Buhari under fire over surging violence

With his country ensnared in mounting jihadist violence, bandit attacks and kidnappings, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is under fire from allies and enemies alike for appearing incapable of tackling the security crisis.

April saw an almost daily toll of bloody assaults and abductions in Africa’s most populous nation.

In the past week alone, at least 240 people have been killed and more than four dozen kidnapped, according to tallies by local media.

The fatalities included 19 Fulani herders gunned down in southeastern Anambra state; five students in the northwest who were shot to death days after gunmen snatched them from their campus; 31 troops, slain in a jihadist ambush in the Lake Chad region; and nine police killed by cattle thieves in northwestern Kebbi state.

Senators, local governors and even the country’s Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka are now calling on Nigeria’s 78-year-old president to step up and do more to curb the violence.

Parliament this week urged Buhari to declare a nationwide state of emergency.

More critical voices asked why the commander-in-chief appeared all but absent in the crisis.

“This is the worst instability we are facing,” said Smart Adeyemi, a senator from Buhari’s own ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party. “This is worse than the civil war.”

Some rhetoric maybe rooted in political jockeying in the buildup to the 2023 election. But the scale of attacks has left many Nigerians to ask if the violence is out of control.

“Words and press statements are not enough. We need to see action. I appeal to Mr. President to take the bull by the horns,” opposition leader Bukola Saraki said.

Buhari in a virtual meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said the army was “resolutely committed” to combating insecurity and urged more cooperation with foreign partners.

But many Nigerians lament what they call a void of leadership.

“Those who have been proven weak and incapable must learn to swallow their vain pride,” said Soyinka, in a veiled reference to Buhari.

“Seek help. Stop improvising with human lives.”