The latest ferocious attack on the convoy of Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State wherein about 30 persons, including policemen and soldiers, were felled in a volley of bullets, was not only indicative of failure of intelligence, but smacks of glaring conspiracy and orchestrated sabotage.
And when viewed from the prescient of its frequency, being the second occurrence since July, these virulent attacks by the current leaders of ISWAP elucidated the daring-do of the terrorists. It also underscored crass failure of executive protection on the part of our security agencies.
Far from being mere coincidences, these attacks make it more obvious that Governor Zulum, who has been unequivocal in speaking against the terrorists and suspected saboteurs, has been targeted for assassination to stop him from providing the productive and transformational leadership he has displayed, even more recently.
While commending the gallantry of the security agencies, some of who lost their lives in the process, we hasten to say for the umpteenth time that these attacks also shattered the military high command’s claims and capacity to win the war in the North- East despite continued review of its operational strategies, especially the kinetic and nonkinetic approaches.
More than ever before, the attacks spewed at the governor also showed as tissue of lies successes supposedly recorded in these areas by the military, especially the much-touted recovery of Baga and 25 major towns and local governments, which informed the governor’s move to resettle the residents. If the governor’s convoy could come under such vociferous attack, the fate of common residents and internally displaced persons could be better imagined.
While we commend President Muhmmadu Buhari for charging security and intelligence agencies to intensify efforts in the North-East and rid the agencies of saboteurs, we must add, very quickly too, that beyond the now predictable regular presidential refrain and lamentation is the imperativeness of replacing the service chiefs whose grossly unimpressive, if not unacceptable performance, had drawn the ire of President Buhari months ago.
If the success of the terrorists against Nigerian troops and civilian population and sacking of villages have been intolerable, it is then humiliating, even disgraceful, that these groups are emboldened by the day to launch recurrent attacks on the governor on routes and towns, which the military claimed to have reclaimed from the terrorists.
When juxtaposed with the fact that the convoy of Zulum’s predecessor, Senator Kashim Shettima, was ambushed by Boko Haram more than once during his tenure, culminating in the killing of at least five persons, including soldiers, these attacks further underscored how little security agencies have learnt about executive protection.
This latest development leaves us with one conclusion – that the military leadership and, indeed government, have fed the nation with propaganda, embellishment and outright falsehood in respect of the state of the war on terror and successes, if any, it has recorded against the terrorists.
Equally questionable, if not intriguing and perplexing, is the capacity, capability and commitment of the multinational forces, the Chad River Basin Commission and similar collaboration among countries bordering Nigeria against the terrorists.
Though no fatality was recorded in an earlier attack on the governor’s convoy by ISWAP members in Kukawa Local Government Area of the state, the latest attack near Baga on its way to join Zulum who had been flown to town in an Air Force chopper to receive returning IDPs, was very puzzling.
More disturbing was the fact that the attack came a few days after the death of a major actor in the war against Boko Haram in the state, Colonel Dahiru Bako. Bako and three other soldiers died from gunshot injuries received when they were ambushed by the terrorists.
The governor just released N20 million to the widow of the top officer. We agree with experts who have posited that Zulum, who could well be described as a wartime leader and comes across as a patriot in a hurry to develop Borno State despite the on-going war, must exercise restraint in his actions.
His energetic commitment and enthusiasm are unparalleled, but these must be balanced against the grave threat of Boko Haram in the region. Also, it would be preposterous at this time to push for the return of IDPs to their homes since northern Borno is obviously not safe enough for this. It is, therefore, advisable to slowly give the military the opportunity to defeat the enemy completely.
The fact that Zulum was airlifted into the area in a military chopper gave credence to the security agencies’ understanding of the precarious nature of the area and, in particular, the existence of intelligence to the advisability of the trip, but we call for the strengthening of the convoy of the governor in the state, especially during future trips to high risk areas.
The glaring evidence for now is that the governor has become the target of the terrorists. As such, it has become very imperative for him to seek assistance of private security experts, local and foreign, to assist him with protective and technical intelligence to insulate him against threats.
Finally, the sabotage theory should be vigorously investigated.