President Buhari’s precious cows and politics of insensitivity

President Muhammadu Buhari

By Edward T. Dibiana

The security situation in Nigeria is becoming a serious source of worry. From the 110 Borno farmers that were horrendously beheaded, to the recent kidnap of over 330 school boys in Katsina, or the daily human-cargo transactions going on in bushes around Kaduna/Abuja road, the gory tales appear endless.

If anyone was ever in doubt, Nigeria is now, sorely passing through precarious times, characterized by fear, uncertainty, disbelief and frustration. Many have continued to wonder: ‘How did we get here’? There is a pall of fear everywhere.

A friend was relating his dilemma the other day. His first daughter participated and came out in flying colours in the recently held national common entrance exams. She subsequently secured an admission in an all-girls federal government boarding school in Bwari, in the outskirts of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. School fees paid and registration formalities concluded and the little girl and her parents were happy and elated over the positive development.

But then, the scandalous kidnapping of the 333 Katsina school children by terrorists, happened. And their joy was prematurely truncated. Traumatized  over the Katsina incident, the girl’s mother vowed never to risk her precious daughter’s safety and wellbeing, by allowing her resume in her new school, or any other boarding school  for that matter.  The young girl, following that sad occurrence, will now have to suffer a temporary setback because of government’s inability to live up to expectations in its most important primary responsibility of providing security for its citizens.

Another colleague, who was traveling from Abuja to his home state in Abia, with his entire family for a family event, expressed grave concern over their safety between Abuja and the South east. His fear was as a result of the recent increase in the rage of kidnappers on Nigerian roads. The fear is real. And many people are now tired and frustrated about the degenerating security situation in the land, that angry voices are now on the increase.

At the moment, apart from the game of football or perhaps, the general difficulty in the land, nothing appears to make Nigerians speak in unison, than the current insecurity in Nigeria and the apparent vulnerability of everybody. For instance, many of the supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari and his critics are now seemingly in agreement that the administration has failed in providing meaningful security. There appears to be a general consensus that Buhari’s government is overwhelmed by the situation, or maybe was previously overrated about its capacity to checkmate insecurity.

Recently, some youths in Zamfara  who were obviously frustrated about the wanton killings  in the state and the general intractable insecurity in the northern states, stormed Abuja to protest. In the protest video that went viral, one of their leaders, a lady, who was apparently livid, said in clear terms that President Buhari has failed.

According to the lady who claimed to be a supporter of the president, and had voted for him both in 2015 and 2019, Buhari has turned deaf ears to their plights, as their people are daily killed or kidnapped for ransom.

She said in the video, recorded by Channels Television, a privately owned TV station, “At the moment the killings taking place in Zamfara is more than the killings taking place in Yobe, more than the killings taking place in Borno and Adamawa. And these are the states that are officially at war. Every day we bury 40, 50 or 60 people. When we are not burying people, we are selling everything we have to pay kidnappers fifteen or twenty million naira to free our people.

“Mr. President has not done well for the people of Zamfara. The people of Zamfara love Mr. President. The people of Zamfara came out in 2015 to vote for Mr. President, in spite of their hardship, they came out again in good numbers in the last election to vote for Mr. President. Why is Mr. President treating the people of Zamfara as if they are not citizens of Nigeria, deserving of security, deserving of sleeping in their houses peacefully without fear; why? We demand that the president act as the commander in chief that he is. We demand that Zamfara is secure.

“We demand that we are saved from the terrorists, bandits and all those criminals killing our fathers, mothers, brothers and children. We don’t care if Mr. President is distributing N10,000 as Tradermoni, we have to be alive for us to trade. Security is his first and most important job, he should stand up and do his job,” she cried.

But the tragedy remains that when people talk in this manner, some people around the president dismiss it as an affront on the president. To them, whatever ‘Baba’ does or failed to do, is always  right. It is, in fact, bewildering that the president’s people are currently going about town with the narrative that the recent kidnapping of 333 boys in a school in Katsina was a “calculated plot by enemies of government to embarrass the president.”

For me, however, I think that President Buhari is rather embarrassing Nigerians  by his actions and inactions that sadly suggest that he is living in denial, as far as security issues are concerned, or that he is purely insensitive and unconcerned about public perception.

Nothing brings this perceived insensitivity and apparent poor judgment home, than the recent public show of the president visiting his cows with a legion of aides and sidekicks, complete with video and still cameras, in Daura, Katsina state, at a time about 333 kidnapped students  are yet to be accounted for. The video of the president, expectedly elicited public uproar, especially as he hasn’t considered it proper to visit the school to empathize with the affected grieving parents. Yet, he has been in Katsina since the sad incident.

It should be noted too, that when the farmers were slaughtered in Borno, President Buhari also rejected the calls to visit the community. Rather, one of his media aides, Garba Shehu, scandalously blamed the victims of the gory crime for not getting clearance from the military before going to their farms on the ill-fated day.

Really, how did we get here?

The other day the director general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, said that Nigerians should stop blaming security agencies for the insecurity in the country. Really? Who should they blame? School teachers or the Nigerian football team, the Super Eagles?

Over time, billions of naira have been appropriated for the security agencies for the sole purpose of fighting insecurity, yet Bichi said nobody should question their performance?

In my estimation, it comes down to leadership question. It appears that Buhari’s famed body language attributed to him at the beginning of his administration, is seemingly  playing out in negative terms. Lukewarm. Lethargic. Self-praise. Reluctance to act. And irritation over demand for democratic accountability.

But it appears that the Nigeria Senate is no longer finding the increasing rate of insecurity or Buhari’s lack of decisiveness, funny, by its recent stands on the issue.

In a motion on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, the senate’s mood and utterances  reflected the mood across the nation, affirming that “enough is enough “.

Speaking in support of the motion to call on Buhari to wake up to his responsibility, over the lingering security challenges, Senator Sani Musa, said, “There is need for this chamber to draw the attention of Mr. President that enough is enough, these service chiefs should go. I am being very honest and talking from the heart. Enough of this thing. I wish the National Assembly will take drastic action on this. We have been appropriating; where are these funds going to?”

Another senator, Kabir Barkiya agrees with Musa as he lamented further: “We appropriate money to security agencies but nothing is being done. I strongly want all of us to support this motion. Something has to be done.”

According to Senator Gabriel Suswam, the senate must go beyond mere talking.

“We need to go beyond where we are today. A desperate situation needs a desperate action. We must become desperate to address this situation. We have reached a stage where we must become desperate. Let us take actions that Nigerians will know that we are here addressing their hopes, fears and aspirations. We must address the people the way it is.”

For Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the minority leader, it is a simply request, “Mr. President, bring back our boys.”

But will President Buhari listen to the calls from both the ordinary people on the streets and the legislators, whose calls he had snubbed in the past? Some of his supporters have always argued that the president and his team have their own ideas on how to handle the security challenges, but it’s very clear, going by recent developments, that the ideas are not working.

* Dibiana, a development journalist, wrote from Abuja.