Atiku counters Buhari, says Boko Haram still deadly, insurgency far from over

Former Vice President and chieftain of APC, Atiku Abubakar and President-elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari at an APC Stakeholders' Meeting in Yola, Adamawa State
Former Vice President and chieftain of APC, Atiku Abubakar and President-elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari at an APC Stakeholders' Meeting in Yola, Adamawa State

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, on Saturday countered claims by the Nigerian government that the terrorist Boko Haram group has been defeated.

Speaking in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, at the 11th Founder’s Day Ceremony of the American University of Nigeria (AUN), the former vice president said Boko Haram remained deadly, and that it was premature to declare that the insurgency was over.

“The insurgents still occupy a specific geographical space,” Atiku said. “They (Boko Haram) still retain the capacity for occasional deadly attacks. Many citizens in the zone still remain vulnerable and live in fear.”

The former vice president’s comments appeared to counter repeated claims by President Muhammadu Buhari and his information minister, Lai Mohammed, that Boko Haram had been defeated, and was no longer holding any territory in the country.

In his 2016 Independence Day speech, October 1, Mr. Buhari insisted the sect was defeated in December 2015 even as the group continued its onslaught across the Northeast, launching deadly attacks and killing soldiers and civilians.

But in his Saturday speech, which was emailed to PREMIUM TIMES, Atiku said it was premature for anyone to claim victory over Boko Haram at this time.

Like Mr. Buhari, Atiku belongs to the ruling All Progressives Congress, a shaky political platform, whose leading members have bickered consistently since it came to power in mid 2015.

“We cannot say that the problem is over until every displaced person is able to return home, to the office, to the market, to the farm, and resume normal activities,” the politician said.

“We cannot say it is over until we rebuild the schools, the churches, the hospitals, the markets, and the homes that had been destroyed. And we cannot say it’s over until the survivors of this insurgency receive the help they need, including psychological therapy to deal with the trauma that they have been through.

“I visited an IDP camp on Saturday and had the privilege of teaching a math class to some children. But the site of hundreds of children running around and unable to attend school was very gut wrenching. It still breaks my heart. So we cannot say the insurgency is over until all the displaced children return to their schools.

“And, as I indicated last year, it would not be enough for people to simply return to their pre-insurgency lives. We must do better than that otherwise we would only have papered over the wound without really treating it.

“People must return to something better, to hope, to improved schools, to improved economic opportunities, to freedom of worship and improved inter-religious harmony.”

Read Atiku’s full speech below.

Protocol

Let me join President Ensign and the MC in welcoming you to this year’s Founder’s Day ceremony of this university. It doesn’t feel that long ago when we broke ground here for what is to be the first private university in Northern Nigeria, and the first American university in Sub-Saharan Africa. Here we are today at the 11th Founder’s Day of this dream we the AUN.

Looking back and looking around, we have made tremendous progress. The little acorn is growing into a promising oak. But there’s a lot still left to be done. As you know, the work of building a great university never really finishes. A university is a living organism. It has to keep growing; it is continuously nourished. It becomes ever more complex but also integrated, more extended, and more interesting.

This past year has been particularly challenging for us and for the country. The country’s economy, which had remained weak, slid into a recession. There has been little public spending as the new government in Abuja and most state capitals try to figure out how to proceed with governance, just as oil production and revenues plummeted. And when citizens, including parents, have little income to spend, especially in the midst of uncertainty, the effect spreads to various sectors of the economy, including higher education.

But it was also a year that saw significant improvements in the security situation in the North East, our catchment area. The commitment of the Federal government and the state governments in this zone, as well as the support of the governments of our neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, have pushed back against the violent insurgency and improved the security of citizens in the area. The improvement in the security situation also means that some internally displaced persons have been able to return to their homes and try to resume normal lives. I would like to specially acknowledge the efforts of our security forces in making these possible.

