By Kolawole Anthony I
The first official covenant a leader makes with the people, on the first day of official function is security of lives and property of the citizenry. It is neither negotiable nor subject to compromise under any guise.
A law abiding and peaceful nation is the panacea to uninhibited development and prosperity. It is the primary essence of governance. And the capacity of the Armed Forces anywhere in the world is gauged by its capacity and competencies to assist the President to defray internal and external aggressions against its country. But the military abdicated on this basic constitutional responsibility under the last administration.
And the consequences were quite grave. No Nigerian can agree less that Nigeria was on a precarious cliff of total breakdown of law and order, by May 2015, when President Muhammedu Buhari took the reins of office.
Nigeria was literally and practically handcuffed by subsisting, budding, consuming and persistently explosive acts of terrorism, local armed conflicts, militancy, violent separatists’ agitations, ethno-religious conflagrations and other insurrections. They did not only disturbingly assail and crippled Nigeria, but had morphed into threats to regional insecurity threats.
Burdened by an extremely weak Military, prior to the ascension of the Buhari Presidency, Nigeria replaced its peaceful soul with almost everyday violence, deaths and agonies from terrorism. Dominantly at the home front, Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) obstinately pulled the cord of disunity and disintegration of Nigeria. It went paranoid and regrettably unchallenged in the organized atrocious acts and heinous crimes against Nigerians. But Buhari has smothered the fire.
Also, an existing discontentment in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria, unleashed very acerbic militancy, greased by greed and an insatiable appetite for dubious wealth by the elite. Very wild and bitter splinter militant sects emerged, with separate agendum and modus operandi, surprisingly, all pointing to an obscure reason-impoverishment of the Niger Delta, the proverbial cash cow of the country.
Militants competitively registered resentments through bombing of oil installations or facilities, abductions of oil workers, oil theft and bunkering and other sublime acts of terrorism. Nigeria bled uninterruptedly under the fangs of militancy, as crude oil exploration dropped incredibly from 2.3 million barrels a day to 1.2 million barrels.
Much more, the fear of constant violence, kidnappings and payment of ransoms on oil workers compelled the relocation of headquarters of International Oil Companies (IOCs) outside the Niger Delta to Lagos and other safer locations in Southern Nigeria. But President Buhari has laid the ghost of militancy to permanent rest.
The general dreary insecurity portrait of the Southern region of the country was further amplified in the Southeast region. An assemblage of disparate armed gangs found a comfortable haven is the now outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). Led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, an abrasive bloodsucker, the armed gangs tormented and terrorized innocent and law abiding citizens, killing and maiming opponents who expressed aversion to their style of secession agitations. They severally created conditions favorable to looting and perpetrating all acts of criminality with impunity. Again, Mr. President has castrated the terror sect into oblivion.
Elsewhere in the North, the narrative was the same. The foreign and Iranian backed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) or the Shiites in Nigeria, led by Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, operating under a bizarre religious ideology, antithetical to all known Islamic norms or doctrines, held dozens of Nigerians captive in cities and villages.
The Shiites killed Nigerians at sight, including security agents, during their weird or irreligious processions and brooked neither opposition nor resistance from any quarters. The Shiites have just discovered they cannot penetrate Nigeria under a Buhari Presidency.
The pride of the nation was completely buried with the tempestuous rage of armed bandits and cattle rustlers in the Northwest. The deadly criminals sacked whole villages and communities, much as they prevented farmers from accessing their farms or traders and local businessmen from patronizing markets.
Major highways became unsafe, as they ambushed passenger or commercial vehicles and murder commuters in cold blood and dissipate unmolested. But the region is now, a persona non grata for these armed criminals.
The more than a decade’s violence on the Plateau raged with renewed vigor, expanding to unimaginable frontiers. In Plateau too, several communities were sacked and it was a celebrated killing mines for both indigenes and visitors to this once enviable tourist’s destination in Nigeria. Life largely became meaningless for most Nigerians. But peace has berthed on the Plateau.
