Why They Left By Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

The defections of some people from the APC have generated sensational headlines and exaggerated talk as to what their departures foretell for the APC, the party to which I belong. Some have predicted the demise of the APC. Those who hope for our decline will be disappointed by the inaccuracy of their desires. The days, months and years ahead will bury such errant forecasts for these predictions are born more of bitterness than of objective analysis.
Much of the attention has centered on which party now controls this or that state and which party maintains a majority in the National Assembly. These considerations are important to members of the political class and the electoral calculations of the political parties. But these calculations cannot be all there is. We must be careful not to reduce our horizon to a mere accounting of elected officials moving from one party to another.
“Many in the political class believe this score keeping between the parties encompasses all that is important. For such people, the mere holding of office is the sole objective. The quality of governance they provide means little to them. Yet, there are greater things at stake than the fortunes of individual politicians. The people of Nigeria focus their attention on something materially different than this narrow political game.
The people are more deeply concerned with the quality of governance they experience than with the intense cunning by which the political game is played. They are more interested in helpful policies than in the tempests created by politicians in pursuit of personal ambitions. That which provides a better life in a more prosperous nation is what beckons to them. That which shines in the eye of the political opportunist is dross to the average person.
“We must pull back from the shallow headlines to recognize that something fundamental is at stake.
Nigeria is undergoing a historic transition. Sometimes awkwardly, tentatively, yet inexorably, we nurture political and governance reform. We steadily close the door on the old malpractices that have caused a rich nation to reside in the tenement of the global poor. The corruption of the past is ending; for it must end if we are to fulfill our collective purpose. With this correction, less public money will be diverted to private benefit. More will be afforded to the causes of the people. The economy is being transformed so that the average person will have a better chance of finding a better life.
“We move toward a more democratic union. The old days where a handful of uninformed men and those with deep pockets decided everything for everybody are being swept away. The will of the people can no longer be ignored. Those who would be the masters over the people must now be public servants. A party or elected official may no longer rule over the people. They must govern for the benefit of the people.
By so doing, the arc of our national progress is shaped. Not everyone is happy with this trajectory. As a whole, the political class must relinquish some of its power and wealth so people can enjoy a more equitable portion of the national enterprise.
This is the correct and perhaps inevitable course Nigeria must pursue. To their credit, many politicians see the need for reform and even champion it. Yet, there are those in the political class who scheme against collective improvement. They seek to halt progress toward a fairer nation. They seek to hold to the old ways. The difference between the two parties and why some people returned to their PDP conclave must be seen in this light.
“This is more than competition over numbers. What rests in the balance is not whether one party has more elected officials on its roster, but which party has the right mindset and policies to reform Nigeria that she may become what goodness demands of her. We are in locked battle to define the future of this nation and the quality of its governance. This battle pits one party, the APC, with all of its imperfections, that seeks national reforms against another party, the PDP, which symbolizes the perfection of the most selfish designs of the most selfish politicians among us.
This moral battle informed the recent defections. Those who belong to that PDP mode of thought could find no permanent comfort in walking the path of progressive reform and progress. All the things we have inaugurated such as school-feeding programs for poor pupils, social security for poor families, affordable housing programs, greater access to credit for small businesses and greater access to education and health care, these things the defectors could not well abide. They detested President Buhari’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) innovation because it barred them from mis-directing funds into a maze of unaudited accounts from which they could siphon as they pleased. Buhari cut off their clandestine illicit spigot.
“These politicians see accountable good governance and lifting of the common person as the tearing down of their quest for great riches and power.
Even more so, they detested the APC drive toward greater internal democracy. They bristled when we demanded that congresses and conventions be held; they had demanded giving themselves automatic extension in their positions. They privately erupted as the APC decided that direct primaries where all party members vote on the party’s nominations should be the way of the future. The injection of greater democracy meant a decrease in their ability to manipulate end results. Politics will be ushered out of the backroom and given to the people to whom sovereignty genuinely belongs. These men could not countenance such transformation. They saw it not as the gift of democracy but as an obstacle that complicated their self-interest. They left the party to return to a motley agglomeration that would promise them what true democracy could not: automatic tickets, sharing of the national wealth and other offices and privileges.
“Their defection statements swell with high-sounding words and the attempted grasp of lofty ideals. While I shall refrain from being so coarse as to call these statements counterfeit, I must invoke a sufficient level of common sense for the protection of all. Anyone who accepts their statements at face value will quickly experience buyer’s remorse. Their attempt at fine notions aside, what compelled these people was galloping yet blind ambition.
Governor Tambuwal’s exit can be distilled to one cause. He covets the presidency. However, he had not the stomach to challenge President Buhari in a primary. Tambuwal felt further insulted that he would be compelled to face a direct primary just to retain the governorship nomination. But for the promise made by PDP headliners like Rivers State Governor Wike that he would have the PDP presidential nomination, Tambuwal would not have left. His exit had nothing to do with governance of the nation. It was about forging a personal ambition predicated on the defeat of progressive reform not the advancement of it.
“Much the same for Senate President Saraki. Returning to the PDP, he harbors dreams of the presidency but Tambuwal’s ambition will dwarf Saraki’s when the two collide. If Saraki had remained in the APC, he would be unable to reclaim his Senate seat let alone the Senate Presidency. He thus bolted because he lusts for the presidency but was promised by the PDP, at least, a return to his position in the Senate.
For Saraki to talk about lack of governance is for him to deny who he is and the position he holds. This man stands as Nigeria’s Number 3 citizen. Clothed is he in ample power and influence. If he saw areas where government and the nation needed help, he could have easily applied his energies to these areas. He could have drafted legislation and easily got laws passed. However, no progressive enactment bears his name for he cared not for progress. He has been more focused on changing the rules of the Senate to favour himself and changing the order of elections so as to coincide with his selfish designs.
“The rest of the defectors were given similar assurances by the PDP as to their offices. The APC refused to make such bargains as they are part of the ancient regime; these bargains are not of our democratic new way.
There is nothing wrong with ambition. Without a degree of ambition, we would never strive to improve and develop ourselves. But ambition, restrained by nothing but itself, is a dangerous commodity. Unwedded to social conscience, it leads to ruthlessness; it is the father of the deception that leaders are meant to lord over instead of to serve the populace.
In the final analysis, the reason for the defections is as clear to see as it is crooked in its motives. The APC seeks to reform governance and politics. However, many powerful people believe the established system assures their maximum benefit. Progressive reform would defeat them. They must fight reform and never be allied to it. Thus, they had to leave the APC.
“In a fundamental way, the APC may be better for their exit. It would be untrue to say their departures did not generate concern. As the air clears and we can better assess what is lost and gained by their exit, I can truthfully say the APC will be better off because they are gone.
We can now focus more wholly on democratic governance inside and outside the party. Inside the party, we have adopted direct primaries to discourage corruption of the democratic process. Regarding public policy, we can now better articulate our progressive stance without having naysayers among complaining that we are going too far or that the good we seek for the people ought not to be done.
We can more decisively push for the jobs program, expansion of social security for the poor, affordable housing programs and a viable mortgage system, national infrastructural program that will provide adequate power and potable water, basic health care for all, and educational reform. Each of these is important in itself. In combination, these objectives shall reshape the very landscape of our political economy. They shall bring fairness and prosperity where none has been. They will give the average person a government that serves them and the land that they deserve.
“But this prospect means a large segment of the political class will oppose the APC. We, as a party, must have the courage to accept this reality. Having decided to place the public welfare above the private welfare of the few, we must forge ahead no matter the foes aligned against us.
This struggle toward a better Nigeria is hard, described more by difficult obstacles than by smooth passages. Had reform been easy, the task would have already been accomplished. Powerful hands have gathered to halt our collective move forward. Not everyone wants a better Nigeria for all. Those who profit from the imbalances of the past are those who fear a fairer tomorrow.
Come the general election, the people will face a stark choice. If they want to relive the certain failure and inequality of the system the PDP had erected against their very interests, the people will walk the way of the defectors. If the people want to give themselves a better chance at an excellent nation they will adhere to the path elected in 2015 when they voted for reform and the APC.
“I believe in the collective wisdom of the people. They will choose the right way for they are Nigerians which means they shall do what is right and just”.


