A former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has appealed to the international community to come to Nigeria’s aid as the nation continues to grapple with the Boko Haram insurgency.
Mr. Abubakar spoke, Monday, at a press conference in Abuja.
“I call upon the international community to help us. I am making a special appeal to countries with sufficient knowhow and experience in tackling terrorism to increase their assistance to us,” said Mr. Abubakar, a Presidential hopeful in the 2015 elections under the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.
“This Boko Haram insurgency has been with us now for several years but has, in these last few days, taken a step further towards being a disaster of unimaginable proportions. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk. Nigeria needs the world’s support. The world must not abandon Nigerians in our time of need.”
Last week, the terrorist sect seized Mubi, the second largest town in Adamawa State, forcing thousands of residents to flee the city.
Mr. Abubakar, who is from Adamawa State, said he learnt of the development in Mubi with “deep regret.”
“As you may know, in recent weeks and months, Mubi has been a town to which displaced persons from further north have fled for safety after their communities fell to Boko Haram.
“As I speak, the inhabitants of Mubi, together with those who went there for safety, find themselves at the mercy of this terrorist group.”
Mr. Abubakar said that he believes in the integrity of Nigeria and that every part of the country matters to him.
“But I was born and bred in the northeast. So, please, excuse me if I should say a few words about the part of the country where I am from, about what the people from the northeast of Nigeria have had to suffer for far, far too long,” he said.
“Things should never have got to this stage. Thousands of Nigerians have had to flee their homes. Their houses and farms have been destroyed. They do not know where to go or how to restart their lives. That is the degree to which we have come in this country. I say this with reluctance and with shame.”
The former vice president also noted that parts of Borno, the north of Adamawa and Yobe states are already at the mercy of Boko Haram.
“It started a few months ago with Bama, which is nearly 400 kilometres from Yola, capital of Adamawa State,” Mr. Abubakar said.
“The next major town to be taken by terrorists was Gwoza, where a terrorist caliphate flag has long been hoisted. Smaller towns near Gwoza such as Pulka and Limankra are equally not free. Next was Madagali. The town is still being occupied.
“Then fell Gulak. Next was Michika, then Bazza. Next was the twin town of Uba which is half Adamawa and half Bornu. Its neighboring town of Lassa was also overrun. Uba was the latest town captured before the terrorists trampled on Mubi. People from these troubled areas are now pouring into Yola for safety.”
Mr. Abubakar blamed the apparent inability of the Nigerian Armed Forces to repel the insurgents’ progress on the “crisis of leadership.”
“As somebody who hails from Adamawa State, you can appreciate why I feel such emotion at the fate of my people,” he said.
“For whatever reason, our defence forces are unable to cope and unable to defend. My sympathies go out to the soldiers who find themselves in a situation not of their making.
“We were told that the budget for security was going to be enlarged so that the security agencies and military would be in a better position to tackle the insurgency. How is it possible that a great nation like Nigeria should find itself in a situation where a handful of terrorists is able to invade a town as large as Mubi with a population of about 300,000?
“How were the insurgents able to so easily take a town of this size, and the people find themselves defenseless and undefended? How is it that the people have been made to suffer as they have?”
Mr. Abubakar also spoke of his earlier concerns about the nation’s deteriorating security situation, adding that he deliberately restrained himself from speaking in a manner that might be construed as distracting the government.
“But the scale of injustice the people of Nigeria are suffering has reached a stage where I am obliged to amplify my concerns.
“Many of our citizens, unable to come to terms with why a so-called ‘Africa’s best army’ has been unable to confront this horrendous situation, are increasingly assuming that this whole thing is about electoral politics.
“They suspect that the seeming inability of the government to end the crisis is a ploy to weaken some parts of the country ahead of the 2015 elections. Can we, in all honesty, blame them for having those suspicions?”
Mr. Abubakar further appealed to the relief agencies working in the country to double their efforts.
“And all people of goodwill should help in any way they can and to do more than they have been doing to alleviate the pain and suffering that we Nigerians face through this insurgency.
“At a time when we are constantly bombarded with horror stories of ugly events elsewhere in the world – here in West Africa, we are faced with the Ebola epidemic and other trouble spots – I draw your attention to a humanitarian crisis which is also a matter of international security,” Mr. Abubakar said.