The recent massacre of at least 30 innocent Nigerians — men, women, and children — at Auno village, about 16 miles from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, by an emboldened Boko Haram, is further proof of the hollowness of the Federal Government’s claim that it has vanquished the radical Islamist group which has stood toe to toe with the Nigerian military establishment since 2009.
According to reports, the victims of the latest attack were caught off guard as they slept in their vehicles at a military checkpoint, having been prevented from entering Maiduguri by soldiers apparently enforcing a 4 p.m. curfew put in place as part of a series of measures to deter Boko Haram. However, after barring the motorists from entering Maiduguri, the same soldiers had shut down the checkpoint and then proceeded to spend the night in the safety of Maiduguri, thus leaving the hapless motorists at the mercy of any prospective assailants. The incident of soldiers abandoning their posts during curfews has been a recurrent pattern since the latest spate of Boko Haram attacks, and seems to confirm public fears that the Nigerian military is no match for the terrorists’ fire power.
It would seem that President Muhammadu Buhari’s advisers accurately relayed to him the level of public anger at the latest attack, as he cut short his trip to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, where he was attending an African Union (AU) Summit for African heads of state, and flew straight to the location of the attack. While this may have been the right thing to do, the president’s appeal to community leaders and assurances at the scene that his administration was “taking steps to ensure improvement in security, nationwide,” and that “the military will work harder to deal with the insurgents” have understandably been greeted with skepticism by commentators and the general public who rightly point out that exterminating Boko Haram was the cardinal promise of the Buhari campaign for the presidency in 2015. As a matter of fact, and as if to underscore the emptiness of the president’s promise, the terrorists attacked Jiddari Polo on the outskirts of Maiduguri just hours after Buhari’s visit, setting several houses ablaze.
The manner of its handling of the Boko Haram terrorism is representative of the Buhari administration’s slapdash approach to its constitutional duty of providing for the security of life and property of every Nigerian. When this administration is not playing down the threat posed by the militant group, it is inflating its efforts to combat it, thus basically shillyshallying with the lives of ordinary people in the northeastern part of the country. It is clear that if something is to give, President Buhari (for the buck stops at his table) must come up with a clear and workable plan to defeat Boko Haram. Nigerians are tired of hearing platitudes such as “As our armed forces continue to receive more hardware and intelligence to counter our current security challenges, the remnants of Boko Haram will ultimately be crushed.” The problem with ‘ultimately’ is that, ultimately, we are all dead. Nigerians do not want Boko Haram defeated in the distant future. They are tired of the killings, the maimings, the abductions, and the burnings. They want President Buhari to redeem his campaign pledge of wiping out Boko Haram. Not ultimately. Not in the future. But now.