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Boko Haram: Victory as a Sad Reality

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Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai (L), giving instructions to one of the soldiers in trench in frontline in Borno North

Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai (L), giving instructions to one of the soldiers in trench in frontline in Borno North

By Idoko Ainoko

A fair assessment of Nigeria’s war against terrorism would look at what is presently on ground and perhaps make a month on month and year on year comparison. But even this is not an adequate measure of whatever success or lack of it that is being recorded since statistics have an uncanny way of getting the figures right while losing the context. An assessment of whatever has been achieved must then also compare critical waypoints like comparing four months before the 2015 General Elections with the present day of four months to the 2019 polls. It is also important not to lose sight of the period that preceded the emergence of Boko Haram, those glorious days when violence consisted of fanatical youths flogging hapless ladies for daring to wear mini-skirts before they were radicalized into bombing innocent worshipers of all faiths and traders out to make honest living.

Beginning from 2009 after Boko Haram’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed terrorism became an everyday concept that Nigerians had to live with. At the height of Boko Haram’s insanity security formations, including those of para-military agencies like the Immigration Service, were routinely targeted. Worshippers, irrespective of their faith or creed, were massacred in developments that roused the nation to realize that there was nothing pious or religious in the quest embarked upon by Boko Haram fanatics.

In the years leading to the 2015 General Elections, it became glaring that Borno might have been the birthplace of the terror group but its reach was already stretching into the rainforests in the south of the country, echoes of the wailings from the aftermath of its attacks travelled beyond the Sahara Desert to be heard on the shores of Nigeria’s southernmost reach. It was a period when some were beginning to attribute mystic qualities to the terrorists because the military as constituted and led at that time was proving to be no match for Boko Haram members – part of the accounts rendered by some critics was that the military leaders of those years built barricades around their offices instead of stepping out with whatever weapons were at their disposal to challenge the terrorists.
Understandably, there were reasons given for this failure to respond to the terrorists with the appropriate military force deserved at that point. Among them was less than sterling leadership at the top, corruption that permeated to system to a point that the terror attack became valid cover for some people to loot the country as seen in the arms purchase scandal (armsgate/Dasukigate), lack of support from international partners and missing political will to tackle the problem.

The elections produced President Muhammadu Buhari, who in turn gave the country the present crop of military Service Chiefs. It can be said that the rest is history. Boko Haram got to meet a different Nigerian Army from the one it was used to. In a matter of months its fighters have been driven out of all Nigerian states with the exception of Borno, its birthplace, and even here its members now operate cross-border. Of course, it sometimes attacks military outposts and this makes big news headlines relative to the moment. Juxtaposed to the same period four years ago, such attacks would barely get a mention in the long litany of profane actions that the terrorists would have carried, but compared month on month such acts of terror look significant.

These kinds of attacks have become the raw materials around which international media outlets like the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Reuters, CNN, Al-Jazeera and the rest weave their story to present Nigeria to the world as the image of hell. They present their accounts in a manner that suggest that the whole of Nigeria has been bombed even though Borno is one of the 36 states (and the Federal Capital Territory) that makeup Nigeria. Yet something is consistently missing in their reports: they never acknowledge their roles in reporting the region into crisis and neither will they accept the role of their home countries in keeping Boko Haram in place through overt and covert support for the terror group through warped policies in the Middle East and North Africa. This explains in part why the likes of AFP, Reuters and others do not want to acknowledge the sad reality that Boko Haram as known in its prime has been defeated.

In their bid to justify their reports, they amplify the occasional attacks and put special footnotes on how fatalities from attacks by Boko Haram remnants remains a concern. At the risk of appearing insensitive, those pursuing this line of thought often neglect to urge the communities where Boko Haram members are hiding to give them up or at least volunteer information to security agencies to round them up and make the victory over terrorism a final one. For as long as these communities continue to allow filial, ethnic and religious considerations prevent them from giving up fleeing terrorists then there is a price to pay. That price includes the Nigerian military coming off looking bad each time remnants of the terrorists are able to hide in plain sight to plan new rounds of atrocities.

