President’s trip aims to ease calls for secession
NIGERIA: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is visiting two southeastern states to boost his All Progressives Congress party’s chances in a region where there have been growing calls for secession.
The visit comes at a delicate moment in southeastern Nigeria, where the Indigenous People of Biafra, known as Ipob, and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, have stepped up a secessionist campaign.
Buhari’s administration has designated the group a ‘‘terrorist’’ movement and vowed to prevent the breakup of Africa’s most populous nation. A bid to establish an independent state 50 years ago sparked the Biafran War, which claimed more than a million lives.
The president’s trip to the region might give residents ‘‘assurance that they are part of Nigeria and the accusations against his government of marginalising their people is something that he is addressing’’, said Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Policy and Advocacy Centre.
The Nigerian security forces can ill afford more unrest. They are already stretched in their battle against Islamist militants in the northeast, where violence has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people since 2009 and pushed the region to the brink of famine.
Ipob, which has campaigned for a boycott of the Anambra gubernatorial election, threatened in a statement to disrupt Buhari’s visit and vowed that ‘‘he will not go back alive’’.
Buhari, a 74-year-old former military head of state, clinched the 2015 presidency despite winning just 7 per cent of the vote in the southeast. – Washington Post