Pmb: Dapchi All Over Again
“The more things change the more they remain the same.” “History often repeats itself.” The news of over 100 missing school girls from Government Girls Secondary School Dapchi, in Yobe State is reminiscent of the Chibok saga in which 296 school girls were abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014. Once again suspected Boko Haram militants have struck and it is suspected that they have abducted scores of innocent schoolgirls. Funny enough this is not unexpected as the change PMB promised has let Nigeria down a dark tunnel of uncertainty and despair.
And just like the Chibok saga, in which in few days after the abduction, the Military was claiming once again that gallant troops have rescued the girls and all is well on the North Eastern front. But in a stern rebuttal the Governor of Yobe and the parents of these girls have protested vehemently that this is a fat lie and that no girl have been rescued. Once again Nigerians are in a cycle of scandal and infamy as the world wonders how a technically defeated
Boko Haram can still mount such a daring raid and cart over 100 school girls into captivity escaping the dragnet of the most militarized zone in the land. Nigerians may not like the truth but it is time to be honest to ourselves and know why we are reliving Chibok all over again.
The first mistake was the premature declaration that Boko Haram has been defeated. One cannot declare an enemy defeated if its command and control apparatus is still functional.
The failure to kill or capture the two leaders of Boko Haram, Al-Barnawi and Abubakar Shekau has cast a shadow over the claims of defeating Boko Haram. Even the claims that Boko Haram does not hold territory hence is defeated sounds lame to the intelligent, for from where do they launch attacks. The United Nations documented 135
Boko Haram attacks in 2017.
This equates to an attack every third day. This does not sound like a defeated enemy or the dying death throes of a morbidly wounded Boko Haram. Indeed giant strides have been made in the war against Boko Haram, but millions of Nigerians are still in IDP camps. Even when IDPs wanted to return home having been sold the red herring that Boko
Haram has been completely defeated, the military arrested those leading the march back home and forced them back into the captivity of the ramshackled camps. This further buttresses the fact that Boko Haram has only been defeated on the pages of the newspapers hence remain a potent force capable of repeating their Chibok exploits. This armada of untruths has led many into a false sense of security hence both civilians and the military have let their guard down making the conditions favourable for another kidnap saga . And as the terrorists realize that they are dealing with a benevolent regime that pays handsomely; a king’s ransom for captives, the lure to kidnap more emotionally charged hostages gets only bigger. The Senate has become the first official voice to query the payment of ransom to Boko Haram terrorists. On the 21st of February 2018, a heated debate centered on the payment of €2 Million to Boko Haram terrorists to secure the release of the 10 Police women and 3 University of Maiduguri Staff
from Boko Haram. Although the joy of the families who are grateful to see their loved ones return alive and well cannot be quantified, the bitter truth is that this is a double edged sword. This empowers Boko Haram to buy more weapons and encourages them to take more captives. This is the foundation built for a replay of the Chibok saga in
Dapchi, Yobe State. But even worse is the wholesale release of Boko Haram terror suspects for nothing in exchange. Outside those set free by the courts for lack of evidence against them, it is questionable to hear the release of over 1000 Boko Haram terrorists who confessed and then denounced the group in exchange for their freedom. Its hard to convince a simpleton that these suspects will not find their way back to the welcoming arms of Al-Barnawi and Shekau. Even the USA with access to the best indoctrination and psychological reprogramming facilities have reported that 70% of released Talibans return to the group upon release. Hence in Nigeria with similar demographics of poverty, insurgency and high unemployment as Afghanistan, it is hard to convince the intelligent that these released detainees are not right now wining and dining with Shekau in his lair. The Military lacks the capacity to monitor these individuals hence one supposes that after a few days of hunger and pestilence these suspects will return gladly to the outlawed sect. Releasing these prisoners for free only bolsters the terrorists and adds little value to the society.This is a big goof and it has come back to haunt this President. Despite the military campaign of determination and steel, Boko Haram is yet to fizzle away and still launches daring attacks across the North East. Something is definitely wrong. The most scary element in this mix of violence and gore, is a report in The DailyTrust that claims that Military forces were closing in on Shekau but were pulled back by an order from above, a move that facilitated the escape of the nation’s most wanted man across the border into Cameroon. The military vehemently denies this tale but unfortunately something about this narrative plays into the assumed conspiracy of collusion. Boko Haram definitely has sympathizers and sponsors within the military and political elite. The daring ambush and capture of the University of Maiduguri Crude oil prospecting team is an ample evidence of an enemy within.