However, more still needs to be done to restore normalcy in this area. The insurgency remains. The insurgents still occupy a specific geographical space. They still retain the capacity for occasional deadly attacks. Many citizens in the zone still remain vulnerable and live in fear; and we cannot say that the problem is over until every displaced person is able to return home, to the office, to the market, to the farm, and resume normal activities. We cannot say it is over until we rebuild the schools, the churches, the hospitals, the markets, and the homes that had been destroyed. And we cannot say it’s over until the survivors of this insurgency receive the help they need, including psychological therapy to deal with the trauma that they have been through. I visited an IDP camp on Saturday and had the privilege of teaching a math class to some children. But the site of hundreds of children running around and unable to attend school was very gut wrenching. It still breaks my heart. So we cannot say the insurgency is over until all the displaced children return to their schools.

And, as I indicated last year, it would not be enough for people to simply return to their pre-insurgency lives. We must do better than that otherwise we would only have papered over the wound without really treating it. People must return to something better, to hope, to improved schools, to improved economic opportunities, to freedom of worship and improved inter-religious harmony. People must return to the realization that it is ok not only to be different but also to learn, including so-called Western education. You see, Western education really belongs to humanity since different parts of the world contributed to that which we now call Western education and culture. In any case, nobody says we must take everything that is associated with that culture; we can take that which helps us improve our societies while ignoring that which doesn’t.

And we must no longer wait for socio-economic and political problems to fester for a long time before we tackle them, the way we routinely wait for small potholes on our roads to develop into huge gullies and death-traps before we try to fix them, if at all. That should be a critical lesson of this insurgency.

So let us take immediate steps to put our people to work. Let’s fix our roads, bridges and schools and other infrastructure. Let us expand schooling in this zone and other parts of the country. Let’s expand enrolment, and hire and train highly qualified and motivated teachers who are paid well. Let’s resolve to strictly enforce the law that makes primary and secondary education free and compulsory in this country so that every child stays in school until at least the age of 18. Let us expand vocational training in addition to improving our universities and polytechnics. Let us expose our youth to entrepreneurship as part of their education, to help us to really create employment and grow the economy and incomes in a sustainable way. Germany seems to offer a great example on vocation training and apprenticeship. We may want to carefully study its system to see how we can adopt elements of it for our country, our people and our economy.

When we take these measures that expand educational and career opportunities for our young people, we give them hope; we give them positive things to aspire to. We must demonstrate to our youth that living is far better than dying. When we provide them these opportunities we are likely to see more of them receive the kinds of awards and honours that were bestowed on these outstanding people that were so honoured here today.

But we should not stop there. Citizens are not just about jobs and incomes. We have to take measures to facilitate citizen engagement, especially the youth. Our young people have to take greater interest in public affairs. And I am not just talking about voting in elections. They should be organized and participate in debates on public policy and community service. And as a country, we have to find ways to lift up those who need help, to give voice to the voiceless, to listen to the voices of those who feel marginalized and left behind, and find ways to address their concerns. The recent Brexit referendum in the UK and the November 8 Presidential election in the US hold important lessons for us. Being established and stable democracies they had peaceful outcomes. We may not be that lucky because of the fragility of our democratic and other public institutions.

To our students I say your handwork and sacrifices are worth it. You are among the privileged. So take full advantage of the opportunities you have. Education is an opportunity and remains the key that unlocks opportunities and opens new horizons. And in the contemporary world, those without education and requisite skills will have a harder time attaining social mobility. This is the world of big data, of coding, of genetic engineering, of 3D printing, of renewable energy, of artificial intelligence, of self-driving automobiles, of space tourism, of inter-connected devices (the internet of things), and of social diversity and inclusion. You have the opportunity to prepare and equip yourselves for that world so that you, your families and your country are not left behind.

I sincerely thank the leadership of this University under the tireless Dr Margee Ensign. I salute the faculty and staff, all of you that make this place work. Let me also thank the Board of Trustees, under the very smart and meticulous Akin Kekere-Ekun, for its work over the past year and the preceding years. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the state and federal governments for the improved security in the environment within which AUN operates. I congratulate those honoured here today. You are truly deserving of your awards.

