President Muhammadu Buhari ducked out of opening a Southeast Economic and Security Summit in Enugu today following threats made by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who are campaigning for the secession of southeast Nigeria from the rest of the country.
The group in a statement on 19 December warned that Buhari must steer clear of “Biafraland or have himself to blame for the outcome of such visit”.
The statement continued: “We assert that inviting a killer and persecutor of Biafrans to our land is an insult to the memory of those killed by Muhammadu Buhari. Therefore, we object totally to this visit by the killer of Biafrans. We recall that Buhari started his killing of Biafrans with the assassination of Major General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi on July 29, 1966. He followed up with the mass-murder of over two million Biafrans in 1968 at Owerri during the war of genocide on Biafra by Nigeria and Britain. From June 17, 2015, till date, Buhari has killed over two thousand unarmed and peaceful Biafrans.”
“Until all those detained are released, and Amnesty International report investigated, Buhari is not allowed into any part of Biafraland. Let Buhari know that if he (Buhari) comes to Enugu or any part of Biafraland, we will die with him there.
“We are calling on all Biafrans to descend on Enugu on the said date of 22 December 2016 to show our anger and displeasure at this attempt by some greedy Igbo men to insult the memory of our glorious dead and those still in detention with our leader [Nnamdi Kanu, who has detained since being arrested by security agents in October last year]”.
Buhari faced a similar threat when he was set to launch the environmental clean up of Ogoniland in the Niger Delta in June this year. He was warned to avoid setting foot in the area by the militant Niger Delta Avengers and the president sent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo instead.
It was widely believed that, unlike threats from the well-armed Avengers, Buhari would call the bluff of IPOB and still show up in Enugu, considering the Biafran separatists’s struggle has so far been without arms. But the president pulled out of the visit, handing a significant propaganda coup to IPOB.
A president who can’t visit large sections of his country has serious question marks over his legitimacy. Buhari has not been to the southeast since he came into office in May last year. Ducking out of visiting Enugu and the Niger Delta due to threats, is clearly conduct unbecoming of a former general in the Nigerian army. He has also not set foot as president in Borno State – the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency or bothered to visit any Internally Displaced Peoples camps.
When the former military dictator presented himself to Nigerians as a “reconstructed democrat” many doubted it and many more doubted his intellectual capacity to address Nigeria’s multitude of problems. But very few would have imagined that a former soldier would have also been found so wanting in terms of courage.