by Atiku Abubakar
Gentlemen of the Press:
It is with deep regret that I came to learn that Mubi, which is one the largest towns in Adamawa State of northeast Nigeria, has been taken by the terrorist group commonly known as Boko Haram. 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.
I am Nigerian. I believe in the integrity of Nigeria as a whole, and every part of this country matters to me. 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.
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 situation in which we find ourselves today is grave. Much of Borno, and the north of Adamawa and Yobe states is already at the mercy of the terrorists. It started a few months ago with Bama, which is nearly 400 kilometres from Yola, capital of Adamawa State.
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.
As somebody who hails from Adamawa State, you can appreciate why I feel such emotion at the fate of my people. 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. This is a crisis of leadership.
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?
I have previously spoken about the deteriorating security situation in this country on a number of occasions. On those occasions I deliberately restrained myself from speaking in a manner that might be construed as distracting the government and the security forces as they grappled with the dire security situation. 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?
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.
The relief agencies that are already working here should please 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.
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.
Atiku Abubakar is a former Nigerian Vice-President during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) regime President Olusegun Obasanjo. He is a presidential aspirant on the platform of opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2015 elections. This statement was delivered at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja on Monday, November 3, 2014.
The opinions in this article are solely those of the author