It must be noted and placed on record that the military is not wholly without blame in this. The desire to conform has seen it allowing international media, international NGOs and their Nigerian fixers to operate by different sets of rules from what is obtainable in other parts of the world where terrorism is a challenge. These groups have been allowed to operate in manners that place them at vantage position to be useful to the terrorists. It is no surprise that several groups and individuals had accused some of the media platforms and NGOs of working for Boko Haram terrorists. Each time the Army makes profound gains against the terrorists a phenomenon repeats itself: the NGOs would accuse troops of abuses, instigate dissent among soldiers and come up with just any other form of distraction while the international media is at hand to give prominence to such activities. At other times, the likes of Reuters and AFP tell tales that do not tally with the reality on ground, which the terrorists now seem to take as their cue to regroup and make attempts at being seen as still relevant. This cycle has become a new kind of war.

The successes of the military are indisputable but it appears it makes the representatives of the international media and NGOs unhappy. Nigeria’s victory against Boko Haram seems to provoke a wave of sadness that makes these organizations follow the most bizarre of paths, that of rooting for terrorists to the detriment of the law-abiding population. Yet, they must at some point accept the reality of Boko Haram’s defeat even when it makes them sad for this cycle of hate that fires them to hate Nigeria cannot remain self-perpetrating forever. Even if these supporters of Boko Haram desire for the group to remain a thorn in the flesh of Nigerians forever the Nigerian military has the capacity and is in a position to truncate their evil wish same way it did by reducing the terror group into its current state of disarray.

Ainoko wrote from Kaduna.

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Opinion

Nigeria’s Economy And Just Before We Crucify Buhari

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President Buhari

President Buhari

By Philip Agbese

Nigeria is indeed a dynamic country where we have found the habit of looking at things mainly upside down and without giving it a second thought or a benefit of a doubt. In most times, we cry wolf where none exist. We are quick to “pull down” and celebrate the consequent downfall. Welcome to Nigeria.

No discerning mind would deny that the Nigerian economy was in absolute brink when President Muhammadu Buhari took over the affairs of government in 2015. Bad enough that those responsible for this malaise have never owned up to their dastardly acts because of how morally bankrupt they are. So for them, displaying remorse is forbidden and taking responsibility for their actions and inactions while they held sway is not even a topic for discussion because as they say, the cake is big enough for everybody.

I am constrained to pen this article when the words merchant went to town turning a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari upside down for obvious political reasons. I was astonished. I was also concerned about what it was that the supposed “self-righteous ones” wanted to achieve and what they didn’t achieve when they had the opportunity to put Nigeria on the path to greatness.

As a start, I would not subscribe to any channel that indicates that President Muhammadu Buhari inherited a vibrant and buoyant economy. I would also not subscribe to any insinuation that the Nigerian economy could be fixed in three years. That is an impossibility, not after 16 locust years under misrule by successive PDP administrations. I think that just before we crucify President Muhammadu Buhari, we should take out time for sober reflection on how previous administrations squandered our commonwealth. Also, on how Nigeria witnessed policy somersault year in year out, not minding the fact that there would be consequences.

Now, the real gist is that after a meeting of state governors with President Muhammadu Buhari, the chair of the governor’s forum issued a statement stating that President Muhammadu Buhari said that “the economy is in bad shape and that we have to come together, think and rethink on the way forward.” And that was it. Appalling a statement coming from the president especially as the elections are around the corner they thought.

The political strategists would see this statement if valid as a political blunder. They would also argue that the president went too far in expressions. But I disagree in totality. As a first, the statement didn’t emanate from the president directly, but through Governor Abdulaziz Yari, a figure who is known to speak from both sides of the mouth. This is also the same governor that was captured on tape threatening the national chairman of the All Progressive Congress for not doing his bidding. This is a topic for another day.

Back to the crux, the simplicity and sincerity of heart and purpose of President Muhammadu Buhari are indeed legendary. It is possible that he called the meeting to inform the governors on the need for them to continually think outside the box in confronting the numerous challenges we are faced with, hence the aspect of the statement that stated that “we have to come together, think and rethink on the way forward.” And not just that, there was a critical part of the statement that the word merchants have decided to downplay for political reasons, which was how the President’s tongue lashed the governors for failing to pay salaries and what led to the introduction of bailout funds to states.
Governor Yari admitted that “When Mr. President came on board, 27 states out of 36 could not pay salaries some for 13, 12, 8, five months respectively. Our first encounter with him, he told us that we have no business of being in power if we cannot do the basic, that is pay workers. So he asked that we discussed how we could support those states that cannot pay salaries so that workers will be paid. Those in the position they came up with the idea of bailing out the states so that they can pay the arrears.” That is the quintessential Muhammadu Buhari who listens and carries all along.

