by Ola Audu
Contrary to claims by the Presidency that President Goodluck Jonathan made a surprise visit to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, on Thursday out of genuine concern to identify with troops and displaced people, insiders in the president’s campaign have told PREMIUM TIMES the journey was packaged to prepare the ground for Mr. Jonathan’s campaign in the troubled Northeast region beginning next week.
ut those familiar with Mr Jonathan’s political strategies as he campaigns for re-election said the President was talked into the trip by his political advisers and officials of his campaign council as a way of neutralising criticism over his refusal to visit the region despite an upsurge in attacks by Boko Haram militants who have massacred civilians and security officials.
The president’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party, had recently announced that Mr. Jonathan would visit the troubled zone to canvass votes despite failing to visit the towns where the insurgents have continued to murder and abduct hundreds.
Our source, who asked not to be named so as not to be accused of sabotaging the President’s campaign, said Mr. Jonathan became concerned after widespread criticism trailed the announcement that he would be campaigning in the region.
“The president was advised to try and make at least one non-political visit to the region to shut up critics,” one of our sources said. “Everyone agreed that taking campaigns to the zone without this kind of initial visit might expose the President to ridicule. That’s essentially why he visited today, and I’m telling you this authoritatively.”
Another source said Mr. Jonathan has scheduled campaign stops for Bauchi (Bauchi) on January 22, and Maiduguri (Borno) on January 24.
By the schedule read out to PREMIUM TIMES Thursday night, the president’s campaign train plans to be in Yola (Adamawa) on January 29 and Gombe (Gombe) and Damaturu (Yobe) on February 2.
“With today’s visit to Maiduguri, we believe the ground is now better prepared for campaign stops,” an official said.