The one thing President Buhari has gotten mostly right since assuming office is the security situation in the North East, to the point where bombs going off is news.
It wasn’t always like this.
Throughout 2013 and 2014, most people resigned themselves to daily news of attacks in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, but since coming to power last year, those attacks have gradually dwindled, enabling something like normalcy to return to Maiduguri.
Convocation ceremonies, football matches, aeroplanes taking off and landing, people celebrating holidays in the open – all the things that are taken for granted in a non-war zone came back.
In a weird way, then, Wednesday’s blast which killed eight and wounded fifteen people is a sign of how far the city has come since June 2015.
Last December, President Buhari announced a technical defeat of Boko Haram. This was widely criticised, but the evidence since then has largely held up. The capacity of the terrorists to carry out attacks has become weaker, and most of the headlines out of the North East this year has been about the continued captivity of the Chibok Girls, and the growing humanitarian disaster regarding internally displaced persons.
The government’s handling of both has left a lot to be desired. While several thousand people have been freed from terrorist captivity, the administration has failed to display the necessary empathy and communicate effectively about their efforts to rescue the Chibok girls, efforts that have been affected by a split in the terrorist group.
However, the conditions of the internally displaced persons has been the most damning indictment. Reports of the food meant for them being stolen and sold has led to women trading sex it, and thousands of children dying of starvation with many more at risk of a similar fate. This is despite the huge financial aid that has poured into the area.
While all this is going on, another bomb went off yesterday, a reminder that even the improved security situation can be put at risk. Like a hydra headed monster, one problem resurfaces while others are receiving attention.
There is a need for the Federal Government to work closely with private security companies that will extend its surveillance reach and bring attention to threats. As it stands, the resources of the Nigerian Army are overstretched. There are currently military deployments in 30 of 36 states. A formal partnership with private security companies will improve the intelligence at the disposal of the government, and enable them to act quicker, with more precision, and save lives in the process.
Insisting on doing everything themselves is a recipe for failure. Since Boko Haram are not a conventional military force, it only takes a small cell to cause major casualties. While terrorists can blend in with the population, avoiding detection and waiting for the perfect moment to strike, the military are more obvious.
There have been several suggestions that the terrorists are only regrouping in order to launch a series of attacks. In addition, both the leaders of the rival Boko Haram factions – Abu Musab al-Barnawi and Abubakar Shekau – remain at large.
This is not over yet.
Not even close.
That should keep every Nigerian awake at night.