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'Time running out' for Nigeria over Boko Haram

28 May 2014, 18:00

Kano - Nigeria faces a race against time to tackle its worsening security situation, which has spread in scale and scope due to a lack of political leadership, an influential governor told AFP.

Kano state governor Rabiu Kwankwaso said the country was unprepared for the level of violence from Boko Haram Islamists.

"Everyone is tired of our situation now because nobody is safe in this country," Kwankwaso, a defence minister under former president Olusegun Obasanjo, said on Tuesday.

"Time is running out. Something has to be done, especially in the northeastern part of this country."

Kwankwaso is a leading figure in the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and is seen as a potential presidential candidate in next year's elections.

He was one of a number of governors from the mainly Muslim north to abandon their ties to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party of President Goodluck Jonathan last year, in part due to the government's perceived indifference to the north.

- Inequality fuelling insurgency -

Kwankwaso said the insurgency was fuelled by social and economic inequalities in the region compared to the richer, oil-producing south.

He said Jonathan, a Christian from southern Bayelsa state, had failed to heed advice and address the problems.

"There is a very strong correlation between poverty, unemployment and illiteracy on the one hand and of course the issue of insurgency or insecurity on the other," he said.

"A very poor man who is looking for something to eat can easily be persuaded by the insurgents to be recruited. So, also, the unemployed and the illiterate. And that is exactly what is happening.

"The president has been warned by many people in and outside the country, including (former US) secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

"I'm sure there are many people that told him that long before now but he didn't take the advice and now we are reaping the consequences."

Kwankwaso said he welcomed the help of "friendly countries" in the search for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters last month.

But he questioned why Nigeria was no longer able to tackle the situation on its own, given the military's history of involvement in peace-keeping operations overseas.

"Under normal circumstances, Nigeria should be strong enough to defend itself. We don't have to ask our friends -- the US, UK and so on -- to come and help us.

"I have to say that it is very disappointing today that we have to ask some countries to come and help us because as at the time I left office as the minister of defence, we had the capacity to protect every square metre of this country.

"I don't know what went wrong but this is where we have found ourselves. We have to look for support from elsewhere and that is what those in the saddle of leadership are looking for," he said.

Kwankwaso said the five-year insurgency had left everyone a target, from ordinary civilians to the police, military, government and traditional rulers.

His own father narrowly escaped injury after gunmen attacked a mosque in his village in January, killing three worshippers.

The range of people attacked put paid to claims that politicians in the north were stoking the insurgency as a way of destabilising the government in Abuja, he added.

"Every class is a victim and we hope the government works as tirelessly as possible to end this state of insecurity we are now facing."




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