Lawal Daura: An Encounter with Intelligence Chief By Yushau A. Shuaib

It was 24 hours after the official release of my book, “An Encounter with the Spymaster” in July 2017 that I received an invitation from a top retired Airforce officer for a meeting with the then Director General of Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura.

Before the invitation, a Presidential spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu had publicly attacked the book in a press statement which he described as “an attempt to rewrite the history of the War on Terror Campaign.”

Though I was not sceptical or apprehensive about the scheduled meeting that day, I nevertheless told the retired military officer that I wouldn’t be able to attend because I was on a casual dress of Jeans and T-Shirt instead of my usual traditional attire for public outings and visitations.

The Officer countered that my dress did not matter. I, therefore joined the team comprising top retired officers from the Nigerian Airforce, Navy, Army, intelligence Services and a strategic officer. Present at the meeting were top DSS directors with the Director-General himself.

Meanwhile, that visit to the DSS Headquarters afforded me the second opportunity of a face-face encounter with Lawal Daura. I had previously met him at Heathrow Airport, London on the night of May 14, 2017, probably after he might have met President Muhammadu Buhari who was then on Medical Vacation in Britain.

Though one could have misgivings on some of his official roles, Daura naturally wears infectious smiles, decked with disarming contour of glowing white beards. The aura projected him as a harmless and innocent person who cannot hurt a fly. I walked up to him and surprisingly, he responded calmly and briefly to my penetrating questions about his office, especially on his refusal to appoint a spokesperson for his agency and other contentious issues. With reassurance, he gave what he called genuine reasons for the excuses and excesses.

That visit to his office, afforded him the opportunity to inform us about major accomplishments and some misgivings about his office. Ever-smiling, Daura was eloquent, smart and intelligent in response to some of the issues we discussed.

Daura who was sacked a few days after his 65th birthday, was born in Daura, Katsina State and started his career in the State Security Service in 1982 and rose to the rank of Director. He was once a spokesperson of the agency and Deputy Director Presidential Communication, Command and Control Centre at the Abuja. He also served as the State Director of Security Service at various times in Kano, Sokoto, Edo, Lagos, Osun and Imo States.

It’s not unlikely that some of his achievements may have been overshadowed by the many controversies trailing his tenure as the Director General of the agency. He was particularly responsible for the release of many hostages from the Boko Haram gulag. In fact, the release of UNIMAID lecturers, including a group of oil explorers and policewomen that were held captive for more than half a year could be attributed to his efforts. His agency played prominent roles in the alleged exchange of Boko Haram Commanders with many Chibok and Dapchi Girls. The agency was also directly involved in the arrest of major kidnap kingpins and top ritualists and provided intelligence to other services for such arrests nationwide.

He was also responsible for the arrest of a member of the controversial AVM John Ode Presidential Arm Probe Panel for alleged extortion on behalf of other members and for money laundering and illegal possession of firearms. The suspect, retired Air Commodore Mohammed Umar was nevertheless illegally detained for five months by DSS before he was released after a threat by Justice Dimgba.

There was also the glaring inter-agency rivalry among security agencies which triggered the DSS to submit two damning ‘security report’ on EFCC Boss, Ibrahim Magu to the Senate, warning lawmakers not to confirm his colleague’s appointment. Lawal Daura only reported directly to President Muhammadu Buhari and no one else.

It is an undeniable fact that in the three years of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the DSS under Lawal Daura has succeeded in some of its statutory mandates but unfortunately, it is notorious in defying the constitution by disobeying court orders and detaining citizens arbitrarily.

While it sounds childish the claim by political elements that the recent siege on NASS was a conspiracy between Lawal Daura and Senate President Bukola Saraki, the question on the lips of many and begging for an answer is: could the Kwara man be more influential and sophisticated than the Number One man from Katsina?

Could the same Senate President influence the flagrant disregard of court orders by DSS in the illegal detentions of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki, and a leader of the Shiite movement, Ibrahim el-Zakzaky since 2015?

Could Saraki have engineered the October 2016 dead-in-the-night invasion of homes of senior judges across the country by the DSS with the arrest of seven judges, including two of the Supreme Court who were later discharged except one that died during the trial?

Who could have also influenced the violation of a court order and forcible ejection of Former DG DSS, Kayode Are from an Ikoyi property in December 2015?

Have we forgotten in a hurry how in November 2017, the EFCC secured an order to arrest Ita Ekpeyong, a former DG DSS and this action was scuttled due to the activities of DSS under Lawal Daura and the roles he played in the saga involving Ayo Oke, the erstwhile DG of NIA?

Could another opposition element to President Buhari also used DSS to clampdown and arrest several lawmakers of Ekiti State House of Assembly in March 2016 and the invasion of the National Assembly and stealing of the Mace of the Senate of the Federal Republic by thugs suspected to have been procured by an APC Senator, Ovie Omo-Agege, from Delta State in April 2018?

On whose directive was the unconstitutional attempt to remove Governor Samuel Ortom in Benue State in July 2018 when DSS and the police provided security for eight lawmakers to take over the House of Assembly of 30 members? What about the incident in 2015 when DSS operatives raided the Government House Uyo, Akwa Ibom State purportedly in search of arms, ammunition and a huge stash of United States dollars, and which till date, no charges have been filed three years after? Whose footprints were those?

Were journalists spared the fangs of the white-bearded man? Was it the opposition that ordered Daura’s DSS to detain Jones Abiri, a journalist from Bayelsa State from July 2016 to July 2018 without being charged to court? Were the ‘wailers’ also responsible for the detention of Tony Ezimakor, a journalist with Daily Independent who was threatened to disclose his sources of information?

By the way, who could have influenced the naked display of nepotism where 51 candidates from Katsina were recruited into DSS as against 44 successful candidates from the entire South-East of five states in 2016?

Could Lawal Daura have attained and achieved some of the feats, the pros and cons without the knowledge of the Commander-in-Chief since he only took orders from one person? Or should we agree with the political permutations that his positive deeds are attributed to President Buhari while his negative actions were influenced by the ‘Sarakis’ of this world and other opposition elements?

Your Guess is as good as mine.

