Kano - Nigeria faces a race against time to tackle its worsening security situation, which has spread in scale and scope affecting all walks of life, an influential governor told AFP in an interview.
Kano state governor Rabiu Kwankwaso said the country was unprepared for the level of violence from Boko Haram Islamists and that a lack of political leadership had allowed the situation to worsen.
“Time is running out. Something has to be done, especially (in) the northeastern part of this country,” Kwankwaso, a former defence minister under president Olusegun Obasanjo, said late on Tuesday.
Kwankwaso, a leading figure in the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), was one of a number of governors from the mainly Muslim north to switch allegiance from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party last year.
The defections, which also led to a number of lawmakers crossing the floor in parliament, threatening President Goodluck Jonathan's majority, were attributed in part to the head of state's perceived indifference to the north.
Kwankwaso said social and economic inequalities in the region compared to the richer, oil-producing south, had helped fuel the insurgency and needed to be tackled.
But he claimed that Jonathan did not heed advice to pay more attention to the problems such as poverty, unemployment and illiteracy.
Nigeria was “reaping the consequences” as a result, he added.
Kwankwaso said he welcomed the help of “friendly countries” in the search for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters last month.
But he questioned why Nigeria was no longer able to tackle the situation on its own, given the military's history of involvement in peace-keeping operations overseas.
“I don't know what went wrong but this is where we have found ourselves. We have to look for support from elsewhere and that is what those in the saddle of leadership are looking for,” he said.
Kwankwaso, seen as a potential presidential candidate in next year's elections, said the five-year insurgency had left everyone a target, from ordinary civilians to the police, military, government and traditional rulers.
The politician's father, Musa Kwankwaso, escaped unhurt after gunmen attacked a mosque in his village in January, killing three worshippers and injuring 12 others.
The range of people attacked put paid to claims that politicians in the north were stoking the insurgency as a way of destabilising the government in Abuja, he added.