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Buhari with Hollande at the Elysee Palace: In France but not learning from the French

Our lives are more important than yours

20 people were killed last night in Zakupwang, Fan village in Foron district of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Plateau State by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

But President Muhammadu Buhari was too busy away in France to utter a word or two of regret, let alone promise to do something about the killings. He found time though, to send birthday greetings to Bamanga Tukur, a former governor and minister, who turned 80 today.

VIP Bamanga Tukur: his birthday today is more important to Buhari than the deaths of ordinary Nigerians
VIP Bamanga Tukur: his birthday today is more important to Buhari than the deaths of ordinary Nigerians

A statement from the president’s spin doctor said: “The president seizes the opportunity of the Tafidan Adamawa’s 80th birthday to reaffirm the nation’s enduring gratitude for his significant contributions to Nigeria’s political and socio-economic development over many years.’’ It went on to wish that: “Almighty Allah will bless Tukur with many more years of good health and the company of his loving family and numerous friends within and outside Nigeria.’’

The president doesn’t seem to be aware that it is his job to ensure that all Nigerians live for many years of good health. The constitution states that the security and welfare of Nigerians should be “the primary purpose” of government. It would appear that this is not the case.

Fulani herdsmen have killed about 500 people across central Nigeria, and particularly in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State since the president took office in May. He has not bothered to say a single word about this.

Incidentally, he met French president Francois Hollande during his three-day trip to France. Maybe Buhari should learn from Hollande how he reacted to the Charlie Hebdo attack in which 11 people were gunned down in Paris in January. Hollande was at the scene in no time, expressing regrets and promising to hunt down the attackers.

500 Nigerians are killed, with another 20 people killed last night, and Buhari has nothing to say. But this should not surprise anyone because the lives of ordinary Nigerians mean nothing to the ruling elite. Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan was quick to join in the condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, but practically ignored the killing fields in his country. Jonathan did not make a public statement for about two weeks when over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Chibok. But he found time to send condolences over the death of the old father of a prominent Nigerian.

The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi said at a protest march against the Plateau killings at the end of last month: “As a pastor, I have conducted more burial occasions by attacks than weddings and naming ceremonies since 2001. Sad to note that most victims of the attacks are harmless children, some infants, women and youth.”

He appealed to the Buhari administration for effective intervention to end the killings, adding that “attention should not be concentrated only at the north east alone [where Boko Haram are based]; people are being killed here in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa and Kaduna.”

Protests against the deaths in Plateau State
Protests against the deaths in Plateau State

So far the silence from Buhari has been stunning. His failure to intervene or even talk about the violence has fuelled suspicions that he has taken sides with the Fulani herdsmen accused of the killings. The president is also Fulani.

Bitrus Kaze, a former member of the House of Representatives said recently: “The APC controlled Federal Government has carried on with the fight against insecurity as if some sections of the country matter more than others. While taking over the reins of power, President Muhammadu Buhari relocated the military command centre to Maiduguri where it will remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. Also, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been traversing Borno State and other parts of the North East. But most regrettably, the Federal Government has completely turned a blind eye to the perpetual killings by ‘unknown herdsmen’ on the Plateau.”

Buhari should stop acting like some lives are more important than others. He is president of all Nigeria and not just some parts. He has a constitutional responsibility to protect all Nigerians. And when he can’t do this, he should have the sense of humanity and respect for all Nigerian life to show and express concern when so many lives are lost. Turning a blind eye is not an option.

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