Atiku blasts Jonathan over Boko Haram, says president ‘chasing shadows’

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar

The former vice president reacted angrily to the killing of students in Yobe State Tuesday

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has dismissed President Goodluck Jonathan’s claim of success against Islamist Boko Haram as “mere chasing of shadows”, after armed men killed at least 29 students in Yobe State on Tuesday.

The gunmen struck at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Gujiba Local Government Area of Yobe State early morning, less than 12 hours after the president told the nation how successful his government’s strategy against the insurgents had proved.

More than 250 people have been killed in multiple attacks by the group in Borno State this year alone. In separate incidents, armed men raided remote villages, shooting terrified residents who tried to flee.

Witnesses say security forces were never on hand to protect the people in attacks that often lasted hours.

Mr. Jonathan has come under increasing pressure to act more forcefully to protect civilians and end the bloodshed in the north east states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, terrorised by Boko Haram. The three states are already under emergency rule.

The governor of the worst-hit state, Borno, Kashim Shettima, said last week the militants were better armed and motivated than the Nigerian military, drawing a strong rebuttal from the presidency.

Mr. Jonathan again rebuked the governor Monday night during his televised interview with journalists, calling the statement “unfortunate”, and insisting his government was winning the war against Boko Haram.

“The issue of the governor of Borno State, the statement is a bit unfortunate,” the president said. “I don’t expect a governor to make this kind of statement and if the governor of Borno State felt that the Nigerian armed forces are not useful he should tell Nigerians, I will pull them out for one month whether he will stay in that his Government House. But, if he thinks what he said is correct then I will pull out the armed forces for one month.”

He said he was not considering sending a military administrator to act as governor in Borno State.

The president said security operatives were working hard though people would not always consider the successes being recorded by the military in the north east region.

“It is not as if the state operatives are not working. The Boko Haram attacks started from Abuja, these massive bombings – UN Building here, the Police headquarters was bombed here in Abuja, a market was bombed. So, if the security was not working hard I think we would have even felt it in Abuja. So we are working….we will get over it,” he said.

But former Vice President Abubakar said Mr. Jonathan had failed to curb the slaughter of innocent people who live perpetually in fear, but had chosen to claim credit for pushing the insurgents to the “fringes”.

If the president cannot provide security for schools, then he was chasing shadows, he added.

“This will not be the first time in recent times that school children are being attacked, and it is particularly disheartening that the Federal Government is yet to devise a strategy of keeping our schools safe from terror attacks. If our counter-insurgency strategies are not strong enough to keep our children safe inside their schools, then one must wonder if such a strategy isn’t mere chasing shadows,” Mr. Abubakar said.

Mr. Abubakar urged the government to raise its counter-insurgency response. “My heartfelt condolences go to families of the slain school pupils. It is unfortunate that innocent school children, will become victims of armed attacks.”

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