WHEN, in 2014, the then candidate Muhammadu Buhari officially launched his campaign to be president, he predicated it on three firm promises: to slay the dragon of corruption, revamp the economy and take the battle to the Boko Haram insurgents who had sacked several communities in north-eastern Nigeria. As a matter of fact, such was his confidence in getting the better of the insurgents that, shortly after he was sworn in on May 29, 2015, President Buhari promised journalists that the Boko Haram terror would be over “by the end of the year.” Addressing the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in December of the same year, the president boasted that Nigeria had “technically won the war” against the Boko Haram terrorists, having curbed the latter’s capacity to mount “conventional attacks” against military or civilian targets.
Although security experts generally concede that the Buhari administration has in fact made some progress in combating the radical Islamist group, the spectacle that unfolded on Monday, January 7 in the Presidential Villa has only confirmed the fears of many that President Buhari jumped the gun when he declared “mission accomplished” over Boko Haram. The spectacle in question was the sight of Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, fighting back tears as he described to the president the worsening security situation in the state. In his address to the president, Governor Shettima spoke frankly about “some setback” in the fight against Boko Haram and “the recent upsurge in the activities of the demented monster.”
An indication of the seriousness of the situation in Borno State can be gleaned from the fact that, on Monday 31 December 2018, a week before he broke down before President Buhari, Governor Shettima had convened an emergency extraordinary security meeting at the Government House, Maiduguri, at which a variety of Borno stakeholders, including traditional rulers, journalists, members of the state House of Assembly, all the state’s representatives in the House of Representatives, the leadership of the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), local hunters, among others, had been present.
At the emergency meeting, the governor, having described at length the deteriorating security situation in the state on account of the resurgence in Boko Haram attacks, spoke about the “need to strengthen security measures in schools, mosques and churches, markets and all public places across Borno State.” Furthermore, and in a statement that seems to suggest a pattern of neglect by the Federal Government, the governor also claimed that “From 2013 to date, the Borno State government has been solely responsible for funding+ the Civilian JTF in terms of their training, their allowances, deployment, operational vehicles and their kits.”
At the risk of restating the obvious, what all this shows is that the battle to stamp out the Boko Haram insurgency is far from being definitively won. If anything, it confirms that, well-meaning or not, President Buhari spoke too soon when he asserted the Nigerian military’s control of the strategic landscape and superiority over the insurgents. Governor Shettima clearly needs help, and we urge the president to come to his and the suffering people of Borno’s assistance. It is the least the president can do to redeem a signal campaign promise.