Despite the declaration of an emergency rule by President Goodluck Jonathan in Borno State, bloodshed, violence and destruction by the Boko Haram sect has escalated, writes Kayode Idowu

The National Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, stirred the hornet’s nest when he said next year’s general election might not hold in the crisis-prone states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

Many people accused him of acting the script of the Peoples Democratic Party, which had never won an election in Yobe and Borno states. The defection of Adamawa State Governor, Murtala Nyako, to the All Progressives Congress has changed the political equation in the state, which was, hitherto, controlled by the PDP.

Of the three, only Yobe showed an ability to conduct election in the geographic area by holding local government council election in its 17 councils. The situation in Borno has shown the porosity of security with Boko Haram insurgents killing, maiming and destroying properties at will. The consistence and impunity with which the insurgents carry out their dastardly acts were reminiscent of bloodbath unleashed in the state before and during the 2011 general elections.

The Boko Haram insurgence volcano suddenly erupted in Borno in 2009 when Islamic fundamentalists, declared fatwa on western education and held the state hostage for five days before the military repelled them. The sitting governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, had become a target of political assassination just as innocent persons and security officials were felled by Boko Haram bombs.

The general belief was that the insurgence would abate if the governor and his party were sent out of office. This belief affected the fortunes of the defunct ANPP in the 2011 election with the party scraping a win by the skin of its teeth. The ANPP in Borno lost two of the three senatorial seats. It will be recalled that the party had swept the stakes in 2007 general elections.

Sheriff was until 2011 seen as a political giant with a record of political victories. He had been elected a senator thrice and had been a two-term governor. Sheriff was seen as upturning the political dominance of the then Governor Mala Kachallah in 2003. It was believed that he forced Kachallah out of the ANPP into the little-known Alliance for Democracy. Sheriff was gaining popularity by the day and was virtually dictating who becomes what in the ANPP and the entire state. With his burgeoning powers came more political enemies.

The Boko Haram insurgence has whittled the powers and influence of Sheriff considerably. Sheriff is, however, still seen as wielding power and influence in the state, albeit, at a reduced rate – having installed his godson, Kashim Shettima, as governor. Shettima has been intricately torn between repositioning his government and reducing the Boko Haram scourge without losing touch with an electorate that feel strongly that the insurgence was a reflection of the government’s ineptitude. The Boko Haram issue, many believe, was responsible for the too close to call result of the 2011 election which saw Shettima in a narrow win.

Insurgency has made it almost impossible for election to hold in the state. The activities of the sect have threatened the very essence of living, commerce and governance. The sect had unleashed attacks on the central part of the state before moving on to the north even as it has now moved to the south of the state. Indeed, the state capital, Maiduguri, is on the altar of despair and confusion, daily cringing in fear.

Politicians have fled their bases, appointed local government caretaker chairmen have moved their offices to hotels in Maiduguri; members of the State House of Assembly do not go to their constituencies any more. Federal legislators do not even come to the state any longer. When those who are bold enough come and escape insurgents’ gunshots, they may not escape military missiles as was the case of Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, whose entourage was alleged to have been attacked by a military jet although no life was lost in the incident.

A member of the House of Representatives for Gwok, Chibok and Damboa federal constituency, Peter Biye, whose house was attacked in his village, lamented the breakdown of law and order in the state. He said, “With the current happening, all of us that were elected, whether as members of the House of Assembly, House of Representatives or as senators, cannot boast of going to our people to say what we have done today so that they can re-elect us.

“That is the truth about it. For two good years now, I have been in the office, but I have never visited my constituency because I cannot go. And today I cannot go to Damboa, Chibok, Gwoza, because this constituency, on a daily basis is under attack and today, if you cannot go to your people, there is no message you send that would reach them successfully.

“For example, I just bought materials for the electorate and they (insurgents) went and burnt them. That is what you should know about politics. Two, constituency projects cannot be carried out. There are a number of projects that I have for my constituency. They include construction of three blocks of classroom; construction of a clinic at Atagara, construction of a clinic in Chibok, construction of a clinic in Damboa.

“The one in Gwoza, the insurgents asked workers to bury the foundation the day they started work there. Some materials were still left there, so, there is no project that is going on politically in our area. The last time I bought grains of about 500 bags, one of the drivers that were taking the grains to the people in Damboa was kidnapped; he is still with the insurgents. Five hundred bags of grains, 300 pieces of water pumps, 300 sewing machines, 30,000 packets of chalk, 30,000 packets of exercise books, 30,000 packets of pens, 30,000 packets of pencils were all burnt to ashes in my house.”

Another prominent politician in the state, Saina Buba, who is a member of the APC said, “Honestly speaking, we may have to agree with Professor Attahiru Jega’s statement as regards 2015 if these issues are not resolved. The story is not good at all. Boko Haram has multifarious dimensions.

“I’m calling on politicians, irrespective of party affiliations, to reason because we can only play politics when there is peace. Without peace there would be no APC or PDP. Without peace there would be no politics. So, let’s come together, join hands and form a forum to make sure we rescue our dear state because our people are suffering and I would like to call on Mr. President to please look at our sufferings in this part of the country. Imagine, the last time, Mr. President gave N2bn for the six states in this zone. I am a member of PDP and I feel ashamed to associate myself with this announcement because even this N2bn naira they are talking about is too small for one state not to talk of a zone. The last time Mr. President visited Borno and slept over, we were thinking that bedevilled we would have time to discuss our problems.”

The situation of Borno is aptly painted by the Chairman of the Northern Youth Unity Forum in the region, Usman Mustapha, who said: “It is public knowledge that Borno, our state, is today bedevilled by a seemingly intractable security situation. We have, in the last five years, been experiencing intermittent attacks by insurgents at different points in time and locations. The pursuit of livelihood and other socio-economic realities have, unfortunately become unstable. Night life in the state has become a thing of the past. Fear has engulfed all homes and public institutions.”