One can never forget the second bombing incident in Nigeria when a terrorist attempted to bring down the Louis Edet building, the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in the nation’s capital city, Abuja. This was to be the first suicide mission in Nigeria and a new dimension in the activities of the terror group that now calls itself Wilāyat Gharb Ifrīqīyyah aka Boko Haram in its deadly operations in Nigeria.
This incident opened the door for our country’s descent into despondency and a long running show of shame. It exposed Nigeria’s numerous weaknesses to the world as the other security agencies were forced to build siege walls with artificial barriers like blocks, stones and other instruments to barricade their complexes. Each security outfit became wary and were willing to do the ridiculous if only to avoid any embarrassment from Boko Haram and their suicide bombers.
If the siege mentality in the nation’s capital was troubling, then the news from the war front in the north east, the Boko Haram heartland was dismal. There were countless number of stories of soldiers fleeing battles, widespread deserting, horrendous casualty and a band of terrorists that took on invincibility. The situation was bad enough that constitutionally scheduled general elections were placed on hold for six week under the guise of fighting a group that had grown the capacity to attack any part of the country at will.
The coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, the product of the shifted elections, marked the beginning of the end of Boko Haram. The inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari and subsequent appointment of Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai remains that turning point in the war against the fanatical murderers. It marked the point when the commanders of the extremists, who decorated themselves without the sophistication and training of the Nigerian Army that was proudly rated as the best in Africa sequel to the evil ascendancy of Boko Haram being addressed as mere criminals.
One can therefore not be blamed to have found the declaration by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, six months after the inception of the administration, that Boko Haram has been technically defeated. The Minister of Information who was hitherto known for his persistent outspokenness during his days as the All Progressives Congress, APC spokesman demonstrated what he meant with a visit to Maiduguri, which until the exit of the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan was the administrative headquarters of Boko Haram just like Washington DC is to the United States of America. Senior officials of the previous administration had technically declared the north-east a no go area, even for those who are originally from the place.
The Honorable Minister of Information and Culture not only visited Maiduguri, he went to Konduga and Bama which is at the fringes of Sambisa forest. He went along with over 30 journalists from both local and international media establishments.
It was adequately reported, quoting multiple intelligence sources and operational reports, that the terrorists were all coordinated from this town while Sambisa Forest served as their armoury and Bita as the spiritual headquarters from where all their Imams and Alfas coordinating prayers for their success against our Army. Ironically, mere prayer warriors can only win battles when there is no army like the renewed Nigerian Army under President Buhari and his able Chief, officers and soldiers have made us to understand today.
Just as the Boko Haram black flag has been taken down and burnt in areas that were once their strongholds, making it possible for life to return to normal, the siege around military facilities and other national assets in Abuja is being lifted. The barricades have disappeared from Agura Hotel and other barricades are disappearing from around other facilities. Institutions that still have barricades in place either have exceptionally cowardly disposition or they are not in tune with the mood of the times.
Those days when we hear the then Minister of Information, Labara Maku of the Jonathan administration declare the defeat of Boko Haram, Nigerians run to Agura hotel to confirm if the double lane, which was sealed off to protect military offices in the vicinity, has been reopened to traffic or not.
It is on this note that must appreciate President Buhari’s right choice in appointing General Buratai as COAS. The events that followed showed that the General shared the same trait of decisiveness with the older General that appointed him. This explains why Buratai was able to bring on board leadership with a focus.
As opposed to when Boko Haram was fought from the comfort of air-conditioned hotel suites and the lobby of expansive duplexes and well stocked ballrooms, President Buhar’s directive as implemented by a Buratai, who demonstrated a clear understanding of guerrilla warfare yielded the quick turnaround that ensured that all the prophets of doom are put to shame as their prediction of doom for Nigeria amounted to nought. The introduction of motorbike battalion under his command, something that is comparatively cheaper but was never contemplated, soldiers are now able to move quickly to wherever the terrorists are before they can cause much havoc.
That these feats were achieved can also be situated in the anti-corruption stance of President Buhari, which Buratai has implemented as he exhibited intolerance for corruption anywhere in the Army. It must be noted that this anti-corruption component goes beyond not diverting money meant for arms purchase and personnel welfare as it also included rebuilding values to engender germane qualities not seen in any military formations anywhere in Africa.
With the benefit of hindsight, the current administration might not have made the required mark in other sectors in relation to citizens’ expectations but the fact that we can now sleep with our eyes closed is commendable as an achievement that should make any objective assessor score President Muhammadu Buhari the required first class performance. We must salute his will and determination to return Nigeria to being a stable and peaceful country.
Suleiman writes from Jos Road, Bauchi State.