EXCLUSIVE: Borno Traditional Chief Blows Hot on Insurgency, Says Military Lack Strategy, Slams Buhari

Alhaji Zanna Hassan Boguma is the Zanna Boguma of Borno and the State Project Coordinator Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation (YESO). At the same time, he is also a member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), as well as that of Northern Elders Forum (NEF). In this exclusive interview with AREWA AGENDA’s Bello Shehu Adamu, the Zanna Boguma speaks on the Buhari administration, recent attack on the convoy of the executive Governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, in Baga, counter insurgency/military operations and sundry youths and security matters in Northern Nigeria.

Arewa Agenda: Sir, what is your take on the recent attack on the Convoy of Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum in Baga?

Zanna: Well, the attack on His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Borno State Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, FNSE, MNI, in Baga is one of the most unfortunate incidence that has ever happened in the history of Borno, but unfortunately as many have seen, the attack was a mastermind and it was presumed not to be from Boko Haram insurgents though the military have debunked it, but whatever the case, it is very unfortunate that a whole state Governor will be attacked on his way to Baga by so called dreaded Boko Haram insurgents. I think the insecurity in Borno had been here for over ten years, and Federal Government have been trying their best to see that insurgency is brought to an end but unfortunately there are a lot of issues that need to be properly taken care of. One, the escalation of attacks by the Boko Haram on soft target, two the issue of kidnapping on our highways, three, the systematic dislocation of communities that were living around the metropolis, all these as a result of inaptitude, insincerity and lack of will of military. As we all agreed upon, yes we appreciate the effort of military in most of their operations, but in recent times, they have lapsed and a lot need to be done by them to maintain their integrity.

Arewa Agenda: Based on your submission, do you think the military should restrategize their ongoing war on insurgency?

Zanna: Well, our military is rated as the best in terms of discipline and training before the insurgency, but unfortunately, because of the lots of issues that where in the operations, the military are now lacking in strategy, because the strategies they have adopted has never worked and it will never work. Counter insurgency operations from my knowledge of strategic military operations and with what we have seen in other clime is really in the strategies that were maintained by the military. One, you cannot just take away military from communities and gather them in one place in the name of Super Camp, these insurgents were scattered about, the bandits in the Northwest and North Central are scattered about, so what need to be done is proactive approach to countering these menace of insecurity and insurgency in these regions. What military need to do is to adopt the strategy adopted by Iraq in fighting ISIS when they decided to chase ISIS out of the communities they have taken over. Equally, there are other places where we have seen rebels fighting Government, where we have seen insurgents fighting for no reason but because of the new strategies that were put in place, these insurgency, banditry and other criminal activities were contained. So therefore, our military must redouble their effort, they must have to restrategise, they must have to change from what they have been doing, if not, we will continue to believe that the military has an alterior motive on the operations that are going on around Northern region, particularly in the Northeast and Northwest.

Arewa Agenda: Some opine that the military lacks manpower. What is your take on the call for increased military personnel to fight against insurgency?

Zanna: Sincerely speaking, the military are overstretched, we know that. In terms of manpower they have a very low capacity and also in terms of equipment and arsenals they have dilapidated and obsolete arsenals and arms. The Federal Government need to provide for them new equipments, new weapons and at the same time also conscript into the service our youths who are stranded in the street of Nigeria and are willing to join the military, because any country whose military has lesser personnel and obselete equipment will never be able to protect the country or it’s citizens. I am therefore appealing to the Nigerian Government to atleast employ the teeming youths of this country as well as to provide for the military equipment that will help them overcome the security challenges. I know the Federal Government has boudgted so much of their 2020 and previously 2019 and 2018 budget in relation to fighting the insurgency as well as banditry in the North and crime in the southern part of the country. If these monies were properly channeled for the purchase of equipment as well as other purposes that will enhance our military capability, I am sure by now the military would have ended these crisis in Nigeria, but unfortunately there are alot of issues that is interefering with this possiblity. One is corruption, two is interest and three the nonchallant attitude of some of our people in the military particularly those on ground, especially the lower cadre. Therefore, we are calling on both the army headquarter as well this administration to assist in looking into some of the program of our personnels that are in the war front as well as in providing them the kind of weapons that they need to fight with.

Arewa Agenda: You made a statement about corruption and interest, do you think the military have been politicised ?

Zanna: well, normally in this country our military is apolitical, they don’t involve themselves in politics but politicians do manipulate them because of certain interest. Nigeria unfortunately for us is now divided along ethnicity, religion and region. So therefore, we need to have a one Nigeria with the sole aim of becoming good citizens of this country and protecting the territorial integrity of the country as well as the lives and property of all Nigerians, this has to be our responsibility as leaders. So, the military is not political but they cannot run away from being influenced by politicians.

Arewa Agenda: Northerners are claiming credit for the victory of President Buhari in the polls, but says they are yet to see positive results from him in the Northern Region. How would you react to that?

