•President also to tour Benue, Zamfara, Yobe, Rivers over killings
• PDP, Fayose, state govs, Yakassai, Chekwas Okorie, others react
Sylvanus Viashima; Jalingo; Chinelo Obogo; Chukwudi Nweje, Lagos; Wole Balogun, Akure; Tony John, Port Harcourt; Rose Ejembi, Markurdi; Godwin Tsa; Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye; Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, kicked off his much anticipated visit to security-challenged states with a stop over at Taraba State where he condoled with the government and people over the spate of clashes which left scores of persons dead.
Buhari who was accompanied by ministers of Women Affairs, Defence, Information and Culture, members of the National Assembly from the state and other service chiefs was received by Governor Darius Ishaku and other top state functionaries at the Jalingo airport at about 4pm.
The president who met with stakeholders from the crisis area and government officials at the Exco Chambers of the Government House sued for peace.
“I came here to meet with the leadership of the state to express my condolences to those who lost loved ones and property in the crisis. I can only appeal to the conscience of the people for them to embrace peace and live with one another in harmony so that there could be development and not destruction,” he said.
Explaining why it took him several weeks to visit following the attack that led to the death of over 80 persons, he said he has a way of getting intelligence on happening across the country and so he should not be expected to always go out to the field to make noise and insult the sensibility of Nigerian before it would be known that he was taking actions against the killings.
He called on traditional rulers in the state to step up activities in their various Chiefdoms to foster peaceful coexistence among their subjects and to remain vigilant at all times.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina,
had in a statement, said Buhari decided to embark on the tour following recent terrorist attacks, criminal activities and communal clashes which has led to tragic loss of lives and kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls.
However, kudos, knocks and indifference have trailed the five-legge tour which would also take the president to Benue, Yobe, Zamfara and Rivers states.
Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose described it as an afterthought and political move to garner votes in 2019.
“Obviously, the visit to those states that he abandoned during their time of trouble is to seek for votes, not to sympathise with the people of the states on their loses,” he said.
Governor Fayose likened Buhari to a selfish king who went on making merry while his people were in agony only to show up when the people had buried their loved ones that were gruesomely murdered and moved on with their lives.
In a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Governor Fayose said it was the height of cruelty that Buhari who promised to lead from the front in the fight against Boko Haram could not visit Dapchi, Yobe State where 110 school girls were abducted by the insurgents, but elected to go on merry making in Kano.
“On January 9 and 12, 88 victims of herdsmen attacks were given mass burial in Taraba State.Also on January 11, 2018, another 73 persons killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue State were buried in a mass grave in Makurdi, meaning that in Taraba and Benue States alone, 161 Nigerians were given mass burial within three days. This never caught the attention of our president. Rather, it was a visit to Nasarawa, a neighbouring State to Benue that was important to him.
“To further demonstrate his lack of compassion for Nigerians, while the entire nation, especially parents of the 110 abducted schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State are still in anguish, President Buhari went to Kano last Saturday to attend a social function, thus sparking negative reactions from Nigerians.
“Apparently, it was the negative reactions of Nigerians, especially on social media and the effects on the president’s reelection bid that necessitated his hurried visit to Taraba State today (yesterday) and the planned visits to Benue, Zamfara, Yobe and Rivers States.”
Fayose said Nigerians could no longer be deceived by a president who never cared for them when they needed him most.
And as far as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is concerned, the visit to Taraba and the imminent ones to the other states is a fresh device to further hoodwink the people ahead of the 2019 general elections.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said: “Mr. President has been in the country and never thought it necessary to pay a condolence visit to any of these states until Nigerians raised the alarm alleging a manifest indifference on his part. It is even more pathetic that in Benue State, President Buhari summoned the leaders of the bereaved people to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, rather than complying with the age-long tradition of Africans by visiting the bereaved.
“No wonder many Nigerians have dismissed the planned visits of President Buhari to these states as cosmetic afterthought. Nigerians have already formed their opinion of him and rightly so, as a president that has never shown them concern in their time of need.”
For elder statesman, Tanko Yakkasai, the visit would not make the impact it would have made if he had visited immediately the crisis broke out.