And specifically in Southern part of Kaduna state, old ethnic rivalries were resurrected and the strengths of feuding parties tested in bloodbath. The scenario has been duplicated in the Middle Belt region with the herders/farmers crisis, equally claiming hundreds of lives and causing awful destruction of properties. President Buhari has set the ball rolling to clear the last vestiges of these criminals.
Glaringly, the capacity of civil security agencies could not contain the widespread anger on the land. Therefore, President Buhari, who immediately restructured and re-organized the Nigerian Military, deployed the military in aid of civil security. They were saddled with the onerous of quelling the burning fires of bloodbath across Nigeria and to restore peace and security to the people.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai hit the ground running. He started by re-professionalizing and re-organizing the Nigerian Army, inculcating in Army personnel the virtues of discipline, loyalty, patriotism and commitment to their constitutional and professional duties.
Gen. Buratai’s first assignment saw him facing the conflagration of the Abubakar Shekau led Boko Haram. By December, 2015, barely five months of his action on the battlefield, Boko Haram insurgents were weakened and decimated. His troops also began the speedy recovery of nearly 24 LGAs under terrorists control in the Northeast and incredibly restricted the insurgents area of operations to just the Northeast, where they originated.
By mid-2016, Nigerian troops had reclaimed all Nigerian territories under the captivity of Boko Haram, an action which was executed simultaneously alongside freeing of Boko Haram hostages enslaved in remote camps and caves.
At the last count, the Nigerian Army had directly or indirectly rescued nearly 5,000 Nigerians held captive by insurgents, including a substantial number of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted in April 2014 and all the recently abducted 110 Dapchi schoolgirls. Among the rescued are children, women and the aged.
Having effectively and courageously decimated Boko Haram terrorists, the Nigerian Army moved and defeated terrorists by the demystification of Sambisa Forest in Borno state. It was terrorists’ most fortified haven, where they retreated for shield, recuperated and planned fresh attacks on Nigerians. Sambisa is a shadow of its former dreary self, as the Army has transformed it with infrastructure.
Soldiers penetrated Sambisa forest up to camp zero, killed scores of insurgents in the exchange of gunfire. Abubakar Shekau was fortunate to escape, but soldiers recovered his copy of the Holy Koran and the Boko Haram flag, a sign of absolute defeat.
The Army has engineered the voluntary surrender of dozens of Boko Haram top commanders and hundreds of their foot soldiers. Soldiers have also blocked avenues hitherto at the disposal of Shekau for the easy recruitment of fresh Nigerian foot soldiers. So, when Shekau yelled publicly about his frustrations with the war and preferring to surrender, soldiers had severely castrated him.
Additionally, the Army under Gen. Buratai’s watch has expanded its infrastructure and amenities. He has influenced the establishment of the first Nigerian Army University in Africa, located in Biu, Borno state; there is the Nigerian Army Aviation School and several others. The Army Chief has renovated and refurbished Army barracks and formations across the country, as well as railroaded the establishment of new military formations in Kaduna, Rivers, Zamfara, and the Northeast region among others.
The Nigerian Army under its current leadership is the first to execute Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects to host communities, anywhere soldiers are deployed on special assignments. And it covers free Medicare, water supply, electricity and roads projects all over the country.
Therefore, in three years of battling Boko Haram by the Nigerian Army and other security agencies, it’s now an joy unspeakable that Nigeria has come out of its troubled insecurity waters. It is safe and rightly too, to haughtily thump the chest and echo loudly that the Army has steered the ship of security to safety. And that it is still under the same leader who decades back conquered the Maitatsine insurgency, is unspeakable and the exhilaration is indescribable among Nigerians.
He is the ever calculative and focused President Buhari. He is the singular reason, every Nigerian and indeed the entire nation is proud to regale in the prevailing security in the country. He has remained a worthy guardian, an inspiration and protective shield to Nigerians and the Nigerian Army under Gen. Buratai. It is responsible for the marvelous results and victories over either internal or external terrorism acts against Nigeria.
Kolawole PhD is a University lecturer and wrote from Keffi.