Yushau Shuaib

My Dear President, Let Your People Go, By @Dele Momodu

Your Excellency,

it is with every sense of love and patriotism that I have decided to write you again despite the frustration of knowing that you may not hearken to my sincere advice to you, as I have written to plead with you on several occasions, but my entreaties have been to no avail. I pray this letter meets you well in the beautiful city of London where I expect you to be resting and relaxing by now whilst waiting to undergo your mandatory physical check-up. Sir, though this piece amounts to unsolicited advice from a self-appointed Special Adviser, I wish to reassure you that you should stop banking on professional politicians who are merely using you to feather their own nests. I demand and require no gratification whatsoever other than to put it permanently and indelibly on record that someone told you the truth while the unrepentant liars took over your space and led you astray.
Before I go on, please, permit me, Sir, to take you down memory lane, from the First Republic to the present. Practically all our leaders failed, or fell, usually not because of only what they did wrong but ostensibly because of what they did not do right. Let me also establish one fact. Most of our leaders have been catapulted to power, not by their superlative might, but by divine intervention. One day, I will chronicle how providence has been responsible for the exalted position all our leaders found themselves. Sadly, practically almost all of them forgot how they reached their lofty heights and sought to personally perpetuate themselves in power, but the celestial manner of their enthronement also saw to their humiliating, sometimes tragic, downfall. Consequently, virtually all, except maybe General Abdulsalami Abubakar, were disgraced, removed or retired ignominiously or controversially. President Obasanjo who was easily the most efficient, efficacious and effervescent leader, after the brilliant and youthful General Yakubu Gowon, ended his tenure in 2007 with the reverberating hoopla surrounding his third term bid. Whether he was interested in it, or his acolytes forced him into it, all his good works would always attract that cloudy addendum. It is noteworthy, for emphasis, that no leader in Nigerian history has ever succeeded in enslaving Nigerians. We can stretch this further, by stating categorically, that no leader in the world has ever achieved absolute authority permanently. Indeed, that is a preserve meant only for God. If only humans reminded themselves constantly of this fact and their mortality!
This is the reason I wish to appeal to you once again to resist the temptation of wanting to take Nigeria back to those days of oppression and suppression. In case you need to be reminded of how much God loves you, I shall gladly oblige. When your military regime was toppled in 1985, your enemies danced on the streets. You were compared to the worst dictators on earth and many would have thought it was finished and over for you. But the ways of the Almighty are not the ways of man. 30 years later, the same Nigerians who rejoiced over the collapse of your military junta, in their collective wisdom or stupidity or amnesia, gave you a resounding victory at the polls against a powerful government and incumbent President. This was after you had tried for a record third time and had virtually given up any chance or hope of winning a Presidential election again. You had actually wept for Nigeria and yourself on that third inauspicious occasion. This time around, in 2015, everything seemed stacked against you, including old age and diminishing health. Yet Nigerians at home and abroad placed their abundant faith in you. What you have done with their faith since then is debatable.
What more could anyone ever ask for again in this life? Credit for that victory must go to everyone, including saints and sinners, in case such nomenclatures exist on planet earth. Please, let no one rewrite the history of that epic battle to dislodge the PDP behemoth. It was thus a gross miscalculation to get power by such default and try to change the narrative by saying you belonged to everyone and to no one, or whichever way it was crafted by your speechwriters. Truth is you belonged to the party that embraced you, warts and all, and all the foot-soldiers who made it possible for you to attain power once again. Not just that, you instantly became the father of the nation on that fateful May 29, 2015, and could no longer discriminate against anyone for that matter. If you wanted to govern in peace and make an appreciable impact, you should have treaded softly and walked gingerly towards your ultimate destination. The war of attrition that broke out as soon as you took power was totally unnecessary and uncalled for. Except for your most loyal supporters, not many ever trusted the many fisticuffs were to the benefits of Nigeria, but only for the pecuniary gains of the privileged ones in power.
If you fight a war for over three years and you are unable to defeat your enemies, you should realise that it is either they are stronger than you or your strategy is abysmally faulty and failing. I love the Yoruba adage: “ta a ba leni, ta a ba bani, iwon la a bani sota mo…” (If we pursue an adversary and cannot catch up with him, it is better to retreat, than continue to make enemies of such a person). It is not an act of cowardice to retreat or even surrender. The fight you are pursuing right now would eventually prove too costly for you and for Nigeria, even if you manage to win it, which I seriously doubt. By the time you reach the end of it, you will discover the meaning of anti-climax. The victory will be a pyrrhic one or if otherwise, a cataclysmic defeat. Therefore, I’m shocked that you’re allowing some reckless and vengeful politicians to goad you on and mislead you into victimising those who have left your party and are now opposing you. The same people you met and laughed with recently, before our very eyes, have suddenly become enemies who must be destroyed by all means. Sir, this act is totally unfortunate. Only God can give power and only HE can take it back. You did not use force to take power in 2015, why do you then think you need to retain that power by use of force and fire?
I’m not sure if you are familiar with world history, my dear President. You may need to ask your aides to print out some dark moments in human history for your perusal. What often happens is that you will, inadvertently, turn those you’re harassing now into superstars. What you are playing with is a game of David and Goliath. It is one of the most fascinating scenes in the Christian Bible. Goliath was so confident of his awesome strength and stamina and so looked down on pitiable and diminutive David. The Holy Bible recalls their fight was a classic example of a mismatch. But Goliath suffered a crushing defeat in the hands of David. That battle is still celebrated worldwide till today, and it is a story almost every child knows and is taught to learn from. The didactic lesson from it is that not every battle should be fought and not every arsenal should be deployed. Better to keep some things till they are absolutely needed. This cat and mouse game of using State apparatus to witch-hunt deserters is becoming predictable, boring and nauseating.
Those who have decamped from APC have only exercised their fundamental rights. Whether they are morally right is neither here nor there and is ultimately a verdict for the electorate to ponder and unravel when elections, which loom large, finally arrive. Similarly, whether they are legally justified in their defection is a matter which your party may seek to take up in the courts, and I am certain that the Courts will do justice to the case as they have been doing despite terrorisation, bullying and coercion from some over-exuberant agencies of your government. I pause to observe that some of these guys were hailed by us when they joined our side the last time. At that time, we justified their defection to us as being part of the democratic process. If they have now decided to go because they believe they are not wanted by some influential gladiators in the ruling party, my dear President, please let them go. Your party’s point that they have done so for less than altruistic reasons will be considered and digested by our people who are quite politically savvy and discerning. They will make up their minds as to the rights and wrongs of it all.
Your Excellency, I want you to remember that you will not be in power forever. You have your family and friends to consider. Those who have been locked up in prison today and those being hounded could never have envisaged a day like this would ever come when there would be a reversal of power and fortune. It is too cheap for a Governor to decamp today, and then he and his operatives are being terrorised tomorrow. Power should never be abused in this manner. Who knows what would happen when tomorrow comes again?
One of the reasons former President Jonathan is respected today and enjoys some peace is because he gave you great respect though both of you fought tooth and nail over power. He tolerated many of us who supported you and did not make the occupation of Aso Rock a matter of life and death. Sir, why can’t you reciprocate this wonderful gesture? It is to his eternal credit that, in the midst of our attacks on him, I got invited to the wedding of his daughter, and was treated with decorum. Politics should never be a matter of brutish animosity. That is why I always have tremendous regard for lawyers. They may fight like savage adversaries in Court but, whilst they are there, they still show themselves some honour and respect. It is their attitude once they step outside the courtroom that is even more remarkable. Then they shed the toga of adversaries and become noble and learned friends. I wish all of us could imbibe this kind of camaraderie in the practice of our political beliefs.
Furthermore, I have copious examples that show that what you sow is what you reap. I wish to plead with you to cool temper, Sir. I know how it feels to be abandoned in the lurch by your own friends and supporters. But that is life. Everything can’t be smooth all the time. When you go to the FIFA World Cup, you do so knowing only one team can grab the much-coveted trophy. You should try to play a good and clean game and leave the rest to Allah. You have played your part to the best of your abilities and should be happy once your conscience is clear that there was no better way to do things.
Even if you decide to keep all your opponents in the gulag, it still does not guarantee that you will win the next election in 2019. But if you do it in God’s way by embracing decency and fairness, your rating will go higher. You will attract natural admiration. The love of the people cannot be forced. You’ve been drawing sympathies to the decampees because of the high-handedness and intolerance of some of your agents. As I started this mail, what kept coming back to me was a very popular autobiography I read as a youth, LET MY PEOPLE GO, written by Albert John Luthuli, the very first Black African man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Luthuli led the African National Congress in South Africa in the apartheid years for 15 agonising years and coordinated mass resistance and non-violent crusade against the White supremacists. Though he did not live long enough to see the end of apartheid, others carried on the task and Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison, came back alive to become the first President of an independent and free South Africa.
Mr President, there is a moralistic lesson to learn from the life and trajectory of the great Madiba Nelson Mandela. He became a world Statesman for his uncommon magnanimity and spirit of forgiveness. He had the power to exterminate his former tormentors and jailers but instead, he decided to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Committee that tried to integrate the whites into a new black-dominated government. Nigeria needs urgent reconciliation, healing and unification, which has led to a strident clamouring for restructuring. We should be tired of fighting for power for personal aggrandisement after groping in darkness for 58 ugly years. There are no prizes for war but there are beautiful garlands for peace.
Sir, I’m begging you in the name of God, please, let your people go, in peace.
I remain yours most sincerely…

