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Buhari’s admission on IGP’s non-relocation to Benue

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President Buhari and IGP Idris

AT an apparently belated visit to the herdsmen-ravaged Benue State on March 12, President Muhammadu Buhari openly admitted that he was not aware that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, did not comply with his order to relocate to the state in January after the dastardly killing of 73 people by the herders. During a meeting of stakeholders in Makurdi, the state capital, Buhari said that he was surprised at the flouting of his earlier order. He said:  “I’m not aware that the IGP did not spend 24 hours in the state as directed by me, I am getting to know in this meeting.” The president had been told that Idris did not spend up to 24 hours in Benue State after the presidential directive.

This comment, given the volatility of the crisis engendered by herdsmen in Benue, attracted a number of criticisms. While some saw it as an act of openness and an admission of sabotage by some forces sorrounding the president, many interpreted it as being symptomatic of the president’s ignorance of what goes on under him.  Speaking during a radio programme in Abuja shortly after the president’s claim,  his Media Adviser, Femi Adesina, said that even though the president had various channels of communication through which he received intelligence reports, he was not expected to be omniscient. The most fitting reply to this riposte by the presidential adviser is that even though the people did not expect to have an omniscient president, they also did not expect to have a leader who knows little of what goes on in his office, or who is not adequately briefed by those he appointed as aides.

Looked at from a superficial rendering, President Buhari deserves commendation for his openness. This is about the second time that he has come clean on issues that his spin doctors had laboured hard to distort. The first was during his arrival from the United Kingdom after his medical vacation. His minders had claimed on various occasions that he was not ill or admitted in hospital but was merely holidaying. But while addressing the press on his return, Buhari told the world that he had been terribly sick and even underwent blood transfusion. Many gave him kudos for his open admission. However, the president was speaking directly about the latest incident two months after the massacre in Benue and other states of the federation during which the only words from the Presidency were the omnibus condolences offered by his media office. Otherwise, he had been painfully calm in the midst of the unprecedented fatalities.

It would appear that the president visited Benue, Taraba and Plateau states only after the barrage of attacks on him for keeping silent in the face of the calamities that befell the people whom he swore to protect. The open admission also gave Nigerians cause for worry because, during his visit to Taraba State where he said that the number of those killed in the state was far higher than the number of those killed in Benue and Plateau states, he had claimed that he did not have to jump up and down at every calamity since he had enough security briefings about occurrences in the country. So, how come he was unaware of the IGP’s conduct in Benue?

The president’s statement on the IGP is indeed very worrisome. For one thing, it suggests that there are strategic things that go on in the Presidency that he ostensibly doesn’t know about. The open admission also suggests that some other persons control the levers of the Presidency. This confirms the uproar about one and a half years ago on the existence of some cabals in the Presidency which take decisions on critical national issues. The danger in this is that, since these anonymous decision-makers are not answerable to the people, they have no moral responsibility to factor them into their actions.

In saner climes, after such an admission by the president, the IGP would be relieved of his office immediately. Sadly, in the Nigerian situation, not only have the people not been told what happened thereafter, they may never get to hear anything. This is a sad development. It is preposterous to have a president who claims to be in possession of several communication outlets but also claims ignorance of the IGP’s disobedience of his order. This is obviously a failure of governance. It must not recur.



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