Terrorist group, Boko Haram, this week abducted over 100 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe state. Hours after the first report of the abduction emerged, Nigeria’s military authorities issued a statement confirming that the girls were kidnapped but had also been rescued. For many, it was a moment of relief and other emotions mixed in – anger that the kidnap should not have happened in the first place; pride in the supposed swift response; commendation for the quick admission and empathy shown by government officials; and a measure of satisfaction that there was a shift in experience from what transpired in the immediate aftermath of a similar abduction in 2014. All of those positive emotions have now however been replaced by a combination of disappointment and disgust on finding out that the military simply reproduced a statement from its legendary playbook anchored on a primitive rule – deny everything until you can no longer deny anything.
In the space of 72 hours, the tale of rescue of the abducted students has turned out to be a total farce, throwing parents of the kidnapped students into misery and dejection from realising that not only is the military unable to protect their wards, it similarly has no scruples fabricating reports about a rescue mission that never took place. To expect such parents or indeed any other conscionable citizen to hope in the abilities of the military to rescue the girls would be to ask for too much.
Just like the 2014 abduction of over 200 girls at Chibok Secondary School in Borno state – about 100 of whom are still held captive by Boko Haram – the complicity of the various stakeholders is beginning to unravel. The only noticeable difference is that the present government admitted the reality of the kidnap earlier than the past government did. It is however distressing to think that the Dapchi abduction happened two months from the 4th year anniversary of the kidnap of the Chibok girls. These abductions, like the many that have been recorded in between those four long years, reflect a truth that the government repeatedly fails to admit which is its unwillingness to do all that is necessary to ensure the safety of the average Nigerian. That truth has many subsets and one prominent one is that the government and the military have been very economical with the truth about their anti-terrorism efforts.
“What is dead may never die” is a common saying that elicits the response “but rises again harder and stronger” in a popular movie series and those two phrases come to mind thinking about claims of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration on defeating Boko Haram and fighting corruption. Regardless of the many spurious pronouncements of technical defeat of the Islamist sect, it has remained potent, striking at many places it has supposedly been cleared from. The group’s leader has been supposedly mortally wounded on many occasions by the account of the Nigerian Army, but he keeps resurfacing in Youtube videos that one cannot but compare him to an unburnt night walker. In the light of the new abductions, one really must wonder how a group that had been defeated and whose leader had been killed musters enough logistical clarity to successfully raid a school and make away with over 100 students in presumably multiple vehicles in a region that is supposedly under sufficient security watch.
The Nigerian Army has had its counter-insurgency operation – ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ – in the north-east for at least 3 years and is yet unable to establish adequate intelligence framework to detect an abduction plan of the Dapchi scale before it is implemented or muster a response squad to prevent a successful operation or ensure an immediate rescue. It leaves one to wonder what exactly the military command has been doing in the region since it gained overwhelming ground over Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest and its connecting topography.
Just as the government’s claims of defeating Boko Haram have fallen flat, so is the anti-corruption posturing being shown for what it is – ineffectual showmanship. The initial zest that attended investigating and prosecuting corruption suspects has been replaced by a dour permissive atmosphere. Persons with ethnic and political affiliations to the president have been overlooked, even exposed and in some worrying cases, treated as sacred cows. It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria slipped to 148 from 136 on the Corruption Perception Index for 2017 published by Transparency International this week.
The worsening perception of corruption in public administration is a clear indictment on a government that repeatedly committed itself to killing corruption before it killed Nigerians. While it is uncertain that the administration will be replaced at the 2019 general election, an audit of this government, whenever it occurs, will likely unearth just as much filth, if not more, as that revealed about the past administration.
The Buhari administration came into office with a promise to defeat Boko Haram and tackle corruption. Its victory over Boko Haram was expected to be signalled by the rescue of all the kidnapped Chibok girls, by Buhari’s admission in his inauguration speech. Seeing that Boko Haram has rather carried out more abductions including that of security operatives and school girls, the administration needs not be told it has failed in that regard just as it has failed to match action with expectation in fighting corruption. There are indications the president wants a second return but if the things he claimed to have destroyed are returning stronger, there is hardly much to hope for in his own second coming.