Some concerned groups, including the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, National Council of Tiv Youths, and Afenifere, have lashed out at President Muhammadu Buhari over his statements on the killings in the country during his visit to Taraba State, on Monday, Punch reports.
The President, had during his visit, said that the crisis in Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State, had claimed more lives than herdsmen killings in Benue and Zamfara States.
Nigeria’s main political opposition party, the PDP, reacting, said the visit of the President to Taraba State had vindicated its position that Buhari’s scheduled trips to States, where Nigerians were being by killed, were cosmetic and a political afterthought.
The PDP, in a statement on Tuesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, expressed disbelief at the President’s dismissal of public criticism over his delay in visiting the troubled areas.
The party said Nigerians were also distressed by Buhari’s comparison of people killed in one State with the other, as if one life was not as important as hundred others.
It added that the President’s statement had further exposed the value that the All Progressives Congress-led, APC, administration attached to the lives of Nigerians.
The PDP said Nigerians were wondering why Buhari did not cite figures, since what appeared to be of interest to him was the morbid comparison of how many Nigerians were killed from State to State.
It said: “When well-meaning Nigerians said the visit was cosmetic and a political gambit, some apologists of the APC dismissed it as a political statement. Now, the actions and comments by the President during his whistle-stop visit to Taraba State have bared it all.
“Not only that our dear President holed himself in the comfort of the Taraba State Government House for a brief meeting with a few government officials, he did not visit the victims to directly commiserate and allay their fears with assurances of steps to ensure justice and end the carnage, as his allusions almost re-opened old wounds.
“Is it not surprising that the same President, who last Saturday, had all the time at a wedding in Kano State, did not even spare a minute to visit victims of the carnage where a soothing word from him would have been the balm for pain?
“Furthermore, the President’s declaration that Nigerians should not expect him to always go out to the field, not only negates his promise to lead from the front, but also shows that he has become distant from the real feelings, demands and sensibilities of the people.”
The PDP said that the President’s claim of providing security in the country was shocking.
“Perhaps, he was not aware, as usual, that while he was in Taraba, marauders were having a field day slaughtering women and children in neighbouring Benue State”, the PDP added.
The APC, in its reaction on Tuesday however, admonished the PDP to deal with facts, instead of making childish and unsubstantiated allegations.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said this during a telephone interview.
Abdullahi said: “Are they saying that the people in Taraba State are not Nigerians? If they have contrary figures to what has been made public, they should bring them out rather than making these childish deductions. Our party and this administration value every Nigerian life.”
Elsewhere, the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, and the CDHR also faulted the President’s comments.
They said the President should state how many killers had been arrested and prosecuted.
Afenifere’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said: “The President exists to protect the lives of the citizens of the country, and not to give medals to the most violent areas in the country. To be counting deaths in one State more than another State is rather unfortunate. How many of the killers have been arrested? To which court have they been charged? I think the statement should not have come from the President.”
Also the CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said: “In recent times, there have been very morbid remarks from the Presidency to demean our collective humanity. The Taraba comment is a display of serious political indiscretion; but it is not new.
“It shows a scant premium that we place on human lives in Nigeria. It is a failure of leadership and rubbing salt on our injuries.”
The President of National Council of Tiv Youths, Chief John Akperashi, described the President’s statement as a height of insensitivity.
He said: “It baffles many that the President of this nation, who is the custodian of the lives of his citizens, would be quantifying the volumes of deaths and measuring their numbers, as if such deaths were mandatory and normal in the first place.
“The President ought to be visibly agitated, genuinely concerned and practically poised to ensuring that the lives of the citizens of this country under his leadership are sufficiently protected.”
The President General, Mdgzou U Tiv, a socio-cultural group of Tiv nation, Chief Edward Ujege, said the President’s statement was aimed at trivialising the killings in Benue State.
He said: “The statement was least expected of the President. Even if it is a soul that was lost, he should not have made such a statement.
“He is the President of Nigeria; we expect him to heal the wound of the people”, Ujege said.
A former Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon and Secretary to the Taraba State Government, Emmanuel Njiwah, said the visit of the President was good, but must be backed with action.
Njiwah called on the President to disarm herdsmen moving about with guns and terrorising people.
He said: “The visit will not make any impact if the herdsmen are allowed to be killing people freely. The Mambilla farmers who go to their farms with cutlasses for the purposes of farming, are constantly being arrested and harassed by security personnel.
“It is our strong belief that the President can protect us as citizens of this country, and I want to call on the Fulani to respect the authority of the Governor, for peace to reign.
“The situation where some of them boast openly that the President is their kinsman, and as such they will not respect the Governor, will not help”, he said.