The five years of Muhammadu Buhari as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have been marred by worsening insecurity, especially in the Northern part of the country. The recent kidnapping of over 300 secondary school boys and slaughtering of dozens of farmworkers by Boko Haram has further heightened the insecurity across the country.
Upon assumption of office in 2015, Buhari raised the hopes of most Nigerians, owing to his many promises to turn around the fortune of the country. Defeating the incumbent government of Goodluck Jonathan marked the end of 16 years of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rule.
Apart from endemic corruption and economic crisis that held sway during his time, security was also a major challenge under Jonathan. For instance, terrorists had a field day bombing places of worship, attacking military bases, and overrunning many villages. At the time, many communities in the northeastern part of the country were taken over by the insurgents.
These recurring crises made Nigerians look for a messiah in President Buhari, who came to power in 2015 amidst joy, relief and fanfare.His three cardinal programmes were clearly stated in his manifesto – to wage war against corruption, transform the economy and tackle insecurity. His rich credentials as a retired Major General of the Nigerian Army and one-time military head of state made many people believe he was up to the task, especially in securing the country from its many years of insurgency.
Unfortunately, during his first four-year term, the insecurity in the country went from bad to worse, further degenerating during his second term since May 2019.
Under his watch, asides the dreaded Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) insurgent groups, various other notorious sects have also become more emboldened in terrorizing the country. They include so-called ‘bandits’ who go about kidnapping people for ransom, rustling cattle, displacing villagers, and sometimes, maiming and killing their victims.
The recent events in Borno and Katsina States are some of the worst attacks in recent months. On November 28, at least 43 farmers were killed by Boko Haram fighters while working in their farmland in Zabarmari community, Borno State. The attackers tied up the rice farm workers before slitting their throats.
Before then, in September, the same militant group had killed 22 farmers in two different incidents, while working on their irrigation fields near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
While the country is yet to recover from the gruesome Zambarmari attack, the jihadist group struck again on December 11, kidnapping over 300 secondary school boys in Kankara community of Katsina State. The gunmen had besieged the all-male Government Science Secondary School on motorcycles and went away with hundreds of students. The event echoed the Chibok Girls abduction in 2014, when the same Boko Haram sect had kidnapped more than 270 girls in an all-female secondary school in Borno State. Approximately 100 of the kidnapped Chibok girls are still missing.
While a few of the boys escaped from their abductors, the majority of them were held by Boko Haram for days before they were released on Thursday, December 17.
Under his watch, asides the dreaded Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) insurgent groups, various other notorious sects have also become more emboldened in terrorizing the country
The Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out to discourage western education, a narrative the deadly group has held on to since its formation and enshrined in its name; Boko or book (western education) is Haram (a sin).
In an audio message about the attack, Shekau said Western education is against the tenets of Islam. With this ideology, it is not surprising why the extremist group has made schools some of its major targets.
Issues with insecurity are not limited to the north. Pockets of violence have also sprung up in the southern part of the country. For instance, farmer-herder conflicts, which are sometimes very deadly, have grown to a crescendo in the past five years under Buhari’s watch. The same can also be said of kidnapping and various ethnic agitations.
There have also been worsening cases of police brutality, especially by the recently disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), when EndSars protests many young protesters were reportedly killed and properties vandalized. The group’s name, originally set up to tackle armed robbery, is now synonymous with violence and even extrajudicial killings.
Calls For Change
To douse the tensions across the country, several calls have gone to President Buhari to reorganize his security set-up by sacking his long-serving service chiefs. Despite annual increase in allocations to defence, more Nigerians are being displaced, kidnapped or killed in gruesome manners.
There are several allegations of soldiers being under-equipped and disorganized in the fight against insurgents. Apart from the general public, the country’s two chambers of the National Assembly have also made the same call to relieve the security heads of their duty. In recent time, the Senate has made up to three resolutions on this.
Unfortunately, the President hasn’t deemed it necessary to do so. From the police to the military, the entirety of the country’s security outfit has been enmeshed in various human rights violations. A recent report by the Amnesty International showed that at least 10,000 civilians have died in the custody of the Nigerian military since 2011. There are also several cases of tortures, extortions, and extra-judicial killings by the Nigerian Police, which were the major reasons for the recent EndSars Protests.
From the police to the military, the entirety of the country’s security outfit has been enmeshed in various human rights violations
At least 36,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram and ISWAP since the jihadist conflict began in 2009. Around 2 million people have also been displaced, causing many Nigerians to take shelters in different internally-displaced persons (IDP) camps across the country, while many of them have run to neighbouring countries like Cameroon, Niger, and Chad.
President Buhari has three more years to round up his second time in office in 2023, as hopes rise daily for a better-secured country. Unless pragmatic approaches to change are made, Nigerians country-wide might just be in for a more daunting, rougher ride for the next three years.
President Buhari’s inability to protect the lives of Nigerian citizens has badly affected his rating across the country. Though he would be constitutionally ineligible to seek re-election in 2023, his performance as the first president produced by his political party the All Progressive Congress (APC) could be the undoing of the party’s next flagbearer.[Header image: Ehimetalor Akhere, Unsplash]