In a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C. on Saturday, Nigeria’s main opposition candidate for the 2019 presidential election, Mr Atiku Abubakar, commended elders in the northern state of Borno for rejecting plans by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to free hundreds, if not thousands of Boko Haram terrorists held by the authorities.
Mr Abubakar described the rejection as a “patriotic and commonsensical call by the Borno Elders Forum“.
He said President Buhari who has been repeatedly accused of having links to the terrorist organization should “stop the practice of releasing so called repentant Boko Haram members”.
Why it matters: President Buhari, a devout Muslim, has repeatedly denied having any link to Boko Haram group, which selected him some years ago to negotiate with the government on their behalf, and then attacked his convoy not long after as it escalated its murderous reign of terror, killing tens of thousands of people in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, and vowing that it would be pure Islam or death to the unbelievers in an area where surprisingly oil had been discovered around the Lake Chad Basin in West Africa.
In a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA, Abubakar, who is the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party said he fully aligns with this call and feels vindicated because twice in 2018, he gave precisely this counsel to the President, which he did not heed.
“It makes no military or practical sense to release hardened terrorists, who have taken the very precious lives of members of the Nigerian Armed Forces, on the flimsy excuse that they have been deradicalised or repentant.
“As Atiku Abubakar said last year, and says again, any right thinking person can see that escalation of the war on Nigeria by Boko Haram/ISWAP, coincides with the introduction of this repugnant policy by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“Abubakar urges President Muhammadu Buhari to cast his mind back to the testimony of Abba Umar, a Boko Haram commander who after his arrest, boasted that he would return to join the sect in Sambisa if he was ever released,” the statement read.
It added: “Atiku Abubakar therefore advises President Buhari to show single minded resolve and commitment to defeating the common enemies of our nation and to do so without betraying any weakness, as this will only embolden the terrorists.
“The PDP Presidential candidate commends the Borno Elders Forum and urges other bodies of elders to learn from their sagacious courage to speak the truth to power.
“Finally, Atiku Abubakar serves notice to Boko Haram/ISWAP that if he is elected President of Nigeria, there will be no release of any captured terrorist. Instead, they must expect the harshest punishment the law allows. Under Atiku Abubakar, criminals will not profit from their criminality”.
Simon is a renowned international journalist, founder and publisher of TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.