However, fighting Boko Haram and its spin offs has become one of the most lucrative businesses of corruption around. Ask Babbachir Lawal who made millions from just cutting grass in IDP camps hence his nickname “The Grasscutter”. Juxtapose this with the twin evil of diversion of aid meant for IDPs and the Military Arms Procurement scandal even a simpleton can deduce why a certain corrupt clique do not want to see the end of Boko Haram. The Vice President is on record confessing that close to 50% of food aid sent to the North East gets diverted into the private pockets of Government officials. Such individuals will never want to see the end to the insurgency for this will bring their gravy train to an undesired halt. This President has failed to unmask the sponsors of Boko Haram. Not a single member of the political elite with ties to Boko Haram is behind bars. Sherrif and Ndume have all been given a clean bill of health. No one talks of bringing the sponsors of Boko Haram to book any more as if it is spirits or Satan directly sponsoring the group.
Furthermore, PMB has failed to totally expunge those who have benefited immensely from inflated procurement contracts from his inner circle. The latest in this mess is the purchase of 20 Super Tucanos from Brazil at $ 40 Million each. This raises a lot of eyebrows amongst experts for this Turbo Prop Fighter costs $10 Million on the official website of the Brazilian manufacturers hence even if this low technology sub-supersonic propeller driven plane is armed to the teeth there is no way in hell it can cost four times its official price. But no one is asking any questions. Now another $1 Billion has been siphoned out of the nation’s pocket to fight the “technically” defeated Boko Haram.
How does one bring out such an amount without making a shopping list of what one intends to buy and this act was done side-stepping the checks and balances of the National Assembly.
Indeed the high stakes game of poker surrounding Boko Haram is destined to continue for years to come. All these factors make a healthy environment for a return of a facsimile of the Chibok saga. Another raid on a school has led to more captives for Boko Haram to exchange for more Euros. Dapchi and Chibok have become pawns that can be sacrificed on a platter in a rudderless Nation ruled by nepotism and corruption. Hence the cycle continues. And with the military stretched to its limits fighting cattle rustlers in Zamfara and Sokoto while trying to keep the unending crisis between farmers and herdsmen at bay, many soft targets remain exposed for Boko Haram to interdict. And as this new crisis deepens the mistrust many have for the regime, they must be reminded that elections are fast approaching. Nigerians are not happy at the state of things and are left wondering where is the promised change. Meanwhile the regime bullies the opposition and the few voices of reason with the threat of labelling them as terrorists for spreading hate speech. It is now a crime to say the truth for one can be labelled a terrorist for doing such. DSS is sent to arrest those who call upon Nigerians to use their votes wisely in 2019 hence pushing the nation close to precipice of destruction and fascism. This is how Hitler and the Gestapo attained ultimate power by promoting propaganda and fighting freedom of expression. The President may stiffle opposition and win a second term but my prediction is that he will have an even more bumpy second term. His cabal of power shall grow even more brazen and reckless. The ethno-religious frontiers of mistrust he has fuelled shall only expand. The hardship he has inflicted on Nigerians shall increase a hundredfold. Already his minions are power drunk and are either demolishing the houses of their political opponents, insulting revered catholic Bishops or leading children into the crime of underaged voting. But out of the ashes of a nation on its knees, true national rebirth shall emerge. The mystic of PMB is gone forever. His incorruptible white toga is stained all over with hot palm oil as Nigeria slips further down the ranking of corrupt Nations. President Muhammad Buhari has failed. But he has made himself into being the only shark in the sea hence few will dare to oppose him. And that is the most scary ingredient that emboldens Boko Haram. A President who pays ransom and negotiates with terrorists will never lead the nation to the promise land.That is the honest truth.
Usman Mohammed writes from Dept of Mass Communication,
IBB University, Lapai-Niger State.