The visit of President Goodluck Jonathan to Borno and Yobe states last week was a belated one. It was perhaps a crude reaction to the coup de grace of the nine opposition governors earlier. All the same, the entire country is the president's constituency - he is free to visit any part whenever he chooses to.
However, the President Jonathan's visit brought no relief to the traumatised people of both states that have been under the siege of insurgents in the last two years. By failing to address the issues of peace, security and stability in the states, the president bungled a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rekindle hope and inspire peaceful co-existence among the citizens. It would have been great to see the president act, speak and function as a statesman rather than promise to keep soldiers of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the streets.
By going to Maiduguri and Damaturu with 3,000 armed policemen on his trail, Jonathan failed woefully in delivering a message of hope. The intimidating presence of armed operatives only accentuated despair and the president's sense of insecurity even as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the federation. The president would have done well by dousing tension over the marauding soldiers and preaching peace instead of his bravado and gibberish talk about "ghosts".
There was relative peace and inspiration engendered by the visit, penultimate week, of nine progressive governors. The same cannot be said of the army of occupation that accompanied the president during his visit. A puerile desire to match up with the progressive governors' tumultuous visit to Borno State was unnecessary. While the governors converged on an open market, the president was more or less on a guided tour serenaded by security operatives. If the chief security officer felt so unsafe in the country, we wonder who else would feel safe.
The uninspiring message of the president was another black spot. He had no alternative to the Joint Task Force that has been accused of extrajudicial murder of innocent civilians. It is not surprising that the insurgents returned to the streets soon after the president left. It is reminiscent of what happened during the president's earlier visit to Kano and Kaduna states a few days after bombs shattered the peace of the two PDP-controlled north-western states at intervals last year.
For close to two years, the president had avoided visiting the bomb-ravaged Borno and Yobe states. We wonder what changed between the period of serial postponements of the visit to these states and last week. Scathing criticisms had trailed the president's perceived insensitivity then; apparently it was because of unfavourable security reports. When he eventually decided to visit the troubled states, he ought to have made the trip remarkable.