As the Yoruba would say, “iyan ogun odun n gbona”; meaning that a pounded yam prepared 20 years ago can still remain fresh, as if it was prepared a while ago. So also with a statement made eight years ago by retired General Muhammadu Buhari, the then presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which later became one of the legacies parties that formed the All Progressives Congress. The statement was published by The Nation newspaper under the headline “Buhari faults clampdown on Boko Haram members”. In it, Buhari argued for special treatment for Boko Haram members just like the Niger Delta militants who, in his view, were treated well, never minding that both groups had differing grouse and mission.
The Niger Delta militants, whose region produces much of the nation’s wealth, were protesting marginalization and demanding a piece of the action in a fairer and more equitable system. Boko Haram, on the other hand, comes from a section of the country that contributes little to the Federation Account but takes a lion share of the resources. Besides, Boko Haram has contempt for the Constitution and seeks a violent overthrow of the system so that it can impose an Islamic state on a secular country. While the Niger Delta militants engaged in some form of militancy to draw government attention and compel it to negotiate, what Boko Haram has engaged in to achieve their own mission beggars belief. The wanton destruction of life and property, the bestiality of their actions, the cost of their insurgency countrywide, the bad image it has given Nigeria and Nigerians internationally, and the prognosis on the future existence and prosperity of the country and its peoples can NEVER be compared to the Niger Delta militancy. We may liken the Niger Delta militancy to sleep but Boko Haram to death.
Buhari reportedly made his infamous statement on a Liberty Radio programme monitored in Kaduna (on the 21st July, 2014, according to Dr. Doyin Okupe, a PDP big-wig and one-time presidential spokesperson). On Channels Television’s “Sunrise” programme on 15 December, 2014, Okupe repeated the Buhari statement and said it was even published on the front page of a national newspaper that he mentioned.
The Sunday Tribune of Sunday, 30 June, 2013 (front page lead story) quoted the then US president, Barack Obama, as saying that “Bad governance created Boko Haram” Very well! That was during the PDP/Goodluck Jonathan administration. What has fuelled and energised the same Boko Haram ever since? What has turned it into the hurricane and tornado that it has now become? Buhari promised he would finish off Boko Haram in three months or thereabout. He is in his sixth year. He has killed the Boko Haram leader, Shekau, many times over; yet, Shekau lives to taunt him regularly. He has degraded Boko Haram many times; yet, Boko Hamam still rides roughshod over the North.
The governor of Borno has admitted that a large swath of land in his state is controlled by Boko Haram. The Sultan of Sokoto has raised the alarm that kidnappers are no longer satisfied with waylaying people on the highway; they now move from house-to-house to pick victims like they pick cherries on the wine field. That is six years after Jonathan/PDP. Is it not embarrassing that the same APC leaders are now swirling around the same Jonathan, plotting to return him to power? The same man they derided as clueless and incompetent? The stone which the builders rejected...
On the front page of The PUNCH on Friday, February 27, 2015, Buhari was quoted as saying “I won't grant amnesty to Boko Haram” and the rider or second lead story was “No corrupt person will be in my government”. Amen! Today, however, Nigerians know better! Boko Haram members are not only being granted amnesty, they are also being flown abroad for so-called rehabilitation. Their victims are left abject and uncared for. Tale after tale speaks of how so-called repentant insurgents have turned into moles for Boko Haram, compromising the entire war efforts. Yet, the government persists in pursuing hare-brained policies that have caused the country monumental losses in life and limbs, in properties whimsically and wantonly destroyed, and in the disaster Boko Haram continues to heap upon the country. For continually to treat Boko Haram with kid gloves, this government has a case to answer. On corruption, I would not know, between Buhari and the ostrich, who deludes himself the most!
Let’s attempt to put a cost to the insurgency. The cost in life and limbs is unquantifiable. The quantum of properties destroyed is incalculable. Whole villages have been razed to the ground. Whole families have been wiped out. Social life and economic activities have been paralysed. As we witnessed in the last bestial killings in Borno, famine looms when farmers can no longer access their farms. The Southwest that relies on the North for its food supplies had better watched it! The first security is food security.
Cost of living is on the rise. With the country in recession again (the second under Buhari), more Nigerians will fall under the poverty line. For a country that is already the poverty capital of the world, the poverty problem will get worse. With it, criminal activities will witness a hike. More needless losses of life will be recorded. There will be more road accidents as motorists are unable to put their vehicles in good condition. More lives will be needlessly lost in the hospitals as there will be no drugs, equipment, and personnel. More Nigerians will patronize quacks or die at home because of lack of funds to take good care of themselves and or their family members.
The war efforts have gulped trillions of Naira and will continue to do so. From reports and from the complaints of soldiers, much of such funds has gone into private pockets and will continue to do so. Buhari has refused to change his fumbling and wobbling service chiefs for reasons best known to him. Now, as Nigeria lacks the capacity to continue to pump money down the drains of a losing battle, expect the insurgents to wax stronger and control more territories. Expect them to claim more lives and destroy more properties. Expect more people to run away from the North to the South; and because these are largely untrained and uneducated people, expect them to be a liability, and not an asset, to the South.
History teaches that young, able-bodied persons with no means of livelihood running away from war often export criminal activities along their tracks. So, expect criminal activities to be on the rise in the South and as the South will, naturally, respond to this, expect clashes between them and the fleeing Northerners. If not nipped in the bud, expect it to snowball into full war. And no nation, they say, has ever survived two civil wars. Nigeria fought one between 1967 and 1970; another one may be knocking on the door. The solution is to end the insurgency and heed the strident call for restructuring. A fairer, more just, and more equitable society is the solution to threatening cataclysm that is everywhere apparent except, perhaps, to those in the corridors of power.
The Yoruba have a proverb: Except you trim the branches of the Iroko tree while it is still young, it becomes impossible for you to tame once it grows into a very big tree. Is that what the English call “a stitch in time saves nine”? Want to bend a fish, do so when it is not yet dried. Hit the nail when it is red hot. Want to avoid that sharp branch of a tree by the wayside, then, take note of it while you are still a respectable distance away from it.
When Boko Haram was still tameable, a perfidious band of Islamic fundamentalists would not let the government of the day do the needful. Till date, they are still half-hearted in their stand and stance against Boko Haram and ambivalent in their attitude to its complete annihilation. My thinking is that they still caress Boko Haram’s Islamization agenda. They also still see the war efforts as their own “Niger Delta amnesty programme”! For many of them, I think, the advantages of Boko Haram far outweigh its disadvantages. But, thank God, a good number of them are beginning to see Boko Haram as the Frankenstein monster that will destroy the North if the North does not act quickly and decisively to destroy it. Ever heard of “Ajantala”? As my people will say, “Eni b’imo oran l’o n poon”! But the North is stylishly and systematically releasing, funnelling, and channelling its “Ajantala” children into the South.
And the Southwest especially is not only sleeping, it is snoring. Its leaders are, as usual, savouring the dangerous roulette game of compromise with the North. So sorry they ignore their own history, past and recent, as well as the time-honoured adage of their own elders: Papa o fura, papa j’ona/Aja o fura, aja jin/Onile ti o fura/Ole ni yio ko! Need I say more?
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