By Sani Dikko
I know the pains and challenges of leadership. A leader who is genuinely concerned about the peace and welfare of his people, but faced with seeming intractable problems on this path, agonizes every day and night pondering a solution.
But I also absolutely believe that positively deploying the potency of past experiences in leadership is very rewarding. It assists the leader immensely in avoiding pitfalls of yesterday to package today’s governance demands in manner that provides durable solutions to etch his name in history’s gold books.
The two-tenured Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima regrettably finds himself in this dilemma at the moment. His nightmare is the sudden resurgence of Boko Haram insurgency in his state.
I vividly remember when he roared at former President Goodluck Jonathan about the raging, uncontrollable fires of insurgency in his domain; and the government’s docile and complacent posturing in arresting the ostensible drift of Nigeria into a failed state.
I love Governor Shettima. At least, he got the desired relief when President Mohammadu Buhari reinvigorated and re-energized the Nigerian military and directed the Nigerian Army to lead the counter-insurgency operations in the country.
It was sweet respite for Gov. Shettima and his people, when the military was rejigged and forcefully chased out all the insurgents and rescued the 20 LGAs under the captivity and Caliphate administration of Bolo Haram .
I was glad that he truthfully recounted this progress last week, when he led a delegation of a broad spectrum of respected Borno leaders to President Buhari. Except, I am wrong, but Shettima is divulging this secret for the first time under President Buhari.
Shettima said; “Mr President, Sir…Borno State suffered it’s worst times between 2013 and 2014. In that period, Boko Haram abducted our children, attacked and took firm control of 20 out of the 27 local government areas of Borno. In these 20 local government areas, they established caliphates and put in place, sovereign administrators who strictly enforced tax systems and violent laws. They abused our young daughters.”
He purged himself of a concealed truth. Thereafter, our Governor broke down in tears, in public glare of reporters and blistering cameras. I feel for him.
Our military had extinguished whatever were Boko Haram’s fires. Normal life had predictably returned to 98 % of Borno territory. And all of a sudden, the insurgents are trying to bounce back, violently to cancel the peace and security. These insurgents are attempting to flatten the joy and happiness of several families and communities in Metele, Baga and Guzumala among others. It’s a tale of blood, pains, sorrows and agonies assailing the Governor’s psyche.
Even as Chief Security Officer of the State, Gov. Shettima has no inkling on how the reversal of soldiers victory against Boko Haram insurgents has come to again afflict his people. So, when he wept in the presence of President Buhari, some Security Chiefs and top government functionaries, it filled me with empathy for him and the people of Borno.
At this point, it became clear to me this emotional leader has lost his composure; it was evident he is no longer in control of his right faculties of thoughts as a leader of his people. And my suspicion proved me right when he presented a 10-point memo to Mr. President at an executive session.
And rightly, it is not every security matter that is thrown to the public for consumption. But a reliable security source which confided in me free returning back to Maiduguri, mentioned some points that ought not to have constituted part of the 10-point demands in the memo to President Buhari by Gov. Shettima and his team of elders and leaders from Borno. If it is true, the Governor goofed terribly.
Surprisingly, our Governor wants members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) to carry automatic weapons. And perhaps, operate as a parallel force battling Boko Haram terrorists together with the Nigerian Army, Nigerian troops or other security agencies. I do not doubt the assistance the CJTF has rendered to the winning streaks on war against insurgency, not just in Borno, by the Northeast.
Even the military leadership has publicly acknowledged efforts of the CJTF and appreciated some members of the group by automatically absorbing them into the Nigerian Army to obtain proper military training to become formal fighters for the liberation of their caged people. But the request of arming the generality of CJTF members to operate alongside conventional security agencies to battle insurgency is weird and outrageous.
I don’t know what influenced Gov. Shettima and his other leaders to adopt this decision to boldly present to the presidency. But it sounds to me more convincingly that they never wore their thinking caps. (no insults intended).
I don’t want to believe these leaders have forgotten this soon, how Boko Haram started in 2002 in the build-up to the 2003 general elections and it has become a monstrous national insecurity problem.
Has Shettima and his bands of elderly leaders forgotten how the then serving Borno state Governor, Sen. Ali Modu Sherriff who was desirous of his reelection in 2003 by hook or crook under the Obasanjo Presidency recruited these youths from neighboring Chad and Niger Republics? Sherrif armed them to prosecute his second term bid, which they succeeded by clamping down on his perceived enemies?
After achieving the purpose for which Sherriff brought these armed political “thugs;” that resentful politician abandoned them, without retrieving the arms. From 2004, these political thugs, led by Mohamed Yusuf became hungry because their principal abandoned them.
And with sophisticated guns, and other deadly weapons in their possession, the instincts of survival, naturally pushed them into kidnapping for ransom and eventually armed robbery. And they made great success of this evil trade and survived on it.
That government (Governor) never took any step to recall these armed boys. They morphed into the strange sect, we now know as Boko Haram, when security agents began to challenge their despicable activities. But my Governor, Alhaji Shettima and his clan of elder/leaders have forgotten this history and excitedly sought permission of Mr. President to arm CJTF again!
The reasons Shettima gave for the justification of armed CJTF are funniest. Shettima claimed armed CJTF would be in a better position to fight terrorists; that they know it more than armed Nigerian troops? And that the CJTF knows everything about terrorists in their midst, more than trained security personnel?
I don’t find this amusing in any nuance. It’s just a display of official brainlessness and unfounded desperation. I now understood why he wept openly.
I could not discern the rationality of why a state Governor who said in public that under the Buhari Presidency his state and the people have enjoyed greater freedom from Boko Haram after Nigerian troops reclaimed 20 LGAs seized from terrorists? And he thinks the Nigerian military have failed to a point only armed CJTF can rescue the state? This is a huge joke of the year.
And after thoroughly disgracing himself, Shettima and his elders requested for the redeployment of all Borno State Indigenes in the military, the Police and other security agencies to be posted to the state to fight for him and insurgency. The message to Mr. President is that he no longer trusts the current Nigerian Military or their troops on the warfront in his state.
Again, we can excuse Gov. Shettima’s thoughtless request for the nepotic posting of military officers to Buhari.
But when he admitted publicly in the media that President Buhari rescued 20 of his LGAs from Boko Haram Caliphates, the theatre Commander of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole,” headquartered in Maiduguri was Major Gen. Lucky Irabor who led the onslaughts. Gen. Irabor is from the South-South. I just can’t understand how some Nigerian leaders think!
Shettima evidently can’t effectively govern his state, as Chief Security Officer. But feels he can dictate how the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Buhari or the Nigerian military should run its internal deployments.
I am sure Shettima now knows how difficult it is to administer a state, much more an entire country. Leadership self-discipline should now restrain him from making fluid and embarrassing requests on security.
If Gov. Shettima wishes to create another wing of Boko Haram to add to the existing four, its entirely his business. But I don’t think President Buhari is that lame to grant such potentially dangerous requests on security.
If Gov. Shettima after nearly eight years as Governor has suddenly realized himself, let him learn some lessons from his obscure predecessor, Ali Modu Sherrif. These frivolous requests on security are apt testimony that Shettima and Borno elders have not learnt enough lessons from Sheriff.
Or probably, they have ulterior motives on some fresh agenda they want to execute in connivance with a set of political actors who are walking hard to truncate and reverse the victory against terrorism. Are they the promoters of the resurgence of Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast? But President Buhari is ready to deflate them in words and actions.
Dikko is a public affairs commentator based in Abuja.