Behind the Scenes at the Triumphant Osun APC Governorship Primary, By Muyiwa Gbadegesin

Osun State is notable for many reasons. It is host to the ancient town of Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba and seat of the Oonirisa, the traditional religious and cultural ruler of the Yoruba. It also hosts the Obafemi Awolowo University, a citadel of learning that is ranked among the top three most alluring university campuses in the world, and in whose halls echo the footsteps of intellectual giants like Wole Soyinka. Of course, Osun State occupies a prominent place in the international cultural calendar because of the annual Osun-Osogbo Festival which attracts visitors from all over the African Diaspora – Cuba, Brazil, United States and Haiti. The festival is in honour of the Yoruba goddess, Osun, wife of Sango (the god of thunder and third Alaafin of Oyo), who turned into the river from which the State takes its name. Osun-Osogbo Festival takes place in the vicinity of the sacred Osun-Osogbo Grove, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can find famous sculptures by the revered Austrian artist Susanne Wenger (Adunni Olorisa), who during her life was the self-appointed custodian of the grove and leader of the New Sacred Art movement, which she founded in Osogbo.
Beyond the purely cultural and religious, Osun is also notable for political reasons. In Nigeria’s fourth republic, Osun State was the arena for an extended power struggle from 2007 to 2010 between conservative and progressive forces represented by the former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the current governor and eventual winner of that struggle, Rauf Aregbesola of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The struggle started with the violently rigged 2007 Osun Gubernatorial Election that was contested all the way to the Supreme Court by Aregbesola, with evidence gathered from the forensic examination of ballot papers and videos recorded using body cameras, a first in Nigeria at the time. That period in Osun State contributed significantly to efforts to sanitise the electoral process in Nigeria. It was one of the most notorious episodes of electoral robbery and it helped to inspire a movement for electoral reform that coalesced into the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER). CODER, coordinated by former National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) secretary, Chief Ayo Opadokun, and with substantial moral leadership, legal strategy and financial support from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and fellow travelers, was able to pressure the Yar’Adua administration to set up the Justice Uwais Panel on Electoral Reform. The Uwais Panel made far-reaching recommendations on how to establish free and fair elections in Nigeria. A member of the panel, Professor Attahiru Jega, was eventually appointed chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Thus, we could say that Osun State was the cradle of the electoral reform process in Nigeria.
Now Osun State is once again developing into the cradle of another important and required feature of Nigerian democracy – namely INTERNAL DEMOCRACY. This is a topic that I have previously written about in my blog. I have also preached about internal democracy on my social media channels as one of the key steps to fixing Nigeria, the others being ideology-based politics, campaign finance reform, local government autonomy and radical transparency in governance.
Considering my prior advocacy for internal democracy, you can imagine my pleasure at being selected by the APC National chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, to be a member of the Governorship Primary Election Committee chaired by Governor Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari of Zamfara State. The committee also included Senator Ovie Omo Agege, a serving senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District, Honourable Nze Chidi Duru, a former member of the House of Representatives, and Comrade Peter Akpatason, a current member of the House of Representatives representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency.
Besides the five committee members, the chairman of the committee drafted a high powered team of political functionaries from Zamfara State into the committee to compliment our work. These include Senator Tijjani Kaura (Zamfara North), Alhaji Lawali Liman (Zamfara State APC chairman), House of Representatives members, House of Assembly members, commissioners and local government chairmen. After collecting our appointment letters, terms of reference and guidelines for the election from the national headquarters, we proceeded to the Zamfara Governor’s Lodge in Abuja for initial briefings and meetings. We were graciously received by Governor Yari who introduced us to the members of his team. We discussed modalities and initial strategies. Our departure was delayed for a day while we waited for the election materials. These materials were essential to the successful conduct of the election. Just as INEC treats their election materials like holy scripts, we wanted to ensure that we collected the authenticated materials and established a clear chain of custody. Properly documented electoral materials would be essential as evidence in case of legal challenges by any of the aspirants. The election materials for the Osun State primary election included the state APC membership registers, the ward results sheets, the local government results sheets and the state results sheet. Since the National Working Committee had decided on direct primaries using option A4, which involves queueing of voters in front of the poster or agent of their candidate of choice, there was no need for ballot papers. The materials were inspected and signed for by the chairman of the committee and then sealed in secured containers for the trip to Osun State.
Due to the infrequency of commercial flights, the chairman of the committee had secured a chartered flight to Ibadan Airport, where we were met by officials of Osun APC and driven in a convoy to Osogbo. By the time we arrived in Osogbo, there was a lot of tension among the aspirants and their supporters. This was probably due to the lack of information about the modalities of the primary. In the past, APC and its progressive precursors in the South-West, like the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Action Congress (AC), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) had always selected candidates by consensus, which was often just another word for imposition. The selection would be done by party elders, and all other party members would be expected to adhere to the decision. This practice is not ideal because there are often no clearcut criteria to determine the winner. The quality of the candidate chosen through such an ad-hoc process is entirely dependent on the sagacity or otherwise of the elders. At best, this particular style of candidate selection could be attributed to the Yoruba culture, which rightly puts great store on the wisdom and experience of elders. At worst, imposition is simply due to the reluctance of elders to relinquish any control at all to the younger generation who outnumber them.Over the years, the failure of the progressive family to evolve better methods of candidate selection has led to the loss of interest in party politics, particularly among the younger generation. There is low party membership and also low turnout during elections. Parties are viewed as cults that operate solely for their own benefit. The culmination of the negative trend is the current situation where voters expect to be paid before they vote for any party. For the Osun election, the aspirants had not been expecting the party to use the consensus method but rather indirect primaries, a slightly better system of candidate selection. The aspirants had been working towards indirect primaries by focusing on appeasing identified delegates with various juicy packages in cash and kind. They were thrown for a loop when the National Working Committee decided to use direct primaries instead. The week preceding our arrival in Osogbo had witnessed progressively escalating tension that was not helped by incendiary full page adverts by some of the aspirants accusing party leaders of working to favour a certain candidate who was believed to be preferred by the establishment.
We held a stakeholders meeting at the party office a few hours after our arrival in Osogbo. The tension was so thick that you could have cut it with a knife. It didn’t help that the aspirants had been seated for several hours before our arrival. Despite this, they and their supporters welcomed us pleasantly enough. The meeting was chaired by the acting chairman, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, whose fame had preceded him. The recent mace snatching episode at the National Assembly, and his battle against the dictatorial ways of the Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, had turned him into a hero of sorts among APC members. He addressed the aspirants on behalf of Governor Yari, who was held up with other urgent party affairs in Abuja. The senator explained the direct primary process that had been adopted by the National Working Committee of the party. His clear explanation of the guidelines appeared to douse some of the tension. The acting chairman assured the aspirants that the elections would be free and fair. Despite this, during the question and answer session, one of the more vocal aspirants, Barrister Kunle Adegoke (K-Rad) raised allegations that we had come from Abuja with pre-written results for the election, and that one of the governor’s aides was at that very moment supervising thumb printing of ballot papers at government quarters. While these accusations were patently false and self-contradictory, they could be attributed to the tension and fear arising from our delayed arrival, and lack of details of the method to be used for the election. As I stated earlier, the most recent elections had been conducted with delegates voting in indirect primaries. For this method, there are two types of delegates: Statutory delegates who are members of the party executive at various levels and elected representatives of the party like governors, local government chairmen and house of assembly members; and elected delegates who are chosen by party members during ward or local government congresses to represent all members at the state congress or national convention. In the past, indirect primaries have often been open bazaars where delegates sell their votes to the highest bidder. For example, in a State with 3,000 delegates, a governorship aspirant could buy 2000 of them for N200 million, at 100,000 per delegate. Thus, the party tickets at all levels were up for sale. This Balogun Market democracy is close to impossible in a direct primary because every verified member of the party can vote and it is virtually impossible to pay off so many people. Instead, aspirants would have to focus on winning the minds and hearts of party members through a sustained track record of loyal service to the party and nation, and through the establishment of personal and community outreach programmes that deliver value to party members in their respective constituencies.
