THE governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum, survived an ambush by gunmen on Wednesday, July 29. He had visited Monguno and Baga, the latter a town in Kukawa Local Government Area of the state, to distribute food items to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). His convoy reportedly came under attack on his way back from Baga, a deserted fishing community. Happily, the governor emerged from the ambush unscathed. Security men comprising soldiers and policemen attached to his convoy successfully repelled the onslaught, and the initial speculation was that he had been attacked by Boko Haram terrorists.
In an address to the Army commanding officer in a place called Mile 4, shortly after the attack, the governor rued the army’s inability to effectively man the area despite the huge number of troops deployed in over a year. He even threatened to employ local hunters in the area if the military would not buckle up. He said: “You have been here for over one year now, there are 1,181 soldiers here; if you cannot take over Baga which is less than 5km from your base, then we should forget about Baga. I will inform the Chief of Army Staff to redeploy the men to other places where they can be useful.” A day after the attack, however, the governor alleged that he was not attacked by the dreaded insurgents but by men of the Nigerian Army, situating the incident as a complete act of sabotage. “As far as I am concerned, there was no Boko Haram yesterday. It was a serious shooting by the Nigerian armed forces while ‘residing’ in Baga. The situation is very embarrassing,” he said.
While not ignoring the implications of the volte-face on the attack, the fact that the governor, who is constitutionally held to be its Chief Security Officer, was attacked demonstrates the precarious security situation in the state. Whether it was the terrorists who authored the attack, penetrating the supposed cordon erected by men of the Nigerian Army, or it was the product of sabotage or compromise, the fact has been established that Borno is safe for no one. And, what is more, the military’s failure is in bold relief. When state governors escape death by the whiskers, the ordinary person on the streets who has no weaponry to rely on faces certain doom. Who but a governor can be secured with the kind of weaponry immediately put at Zulum’s disposal during the attack?
Since the attack, the military and the governor have been at loggerheads. While the Army immediately promised to investigate the assault, the Defence Headquarters’ response thereafter on August 5, 2020, was to dismiss the allegation by Zulum. The Defence Headquarters insisted that it was insurgents who attacked the governor. Its spokesperson, Major-General John Enenche, said: “We analysed the video. You will discover from the sound of the gunshots that these are not the professional weapons that we use. And of course, if you have operated with an enemy for some time – we call it an enemy habit – from the analysis, it was purely that of the enemies, Boko Haram, in that area. From the tactics, and from the search conducted, it was the insurgents.”
We make bold to state that the governor’s allegation is weighty enough to warrant an investigation by a neutral organ into what actually transpired. The governor is not just a mere commentator on the reign of terror that has been a lot of the affected geographical space in the last few years and his claim cannot be treated with levity. In the same vein, the military should not have the final word on the matter. The integrity of the fight against terror would be assailed by a question mark if the claims and counterclaims are left to die a natural death. This is especially considering allegations that the war against terrorism in the North-East is a mercantile game which, in the world of merchants, should suffer prolonged elasticity.
Beyond the claims and counter-claims by the governor and the military, it is clear that the situation in the North-East and indeed the North-West is becoming unbearable. While needless killings have continued after the exchange between Zulum and the military, President Muhammadu Buhari has again made public advertisement of his worries. In one of such last week, he told Nigerians that he had done his best to stop terrorism. On another occasion, he spoke of the armaments that his government had procured to prosecute the war.
Nigerians are tired of hollow promises to end the agonies and deaths resulting from terrorism. It is high time those invested with the reins of power used same to bring joy to the faces of the people. They should shelve vacuous promises forgotten as soon as they are made.
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