In my opinion, it is possible the meeting was held for strategic reasons to encourage the governors to always live up to expectations by thinking and deploying proactive measures in ensuring that governance is not put on hold for flimsy excuses. This is my opinion. And I very much doubt if the president would call a meeting to say that “the economy is in bad shape.” But again, we must come to terms with the fact that we are in a society where sensational news reporting is the order of the day.

And let us assume that the president said the economy was in bad shape to the governors, the question would why did the president call for the meeting and why did he say such? As an expert in Strategy Communications , I know for a fact that nothing happens in a vacuum. There must be a reason. And that reason, in this case, may be due to the profligate nature of some governors. Also, my interpretation of the statement credited to the president is that of a warning than admittance. It’s possible that the president wanted to use the medium to remind the governors, especially the profligate ones that it is not yet Uhuru and all hands must be on deck. Just maybe.

But trust us to always turn things upside down. In truth, I wasn’t surprised by the reportage of the event because its election period again, and all manners of spanners are freely thrown not minding the implications. In all of these, I think it would be morally deficient for anyone to want to crucify President Muhammadu Buhari while sparing those that brought the country to its knees even in the midst of enormous revenue. It is also insulting and despicable.

In all of the ensuing drama, Governor Abdulaziz Yari said: “the president talked to us in a manner that we have a task ahead of us, we should tighten our belt and see how we can put the Nigerian economy in the right direction.” And for me, that is the crux and not what words merchants want the members of the unsuspecting public to believe. And since when has, it becomes a crime to charge people to higher productivity?

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Opinion

That Deserved Doctorate To Buratai

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Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General TY Buratai

Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General TY Buratai

By David Onmeje

Initially, It seemed very foggy to me. I was one of the few critics who interrogated why the Kaduna State University, (KSUK), Kaduna had to find Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai worthy of conferment of an honorary doctorate degree.
Gen. Buratai who was recently conferred with a doctorate degree (honoraris causa) in leadership and peace. He was honoured alongside other prominent Nigerians at the combined convocation ceremony of KSUK attended by eminent personalities in Nigeria. A gathering of sophisticated intellectuals as described by many spectators.

I recounted Gen. Buratai’s exploits in the Nigerian Army and narrowed it to the day President Muhammedu Buhari appointed him, the COAS cum leader of the nation’s counter-terrorism plans. And behold, the illuminating light descended on me very convincingly.

At last it dawned on me that the University’s decision to honour Gen. Buratai was not only commendable, and timely, but has also raised the pedestal for the world to see the Army Chief as a beacon, who reflects uncommon leadership of the Army and a new public lifestyle. He epitomizes enduring peace, which he has devoted the last few years of his military career to entrench in his fatherland.

I reflected deeply and realized logically that Gen. Buratai has battled covert and overt forces with the troops he leads to anchor succor from insecurity to Nigerians. He has withered the storm of official blackmails, namedropping, smear campaigns, malicious persecutions and hate sermons on his person and the Nigerian Army from enemies of Nigeria, who plotted his failure on this national assignment. But he outsmarted them in their numbers collectively.

The Army boss has led Nigerian troops to battles against Boko Haram and other insurrections in the country to successful victories. With the heart of a lion, Gen. Buratai combined leadership in the trenches and in the office, proving his prowess as a man roundly endowed.

But what really sparked in me the wisdom or reason justifying KSUK’s conferment of an honourary doctorate degree on Gen. Buratai were the special imprints and legacies he has deposited on the sands of time.

I recalled that in spite of his arduous schedules fighting multifaceted insurgencies and terrorism, Gen. Buratai still finds time to think and invest in the education of Nigerian Army; which could benefit other arms of the military and even civilians. In my neighbourhood, Gen. Buratai is endearingly feted with the epaulet, “ terror of terrorists.”

I have seen many federal ministers of education who have spent several years on the seat and left, but could not boast of a government school built in their lifetime in Officr. And it is quite appalling that it is the experience even when they presided over government’s establishment of universities under their tenure.