The lack of preparation of the aspirants was evident in their alarm at the request by the committee that they should provide lists of their agents in the 331 wards in the State. A serious aspirant for a state-wide office like that of the governor should already have agents in every ward. Surprisingly, only six of the 17 aspirants were able to present their list of agents. Other aspirants betrayed their lack of preparedness in other ways. During the question and answer session, one of the aspirants, the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yusuf, in a manner more suited to street brawling between agberos (bus conductors), resorted to bellicose posturing, finger-pointing and intimidating statements directed at the perceived establishment candidate, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola. This was most unexpected of an aspirant to high office. There was also a lot of rhetoric from those advocating against imposition and those advocating for power shift to their favoured zone. Instead of the expected response of ‘PROGRESS’ to the chant of ‘APC’ by successive speakers, the crowd of party members responded variously with ‘NO TO IMPOSITION’ or ‘WEST LO KAN’ (it is the turn of the west senatorial district).
To calm frayed nerves and demonstrate full transparency, the committee invited the aspirants and their agents to assemble later that night to inspect the electoral materials that we had brought from the party headquarters. This step seemed to work its magic as most of the aspirants appeared to finally accept our stated intention to conduct a free and fair election – although Adegoke insisted that the party membership register was actually the INEC register. Apparently, he was not aware that the party had conducted biometric membership registration according to polling units in 2014 before the last general election. It turned out later that he had not even taken part in that registration exercise and thus was not in the membership database. Fortunately for him, the committee granted an exception for aspirants who were not in the membership database since many party members had joined the party since the registration exercise. Despite this concession, Adegoke still filed an appeal after the election.
The logistics of the direct primary itself was another matter. How to go about ensuring that 200,000 plus party members were able to vote and the results ferried back quickly from the wards to the local governments to the state collation centre? How to ensure that there was adequate security at each voting point and collation centre and even during transit? Elections are a notoriously violent in Nigeria, and already one of the aspirants had allegedly recruited thugs from the notorious gang leader, Sunday Igboho, from neighbouring Oyo State. During his declaration in his hometown, Sunday’s boys accompanied that aspirant in a show of force complete with gunshots renting the air and the display of dangerous weapons. Ensuring security was the one issue which required the full support of the governor. Fortunately, Governor Aregbesola is a no-nonsense type with deep roots in the rough and tumble world of Lagos politics. He took charge as the chief security officer of the State and gave firm instructions to security formations to ensure absolute security during the primaries. He also sent a warnings through private channels to all notorious thugs that any invasion of Osun State would be their last. Going by the peace that dominated on that day, they took this warning seriously.
The All Progressives Congress in Osun State was well prepared for the direct primary. The party, headed by Prince Gboyega Famoodu, had selected local government and ward election committees according to the National Working Committee guidelines, and had gone to extra lengths by engaging a consultant to train the local government election committees on the documentation required for a successful election – a big factor because of the largely administrative nature of elections.
Initially, in order to maintain a level of control, the committee had considered the option of conveying party members from all wards of a local government to vote centrally at the LG headquarters – but this option was eliminated because of its logistical impossibility. To maintain adequate supervision and oversight of the process, the committee decided to send one member of the Zamfara Team to each LG as supervisors of the LG Election Committee. This decision was critical. All the members of the Zamfara Team were highly experienced in politics, governance and elections and could provide a steady, neutral hand in the LGs to which they were assigned. They were coordinated by Senator Tijjani Yahaya Kaura, assisted by Alhaji Lawali Liman.
Each of the Zamfara LG supervisors, with their assigned LG Electoral Committees then moved with the election materials to each LG centre and distributed the materials to the ward electoral committees who then moved to the wards to conduct the direct primary. At the ward level, members were first accredited between 9 to 12 a.m. and then asked to queue in front of the poster or agent of the aspirant of their choice. After this, the number of party members on each queue was counted by the electoral officer and results announced over a handheld public address system. Once the results were entered on the ward results sheet and signed by the agents and electoral officers, the results from each ward were taken to the LG collation centre where they were entered into the LG result sheet. The signed results from each LG were then taken to the state collation centre at the State party office in Osogbo where they were entered into the State results sheet by members of the State committee. Attaching LG supervisors from state electoral committee to each LG committee was an effective control measure that helped to win the confidence of aspirants and their agents – because the supervisors were impartial arbiters from another State. Members of each LG election committee were also chosen from other local governments so they could not be accused of bias.
An additional control measure adopted by the committee was to send members of the state electoral committee to serve as roving monitors in each senatorial zone. I was assigned to Osun East senatorial zone with Alhaji Liman. The election was at an advanced stage in most areas we visited and some results were already coming back to the LG centres. There was peaceful, orderly conduct by party members – probably due to adequate sensitisation by the party apparatus prior to the election. People already knew what to do. As we moved through the senatorial zone from Ilesa to Osu to Ile-Ife to Moro, we encountered large crowds at every ward who had come out in a festive atmosphere with much backslapping and camaraderie. The direct primary had become a festival of democracy.
The success of the direct primary for the Osun Governorship primary is practical proof that Option A4 is the best system to entrench internal democracy. It is a transparent system because it requires physical queueing and counting – hence figures cannot simply be written with impunity as with other systems. Option A4 is an open expression of choice: No coercion is involved and it demands each voter to consider their choice carefully and proudly show the world where they stand. They must be willing to make a public show of support for their candidate. Option A4 is also better because it encourages greater participation because there is safety in numbers. When people see large numbers of their peers gathering in this manner, they are also encouraged to participate. Another major advantage of Option A4 for direct primaries is that party members become automatic stakeholders because of their involvement in a transparent process. It is easier to unify members after the primary because no-one is likely to feel cheated.
It is hoped that the party will continue to use the direct primary method to entrench internal democracy. This will be of benefit not only to APC but also to larger society and the nation because we will be able to select higher quality candidates for positions of responsibility at local, state and national levels.
In conclusion, it is fitting that Osun State, the source of a vibrant Yoruba culture that has extended to the four corners of the globe, may also turn out to be the source of a new transparency and internal democracy in party affairs in Nigeria.

