•Says FG, military doing their best
Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, has admitted that the security situation in the troubled state is worsening but said he could not blame President Muhammadu Buhari for the situation because he now has unfettered access to the president unlike during the administration of former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, when he was treated as an enemy of the presidency.
Speaking at an extraordinary security meeting held on Monday night at the Multipurpose Hall of Government House, Maiduguri, the governor urged the attendees not to engage in blame games over the perceived failure of the soldiers, which he said would be unfair given the enormous sacrifices they have made in the last seven years.
He said despite the worsening situation, he would rather encourage rather than blame the military, saying the soldiers were doing their best within the circumstances they had found themselves.
There has been a resurgence of Boko Haram attacks, especially on military bases in the state in the past few months, leading to heavy casualties on the side of the Nigerian Army.
No fewer than 40 soldiers have been killed in sporadic attacks on bases in Metele and Baga.
There are conflicting claims of the insurgents holding positions in some of the local governments of the state.
But Shettima said despite these he was unwilling to apportion blames to Buhari and the military.
He explained, “Some persons have asked why I have not criticised the Buhari government or the Nigerian military over situations in Borno. My response to them is that unlike in previous years when I was treated as an enemy of the presidency, I have from 2015 to date, gained unfettered access to the president.
I see the Commander-in-Chief at the shortest request and I tell him my concerns, he listens to me with keen interest and in most cases, he takes measures. I have not had reason to be frustrated with the presidency unlike previous years.
“Let me say that even under the previous administration, I regularly supported and defended the military. When I said in February 2014, that the military was not being well equipped, it was not a comment by design, it was a spontaneous reaction, which came out of frustration and it was in defense of the soldiers being killed in front lines. I knew the problems.”
He said the most inhuman way to go is to gather and condemn those who are putting their lives on the line and giving their lives in efforts to find peace.
According to him, “We are principally here as a family, as a people all affected by the situation in Borno State, to discuss suggestions that will hopefully contribute to combined ongoing efforts towards addressing the problem.”
He underscored the urgency of the situation when he told his guests, “For seven years, we held our regular security council meetings. I from time to time consult with some of the participants here. However, I never for once convene an extraordinary meeting of this nature because, frankly speaking, I was avoiding a sort of dramatisation or being sensational about our challenges in Borno State.
“Without being insensitive to the realities of our situation, I feel deeply pained whenever Borno is being discussed on the basis of helpless weakness. I prefer to assume a position of strength; a position of normalcy and a character of being incurably optimistic.”
He said his greatest wish was and still is, not to bequeath Boko Haram challenges and IDP camps to his successor.
“We wanted to, and still want to get Borno fully back to normal days,” he said, adding, “Sometimes, I unconsciously find myself boasting that Borno is safer than Lagos. I simply feel very bad to sound pessimistic about Borno. I so much believe in optimism.”
But the influx of men, women and children into Maiduguri, as well as reports of many dying on the way, have triggered tension in the state with concerns among citizens calling for drastic action to be taken by the government.
It was based on this that Shettima convened the Monday night security meeting that involved almost all sectors, including security agencies, the media and legal practitioners.
The outcome of the meeting was not disclosed as officials of the government said its conclusions would only be made known to the president.