When, on January 1, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari made one of his rare addresses to Nigerians, he harped on the insecurity situation in the country, insisting that the war against insurgent groups like the Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers, will be tackled head-on.
A few days later, on Friday, January 8, to be precise, the Defence Minister, Magashi Salihu, reiterated the President’s stance when he said that the year, 2021, has been earmarked as the year the insurgents would be wiped out of Nigeria.
Quoting Buhari, Salihu said:
“This is a year of action and we will finish what we are doing.”
As laudable as this claim may sound, Nigerians have not forgotten the many times President Buhari and his aides, including the Service Chiefs, have promised Nigerians that they will flush out the terrorists by taking the war to them in their hideouts.
Recall when the Chief or Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tanko Buratai, told Nigerians that the Army had flushed out the Boko Haram insurgents from the Sambisa forest base and that the territory would be used as a training base for the military.
He even presented Buhari with a flag he claimed belonged to the Boko Haram sect, as well as a praying mat and Koran he said belonged to the leader of the Boko Haram sect, Abubakar Shekau, whom he said had fled when the military closed in on him.
Also not to be forgotten are the many times the military had announced that they had killed Shekau, only for the terror king to come out and say the claims were false.
There were also times the President’s aides, especially the Senior Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, and the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, had told Nigerians that the Boko Haram sect had been ‘technically defeated’ or ‘magnificently decimated.’
But the insurgents have continued to hold sway, attacking communities and killing Nigerians with reckless abandon, leaving Nigerians wondering whether their President is really in tune with the situation on ground or just depending on what his Service Chiefs tell him.
In this expose, we bring you 10 instances where President Muhammadu Buhari and his egg-heads have told Nigerians that the Boko Haram insurgents would be, or have been defeated.
1. When Buhari was campaigning for the presidency in 2015, one of his major pursuits was a promise to take the war to the Boko Haram insurgents. Before then, the terrorists were having a field day, striking at will, bombing communities and kidnapping residents with reckless abandon.
At a point that they held sway in some local governments in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Zamfara States, imposing their laws and collecting taxes.
During the run up to the 2015 polls, Buhari had derided the Jonathan administration several times, calling him a weak leader who did not have the guts to tackle the insurgents. He vowed to defeat Boko Haram by leading from the front as a retired military officer and providing the Army with better equipment, more training and more accurate intelligence.
Indeed, in the wake of the abduction of students from the Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, Buhari had said, “if the government of President Goodluck Jonathan had deployed the same resources to fighting Boko Haram as it had to political ends, the Army would have rescued the more than 270 schoolgirls abducted by the extremist movement in Chibok.”
This was a clear indictment on the Jonathan administration, and many Nigerians had hoped that Buhari would lead from the front as promised.
He also blamed the military’s inability to overwhelm the insurgents to the then administration’s refusal to provide them with the manpower and equipment needed to fight the insurgents.
He particularly had very harsh words for the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who he accused of tagging the Nigerian military as cowards. He said:
“The fact that the Nigerian military is labeled as cowards by the National Security Adviser is professionally most unfortunate.
“I, as a retired General, and a former Head of State, have always known about our soldiers. They are capable; they are well-trained and patriotic and always ready to do their duty to the service of their country.
“You can bear witness to the gallantry of our military in Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur and many other parts of the world, but in the matter of the insurgency, our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to tackle this problem.
“The Jonathan government has not made any effort towards a multi-dimensional response to this problem, leading to a situation in which we have become dependent on our neighbours to come to our rescue.”
He also claimed that if he was elected, he would finish off the insurgents in less than six months.
“Nigeria will return to its stabilizing role in West Africa and no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service.
“We will defeat Boko Haram in six months. We will give our soldiers adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work with. We will improve intelligence-gathering and border patrols,” Buhari said.
2. While still on his campaign train on February 26, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari made another promise to tackle the Boko Haram menace, singling out the threat of the militant group as the biggest problem facing the country.
In an interview with the BBC, Buhari said he needed the co-operation of other countries to tackle Boko Haram more quickly.
He had said he remained fully confident that by the end of the year, the “Boko Haram’s ability to attack, seize, ravage and hold any Nigerian territory will have been completely obliterated.”
Speaking at an event where the Commander of United States Africa Command, Gen David Rodriguez, had pledged the donation of military equipment to the Nigerian Army, Buhari said that with greater support from his “administration in terms of improved training, equipment, logistics and welfare, the Nigerian Armed Forces would be well positioned to meet the December deadline which we had given to end the Boko Haram insurgency.”
“We must thank the United States of America for sending training teams and equipment to us. The positive results of our collaboration are evident.
“Structured attacks by the insurgents have reduced and by the end of the year, we should see the final routing of Boko Haram as an organized fighting force,” Buhari had said.
3. At his inauguration on May 29 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari once again pledged that he would defeat Boko Haram and deliver greater security. He said his administration would attack the insurgents with all its might and force them out of the country and the territories they were occupying in Nigeria.
He promised to lead from the front and take the fight to the insurgents and chase them out of the country in three months.
“My promise to Nigerians is that the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents will be given the greatest attention. I will lead at the front as a retired Army General, and in no time, they will be history,” he had said.
4. On April 2, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, in an address to the nation shortly after he was declared winner of the presidential election, said that Boko Haram would soon know the strength of his government as well as Nigerians’ collective will.
