Anyone who is a small expert in reading body language and who listened to Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima speak about the Boko Haram terrorist group being better armed and better motivated than the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would be able to read two things. One, the Borno Governor is extremely frustrated by the ease with which the terror group has, in recent times, been harassing him and the people of Borno in particular and those of Yobe and other states of the far North East of the country in general. And which person who finds himself in the situation Kashim has found himself will not be compelled to speak out his mind according to his understanding of the situation?
All fair minded Nigerians must sympathise with Governor Kashim. A few months after he was sworn-in as governor, Kashim unveiled his developmental roadmap to some journalists and other critical stakeholders and sued for everyone’s co-operation. Those who listened to him at that event in the Sheraton Hotel Abuja were unanimous that going by the agenda he had set himself and the way he articulated it which showed that he had thoroughly thought things through, he was going to emerge as one of the star performers among the chief executives of the current dispensation. But see the way things have turned for Governor Kashim, no thanks to the invidious activities of the Boko Haram sect
Every plan, every project he has conceived and executed and every of his day-to-day administrative work is now heavily overshadowed by the mayhem which Boko Haram unleashes on his people. Here is a man who came fully prepared to be a chief executive who will orchestrate the development of the state. But rather than being at the helm superintending developmental efforts, Kashim has become the number one chief mourner of Borno State. Today, the terror group will strike in one village and unleash their usual mayhem and Kashim is called upon to go and offer words of consolation to the victims and part with money meant for development as donation to ameliorate the hardship of those affected.
It is extremely sad to read for instance that because of insurgency in Borno, several hectares of wheat and other agricultural products cannot be harvested. The economy of Borno State and of that entire region has been severely affected by the campaign of terror of the Boko Haram. No reasonable governor who cares for the well being of his people can be happy with that state of affair.
The second meaning you can read into the statement Governor Kashim made is that as an astute politician and one who is on the ground and who is feeling the pinch more, he was speaking for the soldiers deployed to contain the insurgents. He must have wondered to the soldiers their seeming helplessness in the face of the Boko Haram onslaught. I suspect that the soldiers must have in response confided in him that given the shape, form and state of their weaponry and the morale of the soldiers, they can in no way be any match to the terrorists who, from the results they are garnering, are obviously better quipped and certainly more motivated than the army.
That same expert in body language reading and who also listened to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s remarks on Governor Kashim’s remarks during his Presidential Media Chat two Mondays ago, will also have noticed that the President did not find Kashim’e remarks funny at all. He described it as unguarded.
I am sure what has rankled the President so much is the fact that he feels he is being blamed for not equipping the army to fight a rag tag army that has proved so ferocious and more successful than the regular army. The President also senses that he is being subtly indicted for not showing greater commitment to the war efforts which could have boosted the morale of his fighting men in the North East.
I agree with the President that fighting a terror group is not the easiest of fights even for the most sophisticated of armies of the world. But the situation in Borno and Yobe is simply too embarrassing to everybody in the country. As a Nigerian I am embarrassed at the apparent helplessness of the soldiers in the face of the merciless slaughter and utter impunity of the Boko Haram. The performance of the army against Boko Haram does not give me any confidence that I can be defended against a foreign invasion. If an untrained and ill equipped army like BH can strike at will at any target whether soft or hard and do as they wish what will a well trained, well commanded foreign force not do to Nigeria?
The situation is no less embarrassing to the army whose pain is worsened by the fact that they cannot openly complain about the equipment to fight lest their complaint is seen as an act of mutiny. Our soldiers have been made to look so ordinary, so incompetent and so ineffectual. It looks like we have an army that is blind, deaf and crippled. They cannot see; they cannot hear; they cannot move and they cannot respond to any potential threat. To us laymen it looks like they do not have any aircraft to gather aerial intelligence about the movement of the BH fighters nor do they have human intelligence agents to gather intelligence and feed the ground troops in order to even halt the advance of the enemy nor is there any form of mobilization of the civilians to tip off the soldiers when the enemy visits them.
The way Boko Haram fighters invade a community, lay siege on it for five, six or seven hours, proceed to kill, loot and maim and then leave when they have had their feel of the bestiality cannot be rationally explained. It is true that our army have done well by dealing with the terrorist uprising and now restricting them to a small part of the country. But it is no comfort that having restricted them to a particular section we betray a lack of the firepower, the intelligence and the strategy to embark on the final onslaught that will extirpate this great evil and danger. They seem to have all the time in the world to do what they want, the way they want it without any fear of any slight challenge from the regular army. This is simply frightening and utterly unacceptable.
It is very possible the soldiers in the Borno axis quietly applauded the courage of Kashim in speaking for them. Given the way we do things in our country, neither the commanders of the forces in Borno nor their chiefs in the headquarters in Abuja would speak the truth to the President. No soldier wants to lose either his command or his commission.
As a patriot and especially one who regards Borno as a second home (I did my NYSC there 32 years ago), I feel that the situation in Borno and Yobe does not call for trading accusations or engaging in fruitless blame game. Some questions cannot be answered but they must be decided. The time has come to decide the situation. Having literally pushed these people to the wall, a game plan should be evolved that will put an end to the menace of the terrorists.
Article written by Idang Alibi
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