By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Matthew Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, north west Nigeria, appears to have drawn out the anger of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, with his speech ‘’a nation in search of vindication’’ on Channels Television on Friday, December 25, 2020. He had accused the Katsina state born Nigerian President of ’’nepotism and institutionalising northern hegemony in his government by reducing others in public life to second class status’’.
In his emotional outburst, he had said that ‘’there could have been a military coup if a non- northern Muslim was the President of Nigeria. He was emphatic when he said that there are s many things which the Nigerian President had done and gotten away with it which no non-Muslim Nigerian President would do a fraction of it and the military would fold their arm and watch him remain in office a longer than necessary without throwing him out.
The Nigerian President may not have found Bishop Kuka’s speech funny. This is evident going by the reaction of Lai Mohammed, the minister of Information and Culture, barely 48 hours after the Cleric made the explosive speech on Channels Television. In his apparent reaction to the Cleric speech, the minister who may have spoken the mind of the Nigerian President had warned religious Leaders in the country ‘’to refrain from stoking the members of hatred and disunity’’.
The minister who has the ear of the retired army General, and who could not hide his feelings had said that religious Leaders of all religious divide have a responsibility ‘’to speak truth to power’’, insisting that such truth must not come in trapped anger, hatred, disunity or religious disharmony’’. He noted that why religious Leaders may not be able to disguise their national Leadership preference, they should’’ refrain from stigmatising the Leader they have never supported in any way to bring to power by using disproved allegations of nepotism or whatever’’.
The Kwara state born Politician who had issued a Statement in response to Bishop Kukah’s accusations of nepotism against Buhari, had said that whatever challenges the country may be going through’’ at this critical time in its 60 years of independence could only’’ be tackled when all the Leaders, both political and religious come together to do so’’.
He stressed that ‘’the practice of engaging in name –calling and finger-pointing was one that should be discouraged by all Nigerians’’ of political-divide. He may have come hard on the fiery Cleric when he said , ‘’ calling for a violent overthrow of a democratically- elected government , no matter how disguised such a call is or describing any particular religion as violent is not what a religious Leader like Kukah should engage in a season of peace’’.
He may have sent a signal to ambitious officers in military uniform and ‘’those instigating them that regime change outside the Ballot box was not only unconstitutional but a call for anarchy’’. The minster’s emotional outburst against Bishop Kukah, was a clear indication that the government was out to deal decisively with any religious Leader, of the likes of Bishop Kukah, who dares opens his mouth too wide to criticise the government of any wrong doing.
While Mohammed, the minister of Information and Culture had said that ‘’it is graceless and impious for any religious Leader to use ‘’ the period of Christmas which is a season of peace to stoke members of hatred, sectarian rife and national disunity’’, the Abubakar Shekau led Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of West African Province of West Africa, ISWAP , may have seen it as an opportunity to carry out series of attack in the north east and north west flash point states.
Take for instance, the Shekau’s heavily armed men had proceeded unchallenged and attacked four villages identified as Debiro, Tashan Alade,, Trgitu and Shafa, within Hawl and Shaffa local government area in the sourthern part of Borno, home state of Tukur Buratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, on Saturday, December 26, 2020. The BokoHaram insurgents, according to an eyewitness account had entered into the four Borno villages , triumphantly with 10 Toyota Hilux vans, shooting sporadically, to scare the people away, to enhance their looting of food items from the communities, as they set their houses ablaze.
Given the looting of food items by the hungry insurgents to sustain their operations, in the north east state of Borno , particular, may have informed why farmers in the remote villages the state have resorted to storing their harvested food items like rice, in rented stores in Biu local government area of Borno because of the presence of military personnel.
The insurgents were said to have been launching series of attacks in the state since last Thursday including gransacking Chibok village, where 276 female students were kidnapped in 2014, during the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan. They were said to have also attacked Garkida, community in Adamawa, home state of Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President and Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019, Presidential election, bordering southern Borno.
