Two months after he directed Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris (IGP) to relocate to Benue State and stop killings by herdsmen, President Muhammadu Buhari discovered only yesterday that his order was not carried out.
But the revelation that Idris spent just a day in Benue and left for Nasarawa State has never been lost on the public, reinforcing insinuations that a cabal has been shielding the president from reality.
“It is only now that I am hearing this. But I know that I sent him here,” Buhari told his shocked audience at the Benue People’s House in Makurdi.
The president was in the capital city, as part of a string of visits to states affected by security crises, especially attacks on farmers by herdsmen.
“You swiftly directed the IGP to Benue. But the IGP did not do the work you sent him. He stayed for less than 24 hours in Benue and relocated to Nasarawa, and then said what he saw was a mere communal clash. Few days later, his men were killed too,” a former military governor, General Atom Kpera (rtd), told the president.
“I know you have other sources of intelligence. Please, have a second thought on what the IGP told you. We were happy when you sent the military’s Exercise Ayem Akpatema. We thought their coming would relieve us of our pains and get our killers. But the killings have persisted,” Kpera added.
Buhari however told the people there was no way he could “deliberately overlook” the security problem in the state or in any other part of the country. “So, please, try to convince your constituencies that through the processes of law enforcement agents, the police, the Department of State Service, and the military, I am doing my best,” he assured stakeholders.
He called for restraint, warning that long after his administration and that of Governor Samuel Ortom have ceased, relationship between cattle herders and farmers in Benue State would continue. This, according to him, “is the reality of the situation.”
Accompanying the president to the stakeholders’ meeting were National Security Adviser General Babagana Mongunu (rtd); Chief of Defence Staff General Gabriel Olonishakin; Minister of Defence General Mansur Dan Ali (rtd); Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; Chief of Air Staff Sadiq Ibrahim; Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed; Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Audu Ogbe; and Director General of the Department of State Service Lawal Daura.
Pleading with the Federal Government to compensate persons displaced by the attacks, Ortom noted: “On January 11, we buried 73 persons. And 65 more have been killed since then, while 26 more were killed in Okpokwu Local Government Area, with over 5000 displaced in Mbatoho community.
“As it is now, 170,000 people are living in displaced camps across the state and 60 per cent of them are school children. Also, yesterday, two police officers were killed in Guma.”
He called on the president to expand the scope of the military’s operation in the state and sought the arrest and prosecution of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, widely accused of being behind the killings.
Earlier in an interview, the governor expressed optimism that the visit, though late in coming, would nevertheless help to end the crisis. According to him, “Mr. President’s coming to Benue should fast-track the process of rehabilitating the people and facilitating the provision of the needed security push, so that the people could go back home.”
He dispelled concerns about the state’s anti-grazing law, saying: “This law is not against anyone. Is not against any ethnic group. It is not against an individual or group of people. This law is a win-win for both farmers and herdsmen. If you want to stay in Benue State, the only thing we require is ranch your cattle, if you are a herdsman. But if you think you cannot ranch and you prefer open grazing, you can go to other states that have land available. Here, we do not have land.”
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked what the purpose was of a condolence visit “when it does not come from the heart but is orchestrated to deceive and beguile the people ahead of the 2019 general elections.”
According to the party, the president’s mission to Benue was “cosmetic”, “politically motivated”, “a direct mockery of the dead” and “a heavy slap on the faces of the bereaved.”
It said: “This is the same president, who at the wake of the massacre, summoned the leaders and the bereaved to Abuja, rather than complying with the age-long tradition of Africans by immediately visiting the bereaved.
“Months after their tears have dried and they are painfully gathering their broken pieces, the presidency is now trying to use them for political posturing by staging a cosmetic condolence visit just to score a political point.”
In the statement yesterday by National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said: “More off-putting is the fact that following the public criticisms that trailed the president’s glaring aloofness and failure to visit the direct victims during his whistle stops in Taraba and Plateau States, his handlers have now arranged a put-on visit to some Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Benue, which is nothing but a posturing stunt to further deceive the people.”
Buhari must stop the “unnecessary roadshow and take decisive steps to ensure the security of the people,” the PDP added.