Muyiwa Gbadegesin, Ph.D, a APC member in Kajola local government area, is a former commissioner of Health in Oyo State. Email:hello@muyiwagbadegesin.com

Strategic Thinking Behind Ongoing Insurgent Offensive Operations In Northeast Nigeria- An Analysis By Fulan Nasrullah Conflict Studies And Analysis Project, Lake Chad, Nigeria, Situation Analysis, Situation Report


With the removal of Abubakar Shekau from leadership of Islamic State’s West African Province in 2016[2], and his subsequent exit from the organisation with his followers (who at the time were the majority of fighters by a large margin), the multifaceted Boko Haram War took an important turn.

The new ISWAP led by Habeeb the son of Muhammad Yusuf (Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad’s founder), who fights under the nom de guerre of Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, moved its headquarters from Yobe State in Northeast Nigeria (where the dissidents had set up camp during the final six months of the debates with Abubakar Shekau), to the Lake Chad Islands, which they reasoned was a more defensible terrain than the previous location[3].

The sacked ex ISWAP leader, Abubakar Shekau regrouped his supporters and resurrected the Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad brand name which had been abandoned when they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and its claimed Khalifah.

For ISWAP the short term problem was a lack of experienced fighters, and the threat of being overwhelmed by simultaneous offensive operations against it by the Abubakar Shekau group and the regional militaries, should they take advantage of the available opportunity. Also, ISWAP needed to preserve its logistics network through the desert to Islamic State networks in Libya, as it would need them to train and form field units to hold, consolidate and expand the territory under its control[4].

For the Shekau group, the short term problem was survival. Although boasting the largest number of fighters, its specialist cadre had been decimated when Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, Mamman Nuur and their loyalists split[5]. Most of the explosives experts, intelligence operatives, logistics operatives, ‘special’ operators etc had left. Left behind was a vast pool of riflemen, with few specialists. On the tactical and operational plane this meant complex manoeuvres were going to require more effort to coordinate than in the past, as was any hope of preparing and deploying infiltration-terror teams into urban areas outside the Northeast in the forseeable future. Also the quality of IEDs and DIY weapons would drop drastically, as was the ability to restock on materials not within the immediate war zone.

This was coming on the heels of more Nigerian troops arriving in theatre to enforce what was turning into a blockade of Boko Haram controlled territory in the forests and countryside of Borno North and parts of Borno South and neighbouring Yobe State, in an attempt to gradually wear down Boko Haram resources over a period of time, degrading the ability of the insurgents to effectively defend their territory until such a time the Nigerian Army would be in a position deemed strong enough to end the conflict decisively.

At that point in time, with high tempers on both sides of the divided insurgency, there was a fear within ISWAP that Shekau would either deflect pressure from his group (which was weakened by the split and was solely bearing the heat of pressure from the Nigerian and other regional militaries), by negotiating a deal with the Nigerian authorities to provide them with intelligence to wipe out ISWAP and get Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi/Mamman Nuur(there were extant suspicions and accusations that Ansarul-Muslimeena Fee Bilaadis-Sudan’s urban operations networks and Cameroonian camps had been wiped out by Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities as part of a deal Shekau had made with them), or, he would launch an all out fratricidal war on the nascent group he was regularly denouncing as deviants.

Although spontaneous clashes would erupt between individual units along a very much undefined mix of territory with no clear front line demarcating them, all out war was prevented by ISWAP’s leadership seeking for and holding deconfliction meetings with the Shekau group[6]. While Abubakar Shekau himself was inclined to disregard attempts to deconflict the situation, his Shuraa (the decision making body, or what was left of it after the split) impressed on him the need to avoid intra-insurgent conflict for religious and operational reasons[7].

ISWAP followed up by consolidating its forces into the Lake Islands and areas on the mainland shore in Niger and Nigeria, while Shekau’s group not having much of a need for the Lake Islands consolidated its forces in the Sambisa-Gwoza-Cameroonian Far North area, which it deemed more necessary for its operational survival. Both sides maintained forces in Diffa Prefecture of Niger and Nigeria’s Yobe and Northern Borno, however gradually built up its forces to have a clear majority in Diffa, Northern Yobe, and the Abadam/Mobbar area, while Shekau’s forces remained the majority in Southern Yobe, Marte, Dikwa, Kala-Balge LGAs of Northern Borno. Units loyal to ISWAP also maintained a presence in the area around Chibok LGA, Askira-Uba LGA, and hills and forests in Northern Adamawa State, but the insurgency in these areas remain overwhelmingly Shekau loyalists.

Despite outside attempts to create discord between both groups, the deconfliction mechanisms set up after the split largely held, save isolated incidents which were quickly nipped, for the first year until the entire conflict entered a new phase in April 2017 with the launch of a Nigerian strategic offensive codenamed Deep Punch[8].

The Bolduc Plan

At the height of the 2014-2015 fighting season when most of Borno, Yobe and Northern Adamawa fell to insurgent control with Gombe State under threat, US Army Brig-Gen Donald Bolduc who at the time headed Special Operations Command-Africa (a sub-command of United States African Command), put together a military strategy designed to roll back insurgent gains, decimate and eliminate lesser factions, and then contain and blockade the then major group led by Abubakar Shekau , while the Nigerian military rebuilt/expanded its forces until it is in a position to defeat the insurgency militarily[9].

This plan called for coordination and cooperation across national boundaries by the Lake Chad countries, including synchronised offensive operations, intelligence sharing, backfilling when necessary (as was seen with Chadian forces in Cameroon and Niger from 2015-2016).

When this plan was put into action, it capitalised on gains made by Operation Fireforce, the Col Eeben Barlow-led South African private military contractor operated, training, advisory and aggressive pursuit mission, which had cleared insurgent forces from Northern Adamawa and opened the road to Gwoza, plus which also birthed the still extant Mobile Strike Force of the 72 Special Forces Battalion, Nigerian Army.

As a result of the Gen Bolduc midwifed plan, the tactical and operational initiative shifted to the Lake Chad militaries which, despite regional politics and the MNJTF not working exactly as designed, by mid 2016 had contained the territorial expansion of insurgent forces, and rolled back their advances until they had contained the insurgent threat and instituted a quasi-blockade of territories they had been unable to reclaim (Sambisa Forest Area, Gwoza Hills, Northern Borno etc), restricting the fighting largely to those areas.

However, Part II of the Bolduc Plan, which called for Nigerian forces in particular to build up capabilities in preparation for a final push, was never implemented. The containment/blockade part of the strategy slowly evolved into becoming the entire strategy itself, thus locking the conflict into a stalemate where the then Shekau led ISWAP focused on conserving its resources, while exploiting weaknesses in the government’s positioning to harass government forces and liberated territories at cheap costs, banking on the government to ultimately let up the pressure once it became too costly to keep it up given the economic costs of maintaining it coupled with insurgent pin pricks constantly harassing the military, at which point ISWAP would seize the initiative and go on the offensive again.

The end of the old ISWAP plus the split into the new ISWAP and Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad, shifted the dynamics considerably, and the inability of the regional governments to understand this shift, meant that they were ill prepared to deal with the new threat.

The direct result of the Bolduc Plan as understood locally, was that while the pressure remained on a weakened Shekau led Jama’aatu Ahlis Sunnah Lid-Da’waati Wal-Jihad, the new ISWAP had no dedicated response to it, and thus had free rein to consolidate the territory it inherited, build its capabilities, increase its numbers and plan for expansion.

And this was reflected in Operations Deep Punch I&II.

Impact Of Deep Punch I&II On ISWAP Strategic Thinking

Deep Punch I&II were envisioned as strategic offensives within the broader campaign, to degrade insurgent military capabilities, clear secondary insurgent strongholds, and prepare the terrain for a final offensive which was to end all large scale military operations and herald a transition to post conflict/mop-up activities.

