By Emmanuel Aziken, Emman Ovuakporie & Henry Umoru
ABUJA — President Goodluck Jonathan, attending the International Earth Summit in Brazil, came under attack, yesterday, for leaving the country at the height of insecurity in some parts of the country.
The attack against the president came from opposition quarters and remarkably from even close quarters in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, including some legislators elected on the party’s platform.
Remarkably, senior government officials pressed on the issue expressed discomfort that the president might well not have been fully briefed on the continuing crisis in the country which led to the reinstatement of a complete curfew in Kaduna, yesterday.
Among the president’s critics were the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN; civil rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu and members of the House of Representatives. An exception came from Senate spokesman, Senator Enyinninya Abaribe, who said the president might have been compelled to undertake his trip on the basis of international commitments.
It’s reflective of insensitive, confused leadership —ACN
Describing the president’s action as reflective of an insensitive and confused leadership, the ACN in a statement said the President ought to have cancelled the trip, no matter how important, as a symbolic show of solidarity with grieving Nigerians.
It said: “Again, we are constrained to ask whether this President is getting quality advice from the myriad of aides surrounding him, or whether, like his benefactor, Olusegun Obasanjo, he has decided he may not even take any advice from his advisers.
“In other climes, the usual thing is for leaders to cancel foreign trips or rush home from such trips when their countries suffer tragedies.
“In April 2010, Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short his Latin American tour and returned home after a strong earthquake hit the west of China; this year, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir returned home early from his visit to China, due to the rising tension along the border of his country with Sudan, and even a phone-hacking scandal was enough for British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut short an African trade tour and return.
“Since our own President has not even left Nigeria when these latest tragedies broke, it is inexplicable that he will still hop into a plane with a huge entourage and fly out. He should realise that he is attending the conference because he is the President of Nigeria, not because he is Dr. Jonathan. Therefore, Nigeria’s paramount interest dictates that he stays at home and oversees efforts to prevent the precarious situation in Kaduna from degenerating into an all-out religious war.”
He should be sensitive to plight of his people —Reps
The anger was also reflected in the House of Representatives. Rep. Zakari Mohammed, in his reaction told Vanguard that the President’s action was tantamount to a father who abandoned his house while it was on fire.
He said: “He swore to an oath to protect lives and property of his citizens. Is this the right time for him to move when his house is on fire? He should be more sensitive to the plight of his people and take the right decision at the right time.”
Rep. Abiodun Faleke, representing Ikeja Federal Constituency said “while his people are being buried for his lack of security effectiveness, yet he travelled to another country to tell the world about his weakness or his transformation agenda.”
ep. Femi Gbajabamila, the House minority leader said: “I am taken aback that at a time when the country is under siege Mr President has travelled to far away Brazil.”
It’s a sad commentary —Aturu
Civil rights lawyer, Mr Bamidele Aturu, while lamenting the lack of effectiveness of the President’s security measures said the President’s presence would in any way not have meant anything, describing it as a sad commentary.
He nevertheless described the President’s action as born of poor judgment.
“His leaving the country does not make any difference because even when he was around, the security agencies could really not do anything. People are being butchered anyhow and life, it seems, does not mean anything. We had on our part asked him to rejig the security agencies but he did not. So for me, leaving for an international assignment does not make any difference which is itself, a very sad commentary.
“They are just killing our people anyhow and he has chosen this time to travel, it is very sad because for me, this is not the time to travel. And it is so sad because the protection of lives, according to the constitution, shall be the primary reason of government.”
Senate defends Jonathan
The rare exception was, however, from the Senate whose spokesman, Senator Abaribe tongue-in-cheek said: “The Senate is not in the habit of running the country, it is a different arm of the government and I believe that if we have international obligations, we must keep to them. The Senate knows that the executive arm has its own responsibility and the Senate has its own responsibility.”
The issue, however, raised some embarrassment for some senior government officials who, yesterday, sought to pass the buck to aides who, it was alleged, might not have fully briefed the President on the severity of the crisis in the country.