The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Oby Ezekwesili, says President Muhammadu Buhari has not been an ‘effective’ Commander-in-Chief in handling security challenges the country is facing, especially the Boko Haram insurgency.
The former minister of education and solid minerals made the comment Friday when she visited PREMIUM TIMES.
“The president has not been an effective Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. He has not been! We cannot have any group whatsoever by whatever name feel this level of freedom to operate in our territory without the decisiveness of action that would end these monumental tragedies that we face all the time,” Mrs Ezekwesili said.
Reminded Mr Buhari was a war general, Mrs Ezekwesili, a former Vice-President of the World Bank, retorted, “I don’t know about titles. I know about productive and effective leadership. You can bear any title you wish but what I am interested in is, has the president been an effective Commander – In -Chief? I think if we put this in a public debate, the majority of Nigerians will say no…”
At least 118 soldiers and officers were killed when Boko Haram terrorists attacked Nigeria’s 157 Task Force Battalion in Borno State on November 18.
Military insiders also told PREMIUM TIMES that 153 soldiers remained missing in action as of Saturday morning, nearly a week after the incident.
Those killed in the attack include the commander of the battalion, whom PREMIUM TIMES identified on November 20 as a lieutenant colonel.
Despite widespread condemnation and mourning that greeted the killings, the military has so far failed to explain what led to the loss of such a high number of troops in one attack.
Rather than give details of the incident and what it is doing to curtail further attacks, the Nigerian Army devoted a large part of its statement to bashing the media.
“Whilst it is true that there was an attack” on the Nigerian Army 157 Task Force Battalion on November 18, 2018, it has “become necessary to correct several misinformation being circulated with regards to this unfortunate event,” the Army said in a statement on its Twitter handle Friday night.
In his reaction, coming about a week after the unfortunate incident, President Buhari expressed ‘deep shock’, assuring at the same time that immediate measures were being taken to ensure that the loopholes which led to the fatalities are blocked once and for all.
He, however, advised Nigerians against making a political capital out of the national tragedy.
Outlining her plans for security and tackling insurgency during Friday’s interview, Mrs Ezekwesili said she would be the ‘best’ Commander – In – Chief if elected.
“…By the way, I need you to know that you would have the best Commander – in – Chief of the armed forces in me because what it requires is to actually care for your citizens, then you can make the calls that preserve their lives.
“Are we not today grieving the news that more than 100 of our soldiers have been killed in the frontline of battle? In other countries, they would still be mourning deeply but people have so died that Nigerians have become desensitised to death. My sadness is that the Nigerian child will actually grow up thinking its OK for people to just be killed with impunity and yet no consequence.”
She said the ‘first things’ she would do as the Commander – in – Chief would be to get a full update of all the killings in the regions, then make a technical assessment of strategies to adopt.
“I have already read what is available as a candidate so when I get there, I will simply force it on all to know there is a new sheriff in town. The enemies of our country must know that we are at a mega level of response and that it will be we setting the pace. So the first thing is going to be the technical assessment of what are our strategies towards curtailing any continuous evidence of freedom to operate. They cannot operate in the soil of Nigeria!”
The candidate also accused the ‘political class’ of turning the fight against terrorism into a money-making venture.
“We have not obviously invested the way we should and part of this is because people have created a military-industrial complex out of the terrorism situation.
“Counterterrorism has more or less become an industry for our parasitic class and because terrorism and countering of terrorism is now comfortable with the way things are, you can see clearly that our capacity to be decisive has weakened considerably.
“One of the ways to counter terrorism is to invest significantly in your intelligence asset and I know the world is waiting for us. There are ways to tackle this challenges, we are going to operate at the level of sub-regional, regional, continental and global partnerships.”
Mrs Ezekwesili, who was the co-convener of #BringbackOurGirls campaigning for the release of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, will be contesting the 2019 presidential election alongside dozens of other candidates.