Let’s all rededicate ourselves to improving this university, this dream, and this region and our country.

Thank you.


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  • Shamsuddeen Shehu Saeed

    pls govt put more effort 2 end the issue of boko-haram

    • Iskacountryman

      boko haram has technically defeated nigeria…i suggest buhari sues for peace on generous terms…

  • Gary

    Corrupt or not, Atiku would have made a better President of Nigeria than what we have now.
    I would rather have a corrupt but cerebral democrat as President than an honest but vacuous ethno-religious bigot now leading us nowhere.

    • Ashibogu

      Abi o!

    • objective

      Really? Maybe you don’t understand the evil consequences of corruption sir. Just look around you, look at the faces of helpless youths and hungry families. Those are just few of the consequences of having corrupt leaders. If all the past leaders were half as prudent and as committed as this present government, Nigeria would have been awash with liquidity. Unfortunately, this regime is trying to fix the mess created by past corrupt leaders (including Atiku), but we all can see agents of corruption fighting back by trying to wear humane faces.

      • Kwubochi

        Please sir, you that understand the evil consequences of corruption can you sincerely tell if corruption is now dead in Nigeria? Secondly tell us where Buhari got his $95 million Approx. 42 Billion Naira image laundering abroad (ask Sahara reporters for detail) just for 3 months? Thirdly is that part of corruption or not? Lastly who is the person fighting corruption and is he corrupt like any other corrupt Nigerian politician?

    • Omooba A

      With the country’s economy in the wreck since the second democracy, you still wish for a corrupt president? You must be one of the few that benefited from corruption. Your comments show what you are made up of and with such warped and dwarf thinking mentality, you expect the country to develop? It is hoped that this ‘ethno-religious bigot’, as you call it, will pave the way for a better Nigeria so that people like your ‘corruption-ridden’ and ‘do-no-good’ idiots never have access to our national treasury ever. The next few years are indicators to which way the country is going.

    • FineBoy

      By auctioning even you right?

    • Mufu Ola

      At least u’re can’t hide your lie any longer about “we hate corruption but it’s d way it’s being fought” jargon. Over the years this same Atiku have said so many flowery statements to hookwink clowns all in desperate bid to be President. Are u so dull that you don’t know he’s campaigning for Presidency when there’s no vacancy yet? In all it says a lot about you that u’ll prefer a corrupt President than an “religious bigot”. How in public or private has Buhari ever disturb you from practicing your religion. I always insist that a lot of Aboki shoe shiners are more intelligent than many people who think they are educated simply bcos they peddle certificates about.

    • Mufu Ola

      It takes one religion bigot to indentify another. People of your type are d real bigot who don’t see anything good in other people or their believe.This kind of mentality is very rampant in SE & some parts of SS.Yet they accuse others of “bigotry”.

      • Gary

        Yes, I knew I was twisting the tiger’s tail with my initial post and like clockwork, Lai’s e-rats and associates have flooded the zone.
        Atiku might be corrupt but he has not plotted a coup nor killed anyone in his life. He’s been eminently qualified for ALL the public offices he ever held. He actually has a resume that cannot be questioned.
        He amassed wealth like others of his generation, Buhari, OBJ, Abacha included; but he has INVESTED his wealth in productive undertakings that provide education and employment for his people.
        How many of his allegedly corrupt and honest counterparts have done the same? How many people has Buhari employed other than the herdsmen watching over his cattle in Daura? What has been Buhari’s contributions to Nigeria other than sorrow, tears and blood (to paraphrase the late Fela Kuti)

        Cry all you want but I stand by my initial position that given a choice between Buhari and Atiku, l will gladly choose Atiku. He has something between his ears, cosmopolitan in his outlook and he’s not an ethnic or religious bigot.
        And lest I forget, he’s actually articulate and speaks understandable English.

