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Buhari’s 1st Foreign Trip: The New Initiative Against Boko Haram

The approach of the Buhari administration must not put all its eggs in one basket as far as the war on terrorism in the country is concerned

It is significant that President Muhammadu Buhari’s maiden trip outside the country after less than a week of his inauguration is in connection with the problem of insurgency in the country. It, no doubt mirrors the depth of his concern for the problem which Boko Haram has constituted in the past few years and which has also intensified since his assumption of office.

The Islamic extremist group had intensified its attacks on selected targets in some North East cities since Buhari took over as President of the country, perhaps to serve as a warning to Nigerians and to the new political leadership in the country, in particular, that the change of government would not affect the hitherto furious tempo of Boko Haram’s evil campaign. On Tuesday June 2, 2015, there were series of suicide bomb attacks in Maiduguri in which not less than 20 people were killed. There had also been series of less catastrophic attacks before and after that of Tuesday. On Thursday June 4, 2015, Yola, Capital of Adamawa State, which had for some time experienced some relief from Boko Haram attacks was visited by the death messengers. More than 30 persons were killed by an explosion which ripped through the bowels of a busy market in the town.

It left tears and anguish in its trail. This was, perhaps, what made Buhari’s trip to Chad and Niger, Nigeria’s neighbours in the Northern flanks, not only necessary but urgent. His mission was to seek the support of the two countries towards quick and permanent elimination of insurgency which has developed into a major problem for countries in the West African region.

His meeting with leaders of these two countries explored fresh initiatives towards ending terrorism in the region. Both countries assured President Buhari of their support and collaboration in the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram. These assurances are a welcome development. So also is the decision to strengthen the Multi Nation Joint Task Force that is prosecuting the war against Boko Haram.

It now has Major General Yusuf Buratai, a Nigerian, as its commander. But we must recall that the idea of seeking the help of other countries in the region against Boko Haram is not an innovation of the new administration in Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan visited these countries at least twice for the same purpose. This initiative led to a conference of leaders of Nigeria and other French speaking countries in the region hosted by France in Paris in the heat of the country’s ordeal in the jaws of Boko Haram in 2014. The countries promised him as they did to Buhari recently of their willingness to help. But not all of them kept that promise to the letter.

That is why the approach of the Buhari administration must not put all its eggs in one basket as far as the war on terrorism in the country is concerned. But we must commend President Buhari for the pride of place which he has promised to give to the war against Boko Haram and which his recent initiatives have amply demonstrated. But we advise that the administration does not rely unduly on the help from our neighbours which, in some cases, suffers on the altar of other domestic political expediencies more dear to them than the fight against a group that is more of a Nigerian problem.

Therefore, while perfecting the multi-nation military approach to help in the war, we suggest that the Buhari administration also takes very drastic steps within the country to redirect the attitude of the Nigerian military high command to the war against Boko Haram. Such steps must address the problem of equipment, motivation and discipline of the fighting forces. The obvious lack of needed military equipment, poor level of motivation and lack of discipline among the soldiers were part of the constraints that gave Boko Haram the advantage in various fronts of the battle in the past.

The process of equipping the soldiers adequately for the war which was started by the Jonathan administration must be continued. It is the best way to sustain and even increase the tempo of success that was recorded towards the end of the Jonathan administration. We also believe that a negotiated resolution of the problem is a possibility under the administration of President Buhari. The group, like most other Nigerians, hold him in high esteem. That was probably the reason it nominated him to represent its interests in a proposed peace talks with the Federal Government about two years ago.

Buhari turned down that nomination and the negotiations did not take off. We suggest that, in addition to whatever the military is doing to end the war, the Buhari administration should explore the possibility of a dialogue with the insurgents as part of the new initiative for ending insurgency in the country.

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