knows would soon decide in the favor of Nigerian troops and Nigerians. The CDS like the veteran Tzu is aware, “What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations.”

Like Sun Tzu, the CDS knows too perfectly that; “When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum. When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing.”

I appeal to Nigerians to look beyond the outward when assessing our military. We are bound to see the treasures embedded in them which are envied by the world. We must be proud of our possession and our military assets in these troops.

The military gentleman and unstinting professional officer, Gen. Olonishakin is eager to handover to Nigerians the crown and medal victory over Boko Haram terrorism. I read his lips and feel the yearning of a leader who wishes to accomplish this feat as his parting gift to Nigerians before his retirement.

Gen. Olonisakin knows he has an edge over the terrorists, by leading three arms of the Nigerian military. But the insurgents can only dream of repressing or even defeating the Nigerian military.

It’s clear to me, coordinating the security operations across the country, the CDS adheres to Tzu’s caution that “Management of many is the same as management of few. It is a matter of organization.” We shall keep praying for their success fervently.

Murphy is a security consultant based in Calabar.

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