The Presidency, yesterday, absolved President Muhammadu Buhari of complicity in the activities of Boko Haram, the dreaded terrorist group which has waged a bloody war with the Nigeria Armed Forces for over a decade.
In a bid to demonstrate his innocence, the Presidency said Buhari rejected a nomination by the terrorist organisation to negotiate on their behalf in a proposed dialogue with the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2012. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, made this known in an interview with BBC News Pidgin on Saturday.
Shehu was reacting to an allegation leveled against the President by the Governor of Benue State, Mr. Samuel Ortom, that Boko Haram terrorists once named Buhari as their negotiator when former President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly moved to enter into dialogue with the sect.
In a separate interview with the BBC News Pidgin on Saturday,
Ortom had accused Buhari of being complicit in the Boko Haram agenda, alleging that the terrorists were out to “Fulanise the country,” by exterminating the indigenous tribes and enthroning radical Islam across Nigeria. “You remember in 2012 or so. I was a minister at the time and we told Goodluck to try to negotiate with Boko Haram.
When we called them (Boko Haram fighters) to negotiate, they said, ‘No’, that Buhari will be their negotiator. Buhari was not President then,” the governor said. However, Shehu has described Ortom’s claims as false, adding that Buhari had at several times, openly condemned the heinous activities of the insurgents and terrorists operating mainly in the northeast region of the country.
People can make all sorts of claims; they can say all sorts of things. It would have mattered to the nation, to everyone, if at that point, the then General Muhammadu Buhari had accepted the invitation to go and be representative of Boko Haram,” he said.
According to Shehu, Buhari has been harder on bandits operating in the country even though he has yet to declare them as terrorists like the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-East region.
“The Nigerian Air Force is busy bombing locations, the military is there on the ground, exchanging fire for fire, taking them out in hundreds, that is certainly not treating them (bandits) lightly.
“Before President Muhammadu Buhari [assumed office] many Nigerians could not worship on Fridays, mosques were being bombed; on Sundays churches were being bombed, motor parks and public gatherings were not safe,” he said.
The poor handling of the security challenges facing the country, especially the unrelenting attacks by the Boko Haram on communities and military formations had created a lot of conspiracy theories around their existence.