Speaking in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, Buhari said his government would “spare no effort” to defeat the terrorist group.
“Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and the commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace.
“We would spare no effort in tackling the insurgency. We have a tough and urgent job to do. But I want to assure Nigerians and the international community that the menace of Boko Haram will soon be a thing of the past as we will defeat them before December.”
5. Again, on July 22, 2015, President Buhari made another promise to defeat Boko Haram within 18 months.
In one of his rare speeches, Buhari said that Boko Haram would be defeated within 18 months as the country had acquired enough armory to take the battle to the insurgents. This promise came on the heels of the World Bank gifting the country a whopping sum of $2.1 billion in loans meant to rebuild the North-East that had been devastated by the sect.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Buhari said the militants would be routed with the help of troops from Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger as part of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, which he said would be ready to launch operations at the end of the month.
“We are going to deny them recruitment. We are going to deny them free movement across borders. We are going to deny them training. We are going to deny them receiving reinforcements in terms of equipment.
“My government had made a solemn promise to Nigerians and we have not reneged on that promise of defeating Boko Haram. The past government did not show commitment to the fight against the insurgents but my government is committed to the fight and I promise Nigerians that we will free this country of the menace of the terrorists in no time,” Buhari had said.
6. On August 13, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari had a meeting with his newly appointed Service Chiefs – General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin , Chief of Defence Staff; Lt-General T.Y. Buratai, Chief of Army Staff; Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff, and charged them to defeat Boko Haram within three months.
While addressing the Service Chiefs, Buhari said:
“The activities of these misguided groups and individuals have resulted in wanton destruction of lives and properties of our citizens as a disruption of socio-economic lives of millions of Nigerians.:
“You need to brace up and continue to team up with other stakeholders to come up with a well coordinated joint effort which will bring a desired end to these insurgencies within three months”.
7. On November 28, 2018, President Buhari once again reiterated the fact that Boko Haram elements had been defeated and decimated. Speaking on behalf of the President, the Coordinator of the Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, announced that the Nigerian Army had decimated the potency of the Boko Haram terrorists in the North Eastern part of the country and that they no longer had the capability of attacking any part of the country because they had been pushed out of the country.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Enenche said the “initial delay in tackling the menace made it to gain momentum, taking over territories and setting up administrative structures before they were knocked off in 2016 by the military.”
He insisted that the “open display of powers and authority by the Boko Haram members no longer existed in the North East,” as “no single district or community could be said to be under the control of the insurgents.”
“The issue of bombings that even spread to other places like Abuja, Kano, Niger and Kogi States, including their slipper cells, no longer exists.
“What about suicide bombing, which is one of the signs of terrorism? It was rife and even at our checkpoints, they would come and detonate bombs as well as public gatherings; all these have been nipped properly.
“If you put all these together, I can tell you that terrorism has been checkmated. However, the signs are still there with isolated action here and there; common with terrorism,” Enenche had said in the interview.
8. On May 1, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari gave the Nigerian Army another three-month timeframe to end the Boko Haram menace.
In an address to the military, Buhari tasked members of the Armed Forces not to be caught in the web of complacency in the battle against Boko Haram, asking them to end the menace of the terrorists in the North-East in three months.
While hosting the Yobe State Governor, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, in the State House in Abuja, Buhari warned the troops against complacency in the defence of the nation’s territory, saying they must ensure that terrorists no longer find any part of the country habitable.
After the meeting, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, who addressed the press, said the President gave the charge while receiving a briefing from the governor on the security situation in his state.
Adesina also said that Buhari was satisfied with the giant strides of the armed forces in the fight against insurgency which he said had been defeated, “technically.”
9. In 2018, three years after he was sworn into power, President Buhari, yet again, made another solemn promise that he would defeat Boko Haram in three months.
He reiterated the promise he made in 2015 before and after he was sworn in when he frequently assured Nigerians that he would stop the insurgency.
In an interview he had with the BBC, Buhari said:
“Our government will bring to an end the menace of Boko Haram terror that is plaguing the society in the next three months. Nigerians are turning into refugees in their own country and we are committed to ending insurgency in the country and make Nigerians who have been displaced to go back to their homes and communities.
“What we have saved from the fight against corruption and leakages, we will invest heavily in the fight against the insurgents.”
10. On January 8, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari, once again, made the solemn promise that his government would tackle the Boko Haram insurgents to a standstill this year.
Giving a timeline to end the war against Boko Haram and banditry in Nigeria, Buhari said the counter-insurgency war would be finished this year, as he called for prayers for the Nigerian military to enable them to end the war against the insurgents.
While promising to end the war against Boko Haram this year, Buhari said he was not happy about the killings happening in the country, adding that it would soon be over.
He pointed out that the security apparatus would be strengthened to enable them overpower the insurgents, insisting that the war on the insurgency would end before the year runs out.
Where we are
The charge to annihilate the terrorists, no doubt, remains a daunting task. While it is true that a lot of effort has gone into prosecuting the war, it is clear that there is a great deal of energy also being deployed to shaping the war narrative. How far this gone to reassure the populace is still a matter of conjecture.
With the President committing his administration to ending the insurgency this year end, it would seem there is a rekindling of hope in returning peace and stability to the country.
Until then, the realities on ground, which have been attested to by nearly all the governors of the north-east and north-west, suggest that insecurity remains the greatest challenge facing their administrations.
By Isaac Dachen
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