Dear Governor Zulum, a soldier only as good or bad as his commander



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 By Majeed Dahiru

The recent spike in killings in the southern parts of Kaduna state, North West Nigeria and the ambush laid on the convoy of the Borno State governor, on his way to the town of Baga, by terrorists have once again revealed Nigeria as a country at war with itself. Occupying a land mass of over 900,000 square kilometres with a population of over 200 million people, Nigeria is currently embroiled in a complex web of complicated cycle of violence unleashed by well-armed but  non state actors, which seems to be increasingly  overwhelming the Nigerian state. The over 22 armed groups  that are currently operating in Nigeria  includes Boko Haram, ISWAP, ANSARU, Killer herdsmen, Niger Delta Avengers etc.

The reaction of Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of the frontline state of Borno in the theatre of the war on terror in Nigeria, to the unfortunate incidence of the ambush of his convoy is suggestive of things falling rapidly apart in Africa’s most populous country. Without mincing words, Governor Zulum all but blamed the military for the ambush on his convoy and made strong allegations of insider sabotage of the war on terror by fifth columnists operating from within the ranks of Nigeria’s security forces. This will not be the first the governor of the epic centre of the Boko Haram insurgency will be calling out the military and other security agencies for their failure to contain the resurging insurgency in the North East corner of Nigeria.

However, Governor Zulum’s reaction is clearly a misdirected one except he is using the failings of the military as a metaphor for the leadership failure of the President and commander in chief of Nigeria’s armed forces, Muhammadu Buhari. Five years after he was first elected into the highest office in the land in 2015, President Buhari has astonishingly failed to deliver on his key campaign promises of taming corruption, resuscitating the economy and containing insecurity. Whilst, the issue of security challenges predates his administration, President Buhari’s failure of leadership has made the situation worse in no less a manner than previous administration’s leadership failings had left it bad.

According to Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria consistently maintained its position as the third most terrorized country in world, behind Iraq and Afghanistan and ahead of war torn Syria, Somalia and Yemen between 2015 and 2019. The reason for this unenviable position is not farfetched.  In the North East of Nigeria, Nigeria’s poorly funded, barely armed and ill equipped security forces have been drawn into an intractable war with the Boko Haram insurgents, thereby leaving them overstretched and incapable of containing murderous activities of cross border bandits in the North West as well as marauding killer herdsmen operating in central and southern Nigeria. With thousands of kilometres of Nigerian territories left ungoverned and millions of Nigerian lives left unsecured, Nigeria has become the largest killing field and human slaughter slab in Africa.

 Whereas, Nigeria recorded over 20,000 deaths and millions of human displacements since the start of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2010, the situation appears to have worsened in recent times. In a report by Global Rights Nigeria, it was revealed that no fewer than 1,417 lives including 275 security personnel were lost to armed conflicts across Nigeria in the first quarter of 2020. In another   report by a Nigerian research group, SBM Intelligence, an estimated 2,732 people including 173 soldiers and 39 police officers were killed between April and June 2020 in Nigeria. These fatality figures  are believed to be conservative estimates and do not include the many lives that were lost to isolated cases of armed robbery, assassinations and unreported communal clashes across Nigeria.

A cocktail of President Buhari’s comprehensive failure to tame corruption and resuscitate the economy has created a toxic atmosphere for insecurity to thrive. With corruption now an emboldened monster that is ravaging Nigeria’s meagre public treasury, little or nothing is left to drive government’s primary responsibility of citizens’ welfare and the security of their lives and properties. The military and other sister security agencies are subjected to the direct control of the thoroughly corrupt political leadership in Buhari’s Nigeria. And like other institutions of the Nigerian state, officers and men of the military and other security agencies have been deprived of minimum existential welfare, fiscal and monetary security deserving of their duty as enforcers of law and order as well as defenders of Nigeria’s territorial integrity.

 The failure of the Nigerian state to meet up to its most basic obligation to its frontline officers and men in the war against terror may be driving some elements within the ranks of Nigeria’s security forces rogue as a means of survival. Similarly, the inability of the military high command to sanction and deal decisively with these rogue elements within its ranks and whose activities are undermining the war on terror is indicative of a gradual collapse of its command and control structure. In addition to the Wadume/Capt Balarabe kidnapping saga, the suspected case of armed robbery involving a serving Nigerian soldier, the fatal shooting of a commander by his own soldier in the theatre of the war on terror and the open extortion of motorists by soldiers at military check-points across Nigeria are indicative of the presence of rogue elements among Nigeria’s security agents. And the recent reports of voluntary retirement of hundreds of soldiers from the Nigerian army citing ‘’loss of interest’’ are suggestive of all not being well with President Buhari’s security architecture.  

A compromised military in collusion with terrorists and other criminal elements in country already experiencing a complicated web of complex security challenges is an indication that Nigeria is fast approaching the end stage of state failure. Completely detached from the current reality and declaring he has done his best, President Buhari, like Emperor Nero of Rome, fiddles while Nigeria burns from the North West to the North East and from Central to Southern Nigeria.  Therefore, it is to President Buhari, whose responsibility as Commander in Chief it is to fix the problem in the country he leads and the military he commands that Governor Zulum should direct his frustrations and not to his ground troops.  A soldier is only as good or bad as his commander.  


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