The New Year began for the Buhari presidency on the back foot. While the fuel scarcity saga dominated the yuletide period, the massacre by killer herdsmen ushered Nigerians into the year 2018. Suspected herdsmen went on a killing spree in Kaduna, Benue and Taraba states , leaving behind sorrow, tears and blood.
In a country where the citizens play politics with everything, the opposition quickly took advantage of the situation to unleash its reign of propaganda against the presidency. It accused President Muhammadu Buhari of treating the Fulani Herdsmen with kid gloves because they are his kinsmen.
Even when the presidency released a statement condemning the killings and ordering a halt to the killings, political observers said it was not enough.
In the midst of the raging controversy, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotum–Idris, made the first gaffe of the year when he described the Benue killings as a communal clash. Sensing the blunder, the IGP tendered an apology for the New Year gaffe.
Analysts have called on the president to designate the killer herdsmen as a terrorist group. A cross section of Nigerians faulted the decision of the government to send the Inspector General of Police to Benue State instead of the military, which he sent to other trouble spots in the country.
This week is arguably one of the toughest for the Buhari presidency; it got so bad that the presidential spokesmen had to move in defense of the president.
Sensing that his boss is in the firing line, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo jumped into the arena. He warned politicians against politicising the recent killings in the country.
Speaking at the Interdenominational service to mark this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Abuja, Osinbajo said one of the reasons why for years Boko Haram thrived was because of the politicization of insurgency.
Recalling that there were those who benefited politically from the Boko Haram tragedies and painted opposition as the perpetrators, Osinbajo noted that some persons who want to benefit politically from the Benue, Rivers, Adamawa and Kaduna killings are stoking the embers of ethnicity and religion.
During the week, Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom visited president Buhari at the presidential Villa and he called on the President to stop the killings.
He also told State House correspondents after that meeting that he was not keen about the idea of setting up cattle colonies for herdsmen. He insisted on ranching as done in developed countries.
That same Tuesday evening, senior special assistant on media and publicity to the president, Garba Shehu, said it was unfair to say Buhari has not done enough to stem the tide of killings by herdsmen.
Shehu said, “It is therefore both unfair and unkind for anyone to keep insinuating that the President is condoning the spate of killings in Benue and other neighboring States. President Buhari has publicly condemned the violence at every turn. He is prepared to permit every possible step that can lead to the stoppage of the killings.
“It is on account of this he brushed aside an opinion that the federal government should challenge the constitutionality of the anti-open grazing bill. He wanted to give a chance to the State government to succeed in stopping the senseless killings.
“It will be recalled that as he did in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, which required sustained action from the government before it was finally curtailed, President Buhari gave the relevant mandates to the country’s security agencies to put a stop to the Benue killings.
“The killings must stop and the security agencies have the President’s support to do this as quickly as possible.
Whipping up hate may captivate the public and score political points on social media, but it will not bring an end to the crisis. Let every stakeholder instead sit down with the government and security forces and carry everyone along in finding an all-embracing solution”.
Capping it all, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, dismissed insinuations that killings by Fulani herdsmen in the country are rampant because President Buhari is Fulani and is therefore condoning the acts.
In a video message he posted on his personal Facebook page, Adesina said such killings by herdsmen predated the Buhari administration. He however affirmed that ensuring the security of lives and property of the citizens is the responsibility of government, which the present administration is determined to fulfill.
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