Since last week, Daura has become the ‘new’ Aso Rock as our president is on a five-day visit to Katsina, his home state. Nothing extraordinary as presidents worldwide spend time away from their regular bases since that’s where they would return after their term.
But this current visit is a private visit as the president’s media handlers informed us. Except that it has not stopped President Muhammadu Buhari from receiving some Katsina State citizens and some APC governors and deputy governors. Nigerians who had thought the president cold and devoid of empathy because of the spate of killings witnessed under his government could see the other side of the retired general. This visit comes six days after he lost two family members on Friday, February 9 and so to home he must return to mourn their deaths. Grief is universal and for all of us who have had to deal with deaths of loved ones, we cannot legislate how a person mourn the dead, especially relatives. May the president be comforted.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of scores of Nigerians who have lost their loved ones under his watch as president particularly those from a state bordering his home state, Zamfara. A hurricane of killings has been sweeping Zamfara State under the disastrous watch of Abdulaziz Yari, the state governor. This column has severally written about the mental state of our leaders that there is no need repeating what had been said but it is calamitous that a governor whose domain is burning literally could still choose to go to Abuja for a dinner or gala night of a so-called progressive governors meeting before joining others of his ilk to go and meet Buhari in Daura.
Mr. Yari was lucid enough to admit that the Zamfara killings are getting worse under Buhari. “I feel let down facing the people of this state whenever I remember the promise I made to them that when they elect President Muhammadu Buhari into power, these killings will end. But unfortunately, things are now getting worse,” he said as reported by this newspaper
It is not clear when Yari had his epiphany but we should be grateful to him for saying what many scholars have been saying about this government. There have been more killings than those reported and the much talked about achievement of this government in the area of security could be filed under the over-promised but under-delivered promises of the Buhari government. The hapless folks of Birani in Zurmi local government of Zamfara were the victims of the latest killings in Zamfara which, depending on the publication or medium you get the news from, casualties range from 18 to 40. Whatever the number, lives have been lost with the state, nation state, failing to protect citizens under her watch.
Safety and welfare of citizens are constitutional provisions that our leaders apparently do not pay much premium on even as they live in affluence with the best protection the police could provide. Of course, the Nigeria Police cannot do what we are expecting them to do in protecting citizens as her officers and men are inadequate or complicit in the killings. The words of Atiku Abubakar, the emir of Zurmi are particularly instructive and painful as he claimed that based on intelligence reports, he alerted security agents 24 hours before the attacks “but unfortunately they sent inadequate personnel to confront those people.” The emir’s words read much like what others whose areas have suffered such brutal killings would have said: lethargic response by security agents or tardiness in arresting the marauders and insufficient manpower.
“These terrorists are known to us. Their major hideout is in a village called Kagara, very close to Bafarawa in Sokoto state, and a few kilometres from Shinkafi in Zamfara state. But despite several appeals to security agencies to storm the area, our appeals have failed.
“I need to state here that majority of weapons used by bad people in this country are brought in from this area. I had reason to personally inform Zamfara state director of SSS sometimes back of a large cache of weapons being brought into the country but no concrete action was taken until the containers were moved away.”
What else do one say? In December 2016, the National Emergency Management Agency said that 204 people were killed in southern Kaduna while at least 73 lives were lost in Benue early this year in clashes between herdsmen and farmers among many killings witnessed under the Buhari government. Yet, the president has never visited any scene of such killings to commiserate or sympathise with the citizens. Even the maverick American president, Donald Trump, visited Parkland, Texas two days after 17 students and staff were killed in a high school shooting. Trump and his wife, Melania, visited Broward Health North hospital where many of the victims were treated after addressing Americans from the White House immediately the shooting. It costs little for our president to go beyond issuing directives to security agents to ‘deal decisively with those responsible” for these killings.