“We have done our best and will continue to do more by pursuing consistent and consistent policies to combat terrorism. I hope God will hear our prayers,” Buhari said in January this year.
Rather than pray Buhari was given the chance to end the salad of violence in the country, he chose not to. Rather by encouraging divisive tendencies and making controversial statements, he widened the landscape of violence that had hitherto been relegated to the Northeast.
He was unable to put down the insurrection in the Northeast. Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) operating in the Lake Chad region continue to inflict terror on soldiers and innocent citizens in Borno and Yobe states.
Since 2015, Boko Haram has murdered countless civilians, continues to kill soldiers, capture their equipment, behead their captives and launch frontal attacks on Maiduguri and other towns in the region. A Danish Immigration Service report from June 2020 noted that “Since its inception, ISWAP has carried out numerous attacks in Nigeria.
In 2017-19, the group, for example, carried out attacks on Nigerian troops and military bases, and on at least two occasions successfully captured towns in northern Nigeria. In February 2018, the group abducted 110 Nigerian schoolgirls, and in March they abducted three aid workers in an attack killing dozens more.
Freedom House, in 2021, published its annual report on political rights and civil liberties in 2020. The group warned that “Boko Haram continued to attack government forces and civilians in 2020. In March, Boko Haram killed at least 50 soldiers in an ambush at Yobe. State.
In November, more than 70 people in Borno State, mostly farmers, were killed by Boko Haram fighters in an incident the United Nations called “the most violent direct attack on innocent civilians in Nigeria this year”. The Council on Foreign Relations reported that Boko Haram was responsible for 2,720 deaths in Borno State alone in 2020, compared to 1,136 in 2019.
ISWAP, according to the Freedom House report, “also attacked government officials and civilians in 2020. Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum (an ally of the President) was targeted by the four-party group occasions during the year, surviving a July attack on its convoy, two attacks in September and an attack in late November. ISWAP was also blamed for an attack in Borno State that killed up to to 81 people in June, as well as twin attacks that killed dozens more days later.
The president and his media team insist, however, that “when the government came to power, the terrorist group held and administered an area the size of Belgium. Now they don’t have any.”
They fail to tell Nigerians that a 2015 offensive by the Nigerian military and its neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger helped regain all lost territory and that presidential elections were held in all local governments in Borno and Yobe states, won by Buhari.
Former US Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell observed on March 24, 2015 that “Since the postponement of the national elections from February 14 to March 28, the Abuja government has apparently reclaimed most of the territory in the northeast of Nigeria which had been lost to Boko Haram. Of the major towns once captured, only Gwoza appears to remain under Boko Haram control.
Abuja categorically denies that South African, Ukrainian and Georgian mercenaries were involved in the fighting, although he acknowledges the presence of foreign technical advisers. However, the New York Times and the Voice of America reported a large presence of mercenaries.
The dystopian situation went beyond Boko Haram and ISWAP. Violence exploded and took hold in all regions of the country.
Uche Igwe, Senior Political Economy Analyst and Visiting Fellow at the LSE Firoz Lalji Center for Africa, described Nigeria’s anomic state under Buhari when he noted in a January 2021 analysis: “Citizens barely sleep with both eyes closed due to terrorism. , banditry, kidnappings and ethno-religious violence spreading from states like Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna.
In recent years, he has observed that “the once quiet Abuja-Kaduna highway has been described as a road of death due to the increasing number of daily kidnappings of travellers, including security guards. Rampant criminal herders continue to attack, rape and kill unarmed civilians, especially women, across the country.
In December 2020, around 344 schoolchildren went missing after gunmen attacked a school in Kankara near Katsina, the president’s home state. Although the jihadists claimed responsibility, the boys were later freed through military intervention, presumably after a ransom was paid. Many ungoverned spaces and jihadist settlements continue to thrive. Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka described the country as a war zone.
The Sultan of Sokoto, a spiritual leader of Muslims, believes that northern Nigeria is the worst place in the country to live. This post came as the vocal Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, highlighted the horrific and inhumane conditions of a child born in the area. For many, life in Nigeria quickly resembles a Hobbesian state of nature – mean, brutal and short”.
In late March, an Abuja-Kaduna train was attacked in Katari, Kaduna State. More than a hundred passengers were seized from the train and a dozen killed. The attack announced the complete helplessness of the Buhari administration to secure Nigerians.
