Thursday, July 28, 2022



Ayo Olukotun

"You can't imagine what is going on in Abuja. I went through DSS Report. 44 reports were given (to the authorities) before the attack on Kuje Prison."

Hon Idris Wase, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives,

Nigerian Tribune, Wednesday, July 27, 2022.


Shocking as the revelation quoted in the opening paragraph is, it is not the first time that the intelligence community would send distress messages to the authorities and they would either be ostentatiously ignored or sidestepped until the tragedy alluded to actually occurs. Intelligence is not just what the Department of State Services write up in their reports but includes such alerts as were raised by the Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Bello, two or so years back that Boko Haram had gained footholds in his state and had even hoisted their flag. As far as this columnist recalls, there was no official response to that information except in the Senate where some senators even shed tears, shouting their heads hoarse, that the country was fast losing the battle to terrorists. One of the concerns at that time was that Niger State is extremely close to Abuja and that this meant that Abuja was within striking distance of Boko Haram. In the same vein, the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El Rufai had warned serially that Kaduna is being slowly submerged by terrorists belonging to Islamic State in West Africa Province and other Islamic militant groups. I do not recall that decisive action had been taken with respect to El Rufai's heads-up.

Go farther back in time and recall that during the tenure of a former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, the Secretary to Government, a Professor, lamented that they had sent tomes upon tomes of the activities of the bandits to Abuja but had received little or no response. There are other examples but the point to be established is that there is nothing new in the successive non-response of our security bureaucracies to intelligence reports as mentioned by Wase. As they say in public administration, non-decisions are also decisions. So, those who are pretending to be surprised by this frightening trend may only be shedding crocodile tears, especially now that Abuja is increasingly besieged. To make that clearer, schools are being closed down. The recent graduation at the Nigerian Law School had to be shifted to another venue and a medium reported recently that the parents were asked not to come. It is not that alone. The recent ambush by terrorists of soldiers belonging to the Nigerian Army Presidential Guards Brigade, which came upon the heels of the waylaying of the advance party of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is indeed an ominous sign of how uncertain matters have become. But are we just knowing that insurgency and terrorism escalate and go from bad to worse unless they are tackled with determination? If terrorists attacked the Kuje correctional facility and there were gunshots fired for several hours with little or no resistance, are these terrorists not passing the message that they are increasingly in control?

In several articles in this column, I had drawn attention to various aspects of terrorism in the hope that those who have the mandate to respond would do so. For several years, these strange invaders, including the Ansaru who cleverly embedded themselves into communities acting as friends and patriots, only recently showing their hands when they issued an order that electoral campaigns should be stopped in Kaduna State. Stranger than fiction, we may say, but those who have the responsibility to have acted before now may know and may need to tell the nation why they failed to do so. Similarly, I have frequently lamented that the political class is fixated on elections without first securing the minimal conditions of holding elections in a perilous season such as the country is currently in. A good chunk of the political class may be conveniently chloroformed or has chosen to be self-chloroformed, but the citizenry, thankfully, are not. One notices that in their reactions to the ultimatum given by minority leaders in the Senate to Buhari on Wednesday as well as threat of punishment, presidential spokesmen took turns to lambaste the senators. I hope they enjoyed writing those pieces, but for goodness sake, is the scoring of debating points the overriding issue that Nigeria faces now?

On Wednesday, Sunrise Daily Channels Television, a security expert, Ladi Thompson, warned that the terrorists Nigeria is currently dealing with are extremely sophisticated and crafty and that we need to have our wits about us in handling them. Their sophistication, according to him, may include stirring up trouble, operating in the interstices of a corrupt and compromised country in order to gain leeway. Was anyone listening to Thompson's warnings and admonitions? If our leaders were listening, they are yet to show the kind of acumen required to collate the facts and appropriately respond. More so, as no punitive measure had been meted concerning the ease with which the terrorists gained access to Kuje, spent at least 15 minutes in giving Quranic lectures and shared money to the inmates (See Daily Trust, Friday 8, 2022).

In many other climes, heads would have rolled the very next day that tragedy occurred. However, in today's Nigeria the authorities are apparently still investigating what went wrong. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of the politicians see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. They are overly concerned to rule Nigeria, not minding what becomes of it. Have we all been reduced to morons watching these ungainly drama go from one stage to another with only few people crying foul? One recalls that during the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, who by the way was notoriously derided as "clueless", the former President had the pluck to tell the nation that there were Boko Haram sponsors in his cabinet, at the time. These days, we don't hear anybody saying such things but we remember that the current government's assurance that they had names of sponsors of terrorism was not followed up but apparently unceremoniously buried.

I write with passion on this subject because if matters go further awry, I would not like my children to ask me a question like, "Daddy, as a columnist, what exactly did you do or say when the nation got on these tenterhooks?" If that question would be uncomfortable for me, it ought to b extremely uncomfortable for those who we have elected to lead us. Interestingly, most of the talk and goings-on regarding official responses to insecurity appear to be coming from the legislature. True, security may not necessarily be discussed in the media but if the President, as he did in June, gave an order that the victims of the Kaduna-bound train attack should be released by force, then we can at least measure efforts by results. Needless to say that the victims are still vegetating in the stranglehold of the terrorists.

My prayer and plea for all those who have the wherewithal to release Nigeria from the current straits will arise with fresh determination to consider what the verdict of history will be. If matters degenerate further, more promises will not do. It is time for decisive action.


Professor Ayo Olukotun is a director at the Oba (Dr.) S. K. Adetona Institute for Governance Studies, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye.

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