President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have finally bowed to the criticisms of his alleged uncaring response to crises across the country.
After the massacre of dozens in Taraba, the president visited the state only yesterday and is expected to also reach Benue, Zamfara, Yobe and Rivers states where hundreds of citizens have been murdered in recent months.
A statement from the presidency noted that Buhari, having studied a report by the armed forces and other security agencies, is embarking on the trip to assess the situation.
What the statement didn’t acknowledge, however, is the overwhelming pressure by enraged Nigerians who watched the president at the wedding in Kano State on Saturday of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s daughter and the son of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State.
Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose described the visits as insincere, belated, and a ploy to boost the president’s chances of re-election ahead of next year’s polls.
In a statement by his spokesman, Lere Olayinka, Fayose said: “Obviously, the president is more concerned about his re-election in 2019 and his visit to those states he abandoned during their times of trouble is to seek votes, not to sympathise with the people on their loses.
“On January 9 and 12, this year, 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, the state capital.
“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.”
Fayose accused Buhari of showing a lack of compassion for Nigerians. According to him, “While the entire nation, especially parents of the 110 abducted school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State, were still in anguish, Buhari went to Kano, last Saturday, to attend a social function, thus sparking negative reactions from Nigerians.”
He said: “Apparently, it was the negative reactions of Nigerians, especially on social media and the effects on the president’s re-election bid that necessitated his hurried visit to Taraba State today, and planned visits to Benue, Zamfara, Yobe and Rivers.”
The governor expressed hope that the people of Taraba would not be “hoodwinked” by the “cosmetic sympathy, show of concern and crocodile tears he never bothered to shed when hundreds of indigenes of the state were being killed by suspected herdsmen.”
He concluded: “Nigerians can no longer be deceived by a president who never cared for them when they needed him most. Therefore, no amount of hurriedly organised campaign visits will sway the people.”
According to Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly, the wedding, which took place two days after Boko Haram killed UN aid workers in Rann, Borno State, portrays the insensitivity of Nigerian leaders.
He wondered why the two governors would stun the public with the pomp of their children’s wedding when the nation was still reeling from the horror of dozens of schoolgirls abducted in Yobe State.
“We have reached a stage where our president has become a king and a monarch. His son who rode a pleasure bike that almost claimed his life would be returning from an overseas trip where he had received special healthcare that Nigerians cannot afford, and it took a whole minister of state to go and welcome him, because he (minister) has no job” Bakare said during the Sunday service.
Other Nigerians vented their disappointment on social media. Public commentator, Japhet Omojuwa, tweeted: “President @MBuhari is in Kano for a wedding. Scores of citizens he swore to protect were killed in Benue, Zamfara, Taraba e.t.c., and the closest he has shown in empathy is invite the leaders of the affected groups to the Villa. This is what leaders go down for in sane societies.”
Another Twitter account holder, Adeyanju Deji, posted: “So, President Buhari is going to Kano today for the wedding of the daughters of Ganduje/Ajimobi but couldn’t visit Dapchi or Benue, Adamawa or Taraba? Kai! Given the way Buhari was screaming when Chibok happened and was insulting GEJ, you would think he would be in the bush now in Lake Chad.”
Kemi Ariyo tweeted: “If Buhari’s former running mate, Tunde Bakare, had not condemned his insensitive action, as regards the Kano wedding, Mr. President might likely ignore our criticism. PMB is visiting those states not because he wants to; he has suddenly realised his political ambition would be affected.”
Reno Omokri was sacarastic: “I’m glad Buhari attended the governor’s kids’ wedding in Kano. Sad that he could not find time to visit Dapchi to lead from the front or Zamfara to console them over the death of 41 people or Benue to sympathise with them over the murder of 73 people by killer Fulani herdsmen!”
Meanwhile, the president’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, on Channels Television, said Buhari is visiting the states to find a lasting solution to the crises.
Buhari, yesterday, said he was in Taraba to console those who had lost loved ones to the disturbances. He charged traditional rulers to preach peace and stressed the importance of security to development. He also cited achievements of the All Progressives Congress-led government on security and restated earlier order for the prosecution of herdsmen armed with AK-47 rifles.
And while Benue State awaits the president’s visit, Fulani herdsmen allegedly killed five persons at Umenger in Guma Local Government Area on Sunday night.
The incident came despite the commencement, last month, of the Nigerian Army’s Exercise Cat Race, aimed at curbing the activities of violent herdsmen, cattle rustlers, armed bandits, kidnappers and armed militias in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi and Niger States.
Sources said the villagers, emboldened by the deployment of troops, were returning to the burnt out homes they had fled earlier. They were, however, ambushed by the herdsmen who opened fire, killing the victims on the spot.
But the Security Adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom, Col. Paul Hemba (rtd), put the casualty figure at two.
He said the attackers shot at three persons on a motorcycle, as they approached the village, and that a man and a woman were killed, while the third person escaped.
Hemba disclosed that the army promised to visit the area today, adding that the bodies of the victims have been deposited at the morgue of the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) in Makurdi.
As at the time of filing this report, the state police spokesman, Moses Yamu, said he was still waiting for details from the divisional officer in the area.