Zanna: as far as Nigeria is concerned Buhari only appointed our sons into positions but they haven’t done enough in terms of development. Northerners are allowed to be killed at will but nobody is doing anything. General Buhari, yes! We northerners voted for him, the massive votes that came out from North was the reason why he is President of this country now. Equally, at our own level, our forum, the Northern Elders Forum worked hard for Buhari to become what he is today. Because we went up to America to influence the United State’s Government to support the cause of change in Nigeria, we did that. The Northern Elders Forum sent a delegation which I am also part of, we went to Washington, we met with all those that matter in America from Department of State to that of Justice to all other Agencies of Government, we spoke to them about insecurity, we spoke to them about corruption in this country of which Buhari is always talking about, but unfortunately, Buhari in five years hasn’t done anything to remedy the situation the previous Government was accused of. So therefore, we are calling on him to atleast turn the torch back to the North because North is where he belong and North made it possible for him to become President. As Northerners we are still looking up to him to do something because he has another three years to go, so in these three years he can do something about the North and change the Northern perspective of development so that we can call him as a leader that he is and remember he was capable of doing something for us.

Arewa Agenda: Has the Northern Elders Forum ever sent a letter of advice to the President on how to tackle insecurity in Northern part of the country?

Zanna: Our leader, the late Ambassador Maitama Sule of blessed memory went with a delegation of Northern Elders Forum to Mr. President when he became the president, they congratulated him and advised him at the same time gave him in written all that he need to do to steer the leadership in Nigeria. Northerners are key in anything in this country, Northerners kept the unity of this country, Northerners kept the peace of this country. If not for us the Northerners and for our efficience and resilience by now Nigeria would have broken, but the Northern Elders Forum met with President and he promised them that he is going to look into their problems, but unfortunately nothing has been done. Equally, Professor Ango Abdullahi, the current leader of Northern Elders Forum had severally spoken with Mr President on the issues that is now bothering around insecurity, corruption and lack of development in the North and had even went out of his way to talk harshly on some of the problem, but unfortunately up to this moment all these were not heeded. It is still not late, the President can make good of some of the advices that were given to him. North is where he came from, though he is a President of Nigeria and at the same time as a Northern President of Nigeria he has to atleast do something on ground so that people can say yes, this is what Buhari has done for us in terms of development. If you talk of development go to the southern part of this country and see what he has done for them, right from the southwest up to the southeast and southsouth. Unfortunately when you come up north, nothing was done except for the railway that we have seen from Abuja to Kaduna and at the same time some of the Federal roads that are now been constructed. When you’re coming from Kano to Maiduguri you can see how dilapidated the road is. Buhari promised to revamp the River Niger, Buhari promised to end the insurgency, Buhari promised to also recharge the Lake Chad; so many things he has said, he has promised, but unfortunately up to this moment we are yet to see these promises fulfilled.

Arewa Agenda: If Buhari fail to tackle the insecurity in Northern part of the country are you going to campaign for another Northerner or align with a Southern candidate to take care of what he failed to do?

Zanna: Well, our prayers is that Buhari in the next three years will tackle these problems; that is our prayer. You cannot tell what will happen in the future, but for now, we are still optimistic that Buhari can do something about this country, because Nigerians have hope in him, the common man has hope in Buhari, but unfortunately what is happening is opposite of the hopes that we have in him. If you could remember two years back the Northern Elders Forum had a Security Summit and an Extraordinary meeting was called, we went to Kaduna and met. We issued a communique and from the communique, the Northern Elders Forum had told Buhari categorically that; the Northern Elders Forum or anybody from North cannot come out next time to tell Northerners to vote for Mr. A or B because of what they have seen, especially if things were not changed. So positively, we hope Buhari will change and positively, since Buhari is now on his last lap in Government, the next President may come either from APC or any party. Our hope is that he can do better than what we have seen now.

Arewa Agenda: Maiduguri was a deadzone before. With the reduction in cases of bomblasts, will you say it is an achievement for this administration?

Zanna: Really, there is improvement. Maiduguri metropolis and it surroundings were secured but you cannot move away 5km from Maiduguri without been attacked by Boko Haram. This is also something that need to be seen as serious, but in 2015, 2014, 2011 the thing is more prevalent than now. This is an achievement quite okay. We are not saying that the military hasn’t done anything, but the military too are overstretched as I said it. The number is not enough to contain the magnitude of problems in and around Nigeria, because in the Northeast there is Boko Haram insurgency, in the Northwest and Northcentral there is Banditry and kidnapping and what have you, in Southsouth there is Problem of kidnapping and so many problems. So, Nigeria is bedeviled with alot of problems, the only thing now that remains is for the military to atleast restrategize and be proactive in their approach of fighting all these menace, and the Federal Government should do something about it, because though we know Federal Government is really releasing funds; we know that, but we don’t know where the funds are going. If funds were released to fight Boko Haram insurgency and you find a military having not much equipment to fight we know the money has gone somewhere. Therefore we are calling on our top military bras and commanders as well as Federal Government to do something quickly so that peace and security can return to this country.

Arewa Agenda: Finally, what is your call on youths in the country especially with regards to peace and unity?

Zanna: there is nothing like having peace and security. That is why Borno is called Home of Peace and Hospitality before the Boko Haram insurgency, many people were coming to take Borno as their second home, because of the existence of peace and tranquility in the state, anybody can come and stay in Borno and do his business without been molested or harassed but unfortunately this problem came. I am calling on our youths to imbibe the culture of peace, to imbibe the culture of togetherness and unity because this country belong to all of us, we cannot at all accept dividing this country. I call on our youths to be self reliant as well as to be good citizens of this country. Nigeria is our country, we don’t have any other country to call our own. So we must have to stand firm, stay firm and salvage this country together for future generation to live happily.

Arewa Agenda is a Publication of Young Writers from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives.

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