Deep Punch I began on the 8th of April 2017[10], at a time when ISWAP was mid-way through consolidating its hold over territories it controlled plus building up its military strength. Initial panic by an ISWAP that did not yet consider itself prepared enough to defend against a major offensive, soon gave way to elation when they realised that the Nigerian military offensive was directed away from them and was more focused on the Shekau group’s core territories which lie farther south from that of ISWAP.

Just like the Shekau group did in its areas, ISWAP maintained peripheral forces in areas where the Shekau group had its core presence, and in the midst of that campaign, these peripheral forces would fight besides Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad against the attacking Nigerians, but otherwise ISWAP stayed out of this offensive.

To give it the space it needed to build its capabilities, ISWAP from the split avoided attacking Nigerian Army units, unless they attacked first, or unless the unit in question was a really low hanging fruit. This policy worked for the most part because the Nigerian Army was more interested in containing the Shekau group, at the time, than in diverting time and resources to try and retake Northern Borno especially areas occupied by what was considered an “unimportant” splinter group.

But unaware that it was not yet a priority target for the Nigerian military, ISWAP tried to forestall an expansion of Deep Punch I to targeting it, by seeking temporary ceasefires. As Ramadan approached 2017, ISWAP put forward an offer aimed at the Nigerian government of a month long ceasefire[11], and when it did not get a response in time, the organisation proceeded to declare a unilateral ceasefire.

In internal documents circulated within its ranks at the time, the leadership of the organisation had justified seeking a ceasefire when they were not yet under any pressure, as necessary to allow them consolidate their position and build their capabilities in preparation for expanding their operations against the enemy.

When they declared a unilateral ceasefire and questions were raised as to what purpose this would serve, new memos were circulated from the group’s leadership explaining the religious permissibility of that action, and the strategic reasoning which informed it. These memos made clear that the leadership from reports it was getting of the progress of military operations against the Shekau group (and some ISWAP units in that area) was beginning to understand that the Army had its hands full in the Sambisa area and was unlikely to treat the areas where the majority of ISWAP forces were as a priority unless the group presented itself as a threat . These memos also made clear that ISWAP leaders had begun to think that if they could grow their forces and capabilities to where the old ISWAP was before the split or even beyond and if they could then swallow up the Shekau group or somehow work separately but in tandem, the regional militaries would be unable to contain the situation and would then be forced to retreat gradually under mounting pressure.

This theory was validated[12] when Operation Deep Punch II commenced in late 2017. Nearing the end of its consolidation and build up process, ISWAP had begun the initial moves in a campaign of overtures to the mid-level and lower levels of the Shekau group, as the first part of a dual strategy of cooptation and forceful destruction of that organisation, while simultaneously preparing for taking on the expected regional offensive against it.

Thus when Deep Punch II commenced, ISWAP was in a position strong enough to mostly hold ground it already held and also carry out limited offensive operations against government controlled territory, sometimes in cooperation with the Shekau group.

For example the attack on Rann the headquarters of Kala-Balge Local Government Area of Borno State in which several humanitarian workers were abducted was a joint ISWAP/Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad operation[13]. And ISWAP alone decimated the 223 Tank Battalion stationed at Gashigar, Yobe State[14], which was operating alongside 145 Task Force Battalion and supporting units from both Nigeria and Niger, to maintain blocking positions to ambush and eliminate ISWAP forces expected to be pushed towards the Yobe River and Niger by other assault forces coming from the south[15].

However, the insurgents had launched a counter offensive on multiple points in the area as the government troops had come too close to several important camps for comfort[16]. Enjoying an supremacy in numbers within the area, and with superior knowledge of the terrain, ISWAP soon made short work of the blocking units, and blunted the offensive edge of the assault units, stopping the entire operation in its tracks.

Coupled with the demands of maintaining the quasi-blockade on areas where the core of the Shekau group’s strength was, the Nigerian military’s resources devoted to this operation proved not enough to deliver blows significant enough to weaken ISWAP substantially.

Deep Punch II ultimately fell short of the stated objectives, reinforcing the ISWAP belief that once its forces were up-to pre-split strength and if it could either coopt the Shekau group or keep the government’s (and regional) main efforts focused on the Shekau group, it would be able to gradually expand and shift the tide of the conflict in its favour[17].

Impact Of Deep Punch I&II On The Strategic Thinking Of Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad

For Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad, and its leader Abubakar Shekau, Operation Deep Punch I could not have come at a worse time, with the group still in the process of re-calibrating its military, security and logistical disposition after the split from ISWAP. The aggressive punch of Deep Punch I, spurred the group popularly referred to as Boko Haram into exerting itself heavily to try and contain the initial advances by the Nigerian troops. For the first time since the war began, Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad came the closest it had come to facing a probable threat to its existence[18].

To deflect this threat, Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Daa’wati Wal-Jihad stepped up its attempts to hit urban centres in Northeast Nigeria, especially Maiduguri which saw a rapid increase in suicide attacks targeting it.

Although the group was aware that the illiterate, provincial, unsophisticated women and children it was sending out of the bush towards Maiduguri and surrounding towns as suicide weapons would not be able to penetrate the security cordon around them, it banked its expectation on diverting as much government resources as possible from the offensives against it, to reinforce security especially around Maiduguri. As some insurgent figures put it, these suicide weapons are cheap to equip and deploy, but they have a much more expensive impact on the government’s ability to maintain the same level of pressure it could bring to bear on territories they (the insurgents) controlled, seeing as the government suffered from the same resource availability problem as the insurgents.

However cynical and cruel the insurgent strategic thinking in the face of Deep Punch I seemed, the effectiveness of this shift in contributing to the government’s inability to clear out territories controlled by Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad, is not entirely clear. Given that at the time the split with ISWAP was formalised, and Deep Punch I was launched, the group had been in the middle of shifting focus for expansion from Nigeria to Cameroon, where the remnants of decimated pre-2015 insurgent factions were in a weakened position -and where a large vacuum which they believed they could fill existed- it remained to be seen how effective using suicide bombers to harass the outskirts of Maiduguri was in the bigger picture.

Another impact of Deep Punch I on Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad’s strategic thinking, was to confirm for the group’s leadership, that the midterm future of their cause lay in Northern Cameroon[19]. For them that region offered a large and willing pool of potential recruits, plus an easier military to fight. And while the main effort would remain in Nigeria, they could expand enough in Cameroon to create double redundancies in their capabilities, and even maintain a third headquarters if ever they completely lost control of the Sambisa Forest Area. While previously Northern Cameroon had been a target of opportunity to be exploited solely for the benefit of the war in Nigeria, this shift in thinking turned that region into a main effort for the survival and expansion of the cause, slightly below Nigeria.

Operation Deep Punch II on the other hand gave the group’s core to recover from Deep Punch I, as the pressure leveled out from its main forces to its secondary forces and ISWAP’s main forces which are in Northern Borno. This ensure that by the time Operation Last Hold began targeting Northern Borno, reinforcements could be sent to support its forces in that region.

Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad: Breaking The Blockade

For Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad, the prevalent strategic thinking has evolved from exercising strategic patience- consolidating strength and building capabilities while the government expends its resources until it falls into war fatigue, thus creating the opportunities for the insurgents to exert maximum pressure which will work to collapse the government’s ability to remain in the fight in the region- to a dual strategy of expanding the Cameroon front (and through it increasing the numbers of men fighting men and supporting adherents), and also breaking the quasi-blockade imposed on the areas it controls on the Nigerian side. These two strategic objectives are by no means mutually exclusive.

