Forces behind Zulum’s outburst on Nigerian military


In the first week of December, when 43 rice farmers were killed in the little town of Zabarmari, Borno State; the state governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum betrayed his rare side when he acknowledged that the attack is only a setback that should not be used to asses the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s efforts on security.

Records of the security situation in Borno State according to Zulum, have shown that citizens are better off security-wise under the Buhari administration than the previous administration.

The hovernor said this is because records taken from 2011 from the 27 local government areas of the state indicate clearly that Buhari has still performed better in the handling of Borno’s security challenges. 

He said, “We now have citizens led by our traditional rulers safely back to Bama, Gwoza, Askira-Uba, Dikwa, Ngala, Monguno, Kukawa, Damboa, Konduga, Mafa, all of which no one could visit not to talk of living there.
“Our emirs were all in exile. Today, Bama is coming back to life and so is Askira-Uba, Damboa, Gwoza and others. Life is even returning to normal in Baga. This was impossible before Buhari.”

But less than two weeks after Zulum made that sincere statement, his other side came to the fore. The Governor, this week, came hard on the military blaming the armed forces for the abduction of over 30 travellers on the Maiduguri- Damaturu road.

He said, “I am really disappointed that despite all support from both the federal government and from us in Borno State, our military is failing to secure an area of 20 kilometers, which is the distance between Auno and Jakana. “So, if the military cannot secure 20 kilometers, how can they keep us with the hope they will defeat the Boko Haram?” he said while berating the army for not being visible on the road.

The two contradictory statements depict how Zulum, through his verbal diarrhoea, has consistently been inconsistent and constantly flip flopping from one extreme to the other when it comes to acknowledging the efforts of the military in his state.

While the two statements appear contradictory, the fact is that it is a self-induced case of bipolarism for political gains. One cannot fail to notice that shortly after Zulum made the comment commending the Buhari administration and by extension the military and the current set of service chiefs for the good job they’ve been doing in the last five years, his godfather, the former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, to whom he owes his political ascendancy, came out smoking hot the very next day to berate the military and to call for the sack of the  service chiefs.

And in the bid to put an icing on the cake, Shettima added the needless line, that President Buhari is no god.

As Shettima was roundly being condemned over the statement, Zulum who won the hearts of many by making the earlier comment adjugded to be fair on what the military had achieved under President Buhari did a volte-face. The governor used the opportunity of a recent attack on Damaturu- Maiduguri road to support his godfather by unwittingly relapsing into criticising the military by blaming the military for the attack.

Fact is, Zulum knows the truth, that the military is doing a good job of securing citizens in Borno and other parts of the country but he cannot sustain the point because his political godfather feel he must act otherwise.

Shettima and the rest of the political heavyweights in Borno are not happy that someone from the state is doing so well and has won the heart of the President and the people by leading the war against insurgency and terrorism successfully from the front.

In the queer mindset of people like Shettima, all top political positions in the state and from the state should be reserved for members of only a particular ethnic group and anything outside that is considered an aberration.

It is this perceived ‘aberration’ that Zulum, Shettima and co wish to ‘correct’ that theye are doing all they could to portray the military in bad light. The Boko Haram problem has become a bargaining chip for intimidating the presidency into toeing that line.

In this case, they also betrayed the ethnic card when they’ve never castigated or accuse the National Security Adviser whenever there’s a breach of security in Borno State though most of those incidences could have been avoided if there had been more of intelligence gathering.

As far as Shettima, Zulum and co are concerned, claims of ethnic superiority trumps over the bid to save lives and property which the military is doing. 

So it is not surprising that Zulum’s godfather, Shettima,  always calls him to order each time he tells the truth about Boko haram and you see the govenor running today a different thing the next day.

It has become an open secret that any time Zulum commends the military and fails to play the ethnic card,  he is quick to do a recant as Shettima would threaten him with withdrawal of his ticket for 2023.

Further to that,  Shettima has been a big beneficiary of the Boko Haram crisis that he is not keen on seeing an end to it. It was Boko Haram that shot the man that won the governorship ticket of the defunct ANPP before the ticket  was handed over to Shettima.

When Shettima governed Borno, he was able to corner the funds meant for local governments because Boko Haram had helped to make it impossible to conduct elections in the LGs hence are administered through appointed proxies with no accountability.  This he wants to continue under Zulum for obvious reasons. 

Prof. Zulum, unlike Shettima is yet to shake off the grip of his godfather predecessor who likes to pretend that he does not interfere in running the affairs of the state. In trying to keep up the Shettima pace, Zulum has within one year committed many blunders in his dealing with the military. 

In January, he accosted military men on check point duties and accused them of extorting money from travelers thereby embarrassing the military to dismantle checkpoints along the route which led to serious security problem that people began calling for the head of Zulum. 

A month after when there was an attack on Auno, near Maiduguri, Zulum accused soldiers of abandoning residents at the mercy of Boko Haram insurgents alleging further that soldiers meant to secure the community deserted the people.

Now he is saying that the military is not visible on the Maiduguri- Damaturu road as if he knows anything about security and counter-terrorism operations.

He seems not to realise that the days of mounting sentry are over as soldiers visibly placed on roads have constantly been attacked and killed.

The governor at a time even threatened to mobilise hunters and vigilantes to recapture Baga all in the bid to ridicule the military. 

But with the liquidation of over 2000 insurgents within three months no one can accuse the military of being sloppy.

That military operations in the Northeast have been succesful is contained in the fact that in more than 300 instances, the military has either repelled, killed, captured or destroyed the camps of the terrorists. 

Zulum has been a big beneficiary of military operations in Borno as he has on three occasions been saved from harm by the military. That such a man would open his mouth to badmouth the military is the height of ingratitude.

Dodo is a public affairs analyst and wrote this piece from Jalingo.

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