Buhari’s whirlwind visits
The whirlwind tour of several internal security-challenged states that President Muhammadu Buhari started last Monday and is expected to continue this week should not be described as too little, too late. However, it was a little bit late and many people will say that the Presidency hastily organised the visits only after an outcry from the public.
Soon after Buhari returned from Kano where he attended the society wedding of the children of Governors Abdullahi Ganduje and Abiola Ajimobi, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina announced last Monday that the president would visit Taraba, Benue, Yobe, Zamfara and Rivers states. All these states have suffered various forms of traumatic insecurity incidents since late last year. In Taraba, Mambilla militiamen killed hundreds of Fulani cattle ranchers. In Benue, herdsmen killed seventy people in a rural community. In Zamfara, bandits ambushed and killed forty people in Birane village. In Rivers, cultists attacked and killed a dozen people returning home from New Year celebrations while in Yobe, Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped 110 schoolgirls.
Adesina’s statement said, “In view of recent terrorist attacks, criminal activities and communal clashes in some states leading to tragic loss of lives and kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls, President Muhammadu Buhari immediately tasked the Armed Forces and other security agencies to compile comprehensive reports on the various incidents. Having received and studied the reports, the President has decided to undertake an on-the-spot assessment of the various occurrences and to meet and console the communities affected.” Not a very convincing explanation.
Within hours of Adesina’s announcement, Buhari arrived in Taraba State and met with political leaders and traditional rulers. He then went to Ghana for that sister country’s 61st independence anniversary and as soon as he returned, he went to Plateau State last Thursday for a two day visit. Though the state was not one of the states earlier listed, it too has had a long history of inter-communal violence. During his stay in Jos, Buhari launched the state’s Road Map to Peace, a five-year strategic peace plan.
Buhari is expected to continue his whirlwind visits with a trip to Benue State tomorrow. Unlike in Jos, where he received a warm welcome, the atmosphere in Benue will be frosty though Governor Samuel Ortom tried to lessen the tension by cancelling the planned mass burial of 23 victims of a recent herdsmen’s attack in Okpokwu. The fate of the remaining visits is not clear because Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike said he was not informed that Buhari will be visiting Rivers. The highlight of the visits is expected to be Dapchi in Yobe State where 110 schoolgirls were recently kidnapped.
We advise the Buhari Presidency to learn useful lessons from this episode. A president is the country’s mourner-in-chief and the ultimate national symbol. He should promptly visit major disaster scenes to comfort and reassure the victims. Such visits should only be briefly delayed for security reasons or in order not to interfere with emergency security or rescue operations. Where the president is unable to go, he should send the Vice President or some other very senior official. He should never again stay away from scenes of major calamity only to turn up at society weddings.
A president is the country’s mourner-inchief and the ultimate national symbol. He should promptly visit major disaster scenes to comfort and reassure the victims.