President Muhammadu Buhari said, weekend, that Nigeria would join the coalition of Muslim countries against terrorism, led by Saudi Arabia, because of the activities of Boko Haram. The President had, during his state visit to Saudi Arabia last week, said Nigeria would not be a part of the coalition. “Even if we are not a part of it, we support you,” the President had said at the meeting held in Saudi Arabia in February. But speaking in an interview with Aljazeera at the weekend, the President said: “We are part of it because we have got terrorists in Nigeria that everybody knows, which claims that they are Islamic. He noted that Nigeria was currently faced with attacks by Boko Haram, which had claimed over 20,000 lives since 2009.
The Aljazeera interview is believed to have been held in Qatar, where President Buhari visited after his trip to Saudi Arabia. President Buhari said in the interview: “If there is an Islamic coalition to fight terrorism, Nigeria will be part of it because we are casualties of Islamic terrorism.” Asked how the coalition would work in Nigeria’s interest, the President said it would be within the framework of Lake Chad Basin coalition against Boko Haram, which comprises Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin. “I don’t think we need to tell the press the details in relation to the number of troops to be deployed by the Lake Chad coalition that would be part of the Saudi-led coalition," he said.
On whether or not his decision would go well with Nigerian Christians, who make up about half of the country’s population, Buhari said: “I have just told you it is the Boko Haram itself that declared loyalty to ISIL. Now, ISIL is basically based in Islamic countries. If there is a coalition to fight terrorism, why can’t Nigeria be part of it? “Why can’t those Christians that complain go and fight terrorism in Nigeria or fight the militants in the south. It is Nigeria that matters, not the opinions of some religious bigots.” He denied seeking to change Nigeria’s multi-religious nature by his actions. “How can I change the religious identity of Nigeria?” the President queried.