This shift in thinking was forced by the split with ISWAP, which left the group devoid of nearly all the specialist resources it had, and robbed it of valuable extra funding plus invaluable training from the Global Islamic State Group, while leaving it for the first time since 2009 vulnerable to pressure from the Nigerian government side.

A consequence of the shift in thinking and the operational changes to ameliorate the effects of the Nigerian government pressure, through scavenger raids for supplies especial fuel oils, medicine and machinery or goods which can be used to maintain existing machines and equipment.

The vast majority of offensive military action carried out by this group in 2017, were supply raids, which contributed to helping them last long enough to begin to turn the tide gradually in 2018[20].

While previously this group had deemphasized non-military production and generally taken a great disinterest in commerce within and around territories it controlled, the imposition of the quasi-blockade, the split with ISWAP and Deep Punch I, forced it into expanding its commercial activities to secure more financial resources.

Among the ways Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad has expanded its financial base, has been a substantial increment in its share of the trade in livestock in the Southern Borno/Northern Adamawa axis, the Southern Adamawa/Taraba axis, and cross border between Northern Cameroon and Northeast Nigeria. It has done this through a mix of methods.

Through rustling cattle and other livestock from ranchers and herders alike, it obtains cattle, goat and sheep which it disposes of in any of the following ways:

It hands over the stolen cattle/sheep/goats to mercenary middlemen(known reputable cattle dealers who ask no questions about the origins of the animals they are selling) who take them to the cattle market in Mubi, Adamawa State, and also to N’djamena, Chad, where they are sold to buyers from all over West/Central Africa. Revenue generated from the sales are then split between the mercenary dealers and the group[21].Or its own middlemen when they are able to, take the rustled livestock into Mubi and N’djamena where they sell the animals(most commonly cattle), thus retaining full revenue for the group[22].The animals are sold to cattle dealers who already have the cash, at below market prices[23].

Another method through which Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad has increased its market in the cattle trade has been through imposing a cattle tax on farmers it allows to graze in parts of the areas it controls[24]. This tax is paid in livestock. This group also imposes a safe passage levy on herders moving their livestock through areas it has either full control, or it contests with Nigerian/Cameroonian governments, payable in cash and with livestock.

Increasing its presence in the commercial space whether through the activities touched upon in this paper, or through others not discussed here due to space constraints has been a major priority for Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad, as developing the economy in areas it controls or has influence, and also engaging in trade vigorously, cumulatively increases its constant access to liquid cash necessary to ameliorate the effects of the quasi-blockade and to rebalance its operational methods to fit changed realities.

Operation Last Hold

While the Brigadier General Donald Bolduc Plan called for preparatory offensives for the final part of the campaign to defeat the insurgency in the Lake Chad region, it also called for these preparatory and final offensive operations to be undertaken only when the Nigerian side had fully built up its strength to be able to deliver overwhelming firepower and possessed the numerical superiority to seize and hold insurgent occupied territory, and to encircle and crush the insurgent leadership without allowing them escape[].

However, while the plan was followed religiously with the roll back of the insurgents, and the blockade efforts, the preparatory offensive operations (Deep Punch I&II) and the supposed part one of the final offensive (Last Hold) were planned and carried out without the prerequisite preparations (increase in manpower, equipment, training, intelligence etc).

In the case of Last Hold, it was launched as both ISWAP and the Shekau group had launched limited offensives to harass government forces in a bid to turn up the pressure on them (ISWAP), and to eliminate potential threats to its freedom of movement between its Nigerian and Cameroonian theatres (Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad). And it drew away major resources from all over the theatre to focus msotly on Northern Borno.

This has resulted in situations like the Jilli battle on the 14th of July 2018, where ISWAP attacked and overran a brigade headquarters of the Nigerian Army[25], and the Bama ambush just the day before when forces of the Shekau group, ambushed and destroyed an advancing combined military and civil militia force[26].

Shortly after Operation Last Hold was launched, Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad suicide bombs hit a mosque in Mubi, Adamawa State on May 1st 2018[27].

ISWAP: Consolidation And Expansion

For ISWAP the period since 2016 has been one in which it had been necessary to focus on expanding the resource base of the organisation. This has been done through aggressive recruitment of fighters, continuous training and retraining of specialist personnel plus skills development (with the help of Islamic State affiliates in Libya), vigorous expansion of the financial base -through taxation of goods produced and services rendered in areas it controls, and through a growing involvement in all aspects of the fish trade and automobile smuggling- and through encouraging economic growth and trade among the civil population under its control.

However, gradually it has begun to shift into an era of gradual expansion. And its thinking on this is two-fold. One line of approach targets the Shekau group, and the other focuses on slowly but steadily clawing territory from government control[28].

In targeting the Shekau group, ISWAP seeks to coopt those elements of that organisation it can lure into boosting its numbers, and ultimately seeks to destroy those it can not coopt, while seeking to seamlessly take over the territories the other group currently controls. Thus while the past two years has seen ISWAP go out of its way to ensure that isolated incidents of clashes between individual units did not degenerate into a larger war at a time both groups were equally vulnerable to a determined government offensive, with the transition from consolidation to expansion, there’s has been a revisiting of the previous policy.

However while ISWAP is laying the intellectual and ideological groundwork for a war with Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad with the recent continuous release of books and articles outlining socalled transgressions of Shekau and or his group, it is also aware that it is not yet at the point where it could outrightly crush the other group. This current state of things is tacit cooperation when necessary, a cold peace with continuous dialogue, while both sides continue luring people from the other side to defect.

Possible Future Trajectories

In the near future, the buildup to the 2019 General Elections in Nigeria provide a target for the insurgent groups to try to use to further destabilise Nigeria. With insecurity and threats to the current Nigerian establishment system featuring as a major issue in determining the trajectory of politics in the country, insurgent organisations[] are well aware that a substantial increase in high profile/mass casualty attacks, targeting urban areas outside the region in addition to well publicized military setbacks on the conventional battlefield will put the administration of President Buhari on the backfoot politically, which will increase the overall destabilisation of the polity. Thus an increase in attempts to inflict heavy symbolic damage in urban areas will be in order, recent misreported arrests of ISWAP operatives preparing for terror attacks within downtown Maiduguri indicate as such.

There’s the danger that with the Nigerian Armed Forces severely overstretched given the growing amount of internal security and policing commitments needing their attention, resources being pulled out of the Northeast to put out fires in the Northwest and North Central parts of the country, may create vacuums that these insurgent groups will exploit to roll back government forces as much as they can.


While tactical gains have been made by the Nigerian side since 2015, the strategic picture which had remained stalemated, as however shifted slightly against Nigeria and the two neighbouring states of Niger and Cameroon. Both major insurgent organisations have adapted their strategic thinking individually to reflect changed operational realities, while modifying their plans to better pose long term threats to the existence of the three above listed states within the region.

ISWAP currently poses the greatest strategic level threat to stability across the Lake Chad region if continues to grow without a serious dedicated effort to contain, isolate it from the Global Islamic State Group’s networks, and degrade its abilities until such a time it can be fully eradicated. However focusing on ISWAP at the expense of containing and degrading the Shekau group, will create extensive vacuum space to the benefit of a local actor which is very much potent a threat even without the international networks ISWAP has. The ramifications will be very costly especially in the amount of human lives that will be lost, as we already from occurrences during the ongoing Operation Last Hold.

What is needed on the military front, is a strategic plan that contains and degrades both groups and isolates them from non-regional actors such as Al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State Group, and the resources, be it intelligence, funding, troops etc, to religiously implement such a plan.