“An experienced politician would not do what he did; a politician would have visited those states long before now. His visit can turn out to be counterproductive. If he could spare the time to attend a wedding, he should have spared the same time to visit those crisis-ridden states and condole with the family of the deceased. I would not say he decided to go because he was being criticised for not showing concern that Nigerians had lost their lives, but what I can say is that it would have been more effective if he had gone earlier.”
National Chairman of the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chekwas Okorie agreed that it was better for Buhari to visit late than never.
“It was really scandalous that none of these atrocities moved him to those places that were affected when the news was still hot. Many have expressed disappointment in him, but that he has decided to go shows that, at least, he is listening. If he proves himself to be a listening president, I pray that he also listens to all other complaints because they are many. It is a good development that he has now decided to do what he was supposed to have done,” Okorie said.
Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, an activist and National Coordinator, Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN) Foundation also described the visit as belated, saying that it was unfortunate that President Buhari has not shown expected empathy to the senseless killing of Nigerian citizens whom he swore on oath to protect.
“I seriously doubt that the president is in control of affairs in this country. If he is, then he is too insensitive to the many killing of Nigerian going on around the country. How can he not care or show concern about the very many tragedies plaguing this country but prefers to be frolicking when human lives are wasted per second by criminal elements who appear to enjoy protection by the state.”
Similarly, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State said the fact that Buhari chose this moment to visit the troubled spot was an indication that those managing him were not managing him very well.
But speaking on a live television programme, yesterday, Mr. Adesina, insisted that the president had done nothing wrong in his decision to visit the affected states when he felt it was the appropriate time.
He said that when the crisis broke out, Buhari not only condoled with the families of the victims of the crisis, but had also sent delegations to the affected states.
“The president had sent the IG of Police, the DIG, Interior Minister and military chiefs and they have submitted reports which he has read; now he thinks it is the right time to visit. If you say that the president should be proactive, should he have visited the states before the crisis? There is nothing wrong if he visited immediately, there is also nothing wrong if he is visiting now because he has commiserated with those who were affected by the crisis and he has also sent delegations to the states and he has taken the steps that needed to be taken.”
Rivers, Benue react
Belated or not, both Rivers and Benue states said they were looking forward to the visit.
Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, Terver Akase explained that as president of the country, Buhari was free to visit any part of the country whenever he wanted.
Akase said the government and people of the state were eagerly waiting to receive him.
“Benue is part of Nigeria and the president is free to visit any part of the country anytime he wants. Benue is his place. All we are saying is that the president is warmly welcome to Benue.”
For Rivers, the visit would afford the people of the state a rare opportunity to inform Buhari of the total neglect of the state by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government since 2015.
According to the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Emma Okah, “the impending visit is a welcome development. He’s president for all Nigerians, and not the president of a particular part of the country or political party. The visit would afford us the opportunity of interacting with him, if his programme would permit, so that we tell him the challenges we are facing and also, the contributions and efforts we are making towards building a stronger and more united nation.
“We will use the opportunity to also tell him about the peculiar security challenges that Rivers State is facing and the fact that we have not received appropriate cooperation from the Police high command despite our complaints.”
He added that the visit would provide the opportunity to inform Buhari of the plan by the electoral umpire and some security agencies to rig the forthcoming elections to favour his party.
“We will also use the opportunity to tell him what INEC is doing and the fact that INEC is working with some security agencies to frustrate the 2019 elections in favour of his party. And we will assure him of our unalloyed commitment as we all work together in patriotism towards building a stronger and more united nation.”
However, South-south leader and erstwhile information minister, Chief Edwin Clark called on Buhari to urgently declare a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states to allow the military curb the rising insecurity in the affected states.
For that reason, he called on the president to appoint very senior military officers to administer the affairs of the states for six months, after which Boko Haram insurgency would then be buried forever in the North-east geopolitical zone.
Chief Clark who spoke at a press conference at his Abuja residence, hinged his reason on the upsurge in attacks of soft targets by insurgents, especially the recent abduction of 110 students of Government Girls’ Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State.