By Osmund Agbo
“This is our message to the government of Nigeria and just as you have seen these people here, by God’s grace, you will see your leaders; your senators and governors will come before us. These ones you are seeing here, we will keep some as our slaves and sell them off just as our Imam told you in the past.”
The above statement was released by terrorists in a video that showed the group flogging some passengers of the Abuja-Kaduna train, kidnapped and held in custody since March this year.
In the referenced video, one of the terrorists also threatened to abduct the President of the Federal Republic alongside Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and other prominent Nigerians, unless their demand is met. And what exactly is this demand?
Two days later, on Friday night of July 22, the terrorists ambushed a Joint Patrol team made up of troops from the Presidential Brigade of Guards who were patrolling the Bwari-Kubwa road, in response to an intelligence report of a plan by the terror group to attack the Nigerian Law School. In that attack, an army captain was reportedly killed, while a lieutenant and five soldiers were said to be missing in action, according to one news source.
The Presidential Brigade of Guard is an elite unit of the Nigerian army formed in September of 1962. The main duty of the group is to protect the president and his family as well as other individuals in Nigeria’s presidential line of succession. It goes without saying that members of the guard are drawn from the army’s finest officers and men. This was the group that suffered severe fatalities in the hands of these increasingly emboldened terrorists.
Recall that, just a few weeks prior to the latest attack, another terrorist group launched an assault on an advanced presidential convoy in Dutsinma Local Government, located in the President’s home state of Katsina. In this same month, a group called the Islamic State invaded the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje in Abuja and freed hundreds of inmates, including suspected hardened Boko Haram fighters. Keep in mind that we are counting only the attacks that happened close to the seat of power. If we were to expand this discussion to include the entire country, I doubt that anyone can keep a tab on the frequency of daily attacks by Jihadi groups, terror bandits and other garden variety of non-state actors scattered across the country.
Nigeria, the most populous back nation on earth and touted as Africa’s biggest economy is completely overrun and buffeted on all fronts by terrorist. The lives of millions of everyday people have been gravely impacted and upended. The country is unraveling before our very eyes, yet those that hold the peoples mandate and control the levers of power, continue to exhibit a body language that is completely at variance with the grim realities on ground. Nigeria as of today is a failed state, totally collapsing under the lethal weight of insurgency.
In a textbook case of Rome burning while Nero fiddles, the President on Tuesday jetted out of Abuja and headed for Monrovia, Liberia, where he joined other world leaders in commemorating that nation’s 175th independence anniversary. Mr. Buhari, according to his media spokesman, Garba Shehu, is also expected to deliver a lecture on regional security and harp on the imperatives of rule of law. What a twisted joke!
Nigeria’s President has gone completely AWOL on the very nation he is meant to superintend. From every indication, Buhari may have arrived at the decision to spend the rest of his tenure enjoying vacation time, junketing the globe and occasionally being interrupted by his handlers to read out some hastily concocted political speech where he repeats the same spineless warning of dealing with troublemakers and the cliche that Nigeria is having it better in his administration. Every passing day, it has become increasingly clear that the man is either unable or unwilling to perform the most basic duty required of his office. The opposition party in the red chambers is now asking for his ouster but we all know that nothing will come out of it.
Recall that on his Christmas Eve address to the nation in December 2016, President Muhammad Buhari was visibly excited as he told the Nigerian people the news of the defeat of Boko Haram. We heard phrases such as Boko Haram being “technically defeated” to another that said his government had “technically won the war.” In an interview granted to BBC, he claimed that the militant group could no longer mount “conventional attacks” against security forces or population centres.
The purported victory was marked with fanfare and celebrated at the annual regimental dinner of the Brigade of Guards, held at the Scorpion Mess in Abuja that year. There, President Buhari commended the then Chief of Army staff, General Yusuf Tukur Buratai, on “the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole for crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at “Camp Zero, located deep within the heart of Sambisa Forest.”
Since then, Boko Haram has morphed into a hydra-headed monster with many other splinter groups. The dreaded terror group that started insurgency in Nigeria’s North-East since 2002, has been directly or indirectly responsible for the death of more than 350,000 Nigerians by the end of 2020, according to one report made available by the United Nations Develop Program (UNDP). The number of Internally Displaced Persons(IDP’s) within that time period is definitely much more. How things have changed!
In my opinion piece titled “Boko Haram: On the Road to Damascus or making a beeline for Kandahar?” in response to how this government was treating Boko Haram’s so-called “surrendered” fighters, published in Premium Times of August 27, 2021, I had this to say: “For a group that has visited mayhem, killing, maiming, beheading, displacing innocent citizens in their thousands and turning the entire nation on its head, the news of such “surrender” should be exciting. Right? Well, that is to the extent of your belief in the alchemist’s ability to extract gold from egg yolk. To many Nigerians especially in the Christian South, the sudden surrender is raising more questions than answers.”
At the time, the Buhari administration was implementing Operation Safe Corridor, an initiative we were told was meant to de-radicalize and rehabilitate “repentant” Boko Haram members and have them reintegrated into society.
Then it continued….“The people are terribly worried and for good reasons. They are questioning whether what we are witnessing today is indeed a genuine repentance on the part of the blood-thirsty terrorists or just a cleverly hatched plan to infiltrate the Nigerian civil society and then be in a vintage position to re-launch an attack from within. In the wake of the recent happenings in Afghanistan where the country has once again come under the tight grips of the jihadis, the people are scared to death that the sudden surrender in large numbers by the Boko Haram militants is starting to look like a page taken out of the Talibans’ playbook.“
In concluding that essay, we warned that: “With President Buhari in the saddle and having alleged Taliban sympathizers in his kitchen cabinet, why should Nigerians not worry that the whole idea behind the repentance, surrender and rehabilitation programme for terrorists is part of the grand plan to conquer Nigeria. Why shouldn’t the rest of us fear that what is today a Federal Republic governed by a President might become an Islamic Emirate ruled by Jihadis?
“The future holds the verdict of whether what we are witnessing today is a genuine repentance by depraved members of one of the world’s deadliest terror group or the group using the help of their sympathizers in government to undergo a strategic re-calibration. These are certainly interesting times.”
Today, that essay is almost prophetic, but the truth, however, remains that any keen observer of this government would know that what we are witnessing today, has been long coming. But who cares? Lets just brace up for the second leg of this interesting journey.
Dr. Agbo, a Public Affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project. Email: [email protected]