Note that the north east insurgents who may have spread to the north west in the guise of Bandits, terrorising the people, may have climaxed their operation in the region with the abduction of 344 Government science school, Kankara boys in Katsina state, on December 10, 2020, though rescued on tThursday, by the military, on December 14, 2020, were said to have killed one Zarkari Ya’u Idris, the village Head of Madaka in Rafi local government area of Niger state. The Madaka village Head was said to have been killed by the abductors after about one week of the family not meeting up their financial demand. The abductors , the Value News was informed had demanded for N800,000.00 which could not be met by the family.
Informed sources told The Magazine that four other persons abducted alongside the Niger state Village Head were said to have been released to their families after they had paid their own ransom. In the last one week, Magazine was informed, the Bandits operating in the Bangida home state have been terrorising the people of Rafi local government. Report has it that no fewer than 10 persons have been killed , with about 33 others abducted in the local government.
Recall that on December 25, 2020, being Christmas day, Apostle Emmanuel Bako, Chairman of the Petecosalt Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, in Kaduna state and his wife, Cindy and another member of the PFN, were kidnapped by gunmen in Jema’a local government area of the state.
Samuel Aruwan, the state Commissioner for Internal security and Home Affairs, had said that the unidentified gunmen were able to kidnap Apostle Bako, the wife and a member of the Fellowship because they were able to penetrate the Albarka Praying Camp of the PFN, Aalong the Afana-Fadan Kagoma Road and started shooting sporadically to scare the worshippers.
The kidnap of the PFN, Chairman, in Kaduna state, may have informed why Lawrence Ekwok, the PFN, Chairman, in Cross –rive state, south –south Nigeria, to describe ‘’ the security situation in the country under the Buhari egime as very terrible’’, confirming what John Onaiyekan, the Kogi state born Archbishp Emerritus, of the Catholic church of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, had said that ‘’no one is safe in this country’’.
Aware of the low morale of the soldiers deployed to fight the insurgents in the north east geo-political region, Buratai, the Chief of Army , may have improved on his working relationship with the troops. He was said to have visited the troops deployed to the 27 Special Force Brigade in Buniyadi, Yobe state, where he was said to have had a special Christmas luncheon with the soldiers.
The army General was said to have assured the troops of the Military Authorities support to successfully conduct their operations to contain the activities of the insurgents who are terrorising the people. He may have gladdened the heart of the soldiers to end insecurity in the north east when he reassured them of the Buhari Administration’s Commitment ‘’ to the welfare of all officers and men of the Nigerian army.
‘’We will continue to re-evaluate the welfare package s of the army to ensure they meet the best standards and practices internationally’’, he had said. The CAS, who is very happy that the troops deployed to the north east states curtail the activities of BokoHaram and IWAP siege have ‘’demonstrated Professionalism, Courage and determination in the discharge of their Constitutional duties in tackling numerous threats, had asked Christians’’ to pray for the country to overcome its various security challenges’’.
Bashir Salihi Magashi, a retired Major General and minister of Defense had said that’’ there is need for peaceful co-existence for Nigerians of all religious divide especially now that ‘’the country faces the challenges of insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities to defeat the menace’’.
There is no gainsaying the fact that over 30,000 people have been killed and nearly three million others displaced in the north east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe , particular, in a decade of BokoHaram violence in the country. That much was confirmed by the United Nations ,UN, office for the Coordination Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria. Going by the report of the UN Refuge Agency, violence by BokoHaram has affected 26 million people in the Lake Chad region and displaced 2.6 million other people.
Security watchers believe that if the Nigerian President had kept to his promise on assumption of office in 2015, ‘’to defeat Boko Haram insurgents in the north east of the country by providing the troops with better arms and ammunitions , more training and more accurate intelligence’’, the insecurity situation in the country could not have degenerated as bad as it is today.
Recall that the Nigerian President had said that that’’ if the government of the then President Jonathan had deployed enough resources in fighting the insurgents, the military could have been able to rescue the 276 Chibok girls kidnapped in April, 2014.
. The security experts would want Buhari to do that which the former Nigerian President could not do as he was never an army General with any Professional experience in fighting wars to do so by defeating the insurgents and the bandits making life uncomfortable for the people in the north east and north west respectively using his military background as a retired army General and former military Head of state.