Life has different experiences for different people. I know there are very many former Vice Chancellors of both state and federal universities whom God Almighty has not granted the foresight to understand their communities are deserving of higher institutions. They have risen to the pinnacle of knowledge but have abandoned their localities in the abyss of darkness.

But in contrast, Gen. Buratai has proven to be one of the greatest accomplished soldier, innovator, strategist and conqueror to ever emerge in Nigeria’s recent history of the Army. In his desire to transform and enhance operational efficiency of soldiers in combating insurgency, the Army Chief railroaded the Nigerian Army to the next level by establishing the first Nigerian Army Aviation School (Corps).

With this record breaking initiative, Gen. Buratai conspicuously placed the Nigerian Army in Africa as one of the few armies with an independent air wing from the Air Force. The first set of pilots and technicians have graduated after an intensive two-year training in flying warplanes and perfection in allied courses.

That’s the extent Gen. Buratai has gone in search of peace and security for Nigerians. These leadership attributes are uncommon in most leaders in our clime. Beyond sentiments, it explains why he stands tall at all times.

And to further demonstrate his exceptional commitment to the continuous training of soldiers and exposure to the ever dynamic world of knowledge in warfare, Gen. Buratai conceived the idea of Nigerian Army University, Biu (NAUB). He has aggressively pursued it to fruition within a short time.

We can only appreciate the leadership foresight of Gen. Buratai if we dissect the gamut of the NAUB. The specialized university has commenced its maiden academic session, as it was commissioned last October, 2018 and structured to favourably compete with some of the best Universities in the world in the next three decades.

NAUB is conceptualized as a center of excellence and positioned to lead scientific and technological researches and breakthroughs in military studies and conventional courses.

Its faculties and departments are a blend of specialized security courses as well as those offered by conventional institutions to carter for the civilian quota of its admissions.

An insight into NAUB reveals an exhilarating solid foundation, kick-starting with seven faculties. These includes; a distinctive Faculty of Military Technology and a Faculty of Military Policy, Logistics and Strategy.

Others include faculties run by conventional universities such as Science, Technology, Social Sciences, Environmental Studies, Administrative and Management Studies , as well as Schools and Centres. NAUB is a complete academic hub for Nigerians desirous of knowledge.

As already stated, NAUB admits both military and civilian students with a greater percentage in favour of civilians. And its staff composition also reflects the same mix.

Gen. Buratai says, NAUB is hued to function on the principles of creativity, self-reliance and self-sufficiency. So, I sensed that for a leader good in the warfront and equally splendid in administrative endowments, the KSUK award of a doctorate degree to Gen. Buratai is a loud proclamation of appreciation of his many discrete impacts on humanity.

These realities struck like a thunderbolt. I was instantly compelled to scribble these few lines as my token of appreciation to KSUK for honouring a leader who has given his very best in the service of his nation.

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Opinion

Opprobrious NASS And The 2019 Budget

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By Gabriel Ikese

The ideal of popular election of Legislators is generally regarded as admirable. Yet the selection process does not always permit the widest possible choices. And that has been our albatross here in Nigeria. The legislature is expected to reflect the electorate’s preferences, but that is in the Whiteman countries, not in our clime. In the 8th session of the National Assembly, it is rarely the case. If you followed the antecedents of our lawmakers and the trajectory of the NASS, you will obviously smell the dead rat.

In saner democracies around the globe, the legislature is an institution of reputable model for discipline and patriotism. It is the sanctimonious fulcrum of any working democracy as showcased in the America system. Legislators were embodiment of untainted character with high level of integrity, uprightness and moral decency. But that is clearly not our portion as the difference is miles apart.

Perhaps for the enormity of our sins against God the Father, He decided to inflict us with such pains, not with epidemic disease as alluded to by Governor Yari of Zamfara State, but allowing this 8th class of Lawmakers to represent us. The 8th NASS appears to be completely deficient of any sterling qualities and became the cynosure of chronic legislative rascality, demonic impunity and financial impudence.

Another budget session is here again, and the NASS has begun to manifest the usual symptoms of chronic insensitivity and unpardonable cluelessness. They are poised to throw up another frivolous mischief to undermine the 2019 budget process even before it is laid on the floor of the combine congress. The recurring acrimonious uproar that accompanied the passing of our budgets over the past 3 years is regrettably appalling.

