President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday visited Jos, Plateau state, the site of the latest episode in Nigeria’s murderous clashes.
Here are five takeaways from the visit:
Unlike previous attacks, especially earlier in the year, when the presidency refused to visit the survivors and commiserate with them, this time, both Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (Monday) and President Muhammadu Buhari (Tuesday) visited Plateau immediately the news broke.
Recall that following previous attacks, especially those which occurred in Benue, the presidency – through Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, claimed that the president decided not to visit after the killings because he was uninterested in playing politics over the matter. With the visits to Jos by Osinbajo and Buhari, it appears that the time to play politics is finally here (if we are to believe what Adesina said back then). Or maybe they have just learnt that their previous posture was a goof and that citizens demand empathy from elected leaders after gruesome attacks, especially those arising from the failure to do their jobs.
2. Buhari believes he’s doing his best:
Nigerians scream “Incompetence” and “Failure” whenever the tragedies happen. They criticise Pres. Buhari’s leadership and remind him of the boasts he made about capacity to quickly resolve insecurity issues during the campaigns. But, the president believes he is doing his best. He said so on Monday when he hosted members of the National Council for Sharia at the Villa. He reiterated the point in Jos on Tuesday.
‘‘I will continue to pressurise members of the law enforcement agencies directly under me by the Constitution as the Commander-in Chief. About eight days ago, we had five hours security meeting of the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police,” he said. “It is noteworthy that many Nigerians still acknowledge that despite the security challenges, this administration has made notable successes in the security sector.”
Important to note that some Nigerians are already calling for the sack of the service chiefs and the police inspector general. Buhari is however not a big fan of shaking things up (for instance: He has never shaken up his cabinet, fired any cabinet member since their appointment, in comparison with previous presidents who frequently made reshuffles and replacements in their cabinets.)
3. On Community policing:
Actually, Pres. Buhari said nothing about community or state police in his visit to Jos. However, it is interesting that whenever he visits conflict areas, he talks about how traditional institutions and locals should do more to ensure security in their localities. However, he is publicly opposed to state and community policing. There seems to be an intellectual conflict in his positions on this matter. Here is what he said in Jos: “Wherever I go, I will always appeal to the leadership of the communities, the law enforcement agencies to always have control of their constituencies,’’ he said.
But control without power… is that one control?
4. On the matter of justice:
According to Buhari: ‘‘What happened here in Jos is very bad. The question of leadership, from your household to whatever you are, is justice. The bottom line is justice.”
There is some truth to what he has said. However there are arguments that his words are at variance with his actions, and those of his security council. For instance, despite several killings across the country this year alone, in how many cases have justice been done? For the most part, it appears that the president’s security team, which is populated mostly by people from the same ethnic stock, have taken one-sided positions. Even the APC governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom, seems to think so.
Still on the matter of justice: Buhari has so much power as the country’s chief executive, yet he also feels that he is not being treated fairly. Speaking on the issue of armed herdsmen, Buhari said: “People are even blaming me for not talking to them because maybe (they say) I look like one of them. ‘There is some injustice in these aspersions,’’ he said.
5. Watch what you say to the media:
“Whatever is being given to the media, we have to be very responsible about it. Take for instance the situation in Benue. The Benue subsistence farmer knows that the Nigerian cattle herder that he knows doesn’t carry nothing more than a stick, occasionally sometimes something to cut grass to feed his cattle. ‘But the present herder, I am told, carries AK47…” the president said.
The session which was mostly closed to the media was attended by the Governor of Plateau, Simon Lalong, and his counterparts from Kebbi and Niger; the ministers of Defence, Interior and Information; traditional rulers, community and religious leaders, representatives of youth, women and trade union groups, and security chiefs.