By David Onmeje
Nigeria was at a crossroad at some point in our historical journey with the menace of Boko Haram. So bad it was that nowhere in Nigeria was safe anymore. I recall heart drenching incidences where innocent lives were lost daily as a result of constant Boko Haram attacks even in the federal capital territory. It was so bad that it felt like the world was coming to an end for Nigeria.
The then political authorities didn’t seem like they had a clue on how to end the menace. The gloom that pervaded the atmosphere was such that people said their last prayers before going out because nobody was sure where and how the next bomb was going to detonate. Mind you this wasn’t donkey years ago. This was between 2013 and 2014.
In my opinion, there was a couple of factors responsible for the inability of the government or the Armed Forces to deal decisively with the security threat. One was that the political leadership as it were didn’t have the required courage to make commitments and pronouncements on the position of Nigeria on the fight against terrorism, but instead, it chooses to lay the blame on the doorsteps of the opposition party.
And they continued in such fashion until the situation grew from bad to worse. And Nigeria lost it completely. The once vibrant Nigeria Army was struggling to face a vicious Boko Haram insurgents armed with sophisticated weapons. The more they tried, the more casualties it recorded. Also, the then leadership of the Armed Forces saw a loophole to enrich themselves, and they did with reckless abandon to the detriment of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria and the lives of Nigerians.
I recall that over 16 local government areas fell to the control of Boko Haram insurgents, and they advanced to take over more in such a manner that sent chills down our spine. At some point, it felt like they Boko Haram insurgents were all over the place and could strike at any given moment. In a way, this was the case with the bombing of the popular Nyanya Motor Park in Abuja that led to the death of hundreds and many others unaccounted for. It was such a national tragedy. This was also aside from the constant attacks of places of worship in other parts of the country.
I could continue nonstop with this narrative because a lot happened but, that is not the essence of this piece. The core is to bring to public consciousness what President Muhammadu Buhari has done in the past three years in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents. In my opinion, those that formed the habit of questioning the efforts of the Nigerian Army in this asymmetric war and the successes it had recorded thus far, are nothing but mischievous.
I do not think any rational human would come to the nasty assumption or conclusion that post-2015, Nigeria hasn’t made substantial gains in the fight against Boko Haram. It would be foolhardy for any discerning mind to infer that the Nigerian Army of today is not efficient and positioned to deal with the security challenges in the country. I stand to be corrected.
To make such arguments would be equivalent to saying America is a country in Africa. And since America is not a country in Africa, it is also a fact that the Nigeria Army has degraded the once vicious Boko Haram group and has made substantial progress in the war against terrorism in Nigeria. The government has displayed the required political will; it ensured the return of professionalism to the Armed forces through the quality of the various service chiefs, particularly that of the Nigeria Army. For the sake of emphasis, the Nigeria Army today is an epitome of professionalism and ability. And you and I know that it didn’t just happen, someone was responsible, and that person is the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.
I think that Nigeria owes him a lot of gratitude for repositioning Nigeria Army for greater efficiency. General Buratai hit the ground running upon his appointment as the Chief of Army staff by President Muhammadu Buhari. And the result is what we have today. But make no mistakes, whatever it is the Armed forces in Nigeria have achieved that is as a result of the political leadership displayed by President Muhammadu Buhari in ensuring that the Nigeria Army was well equipped physically and otherwise for the task of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
It should also be noted that it takes only an honest leader to be able to do most of the things done in the critical security sector in Nigeria because of the dynamics involved in our system. But for the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari could display such political will, indicates that Nigeria got a good deal in electing him as president in 2015. I am not sure any discerning mind would argue against this position. And if there are, I would like to ask the following questions. Is it true that the Nigeria Army has been able to restore peace in North East Nigeria? Are there concerted efforts by this administration in rebuilding North East Nigeria? Is the Nigeria Army now well equipped to deal with the myriads of security challenges in the country? Would INEC conduct elections in North East Nigeria? If the answers to the above questions are yes, then it means those with a contrary opinion on the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigeria Army in the fight against terrorism and the commitment to rebuilding North East Nigeria, are enemies of progress. This is also aside from the establishment of the North East Development Commission to lead the reconstruction and development of the northeast by President Muhammadu Buhari.
With all of these, it is therefore common sense for all to know that President Muhammadu Buhari is a leader that is trustworthy and honest. In my opinion, the narrative should be the task ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari post-2019 and how he intends to consolidate on the gains made in the fight against terrorism and the reconstruction and development of the ravaged North East Nigeria.
Those that formed the habit of negating the gains of this administration should have a rethink and see things from a futuristic perspective. If not for anything, they should call a spade and spade. And with a remodelled Nigeria Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, we can be assured that never again in our history would we be subject to the kind of humiliation in the hands of Boko Haram terrorist.
For me and the generality of Nigerians, the task for beyond 2019 is before President Muhammadu Buhari. Let us make no mistakes about that.