*New Service Chiefs with fresh ideas
*A go-getting fearless Governor
*A visionary national Assembly membership
By Yakubu Ahmed-BK
It is now or never, apparently. It has never, since the pogrom began in 2009, looked this compellingly winnable. There is, in place, a trio of formidable advantages that are ominously staked against a mindless insurgency that has stalemated and stagnated despite all the efforts and the billions that have gone into it without, for the most part any tangible sign that Nigeria was anywhere near nicking it.
It took a resilient population, fighting in unity to force a rigid President Buhari’s hands into dispensing with the services of a bunch of clueless, long retired and long tired service chiefs who looked anything but well disposed to win this war. Although there is virtually no point in over-flogging the issues at the heart of reasons for the loss of confidence in the service chiefs by virtually all Nigerians, it will not be out of place to say here, that the foot-dragging by the President had done more harm than good to the war efforts.
Why should, to begin with, a mere change of service chiefs be seen as such a game-changer to the point that a democratically elected President will risk keeping them and pitching himself against such a widespread, nationwide popular demand of the people?
Of course, when General Yusuf Tukur Buratai – a son of Borno soil was named as Chief of Army Staff in 2015, the resounding and deafening applause which greeted the decision, had a tinge of hope, that as one who was personally touched by the impact of the insurgency, the man will just go into it, with a gun smoking to get the job done with unprecedented alacrity.
In fairness to Buratai, he did his best. There were some flashes of bravado and push which won the hearts of Nigerians. Ultimately, his efforts, in conjunction with the other key players was just not good enough to satisfy a nation that was not, from all indications, prepared to accommodate anything less than an outright victory against what every Nigerian see as a bunch of rag-tag group of insurgents.
Now that the much desired change of service chiefs had been affected, what change will it likely bring?
THE CHEMISTRY OF THE TRIPOD
My take is that the new service chiefs came on board on the crest of popular demand and hope for them to deliver.
The new Chief of Defence Staff Major General Lucky Irabor was a central figure in the theatre of the war in the North East. He was, as they will say, in the thick of it, and he fought well. At all the levels of the Lafiya Dole hierarchy and at the multinational realm – all with his boot firmly on the grounds, Irabor was unrelenting, leading from the front and exuding a rare confidence which gave some bite to the war and won some battles along the way. I want to believe that these men would come up with a workable and a winning strategy to deliver the sucker punch.
The new Chief of Air staff too, had his boot on the ground in the battle fronts of the North East. He had commanded units and had headed commands as well as being involved in several top level decision making processes, ditto for the new Chief of Naval Staff. He was involved in the prosecution of the war at various levels, including command structures. It is therefore right to suggest that these guys lack nothing to change the dimension of this fight.
The experience is there, the men to fight are there and all the support they require to succeed has been provided.
I want to believe that these men would come up with a workable and winning strategy to deliver the sucker punch.
A GO-GETTING GOVERNOR
Borno state Governor Professor Babagana Umara Zulum is a fighter and ‘’war commander’’ in his own right. He has proved, from day one of his assumption of office, that he too, can take the heat. He was as fearless as he had proven to be daring. All the attributes of a fighter have manifested in him.
The few confrontations he had with soldiers at military check points and on the war front and the way he spoke his mind and told truth, gave Nigerians an inkling of the emergence of a Governor that was prepared to die if need be, in the course of securing his people.
On a number of occasions, Professor Zulum was seen leading a convoy into dangerous areas and insisting that the areas must be made safe for displaced persons to be returned to their ancestral homes in order for them to restart and pick the pieces of their lives. To his credit, the Governor has succeeded in pushing the security forces to clear the dangerous areas and as it is today, thousands of displaced persons have returned home where schools are reopening, farming is expected to start and life generally is beginning to take shape.
When you have a Governor who has shown, by his mannerisms, that he was prepared to die too, the entire state will automatically key into this mindset. For the first time, every Borno man is now a fighter and every fighter on the Nigerian side is no longer in any doubt that this war must be fought and won, come what may.
A NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERSHIP AS A ROCK OF SUPPORT
With immediate past Governor of Borno state Kashim Shettima in the National Assembly as a Senator and two other well experienced Senators in the person of Mohammed Ali Ndume and Abubakar Kyari, backed by ten House of Representative members, most of them serving many terms over in-between them, there is no better time, at least on paper, for the fight to take a more serious dimension than now.
Kashim Shettima spent eight years as Governor between 2011 and 2019. His entire two term tenure was spent under gun fight without let. It will not be out of place to call him a ‘’war Governor.’’
He navigated the ship of the state with such tact, diplomacy, carrot and stick, and succeeded in keeping the state intact even when the powers that be then in Abuja were threatening to withdraw soldiers from the state in reaction to the former Governor’s admonition that the insurgents were better armed and motivated than the Nigerian troops.
Mohammed Ndume, was first, in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2011 and has been a Senator since 2011 to date. He is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army. Abubakar Kyari too is not serving his first term in the Senate. If you combine all these advantages with the fact that the National Security Adviser to the President is also a son of Borno state – from Monguno, another epicenter point of the insurgency, one will say, without mincing words that, it is indeed now or never.
If the civil populace plays its role as expected by way of continued prayers and intelligence sharing, there may be light at the end of this long dark tunnel.