A barrage of criticisms from across the nation yesterday greeted Thursday’s visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to Maiduguri, Borno State, with many Nigerians dismissing the trip as belated and politically motivated.
The President had used the visit – his first to the state since March 2013 when he held a town hall meeting with Borno Elders on the insurgency in the state -to address the soldiers involved in fighting terror in the Boko Haram troubled state, and to comfort citizens displaced by the sect’s acts of terrorism.
The Secretary of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Professor Ango Abdullahi. said the President’s visit was a political move to get the votes of Borno people who were yet to be killed by Boko Haram.
Prof. Abdullahi wondered why it had become suddenly convenient for the President to visit the state 30 days to the presidential election after ignoring the same state in spite persistent terror attacks.
Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria told The Nation on the phone that the visit came too late.
His words: ”Mr. President knows quite well that thousands of people have lost their lives and property worth hundreds of millions of naira have been lost and thousands have been internally and externally displaced in their own country. And it has taken Mr. President more than four years to go and see things for himself.
“Therefore, my interpretation of his going there is that he wants the remaining people of Borno State who are still alive to vote for him. I think his visit is political and he thinks the Borno People and people of the North-East are that stupid.
“Even by the account of the Deputy Governor who addressed the President’s visit at one of the IDP camps, President Jonathan heard himself that NEMA has done virtually nothing to alleviate the suffering of the internally displaced persons since the beginning of the crisis.
“That report is a total shame on all of us and terrible shame on the President, for international community to hear that no assistance has been rendered to the IDPs.
“So, the visit is purely political. He wants votes. He is not interested in the security of the people. Now that election is about three weeks away, he wants votes and I will be surprised if he doesn’t have zero per cent in Borno.”
A Sokoto-based businessman and front row elder, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminu Tafida, called the President’s visit illogical.
He said: ”If he did that visit for political reason, it is going to work against him, because to watch a problem for four years and after 22 months of serious Boko Haram challenges only to wait until Amnesty International showed real pictures of the atrocities in the region over the BBC in addition to pressure instigated by foreign press before taking step, is shocking.”
A two-term council chairman in Sokoto State, Alhaji Ibrahim Magaji Gusau, expressed disappointment that President Jonathan did not visit Chibok.
“I thought he would go to Chibok, Baga and other crisis areas to sympathise with victims of Boko Haram attacks.
“Look at France where only 12 were killed. The government promptly rose up to the challenge to liberate its people from terrorists.
“ In fact, we do not have a leader. He has failed woefully. Jonathan has played into the hands of sycophants who do not care about the larger interests of Nigerians but personal gains.”
Comrade Jonathan Vatsa, the Niger State Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Party (APC), said the President’s visit to Maiduguri had political undertone and came too late.
He said: “A good leader would not have abandoned the parents of the Chibok girls. He ought to have gone to see the families of these girls.
“He claimed to be the father of the nation.What type of father would abandon his children for almost 300 days only to visit the area to go and canvass for votes?
“Our President is playing politics with Boko Haram. He is playing politics with the lives of people. Now that he has gone, is he expecting the dead or the maimed to vote for him?”
Minna-based public affairs commentator, Mr. Francis Bello, said the president should have gone to Baga and not Maiduguri.
“Baga and not Maiduguri is the hotbed of terrorism. His visit to Maiduguri was a smokescreen. He went to campaign and not to boost the morale of the military,” Bello said, adding: “How can our President explain his prompt condolence to the French people over the killing of 11 of their compatriots by a terror gang when he has lost over 11,000 souls in his own country? His visit was belated and ill-timed.”
But Mr.Abdul Kusherigi saw it differently.
He said the President should be commended for going to boost the morale of soldiers fighting Boko Haram and to comfort the Internally Displaced persons (IDPs).
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Anambra State , Chief Dennis Ngene said the president would be disappointed if he expected any political mileage from the visit.
He said: “This is a man who has abandoned the kidnapped school children for nine months and barely one month to presidential election he found time to visit the state.
“His visit does not show any sign of seriousness and the visit is pure deceit.
“What our president has done shows desperation because of the forthcoming presidential election.
But, the Anambra state coordinator of Transform Nigeria Movement (TNM), Comrade Obi Ochije, said what is of paramount importance to Nigeria now is peace.
“I will not say it is political or not, but our major interest is the unity of the country and the president should make sure that peace reigns “Ochije said.
Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaidu Muhammed, said the President’s visit to Maiduguri was not only belated but a total ruse.
He said: “The visit shows clearly that he (President Jonathan) has nothing but contempt for the people of the North-East and, indeed, each and every Northerner. It is clear that he has been informed about the situation in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, and he has done nothing about it.
“I sincerely believe that if not for the elections which he is desperate to win by hook or crook, he wouldn’t have visited the North-East for the entire period of his presidency. So, I am persuaded that the people are not stupid—they know what it is all about, and they will reply him come 14th February when the elections are due.
“They will tell him what they think about him and what they think about his games and they will, by the grace of God, help to defeat him massively so that this presidency and this political party which he leads will be thrown into the dustbin of history forever.
“Nigerians are smart enough to know who is for them and who is against them; and they also respect performance. If you perform, they respect you, if you don’t perform, they simply ignore you and when the time comes, they vote you out—that is the essence of democracy and I don’t believe Goodluck will be an exception.
“President Jonathan’s visit to Borno is irrelevant. It is immaterial because if you have ignored people for five years and now you are remembering they exist because you want their votes and you think 24 hours visit is enough to deliver their votes to you, I think it shows that you are also utterly contemptuous of the people who you visited.
Elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, however differed.
He said the visit was a big challenge to the opposition “who had been pressurising him to visit the area.”
Yakasai added: “It is now left for them (opposition) to also visit the area. He is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a lot of state engagements, therefore, he is the one to see how to arrange his schedules to enable him know where and when to visit.
“You cannot say that President Jonathan’s visit to Borno at this time is belated, because as the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces and President of Nigeria, he can choose to visit any place at any time because all time is right. So, he decides by himself when it is convenient for him to visit anywhere.
“As such, he has broken the jinx and it is now left for his critics to follow his foot-steps.“
Secretary of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Kwara State in the Second Republic, Chief Olatunji Arosanyin said the Maiduguri visit was long overdue.
“When I heard the President Goodluck Jonathan visited Maiduguri, Borno State capital yesterday (Thursday), the first thing that came to my mind was that the President went there because of politics, but if it is not because of that it is a bold decision,” he said.
“Though, the president could have done it before. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces, he should have visited the place more than five times, because we hear how United States President Barack Obama pays impromptu visits to Afghanistan to address American troops.
“The visit though too little, too late is okay, perhaps it will boost the morale of the security personnel in the area.
“If it will make them happier and make them to be committed to fight the Boko Haram sect, then it is good. But if it is for politics that cannot earn him more vote than what he could have got.