When terrorists attacked a train on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line in March 2022, it represented a new low for the Buhari administration. The terrorists bombed the rail line, killed nine people and kidnapped dozens of passengers.
The attack made a mockery of President Buhari’s supposed success in tackling insecurity. What Nigerians didn’t know at the time was that the government’s incompetence didn’t end there.
Buhari’s bold face
On August 11th, 2022, President Buhari met with representatives of the hostages in his castle in Abuja. He assured them that he was doing his best to ensure the release of the 31 hostages still left with the terrorists over four months after the attack.
The president also noted that the release of some of the hostages over the past few weeks was due to the efforts of his government.
The face of someone that’s proud of doing his best even when his best isn’t enough
But then, all the tea about how the terrorists continued to fool the president after the attack came from the mouth of his own senior special assistant, Garba Shehu.
What we thought was happening
Weeks after the train attack and abduction of the passengers, the terrorists demanded the release of their comrades in the government’s custody.
One of their known leaders, Abu Barra, also demanded the release of his children. He accused the government of forcefully keeping them in custody in Adamawa. The government didn’t respond publicly to these demands and maintained a bold face. This was in line with the government’s policy of not negotiating with terrorists and defeating them in press statements instead.
But the terrorists kept demanding ransom from the families of their hostages and lined their pockets with hundreds of millions of naira. This led to the release of some of the hostages in different batches over the past four months.
But new revelations show Buhari could have secured the release of the hostages without their families having to lose money in ransom. The only problem was the president tried and failed quite spectacularly.
What really happened
The release of the hostages for ransom has attracted more ridicule for the Buhari government. To fight back against the accusation that it’s done nothing to help the hostages, Shehu spilled the beans on some details that should have probably stayed inside the pot.
In an interview with BBC Hausa on August 12th, 2022, Shehu said the government cooperated with the terrorists when they first took the hostages. They reached an arrangement that would allow the terrorists to get what they want so the government could get the hostages back. What could possibly go wrong?
For its part of the gentleman’s agreement, the government took care of the pregnant wife of one of the terrorist leaders. On the government’s watch, fully-funded by taxpayers, she delivered twins.
The government, feeling very generous, handed her over to her husband’s parents, fulfilling the demand of the terrorists for her release. This was the first time the government scratched the back of the terrorists and you’d expect the terrorists to scratch back. But what’s a little oath-breaking for terrorists?
When it was time to fulfil their own part of the bargain, the terrorists said:
Still marinating in his humiliation and (probably) concerned about the poor hostages, Buhari succumbed to more demands from the terrorists. Remember those children Abu Barra said were in detention in Adamawa? Well, the government sent a plane to pick them up and gift-wrapped them to the terrorists.
But did the terrorists give the president a reacharound for his troubles?
Instead, they started asking him for money. And this was the point Buhari realised the terrorists were hustling him like a JJC in Oshodi Underbridge.
We assume no one was holding a gun to Shehu’s head when he made these revelations, so why did he make them despite being very embarrassing to Buhari?
Well, he did it so that he could say, “People shouldn’t say the government is doing nothing.” And this only proves that if there’s one thing Buhari hates, it’s insult. But public humiliation is fine.