The actions and inactions of Presidents Donald Trump and Muhammadu Buhari to similar eruptions of violence in their two countries have elicited commentary on the expectations from Nigerian political leaders.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Two unfortunate happenings in the United States and Nigeria penultimate Wednesday may have helped to bring out contrasting inclinations of the leaderships in the two countries.
That Wednesday which happened to be Valentine Day when love is shared, turned into a day of agony in the Southeast state of Florida in the United States and the Northwest state of Zamfara in Nigeria.
On that day, a seemingly neurotic teenager entered a Florida school and shot to death three teachers and 14 students bringing again to the fore, the recurring debate about gun control in that country. The Florida state governor, Rick Scott in apparent anger over the failure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI to act on intelligence that could have stopped the shooting demanded the resignation of the FBI director, Mr. Christopher Wray.
On the same day in Nigeria, in Zamfara State, bandits now generally termed herdsmen killed 36 persons in Birane Village in Zurmi Local Government Area of the state.
Two days after the Florida shooting, President Donald Trump was in Florida where he visited survivors and the emergency responders in an act of encouragement. Over here in Nigeria, two days after the horror in Zamfara, President Muhammadu Buhari proceeded on a short break to his native Daura in Katsina State for a five-day break. Katsina State by the way shares boundary with Zamfara where some of those who probably voted for the president in 2015 were among those killed by the bandits.
President Buhari is of course not the first Nigerian leader to be flayed for being seemingly aloof to the plight of the killing of Nigerians.
His predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was particularly hounded for his failure to visit Chibok, Borno State after the Boko Haram militants kidnapped the Chibok Secondary School girls in April 2014.
About a month after the incident, news filtered out that the president would go to Chibok, but that visit was eventually cancelled even after the movement of the advance team to Borno State.
The opposition All Progressives Congress, APC was aghast at the cancellation of the visit. Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the interim spokesman of the party, which was still in its formative stages at that time, in a statement lambasted Jonathan in a press statement for failing to take his role as consoler in chief.
“With his utterances and actions or inaction, President Jonathan has deepened the pains of the parents and guardians of the girls, and that of the whole nation, when he should have been the consoler-in-chief at such a difficult time,” Mohammed said in a press statement issued on May 18, 2014.
Continuing the party said:“A President and Commander-in-Chief, who is afraid to visit any part of his country, has betrayed the very people who voted him into office.
“In the case of Chibok, he has shown that the residents of the town should not expect to be seen as compatriots by their own President hence they are on their own.”
Before and after the Chibok incident, President Jonathan had been known to have visited some of the sites of Boko Haram bombings, especially in Abuja. However, to his credit, President Buhari has not had the misfortune of a bomb blast in Abuja since his advent.
However, violent killings have sharply risen outside the federal capital with herdsmen killings taking the notoriety that was once associated with the Boko Haram insurgents.
However, the contrasting response of Presidents Buhari and Trump to the Valentine Day killings in their respective countries has not come as a total shock to some of Nigeria’s leading civil rights activists.
Chairperson of the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, Dr.Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi in her comments on the contrasting actions of the two presidents sought to put Buhari’s inaction on his military training.
“Is it today that we knew that Buhari does not go to places where things happen? To me, it looks like that is his style. It looks like it is insensitive anyway, even with the killings in Benue, he didn’t go even though he went to Nasarawa. So, I think that is his style maybe it is the military part of him. Maybe the death of people don’t really move him, but from the beginning of his tenure, that has been his pattern.
“He has never been to Maiduguri despite the genocide that has happened there. Unlike other climes where it is a good thing to go to such places, unfortunately, it is not so here. The president must be humane; he must be sensitive. “In other climes, it is not so,” Mrs. Akiyode-Afolabi, also the executive director of the Women Advocates, Research and Documentation Centre, WARD-C said.
Mr. Auwal Musa Ibrahim, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, BoT of Amnesty International, Nigeria in his response flayed President Buhari for being insensitive saying:
“Nigerian leaders are not sensitive to the sufferings of their people; they are not really concerned about the feelings of their people because they are not suffering the kind of hardship that the people are facing.
“Second, they don’t care about the electoral consequences because elections in Nigeria do not sanction those who do wrong and the system is not one that rewards good behaviour, and that is why many Nigerian leaders are taking people for granted. I cannot understand that right from beginning Trump who had been described as a core politician even before he was inaugurated went to say thank you to those who elected him, but President Buhari who was elected overwhelmingly even in Kano where his political headquarters is; refused to go to Kano for a long time until when people began to complain. Now that election is coming; he went to visit Kano.”
The Amnesty International boss also flayed the president for not visiting Borno and many other places where he received support despite what he termed as the spate of genocide in those parts of the country.
Ibrahim popularly known as Rafsanjani in civil society circles further rebuked the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari for leading other APC governors on a pilgrimage to Daura State in neighbouring Katsina State even while his state was in mourning.
He particularly flayed the governor for being insensitive in abandoning his duty post saying that he had no duty to be outside the state at that time.
Like his predecessor, President Jonathan, President Buhari has, however, not failed to condemn acts of brutality against Nigerians repeatedly instructing security chiefs to apprehend the perpetrators of such violence.
But many Nigerians apparently want the president to back his words with action and show compassion and wear the garment of consoler-in-chief even when his government has failed to check the activities of the evil marauders.