In Niger State, terrorists have virtually commandeered the authority and influence of the Nigerian state, killing, maiming and raping at will. Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello warned in April 2021 that terrorists were not only annexing territories in his state, but also “confiscating” villagers’ wives, noting that “Sambisa is several kilometers from Abuja, but Kaure is only two hours drive from Abuja, so no one is safe anymore, not even those in Abuja”.
“If nothing drastic is done about the current situation in the country, there will come a time,” said Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, “where even the presidential villa and other government houses will be taken by terrorists. They are already closing in on us and we seem helpless.
Corruption is business as usual
In early May 2015, newly elected and awaiting swearing in as president, Buhari asserted: “I want to say here that the problem in Nigeria is not ethnic or religious, it is corruption. That’s what we’re fighting, that’s why corruption is number three in my campaign.
His constant campaign promises to kill corruption led many to believe that Buhari was going to engage in corruption ruthlessly. “That doesn’t appear to be the case,” the former national security official said. “People are invited by the EFCC and come out a few days later to stand for a public office.”
As for the President’s oath to kill corruption before it kills Nigerians, the reality is that nothing has changed in any way. It’s still business as usual. Corruption, noted a 2019 Konrad Adeneur Stiftung report, “permeates all levels of society, from high-level politicians and officials to security forces, business people and the country’s poorest citizens.
It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria has found itself in the bottom quarter of Transparency International’s “Corruption Perceptions Index” for many years. In 2018, the country was ranked 144 out of 180, alongside countries like Comoros, Kenya and Mauritania.
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In the 2020 index, Nigeria fell five places, ranking 149th. The country fell five more places in the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index released in January 2022, scoring 24 points out of 100 and ranked 154 out of 180 countries.
“There has been a very pronounced tendency in this government,” said the retired diplomat and security officer, “to react and counterattack. Everything is considered criticism, especially when the facts of the opinions put forward do not match the stories they spread.
Now, I think that particular trend is unfortunate, because it’s not one that has allowed the government to really feel the pulse of the nation. The thing is, even though the government is in denial, you talk to people, you’re going to observe the phenomena we’re going through and if you really care to look at the statistics, we’re clearly doing a lot worse than where we were in 2015 .”
The North in bad shape
“During his campaign rallies, Buhari paralyzed northern states with crowds packed into the streets every time he made an appearance with youths banging drums and chanting ‘Nigeria Sai Buhari,'” noted Sada Malumfashi in Africa Postponement.
Seven years later, Malumfashi postulates that the “Nigeria Sai Buhari” bloc is losing faith. Sectarian confidence in the Nigerian President is diminishing due to negative economic impacts and broken campaign promises”.
Northern Nigeria is a huge landmass. Just as it is ethnically diverse, the region is also religiously ecumenical. The voting system has never been monolithic and no party has been able to seize power in the country by winning only majority votes in the region.
Political divisions exist in the region, particularly between the predominantly Muslim “northern core” and the predominantly Christian middle belt. Because religion is the main tool of mobilization in the north, these divisions turn from time to time into political and ethnic violence.
Buhari, who had publicly portrayed himself before 2015 as a zealous defender of northern interests, was expected to end the various conflicts and resulting violence. He failed. Large parts of the northwest have become ungoverned territories devoid of state authority with bandits and terrorists in de facto power.
Since 2015, the north has been at war with itself, with thousands dead and thousands more kidnapped for ransom. While figures from part of the region who support Buhari have been rewarded with juicy political positions, this has not translated into economic growth or helped boost investment in a reeling region.
“I was in Lagos two or three weeks ago, the first since 1967 and I saw how the commercial activities of Lagos have transformed. I have come to the conclusion that all the wealth of the nation is in Lagos State. But, when you come back here, all the poverty in Nigeria is in the northern part of the country,” the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumin Kabir Usman, noted in March.
The World Bank, in a February 2020 report, estimated that 87% of all poor people in Nigeria reside in the northern part of the country.
Buhari’s seven years in power have not translated into significant growth or development for the region. On the contrary and despite its construction as a northern candidate, it has been a trinity of heartbreak, tears and pain for the region once considered the country’s political powerhouse.