        • Sir Louis

          Well said, Gary. Kudos.

        • Mufu Ola

          I can decipher more properly with your last sentence.U just scored minus + because it’s childish.So Buhari’s not articulate or “understand” English bcos of how he speaks. U’re a wonder!

  • Mama Kay

    Atiku belongs to the northern elite who destroyed the north with greed and corruption. He needs to give reparation for his looting. He could start by building some of those structures he is calling for.

  • Henry

    Why will our media house relay on people to say if boko haram is still deadly or not, what type of journalism are they doing. Pity for nigeria. As long the journalist are bias in their reporting then nigeria is better than death

  • Mamman Bako

    Garba Shehu will not reply this one, he’s Atiku’s man in the Villa.

    • CEO

      Yes bro, you are on point. I said it earlier when he was appointed Buhari’s media adviser that Atiku had pulled a fast one on Buhari. It’s now clear that Atiku gets up-to-date info from the Villa. Atiku’s presidential campaign has begun, and he is going to be ruthless. Buhari better be prepared. He is severely handicapped by his overall circumstances.

      • Sir Louis

        Political power belongs to God and he will give it when the time comes to whomsoever he wills. Our prayer is that may God in his wisdom give it to the person or those who will wield it for the good of the greatest number of our people, with a view to promote national unity, justice and general prosperity.

  • Jika

    This comment is not not done for altruistic reasons.They are done to score cheap political points. For eight solid years Atiku was a vice president.The road leading to his town of birth,Jada is today unarguably one of the worst if not the worst in Adamawa state.Boko Haram may not be over,but we sleep a lot easier than was the case in the last dispensation.The following local Governments were over run by Boko Haram prior to the coming of Buhari; Madagali,Michika,Mubi North,Mubi South,Maiha,Hong and Gombi.All these Local Governments are in Atiku’s native Adamawa State.Currently none is occupied by Boko Haram. That is a verifiable fact.If Atiku truly care for our TOTAL emancipation from Boko Haram,he should join hands with the Government instead of playing to the gallery.

    • sab

      These areas were held by Boko Haram? But did elections hold there in 2015? If yes, how come or was it the Boko Haram insurgents that voted? But if no, then, how come the results that INEC declared from those areas?

      • bib

        Have you forgottenso soon that GEJ posponed elections for six weeks to conduct military cover up operation to “defeat” the BH so as to make the area “peaceful” for election?

      • Jika

        Yes elections were conducted for the IDP’s from most of the affected areas in designated centres and refugee camps in Yola the Adamawa state capital.I know this because my mother currently lives in one of the affected local Governments.So,your not too veiled sarcasm is not lost on me or any discerning reader here.

        • Burbank

          Forgive him for his irreparable ignorance.

    • Korede

      Thank you my brother @objective, atiku should just visit the US, to prove himself.

    • Hamza

      Thanks Mr. We know the antics of the corrupt Atiku.

  • objective

    In my opinion, Atiku should sew himself a Face Mask and cover his face in shame. these are characters that served in various capacities in this nation, including being VP for 8 years. He is one of the Architects of and contributor to a Nigeria that deteriorated so much, leading to our young men and women hiding in bushes killing innocent people and calling themselves Boko Haram. There would have been no Boko Haram if monies meant to educate people are not diverted into private pockets and funds meant for development are not converted to private use.

    If this unwanted show of concern is geared towards cornering Nigerians to fulfilling his presidential ambition, he should better have a rethink because we all know him. If corruption is well fought, Atiku and his co-travellers should be somewhere in Kuje Prison awaiting trial.

