By Nick Dazang
By dint of the legion of dastardly and wicked attacks by terrorists of all hues over the past few years across the country, leaving in their trail deaths and mayhem, the chickens have been coming home to roost. Only, and unfortunately, no one hearkened to them. Not even the president, Muhammadu Buhari, whose solemn remit it is, to protect and defend the country. If anything, his aloofness and smug indifference give great concern to Nigerians.
The government, under President Buhari’s watch, treated the terrorists, at best, as untouchables and at the worst with kid gloves. This is even as it dealt in draconian fashion with others in their ilk. The government has for some time been slow and tardy in decimating the Boko Haram terrorists such that the terrorists became emboldened. And so, ordinary folks were tempted to conclude that the government had betrayed them.
Nigerians witnessed recently, what was a culmination and the height of the insolence of Boko Haram to Nigeria’s sovereignty and pride. Coming hot on the heels of its dastardly attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre and the ambush of the presidential convoy, it was further emboldened to ambush members of the elite Guards Brigade at Bwari, in the FCT, thereby dispatching to the great beyond some of its staff. It was a strident message by Boko Haram, heralding a week of reckoning and evoking a piteous fire-on-the-mountain scenario.
If the presidency was in deep slumber or had earlier elected to play the ostrich, the terrorists sent a shrill message: They announced, with their intrepid ambush of the Guards Brigade, which mandate is to protect the president, that they had arrived, in full force, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). And it suddenly became very clear that the Three Arms Zone (the Presidential Villa, the National Assembly and the Appeal and Supreme courts and the Federal Secretariat) could be taken over, Afghanistan-style, by the terrorists. Little wonder, the government found recourse in the panic button. It ran helter-skelter. Schools, across the FCT, were abruptly closed. The National Assembly scampered into a recess. This was after it made an incoherent threat to impeach the president on account of what the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had at some point referred to as “frightening” insecurity. The president was compelled to convoke an emergency meeting of the Security Council.
The consequences of the emergency security council meeting were that: 1) the government had now given the armed forces “full freedom” to deal with the terrorists;
2) the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Farouk Yahaya, effected a token reshuffle of his commanders;
3) in what is touted as “Operation Show Terrorists No Mercy”, subscribed to by all the Service Chiefs, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, ordered operational commanders in various theatres to “employ maximum firepower” and to “show no mercy against terrorists and their accomplices”; and 4) the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, directed Assistant Inspectors General of Police, Commissioners of Police and other strategic commanders to immediately begin “a special visibility policing operation across the country” and to map out crime-prone areas in their jurisdictions.
The fact that the government is only now, at the twilight of the tenure of President Buhari, according our armed forces “full freedom” and the carte blanche to deal with the terrorists, suggests lack of political will ab initio to decimate the terrorists. This is further reinforced by the fact that prominent members of the APC government have disclosed that the security agencies had always been on top of their game by providing credible information regarding the location and disposition of the terrorists. Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase, recently confessed to having sighted not less than 44 security reports alerting the government to the impending attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre. Rather than be proactive and pre-emptive, the government allowed the attack to take place only to shed crocodile tears thereafter.
Now that the president has given the armed forces the “full freedom” to decimate the terrorists, we expect nothing less. Thankfully, the government said it has provided all that the armed forces require. We are aware that the government has acquired Super Tucanos and attack helicopters and other gears for the armed forces. We also have no doubt about the capacity of our gallant armed forces, given their shimmering pedigree in various theatres of war. From the Congo to the Sudan and from the Nigerian civil war to the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, our armed forces have acquitted themselves excellently. Our armed forces must draw inspiration from this proud history. They also have a burden to discharge: they must, by a special display of derring-do and gung-ho spirit, decimate the terrorists once and for all. This will finally dispel the accusation that the war on terror is one sleazy enterprise in which the bigwigs profit.
Dazang is a former Director at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)