On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari told a delegation of eminent citizens of Niger State at the Presidential Villa, Abuja that his administration is surprised by the activities of bandits in parts of the country. Saying that Boko Haram was well known to him at the time of his campaigns to be President, he was taken aback by the armed bandits’ attacks.
Promising “harder times” for the bandits whose disruptive activities had brought sorrow to Nigerians, kept many away from their means of livelihood and heightened insecurity in parts of the country, President Buhari said: “I was taken aback by what is happening in the Northwest 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.”
President Buhari stated that the violence unleashed by the bandits had negatively affected agricultural output in the country, noting that in spite of the favourable weather for farming, many farmers were attacked and others had to stay away for safety.
The following day, Presidential Spokesperson, Mr Femi Adesina, accused the media of concocting “narratives to suit some sinister motives” on the President’s statement, explaining that President Buhari was referring to the armed banditry in the North-West and that “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 added that “it is disingenuous that the earlier and latter parts of the statement were downplayed, and the middle part misinterpreted to mean that President Buhari was unaware or surprised by the security situation in the country.”
Generally, there is no doubt about what the President said. But facing facts, the President’s remark is unfortunate. This is because as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and chairman of the National Security and National Defence Councils, threats to national security arise every day.
The criminal scene keeps changing daily. So, the President and his Advisers need to be pro-active through the National Security Adviser as they need to forecast threat levels. There is no need for any surprise at any security issue or its level.
In any case, for the President to express surprise is quite surprising as his home State of Katsina has been facing the same challenge of rising insecurity. Even, the Emir of Daura and even the President’s wife, Mrs Aisha Buhari, had lamented on how armed banditry has destroyed the agricultural sector. The question is: Is it possible that the President not know or have heard about the menace of armed banditry which has been making life difficult for the citizens.
We do not buy the assertion that the upsurge in insecurity is the manifestation of evil plan against Nigeria, after all, there has been no planned conference between kidnappers and armed bandits where they agreed to plan and executive evil against the country.