Taraba visit: PDP decries presidentâ€™s comments, aloofness to victimsâ€™ suffering
Paul Obi and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
As the country and parents continue to grieve over the abduction of 110 schoolgirls from Government Girlsâ€™ Science and Technical College, Daphci in Yobe State, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday promised that his administration would never allow such an incident to happen again.
He maintained that already the government was putting everything in place to ensure that the kidnap of the Dapchi schoolgirls and the recent attacks on humanitarian aid workers in Rann, Borno State, by the Boko Haram terrorists never repeat in the future.
The president who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, made the remarks at the National Defence College, Abuja, while declaring open the eighth edition of the National Security Seminar 2018 organised by the Alumni Association of NDC in collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the NDC, with the theme: â€˜Fighting Tomorrowâ€™s Warfare Today.â€™
Buhari said: â€œThe persistent attacks of the terrorists on soft targets such as schoolgirls and the incident at Rann were carried out to create the impression that the terrorists are still very much around.â€
He also contended that since the kidnapping of the girls, the nationâ€™s armed forces had been fully mobilised to Borno and Yobe States to ensure the security and safety of their residents, as well as schools in that part of the country.
The president said: â€œBoko Haram as we all know rejects authority and strives to take over territory, establishing a caliphate in line with ISISâ€™ objectives. Between 2012 and 2015, they seemed to be well on their way to achieving their objectives by annexing some territories in Nigeria and contesting territory with it.
â€œAs of March 2015, Boko Haram controlled about 20,000 square kilometres of Nigeria, that is about the size of Belgium, from the eastern border of Cameroun to parts of Lake Chad.
â€œIn Borno, 20 out of 27 local governments were under Boko Haram control, including Mubi in Adamawa and some villages.
â€œIn addition to this, their footprint was registered in Abuja, Kaduna and Kano with the bombings of the UN building and Police HQ in Abuja . That was the state of affairs as of early 2015.
â€œToday, Boko Haram does not occupy any local government area in Nigeria. And they no longer have the capacity to hold a territory and challenge the sovereignty of the state.
â€œGone are the days when they operated outside the precincts of the northeast, leaving behind carnage and bloodshed. They are now operating as desperate criminal gangs, mostly as relics or groups taking over some communities, using children as suicide bombers, kidnapping innocent girls and children.â€
Buhari added that as things are today, the situation would have been worse without the gallantry of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
He said the objective of the Boko Haram group to establish a caliphate in Nigeria has now been made impossible by the military,
According to him, â€œThe administration would strengthen the intelligence gathering capabilities of the Armed Forces, adopt cutting edge technology to fight the insurgents and develop counter narratives that would make recruitment of young men and women into the Boko Haram group impossible.â€
He also stated that besides the Safe School Initiative, the government would rebuild and secure communities destroyed by the insurgents, adding that all material conditions that make people take up arms against the state would be addressed.
The Minister of Defence, Mansir Dan-Ali, also observed that the current efforts of the military to rescue the Dapchi and Chibok girls were already at an advanced stage, adding that satellite communications systems and other technological methods would be deploy to rescue the girls.
The minister who was represented by Dr. Hassan Abdullahi, the director in charge of the army in the defence ministry, stated: â€œIt was heart-warming for the organisers of the seminar to come up with the idea to address the multi-faceted security challenges facing the country.â€
Dan-Ali added: â€œThe Boko Haram insurgent group was taking advantage of technology, especially the social media platforms to create panic, terror and confusion in the society.â€
In his remarks, the Commandant of the college, Rear Admiral Adeniyi Osinowo, said the NDC was pleased to host the workshop as a way of addressing the current security challenges in the country holistically.
He said: â€œThe theme of this seminar is well thought out for several pertinent reasons. Firstly, given the influence of technology on warfare and its overreaching influence on wars since the cold war era, nations have invested in new and emerging technologies to improve their military for national power.
â€œSecondly, notwithstanding the possible return of inter-state wars, the reality is that the post-cold war Africa has been involved more in intra-state wars.
â€œThirdly, contemporary warfare involves non-state actors, insurgents and terrorists groups in particular, and the majority of these wars have assumed greater dimension.â€
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday said the visit of President Buhari to Taraba State had vindicated its position that the scheduled trips to states where Nigerians are being killed by marauders is cosmetic and a political afterthought that did not come from the heart.
The PDP also expressed disbelief at the presidentâ€™s dismissal of public criticism over his delay in visiting the troubled areas as expecting him â€œto always go out to the field to make noise.â€
The party said Nigerians were also distressed by President Buhariâ€™s morbid comparison of more people being killed in one state than the other, as if one life is not as important as hundred others, adding that such a disposition has further exposed the value the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled administration attaches to the lives of Nigerians.
According to PDP, â€œNigerians wondered why President Buhari did not put figures to the tally since what appears to be of interest is the morbid comparison of how many Nigerians were killed from state to state,â€™â€™ partyâ€™s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, stated in a statement.
The party said it was however not surprised by President Buhariâ€™s comments as well as the failure to visit the victims to directly assure them as the APC-controlled federal government had always exhibited thoughtless disdain towards the feelings and well being of the masses.
â€œWhen well-meaning Nigerians said the visits were cosmetic and a political gambit, some apologists of the APC dismissed it as a mere political statement. Now, the action and comments by the president during his whistle stop visit to Taraba State have bared it all,â€™â€™ the party added.
â€œNot only that our dear President holed himself in the comfort of the Taraba State Government House for a brief meeting with few government officials, he did not visit the victims to directly commiserate and allay their fears with assurances of steps to ensure justice and end the carnage, as his allusions almost re-opened old wounds.
â€œIs it not surprising that the same president who, last Saturday, had all the time at a wedding ceremony in Kano state did not even spare a minute to visit victims of a carnage where a soothing word from him would have been the balm for justice and peace?â€™â€™
The major opposition party added the presidentâ€™s declaration that Nigerians should not expect him to â€œalways go out to the fieldâ€ not only negates his promise to lead from the fronts, but also shows that he has become distant from the real feelings, demands and sensibilities of the people.
It continued: â€œAlso, Nigerians were shocked by the Presidentâ€™s claims of having performed in providing security in the country, even in the face of the daily bloodletting in the land. Perhaps, he was not aware, as usual, that while he was in Taraba, marauders were having a field day slaughtering women and children in neighbouring Benue state.
â€œIt is clear to all that this Presidential roadshow serves no purpose to the people, but merely designed as a gambit to score cheap political point and falsely portray the administration as caring, particularly seeing that the 2019 elections are around the corner.
â€œThis is indeed the highest insult to the sensibility of Nigerians and a spat on the graves of the dead.â€™â€™
PDP charged the presidentâ€™s handlers to end the charade, which is bringing more pubic opprobrium to the president, as no amount of gimmick will reverse the resolve by Nigerians to end the APC anti-people rule come 2019.