“I was taken aback by what is happening in the North West and other parts of the country. During our campaigns, we knew about the Boko Haram. What is coming now is surprising. It is not ethnicity or religion; rather it is one evil plan against the country.
“We have to be harder on them. One of the responsibilities of government is to provide security. If we don’t secure the country, we will not be able to manage the economy properly.”
Those were the words President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted to have told a delegation of eminent and respected citizens of Niger State, led by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who visited him at the State House last week.
Buhari’s confessions were served to Nigerians via a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina. The meal, as it were, has been very difficult for Nigerians to digest as it has continued to draw spontaneous reactions and outpouring of vexations.
Buhari and his handlers have since had to deal with a barrage of knocks over such promises as ‘we will be harder’ on criminals killing Nigerians. Many are wondering and pondering if there had been unseen forces stopping the presidency from hitting the insurgents hard enough before this time. Or, indeed, who had favoured a pampering of Boko Haram all the while?
#BuhariResign was consequent on the perceived woeful response to managing the nation’s burgeoning security crisis. And, for once, it appeared that major national institutions, the National Assembly and the church were united in the call for a radical treatment of the insurgency war.
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, at the floor of the Senate, could not hide his frustration with the security issue as he called for Buhari’s resignation.
The Presidency, in its response through Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said Abaribe’s call for Buhari’s resignation was ‘rubbish’.
According to Shehu, “If a leader like President Buhari needs to resign, there are millions of other Nigerians who need to resign, including Senator Abaribe who unlocked the door to enable the escape of traitorous and treasonable suspects.”
#BuhariResign dominated the social media for days, with many using the medium to insist Mr President should sack the security chiefs.
The national lawmakers look to have weaned themselves of the rubber-stamp tag as many of them, though in not welcoming Buhari’s resignation call by Abaribe, however, showed they were one with Nigerians by speaking vehemently against poor handling of the country’s security situation.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), led by Samson Ayokunle, appear to have nudged Buhari even further with a nation-wide march against blood-letting in the land on Sunday.
The events of the past week would not mark the first time Nigerians have called on President Buhari to resign. It would not also be the first time they demanded that the service chiefs be sacked over perceived failures.
What, however, appeared to be new in the whole saga was Mr President supposedly confessing that he might have been pampering Boko Haram, bandits and other criminals sending innocent Nigerians to their early graves.
Therefore, the big poser borders on why the presidency chose a ‘soft’ approach before now, only promising to ‘hit harder’ this time, many years after after Boko Haram had held the country by the throat. Nigerians expect Buhari to hit hardest, not even harder.
2 other things
1. Fighting fire!
In what some analysts consider a damage-control move, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a later statement after the famous ‘we’ll be harder’ on criminals, assured Nigerians that Buhari was aware of the security challenges in the country and that he was also in charge.
He also claimed that Mr President’s initial comment on the country’s security challenge was misconstrued.
“The reportage of the statement above was slanted to mean that President Buhari said he was unaware of the security challenges in some parts of the country. Far from it, except to the mischievous mind. The President is fully aware and fully in charge of all that is going on.
“The statement by the President was clear enough, and these are the salient points:
“In 2015, we knew there was Boko Haram insurgency, particularly in the North East, and we mentioned it in our campaigns. There are clear economic and cultural factors behind the clashes that sadly rocked many of our communities, be they the Fulani-Tiv or Fulani-Berom conflict, the Tiv versus Jukun and so on. By now, these conflicts are fairly under control.
“By 2019, banditry had surfaced in the North West. It was surprising, as the area is almost homogeneous, made up of Hausa-Fulanis. The combatants are largely Muslim. This is what the President said he was surprised about,” Adesina explained.
A brave response, no doubt, but Adesina must realize that the security challenge has grown into a monster. Not many Nigerians are willing and ready to consume the several propaganda materials reeled out by the presidency.
2. That visa ban
The United States (US) shocked Nigerians with a suspension of the issuance of immigrant visas to Nigerians last week. It came after the US described Nigeria as one of the worst-performing in the matter of managing security risks. In the new visa regime, Nigerians and nationals of five other nations were slammed with travel restrictions effective, February 21.
Among other countries listed in the new arrangement are Eritrea, Myanmar, Tanzania, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan.
Buhari has since set up a committee headed by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, to look into the matter with a view to meeting the requirements of the new US’ policy on visa.
While Buhari’s visa restriction committee makes efforts to remedy the negative impact of the ban on the country and its citizens, the question remains: How did a government with so much popularity and goodwill bundle itself into a pariah status?