Buhari to tour Yobe, Benue, Taraba after clashes, fall in popularity
by CHRIS AKOR
March 6, 2018 | 12:55 am| | | Start Conversation
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will visit the state where 110 schoolgirls were abducted by suspected Islamist militants last month, his office said, as his security record comes under scrutiny less than a year before elections.
The 75-year-old former military ruler will also tour other hotspots from Monday onwards, including Benue and Taraba State hit by bloody clashes between semi-nomadic herders and farmers, the presidency added.
The former general, who came to power in 2015 vowing to crush Boko Haram’s jihadist insurgency, has not stated whether he will seek re-election in Feb. 2019. But a surge in violence has cast a shadow over his term.
He has repeatedly declared the insurgents’ defeat for more than a year. That was undermined by mass the abduction in the town of Dapchi in Yobe state on Feb. 19 and an attack on Thursday that killed at least 11 people, including three aid workers in another part of the northeast.
His tour will begin in the“Middle Belt” state of Taraba, where herdsmen have farmers have fought over dwindling arable land, his office said.
He will also visit the central state of Benue and Zamfara in the northwest – both hit by fighting over grazing in recent weeks, along with Rivers state in the south, and Yobe.
“The president has decided to undertake an on the spot assessment of the various occurrences and to meet and console the communities affected,” the presidency said.
The presidency did not say whether Buhari would visit Dapchi on his trip to Yobe.
Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was criticised for failing to quickly visit Chibok, the scene of another mass abduction of schoolgirls in 2014. That was seized upon by his detractors in the 2015 election campaign.
The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had already called on Buhari to visit Dapchi in the days following the abduction.
Boko Haram, which has killed tens of thousands of people since 2009 in its bid to create an Islamic state, lost most of its territory in the face of an offensive by Nigeria’s army backed by troops from neighbouring countries in early 2015.
But factions of the group have continued to carry out suicide bomb attacks and gun raids in the northeast, Cameroon, Niger and Chad since then.
The violence linked to grazing rights has killed more than 100 people since the start of the year.
Buhari’s move comes as his popularity falls amid calls by powerful ex-generals for him not to run in next year’s election.
The secret visit, Thursday, of former Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) to former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, shows a crystallisation of the opposition against the president’s re-election bid. Danjuma flew into Minna on Thursday and drove straight to Babangida Hiltop mansion where the duo met for four straight hours behind closed doors discussing what sources close to the Generals said was the current security and political situations in the country.
The meeting is being seen as part of a coordinated onslaught on the president by a cabal of retired generals who are unimpressed with his administration and want him to stand down at the end of his first term in office and not seek re-election again in 2019.
Although General Danjuma has been quiet, sources close to him says the ex-General has been less than impressed with the provincial and nepotic style of president Buhari. His state of Taraba has also been badly hit by the Fulani herdsmen killings, which the federal government has shown little capacity and or willingness to handle.
In July 2017 however, Danjuma was part of the National Christian Elders Forum, made up mostly of retired army Generals, which blamed the Buhari administration for the proliferation of ethnic crises and secession agitations in the country. It also accused the Buhari administration of deliberately disregarding the constitution and federal character in appointments. The forum also condemned the handling of the herdsmen/farmers crisis, and warned that extremists were pushing a jihadist agenda.
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