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Humanitarian crisis in Northeast brought Kerry to Buhari

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US Secretary of State John Kerry / AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA

US Secretary of State John Kerry / AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA

Contrary to insinuations that United State’s Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, visited President Muhammadu Buhari; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111; and the 19 Northern States Governors to prepare grounds for the splitting of the country, the presidency says the visit revolved around the situation in Nigeria’s northeast.

Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, told The Guardian on phone at the weekend that it was not true that the worrisome nature of the North to Nigeria and Africa came up in the discussion between Kerry, Governors and top officials.

The presidential spokesman, who said he attended the meeting, said the main thrust of the discussion was the humanitarian crisis and how America could be of help in the Northeastern part of the country ravaged by insurgency.

Adesina also said visits by prominent Nigerians in the past few days, was in line with the president’s feedback mechanism to keep in touch with his constituents, stressing that “there is not more than meets the eye in these visits.”

It was however gathered that on Kerry’s visit from Sokoto through Abuja, he was unequivocal that developments in northern Nigeria was a cause for concern to Washington.

For instance, in Sokoto, after eulogising the former northern premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Kerry went on to deliver an excoriating repudiation of the driving philosophy of the Boko Haram sect, which he reiterated was against education.

Adesina quoted Kerry as saying: “And it is special, because the teachings of religion and ethics are prioritised right alongside the virtues of reading, writing, math, and science. Many of your former leaders actually started out as schoolteachers, including, of course, the inspiring Ahmadu Bello.

“In fact, shortly after he graduated from a teaching college, and years before he founded the university that today bears his name, Ahmadu Bello returned to his birthplace – not far from here, in Rabah – in hopes of educating his community. And at the time, there was no school. So he built a thatched hut, where he began instructing children in his own family how to read and write.

“That kind of commitment has made a huge difference in Nigeria. And I expect that Ahmadu Bello would be proud that, in the country today, school attendance, literacy, and graduation rates are higher than ever before.

“But he wouldn’t be satisfied, and you know that. Because even late in his career he declared a “war on ignorance,” and that is a war that much of the world is still fighting every single day well beyond Nigeria.

“As everyone in this room well knows, in its quest to destroy knowledge, the terrorist group Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people, displaced more than two million, and flung some seven million Nigerians into hunger, thirst, and desperate need. On Sunday, they descended onto a small village near Chibok in the middle of the night, looting every home that they saw, and then they took food and livestock before burning those huts to the ground.

“Boko Haram boasts no agenda other than to murder teachers, burn books, kidnap students, rape women and girls, and slaughter innocent people, most of whom are Muslims.

“This then is what Boko Haram is all about – and you know this better than I do – not just murdering innocent people, but also transforming the most vulnerable people among us into killers of their neighbours – their own families – and even themselves.”

The American top diplomat was quick to point out that violent religious extremism was not restricted only to Nigeria in the continent and applauded the efforts of the Federal Government and religious leaders led by the Sultan.

Kerry, Adesina said, reiterated that Nigeria must continue to fight corruption, promote good governance, promote opportunity for men and women alike, show compassion, among other measures that will reduce the threat of violent extremism now and in future.


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