Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. The declaration, strictly speaking, was needless. But the minister needed it to tell a story. He needed it to advance his narrative that the government which he serves has done what its immediate predecessor could not do; that it is on course in the war it is waging against terror.
Regardless of the redundant overtone of the declaration, the message has been imbibed around government circles. It has become a boring sing song to which we are being treated by government officials and their cohorts. If you have had the opportunity of listening to or reading the views of the motley crowd of retired military officers who have constituted themselves into security experts and consultants, you cannot but see the forced attempt to impress it upon us that Boko Haram has been defeated.
A few days ago, a television reporter asked one of them what he thought about the unceasing Boko Haram attacks despite the fact that government has declared victory over them. What we got as a response was a struggle, a rigmarole that failed woefully to address the question. Sometimes they make a nebulous distinction between anti-insurgency and counter-insurgency. The distinctions, whatever they may be, do not and cannot make sense to the general public. What will be of significant difference to the people is drastic reduction, not necessarily total elimination, of Boko Haram’s deadly attacks.
Interestingly, the security experts and their godfathers in government were still busy celebrating and preaching the phantom defeat of Boko Haram when the terrorists mocked them to their face by having a field day in a town or village called Dalori in Borno State. The terrorists seized the town in broad daylight and operated for several hours. The villagers called for help. But none came. There were neither military nor police personnel. At the end of the mayhem, about 100 people lay dead. Scores of others were injured. A terrorist attack of such magnitude is no happenstance. It is no coincidence either. It is a clear case of enemy action. It was well planned and properly executed. The executioners had no hang-ups. Our fighting forces were caught off guard. They were not there. They were nowhere near there. Their dragnets were far from the scene of the action. What that tells us is that we are not yet in charge of the security situation in the war-torn areas. We may have made a big push. But we are far from defeating the terror in the land.
It is noteworthy that in all this, the once vociferous governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, has become reticent. During the last political dispensation, he was in the habit of assuming the high ground, pontificating from the roof tops about what government was not doing right in the war against insurgency. He was behaving then like an orphan who needed succour and protection from a father. Shettima advertised his assumed desertion and helplessness. He wished there were a father figure, a power that would rescue his Borno State from the vice grip of the insurgents.
The likes of Shettima were among those who believed that Muhammadu Buhari has all that it takes to defeat terror in the country. That was why he was pontificating and hair-splitting over terror during the time of Goodluck Jonathan. He must have been disappointed that the much advertised magic wand which Buhari was said to possess is a fluke. Shettima must be short of words. He does not seem to know what to say any more. Otherwise, it would have been interesting to hear him lecture us on the Dalori bloodbath. Where, indeed, is Shettima?
I have made this point before. But it bears repeating here to tell government that Nigeria is not competing with itself. Nigeria is one united country which happens to be confronted by terror. We all have equal state in the war effort. There is no need drawing a line between what one did and what the other did not do. It is pointless to do so. What is needed is a combined effort to win the war. We do not need to lie to ourselves about what we have accomplished. It is most unpatriotic to do so.
Perhaps those who are lying to us should be made to realise that there is a difference between running a campaign for elections and running a country. Campaigns are about political speech and ghost words. What they generate, for the most part, are pious lies. They are intended to impress and deceive. Such impressionistic decoys are targeted at winning elections. But a government is a commonwealth. It belongs to the people. It is meant to serve the interest of the people. It must never be deployed in deceit of the people. It is criminal for government to lie to the people. If we recognise this, we will appreciate the fact that the declaration from Lai Mohammed was unnecessary. It is deceitful.
Given the fact that what the minister told us is not the case, there is need for him to recant. He should withdraw the unfounded declaration. Lai Mohammed, like every other mortal, is not above mistake. He committed a faux pas. We are ready to forgive the overzealousness that led to the error. But he must be humble enough to eat his words. This is the least that we can expect from a man who lied to his countrymen.
It is also worrisome that President Buhari has not shown concern in the face of the terrorist attacks. We can say here that the man is putting up a bold face because of the ill advised declaration from Lai Mohammed. The president’s comportment must be made to agree with the false declaration. That is why he (the president) is looking the other way. Like King Nero who fiddled while Rome burnt, Buhari is gallivanting while the blood of innocent Nigerians is being shed needlessly by terrorists.
The difference between Jonathan and Buhari in this regard should be underlined. Jonathan, for all that it was worth, showed concern. The humanity in him always overflowed with sympathy and empathy each time the terrorists struck. He gave words of encouragement. But Buhari is markedly different in this wise. He has never sympathised or empathised in this matter. He treats the mass murder of his citizens as a normal occurrence. He has not said anything to assuage us. It would not have mattered if his silence was the antidote to the insurgency. Rather, it is doubly tragic that the more he keeps to himself, the more devastating the attacks get.
It is high time the concerned authorities jettisoned this pretentious posturing. The government has a job to do, which is to defeat Boko Haram. We know where we were before the advent of Boko Haram. We also know where we are now. A huge world of difference exists between the two. When the government closes the yawning gap or at least narrows it down, we will also know. Unfounded triumphalism can only be a flash in the pan. It can never endure.
by Amanze Obi