Members of the House of Representatives at plenary has threatened to boycott the anticipated presentation of 2019 budget estimate by President Muhammadu Buhari over an alleged comment by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma. The dignity of our lawmakers has greatly eroded. Their insensitivity to the plight of citizens is obviously very legendary.

Members could not choose a better time to demonstrate their folly, but when government is trying to consolidate on the progress at sustaining the economic growth with a sound budget proposal for 2019. They decided to lash on a frivolous and unsubstantiated allegation to sabotage the smooth passing of the 2019 Budget proposal. This irritating arrogance is the height of insensibility without even batting an eye lid to the reality of the plight of Nigerians that are dependent on the budget for sustenance and development.

The House dissipated so much energies and time discussing irrelevant and baseless allegation by a Minister accusing them of the delay in the presentation of the 2019 Budget. It is a surprise that the House would threaten to frustrate the budget process on a mere allegation that is largely irrelevant, and has not compromised the content of the 2019 budget.

Members were so serious that they vigorously amplified a derogatory word that the Minister LIED on television. It is an unparliamentary word that the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, carefully avoided in his response. To support their frustration, a member went further to cite Order Six, Rule 14 of the laws of the House alluding to a breech on his privilege and that of the House, and claiming that the Minister portrayed members of the NASS as “irresponsible people before Nigerians”.

Our lawmakers are good with their imaginations. If that is the line of thinking, then I will support any reasonable action that will prove the correctness or contrary of this line of thought. The Hallowed Chamber should not accommodate irresponsible characters that would bring the legislature to disrepute. With all seriousness, member should probe what perception ordinary Nigerians hold of their integrity. And would also probe their conscience and take a good look at the mirror. Perhaps, they will get answers that would satisfy their curiosities.

Be that as it may, the alleged remark by the Honourable Minister should not be enough reason for members to boycott the Budget presentation by the President. Such action would not only be irrational, it will be illogical and unpatriotic. Doing so will only confirm the allusion that members are indeed irresponsible and insensitive to the realities of the adverse effect a further delay in passing the 2019 budget could cause the economy.

Our budgets cannot continue to suffer unnecessary and avoidable delay after presentations. The primary responsibility of NASS is to make laws, such as the proposed 2019 budget, which will help to grow the economy. Lawmakers cannot be lackadaisical in passing the budget for whatsoever reason. Presenting the 2019 budget proposals in December should not be an excuse to delay the passing of the bill within reasonable time. 2017 and 2018 budgets were presented November, fairly reasonable time frame but still lingered for over 5 months at the National Assembly.

Members of the legislature should be patriotic enough to put aside personal interests and frivolous allegations from any quarters for the overriding national interest in passing the budget expeditiously. With commitment and adequate capacity, the budget can be passed in 30 working days. Hon Sergius Ogun, representing Esan North/East Constituency, said on National Television that the Nigerian Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU) bill was passed in 8 working days when the Egmont Group suspended Nigeria and threatened expulsion from the group over lack of autonomy. Therefore there is no reason the 2019 budget bill will not be accorded with such attention and speed.

It is sad that lawmakers would value treachery over integrity and flex muscles over issues of absolute irrelevance. While the budget bill lingers, 71 members of the House of Representatives seek to change the system of government from presidential to parliamentary model in Nigeria. Again, if you ask Nigerians, it is another exercise that would end up in futility. The legislators can easily be predicted. The bill is another channel to corruptly enrich themselves like previous constitutional amendment exercise at the Senate.

The 8th NASS is endowed with remarkable quantity of mischief and insatiable financial lucre. The House sold us a dummy with an orchestrated agenda to deliver legislation in aid of development and reforms aimed at improving conditions of living in Nigeria. That was a fluke. Monetization took over legislative intellectualism and selflessness in lawmaking process in the country. Their arrogance and fastidious desire for luxuries has turned NASS into a chamber of business, which is akin to the biblical Holy Temple of Jerusalem converted to the House of trade and commerce by its entrusted custodians.

NASS members should embrace attitudinal change with the right mindset in the overriding interest of the country. The 2019 budget proposal should be expeditiously considered and passed in record time as a test of integrity and attestation of a responsible legislature. This would change the negative perception of lawmakers and the hallowed institution of the National Assembly.

Ikese writes from Jos

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