We’re grateful to you, but we are not happy

By Bala Ibrahim

Last week Wednesday the 29th of July 2020, almost exactly 11 years after the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, in the same month in 2009, the Governor of Borno State, Professor, Engineer, Babagana Zulum, narrowly escaped death when his convoy was attacked in Baga on his way to visit some Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs. The attack was repelled by the security men in his convoy, but there were casualties on the side of his entourage.

Enraged by what happened, despite the countless assurances given by the military that Baga is safe, in a video that has gone viral, Zulum confronted the Commanding Officer in Mile 4, where he openly expressed his disappointment at the inability of the military to flush out the insurgents from the area. “You have been here for over one year now, there are 1,181 soldiers here and 75 0fficers, yet we cannot enter the town that has not more than 10 Boko Haram. If you cannot take over Baga, which is less than 5 km from your base, then we should forget about Baga,” Governor Zulum said to the Commander.

The believe by the Governor and many people is that the attack was not by Boko Haram. Everything about it makes it look too suspiciously against the military, who have been in a cold war with the Governor, because he once accused them of compromising and compounding the problem of the people through corruption. Sarcastically, the Governor told the Commander, “We are grateful to you, but we are not happy.”

Boko Haram insurgency began to go ugly when in July 2009 the Nigerian military captured Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of the sect, at his parents-in-law’s house and transferred him to the custody of the Nigeria Police, who summarily executed him in the public glare, outside the Maiduguri Police Command. Since then, peace eluded the north east in particular, and virtually the whole of Nigeria in general.

If Governor Zulum had lost his life in that attack, God forbid, apart from God himself, no one can predict the reaction s that would have followed. Because, like the spiritual followership enjoyed by Mohammed Yusuf, Professor Zulum too has a huge and near fanatical political followership, due to his patriotism, genuine concern and unalloyed devotion to the cause of his people. 

Since assuming office as the Governor of Borno state, Professor Zulum, who is believed to have come to power through divine intervention, has endeared himself to the people because of his compassion and willingness to make sacrifice for his people.  

While some, particularly the critics, may see him as a populist politician, who strives to appeal to the ordinary, whose concerns are mostly disregarded by the establishment, Zulum has made a name for his cognitive, emotional and compassionate empathy. These, cannot be taken away from him, even by those planning to eliminate him.

Going by the law of sacrifice, which says that, you cannot get something you want without giving up something in return. Which means, in order to attain something you believe is of greater value, you must give up something you believe is of lesser value. Zulum made it categorical to the military that, as far as he is concerned, as far as representative responsibility is concerned, the lives of his subjects are more important than his own life. Therefore, in his determination to free his people from the grip of terrorism, he is ready to lay down his life. “It’s either we kill them, or I get killed. So, we are grateful to you, but we are not happy,” he said.

In using the phrase, the Governor has spoken the minds of many, not just about the performance of the military in the north east, but the performance of the government in the country.

There is no denying the fact that the military has done well, very well. But everyone, except the President, is of the believe that they could do better, or even at excellent level, if the process of career progression, especially as it affects the position of the Service Chiefs, has been permitted to operate professionally.

Climbing the ladder during the service life of every officer is a legitimate ambition. Moving forward, being promoted to the peak of service is the dream of every soldier. Finding and confronting new challenges is not just a passion, but the legacy everyone wants to achieve in the course of his or her career. Attaining the position service chief is the target of every officer. If that dream is frustrated, the mind may be tempted towards working at variance with virtue. 

In the fight against insurgency, Nigeria has witnessed tremendous improvement under Buhari. The country has made progress, real progress. Those of us in the north, particularly the north east, cannot but say a big thank you to Mr. President. Gone are the sounds of bomb blasts in our cities. Gone are the sand bags and check points on our roads. Gone are the scanners and security personnel, who regularly frisk our body in search for hidden weapons.

But still like Professor Zulum said, and as far as the Service Chiefs are concerned, “We are grateful, but we are not happy.”

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