Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar yesterday commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government for recording giant strides in the fight against insurgents in the North-east part of the country.
He said due to the far-reaching successes scored by the Nigerian troops in the on-going war on terror, some internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been able to return to their homes to try and resume normal lives.
Atiku, who made the remarks in a speech he delivered at the 11th Founder’s Day ceremony of the Nigeria-American University (AUN) in Yola, Adamawa state, however urged the government to adopt better measures to make the lives of the returning IDPs better.
The former Vice President whose zone, the North-east, has been the theatre of years of violent activities of the Boko Haram sect, said 2016 has witnessed a significant improvement in the security situation in the zone.
He said an improvement in the security situation has enabled some IDPs to return to their homes, adding that the efforts of the security forces in making these possible were commendable.
He also said it would not be enough for people to simply return to their pre-insurgency lives but that government should try to make their lives better than it was before the outbreak of the insurgency war.
“The commitment of the federal government and the state governments in this zone, as well as the support of the governments of our neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, have pushed back against the violent insurgency and improved the security of citizens in the area,” he said.
According to Atiku, who turned 70 years recently, “however, more still needs to be done to restore normalcy in this area. The insurgency remains. The insurgents still occupy a specific geographical space. They still retain the capacity for occasional deadly attacks. Many citizens in the zone still remain vulnerable and live in fear; and we cannot say that the problem is over until every displaced person is able to return home, to the farm, and resume normal activities.
“We cannot say it is over until we rebuild the schools, the churches, the hospitals, the markets, and the homes that had been destroyed. And we cannot say it’s over until the survivors of this insurgency receive the help they need, including psychological therapy to deal with the trauma that they have been through.
“I visited an IDP camp on Saturday and had the privilege of teaching a math class to some children. But the sight of hundreds of children running around and unable to attend school was very gut wrenching. It still breaks my heart. So we cannot say the insurgency is over until all the displaced children return to their schools.
“We must do better than that otherwise we would only have papered over the wound without really treating it. People must return to something better, to hope, to improved schools, to improved economic opportunities, to freedom of worship and improved inter-religious harmony. People must return to the realisation that it is okay not only to be different but also to learn, including so-called Western education,” he said.