  • Nigerian Citizen

    Honestly speaking, atiku abubakar is speaking the truth that many bewitched APC mental dwarfs will never like people to hear.Why many sincere, patriotic and truthful Nigerians hate this buhari show is that it is a game built of deception, lies,hypocrisy, propaganda ,continued denial and falsehoods.why will a man of integrity use sand to cover a cancerous life threatening sore,and claim that it had been healed,why will a man of integrity use lies to communicate the activities of his government, why will a man of integrity put fire in his own house and turn round to blame the man the contractor that built his house.
    Sincerely speaking, I am certain that no man or woman of conscience in APC shall continue to keep silent in the face of buharis unrestrained disaster against Nigeria. Only those who are sons and daughters of Judas Iscariot, Cain and Esau ,shall continue to lie against their bleeding conscience in an efforts to protect their error of judgment in voting for a big calamity troubling their nation.
    Atiku ,may God Almighty forgive you for offering your self to those who out of envy,jealousy, hate,and greed,vested a disaster upon their nation under the self illusion of change.may God grant you another opportunity to right the wrong you wilfully participated in doing against your country in 2015. May God never require from you the lives and destinies of Nigerian citizens who are wasted under this calamitous ineptitude. May God grant to Nigeria another miracle of 1998 .

  • Omoba1

    Internal struggles and strife – bad politics for politicians in the same political party. On the hand, Atiku you have been tested and not trusted.

  • Sir Louis

    Atiku is a concerned stakeholder and nationalist who knows where the shoe pinches. Moreover he has spent part of his personal resources to rehabilitate and assist hundreds if not thousands of internally displaced persons. At a time the Boko Haram is again harassing people in the north east, his statement is a wake- up call for the security personnel to do better and totally defeat the insurgents. No politics is meant here.

    • Burbank

      And he spent 8 years as the VP of a country he looted dry.

      • Sir Louis

        The confidence with which you call Atiku a looter even when he has not been indicted by any legal authority, gives the impression that this looting must have been special and you must have taken part in it.

        • Burbank

          Legal due process takes time, even in the UK and the US

      • Mr. Abdin

        You are not speaking like some one who has a Cross as his profile. You are only talking without evidence and the truth.

        • Burbank

          And your counter evidences are….

  • Burbank

    If his 8 years as VP was not corruptly wasted with wealth accumulation with his criminal gang in power, Boko Haram would not have existed today!

  • Otile

    Where did Yakubu Danjuma invest his own loots?

  • David Ajase

    Atiku is the chief sponsor of Boko Haram. Awon oniranu. Nigerians need to start a revolution and rid the country of all these moronic leaders. Are Nigerians really complacent in ridding the country of all these good for nothing leaders? O ma se o.

    • Mr. Abdin

      Are you sure of what you are saying?

  • Shamsuddeen Shehu Saeed

    secuirity personal sopurse arrest Devid A Jase bcos he is among boko-haram member since he know Atiko Is sponsor of boko-haram he most envestige

  • Shamsuddeen Shehu Saeed

    pls if dn’t have evidence dn’t say any tin keep ur mouth short if not u will trouble ur self.

  • Shamsuddeen Shehu Saeed

    pls issue of secuirity is nt politic pls fine way out!

  • paul irumundomon

    Who lied, the president or the vice presiden?

  • Hamza

    No, definitely boko haram has been largely defeated. Largely defeated! But the war is far from over. I don’t know what the generals keep briefing Buhari, but definitely he needs to make them understand the need to completely eliminate boko haram. The soldiers must be motivated. More equipments, more personnel. I won’t make the mistake of trusting government’s claim of defeating bookharam if I were anywhere near the North east. But Atiku must not politicise this war like opposition politicians did during Jonathan. I have always condemned boko haram even during Jonathan. Let’s keep sentiments aside.

  • Mr. Abdin

    We really need to do more to stop Boko haram .

  • marc umeh

    Nigeria is no one’s personal real estate. Citizens have a right to say their opinion. Constructive critizen is always good for the soul of a nation otherwise we will default to dictatorship. We cannot accept whatever they say inspite of clear evidence.
    Boko Haram is not defeated. They still have constant supply of men and ammunition to confront the military. Their organisational structure is still in tact. So where is the victory ?