Once more, Shettima’s word versus Army’s
When you hear two contradictory versions of a situation report [what soldiers call Sitrep] from two different but equally authoritative sources, which version do you believe? That was the dilemma of Nigerians at the weekend when Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima and Chief of Army Staff Lt General Tukur Buratai gave contradictory accounts of Boko Haram terrorists’ remaining grip on Borno State.
Speaking in Maiduguri when he received a Federal Government delegation, Shettima praised the military for freeing most of Borno State from the terrorists’ grip. He however said, “They (Boko Haram) are presently controlling two local governments in Borno State, Abadam and Mobbar and they are partially in Marte.” Shettima added, “At some point, Boko Haram overran 20 out of our 27 local government areas in Borno State. They overran four local government areas in Adamawa and two in Yobe.” Seventeen and a half local governments freed out of 20 is not bad, you will think.
Not so if you are Buratai, the hyper-active Army Chief who has been running all over the North East pushing his men to uproot Boko Haram once and for all before the presidential deadline of December. When reporters accosted the Army Chief at the 3 Armoured Division headquarters in Jos on the same day and asked him if indeed Boko Haram still controls some LGAs in Borno, Buratai said, “It is not true. No Boko Haram is holding any territory. Have you heard them (Boko Haram) making any claims of late? We are more determined and we have more professional soldiers on the ground. We have been trained and equipped and ready to face the challenge posed by them.”
Between the governor and the Army boss, who do we believe? Fortunately, there is a record to fall back on. Back in 2013 Governor Shettima told Nigerians at the State House, Abuja that Boko Haram insurgents were better armed than our troops, hence their ability to overrun territory in three states. The Jonathan regime reacted angrily to Shettima’s claim. They said it was not true; they withdrew the governor’s military escorts; they closed down Maiduguri airport to everyone except Ali Modu Sheriff; and Jonathan even threatened to withdraw soldiers from Borno “to see if he [Shettima] can stay in that Government House.”
Well, what happened? Last August when the service chiefs were changed, they began to sing different tunes during their handing over ceremonies. Both Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh and Army Chief Kenneth Minimah said when they were leaving that the army lacked enough equipment and training to defeat the insurgency. Exactly what the governor said two years earlier and they rebuked him for it.
So, General Buratai, history is not on your side in this matter. A civilian governor has many sources in his state. The Army too has sources but when this kind of dispute arises, it is better for its intelligence officers to go back and do a recheck. The soldiers are trying, but they should argue less and try more.