By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Dirisu Yakubu
•Atiku playing to gallery, his party mismanaged money meant for arms — Buhari
•How I’ll combat insecurity — Atiku
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress, APC presidential candidate and his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP rival, Atiku Abubakar, were yesterday locked in an exchange over the honour given to military personnel killed in the fight against insecurity.
The exchange came as the PDP candidate vowed to use job creation to fight the scourge of insecurity in the country.
The tussle followed President Buhari’s absence at the burial of five air force officers who died in a helicopter crash while providing support for ground troops in the fight against Boko Haram.
Atiku said the President’s absence at the funeral and other engagements to honour dead military officers did not reflect the role of the commander-in-chief who he said should help to mobilise morale for men in arms.
Atiku cited an example with President Emmanuel Macron of France who he said attended the funeral of a French policeman killed by terrorists.
He was immediately dismissed by Buhari who flayed the immediate past PDP administration of providing the fodder for the killings through what he described as the corruption that prevailed during its time in office.
He said the money that should have been used to fight terrorism was embezzled by the PDP administration.
The five air force officers who died last week were buried at the national military cemetery in Abuja on Tuesday.
The former vice-president said Buhari’s failure to attend the funeral is “part of a pattern of unpatriotic behaviour demonstrated” by him.
He said: “At a time when the morale of our soldiers should be lifted up as they face the difficult task of defeating the terrorists who are threatening our national security, I find it most regrettable that President Muhammadu Buhari, despite being in Abuja, chose not to attend the funeral of the five airforce officers who died in a helicopter crash while prosecuting the war on terror.
“Last month, I had cause to advise the President to find time to attend the funerals of the hero soldiers of the 157 Taskforce Battalion in Metele, Borno state, who paid the supreme price for Nigeria in large numbers.
“Sadly, due to reasons best known to him, President Buhari chose not to attend their funeral, neither was he represented by the vice-president nor any federal delegation. This was despite the fact that the President had time to host Nollywood actors and actresses the previous day. Imagine celebrating just before such a solemn event.
“The most recent funeral held in Abuja, the President was in Abuja on the day of the funeral. The previous day, he had inaugurated his re-election campaign council. My question for Mr. President is this: is securing your second term, more important to you than securing Nigeria?”
Abubakar urged Buhari to learn from French President Emmanuel Macron, who on March 28, 2018, attended the funeral of a French policeman killed by terrorists in Southern France.
“That single event boosted the morale of the French security forces, because it showed a commitment to their wellbeing and honour for their memory by the head of state. Very sadly, President Buhari missed another opportunity to demonstrate such commitment to our armed forces,” he said.
“Let me end this by commending our military for their sacrificial efforts to secure all of us. You have my full support and solidarity.”
Atiku playing to the gallery
Buhari responding through the Director of Strategic Communication of his campaign, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, dismissed Atiku’s assertions.
He said: “The President has shown more concern for serving soldiers than can ever be imagined. They are just playing to the gallery. The major concern of the President is to take care of the welfare of soldiers and this the President is doing very well.
“This is a shameless party which stole money meant for the purchase of arms and during the Jonathan time used N1.2 billion to pay prayer contractors. The casualties that we are recording today are largely because the money that was meant to be used for arms was diverted and stolen.
“The President has stopped that kind of grand corruption and money meant to procure arms for the army are now being used to do that.
“It is very disingenuous of the PDP to latch unto the burial of our deceased soldiers. It is very important to honour our dead soldiers. Money meant for their widows are being promptly paid and this shows that they have run out of ideas.”
Atiku vows to combat insecurity through jobs
Meanwhile, Atiku speaking in Minna, Niger State, yesterday vowed to check the menace of insecurity through job creation.
Speaking at a rally in continuation of the North-Central campaign, the PDP presidential flag bearer said the loss of more than 10 million jobs under the Buhari regime had contributed to the spate of insecurity.
“I want to commit to you that if you vote for PDP, the insecurity which they have not been able to control, we shall control it.
‘’They have been unable to control insecurity because they have been unable to provide jobs and businesses for the people. So by the time we provide jobs and businesses for our young men and women, you will hear of less crime and insecurity.
“Let me remind those of you who perhaps were born in 1999 when PDP started governing Niger State. The roads infrastructures that you have in Niger State were constructed by the PDP government.
‘’The schools that you have attended were built by PDP government. The hospitals that you are attending were built by PDP government. And then in 2015, they came to tell us that PDP did not do anything.
‘’We should change. And we changed. And they promised to fight corruption, to improve our economy and also to secure our country. Have they achieved any of these three? When they came in, there was insecurity only in North East.
‘’Today, there is insecurity in North West and North Central. And we have lost more lives than at any other time in the history of this country in peaceful times. They have failed as far as security is concerned,’’ he said.
Speaking earlier, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, urged Nigerians not to allow themselves to be fooled twice, adding that all promises made by the APC in the build up to the elections have not been fulfilled.
“Election is about referendum. A government that has been with us for three and a half years and promised us three things, we are going to decide as Nigerians if they have performed. They can continue, if they have performed and if not, they must pack and go home.
“They said they will provide three million jobs for the youths. Today more than 10 million youths have lost their jobs,” he said.
Amidst the applause that greeted his speech, the Senate President barked into a microphone, “have they performed?” to which the crowd yelled, “no.”
Dignitaries at the well-attended rally included former governor of the state, Babangida Aliyu; his Kano state counterpart and current lawmaker representing Kano Central, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki, PDP governorship candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in the state, Umar Mohammed Nasko; Senate Minority Whip, Phillip Aduda, among others.