Pres­i­dent’s trip aims to ease calls for se­ces­sion

The Dominion Post - - World -

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

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