Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum has, in the last couple of years, risen to become a poster of what Nigerian governors must be and how elected government officials must always intervene on the side of the people. Rather than sit in the comfort of the Government House, shooting out orders, Zulum goes to the theatre of conflicts and becomes a participant in the resolution of crises in his state. He has thus received kudos across board for being a government official who knows his onions. However, like every man who has their price, Zulum’s Achilles’ heel seems to be flippancy. When he flips his words, Zulum overshoots.
A few weeks ago, the governor yielded to the mundane push of party-ism and got Nigerians shocked to their marrows. Zulum had told a disappointed world that the rate of insurgency during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reign was far higher than now. He gave the shocking comparative analysis while playing host to some northern elders of the Arewa Consultative Forum in Maiduguri who, incidentally, had paid him a visit in respect of the over 40 rice farmers who were beheaded.
The comparatives had yet to subside when Zulum again visited Jakana, a major town along Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, last Monday. He had visited the town as a result of the abduction of 30 travelers in the state. In Jakana, the governor was quoted to have said that he was disappointed that majority of attacks within the last two years were as a result of the military’s inability to properly secure the people. He went further to state that he had discovered that routine attacks on the people took place between Auno and Jakana which was a distance of about 20 kilometres and wondered why the army was unable to secure this short stretch of distance.
There is no doubting Zulum’s proactive disposition to governance, as stated above. His unusual courage is manifested in the number of times he had escaped death while embarking on his peripatetic voyages in and out of Maiduguri. These voyages are embarked upon to safeguard the welfare and security of his people. However, Zulum failed woefully on the comments emanating from this visit to Jakana. This is as a result of his failure to acknowledge that those soldiers who secure Borno and the rest of the volatile parts of the Northeast, are made of flesh and blood, like every mortal. Someday, we will have the benefit of knowing the actual casualties of the Boko Haram war and we will all realize, to our utter shame, that these poor soldiers deserve every support, every encouragement we can muscle up in their favour. It is only families of the fallen soldiers who understand or feel the calamity that is currently afoot in that troubled war area.
With the above in mind, Zulum should not have made a sweeping condemnation of those fighting compatriots. I imagine how downcast, how miserable, with their humanity diminished and ego punctured, those soldiers were after the Chief Security Officer of Borno State defoliated them and rendering them naked, with the flipping of his lips. While the governor had every reason to feel for his people, especially against the backdrop of the recent incident of the 30 kidnapped passengers, he ought to have taken cognizance of the emotive implication of his words. He should rather have left such reviews to journalists and public analysts and let the military establishment handle the punitive aspect of whatever inadequacy he noticed. But he spoilt everything with his verbal attacks.
All of us owe our fighting forces, from commander to the rank-less rifleman, due duty of care. We must not do anything that will demotivate or discourage them. Some of them have been on that tour of duty for three, four years. Rain and sun, they are there, dodging bullets and bombs, shooting at the enemy and the enemy shooting back at them. While governors and the governed savoured the sumptuousness of Christmas on Friday, they were there in the trenches, warding off the evil of the enemy. Happy New Year will meet them again on January 1. We must not compound their woes with such bad words as uttered by Zulum. He can do better.
Leaders are often advised to be taciturn in their presentations because words are like eggs; the moment they are broken, they become irretrievable mess for the speaker to grapple with. That is the lesson of Zulum’s unfeeling attack against patriots inside the trenches fighting to keep the enemies of Nigeria – Boko Haram – at bay. While Boko Haram insurgents fire salvoes against them to break their morale and splinter their resolve, their own governor also fires rockets of indiscretion at them, thus making of them victims of double assaults. It is a bad one that should not happen again.
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