The opprobrious silence that greeted President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to a North-Central state, Benue, last Monday should be of major concern to anyone who truly wishes him well. For a President who, from all indications, is being prepared for a second shot at The Presidency, the Benue outing clearly indicated that the Buhari mojo that gripped most states in the Nigerian federation with such frenzied passion some years back has petered out. In its place, is a discomfiting, eerie petulance of a confounded populace still battling to understand where Buhari started missing his steps even as he bumbles through every opportunity offered him to change the narrative for the better. Of course, he failed woefully to seize that rare chance again in Benue on Monday. By the way, if excellence in government were to be judged strictly on the number of naïve and tendentious excuses given to explain off self-inflicted impotence, this government would have no competition. But, unfortunately for the man Nigerians entrusted with the capacity to take them out of the woods, the Presidency is not a place for such inexcusable excesses where the nation’s Number One citizen would have the luxury of claiming ignorance of what goes on around him daily.
And so, I ask: Was Buhari expecting the Benue people to hang on to an audacious hopelessness and accept their fate as mere victims of some murderous herd of herdsmen just because he was unaware that his directives to the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to relocate to the state was ignored. I froze in stupefaction when I first read the news! How could Buhari had spewed such an outlandish, hollow patter to the traumatised people of Benue who had bent over backwards to intimate his office with the sacrilege and sheer rape of their humanity by rampaging, cold-blooded herdsmen? When more than 80 innocent lives were smothered in one day in a community ravaged by war of attrition over grazing routes and farmlands, it is my considered opinion that the President should have more than a passing interest in how his aides handle the matter. On this one, Idris’ attitude to his directive is not just an act of insubordination to his direct boss but also a grievous act of sabotage and sheer irresponsibility. That is on one side.
On the other side, however, is the import of the President’s expression of shock that he was getting to know that an order he gave more than a month earlier was never obeyed by his certified police chief. Ha! Unbelievable! Now, take a listen: “I am getting to know this in this meeting. I am quite surprised but I know that I sent him here.” Are we to believe that Mr. Buhari’s naivety is this shallow or do we take it that he was simply trying to dribble himself out of a bad situation? Whichever one it was, it is not in any way funny. With all that was said about the absence of Idris in Benue as at the time the presidential directive was given with Governor Samuel Ortom leading the outcry, it runs against all protocols and commonsense that the news didn’t filter to the President’s ears even of as a flying rumour in the corridors of power. Could it also have been possible that the President was unaware of the crisis that broke out between Ortom’s spokesman and the Force Public Relations officer, Moshood Jimoh, on a live television programme where the latter described Ortom as a sinking man for daring to accuse Idris of abdicating presidential directive? Was the President aware that, following the bitter exchange of words between these two spokespersons, some members of the National Assembly and a section of civil society were at the forefront of the imposition of a sanction against the police chief and his men for what they considered to be an unwarranted attack against an elected governor who also doubles as the Chief Security Officer of his state?
If the President didn’t know about all these, then Nigeria is in deep trouble. What it portends is that those around him only avail him the kind of filtered information that would suit his ego. This kind of scenario painting is potentially dangerous to the health of the nation. No wonder Aso Rock fiddles while the nation burns with over 1,315 persons lost to violent deaths in just two months, this year. Sad enough, most of the deaths were as a result of attacks by unknown gunmen, bomb blasts in the volatile North-East, accidents and violent crimes across the country. According to a report published by a national daily last week, the number of deaths did not include those that died of natural causes. Evidently, this cannot be good news on the plate of a government whose fundamental responsibility is to protect lives and property of every Nigerian no matter where they live.
Since he said he was unaware of Idris’s intransigence, it goes without saying that he wouldn’t know about many other things that have compelled his eternally frustrated citizens to gnash their teeth endlessly. Did he know, for example, that many Nigerians didn’t understand why he joined the Owambe train in Kano the other day just a few days after 110 school girls were abducted in Dapchi, Yobe State? Did anyone bring it to his notice that, in spite of his much-touted determination to halt the dastardly act, innocent citizens continue to come under the bullets, daggers and cudgels of killers across the country even as I write this? Did the President know that Nigerians have begun to question the administration’s selective amnesia in the fight against corruption? Did he know that, by his action and inaction, he is perceived to have lost the script while handling the manual of governance by deceit to the cabal in his fiefdom? Is he aware that his acceptance rating has dwindled no thanks to a benumbing fiddling while the nation sinks deeper into crisis?
The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement is only one out of countless groups asking questions that inevitably lead citizens to asking other questions. What exactly is Mr. President aware of? How did Dapchi happen and what is he doing about it? If he says he has his own way of getting the true picture of events as they break, how come no one briefed him about Idris’s errant behaviour and the collateral damage to additional lives and properties in Benue until he was told the crying truth by those who are chewing the pain of the senseless attacks?
My Dear Mr. President Sir, the placard displayed by the youth in Benue with the inscription “Buhari, every Benue youth is Yusuf” encapsulates the grief we all feel against a system that has failed to protect the citizens or tame the rain of tragic impulses facing our nation. Ordinarily, all of us should feel safe under the protective arm of the state. Unfortunately, the Yusuf metaphor is a grim reminder of the Orwellian allusion to some animals being more equal than the other. Surely, that cannot be what this democracy is all about. But do they know in Aso Rock?
I do not want to preempt the President as regards what he should do with his police chief. What is clear is that his huffing and puffing in Benue would amount to nothing if this sacrilege is swept under the carpet. When a security chief becomes irreverent, it is the responsibility of his Commander-In-Chief to tame him, ease him out or fire him. And in case the President is not aware, Section 9 (4) of the Police Act states that: “The President SHALL be charged with the operational control of the Force” while (5) instructs that “The IGP shall be charged with the command of the Force SUBJECT to the directive of the President.” Going further, Section 10 (1) says; “The President MAY give to the IGP such directions with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the IGP SHALL comply with those directions or cause them to be complied.” And then, the 1999 Constitution in Section 215 (3) states: “The President or such other Minister of the Government of the Federation as he may authorize in that behalf may give to the IGP such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing public safety and public order as he may consider necessary and the IGP shall comply with those directions and cause them to be complied with”.
As I pointed out to my good friend, Ebelo Goodluck, who highlighted these constitutional provisions on his Facebook wall, the operative word in the quoted sections is ‘Shall” which means the IGP does not enjoy the luxury of a dissent. What Mr. Idris did was a clear violation of our laws, a total lack of respect and disregard for presidential directive. It beats me hollow that the President has chosen to clasp his hands on his lean chest, whingeing inaudibly as the nation continues to wail in loud silence!
Yomi Odunuga, The Nation