President Buhari says ongoing killings should not be politicised, but the latest statement could further deepen partisan bickering.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari warned against politicising the ongoing killings across Nigeria, his aides have yet again reminded Nigerians that deadly attacks resulting in high number of deaths did not start under his government, but rather a reality which Nigerians lived through for the most part of Peoples Democratic Party’s 16-year rule.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said the PDP was playing politics when the major opposition party declared a week-long national mourning in memory of those killed last weekend in Plateau State.
The police put the figures of those killed around 100, but witnesses and organised groups like the Christian Association of Nigeria are estimating over 200 deaths in the killings which affected several communities in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area between July 23 and 25.
Mr Buhari was in Jos, the state capital, located about 50 kilometres north of the affected communities, to commiserate with the state government and reassert his administration’s commitment to hunt down the killers and ensure justice for the victims.
The PDP, which became Nigeria’s major opposition party following its defeat at the 2015 general elections, announced Wednesday evening its flag would be unfurled at half-staff at its local and national chapters across the country for the next seven days.
For concrete action, the party said the “people of Plateau State” should “exercise their rights as global citizens, work with other public-spirited Nigerians and groups and take President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague for acting helpless in the face of continuous mass killings in our country.”
“The PDP firmly holds that the life of every Nigerian is sacred. All Nigerians must be protected whether they are Birom, Basange, Igbira, Tiv, Idoma, Hausa, Igbo, Fulani, Gbagyi, Yoruba or from any other tribe whatsoever,” the party added. “The fundamental duty of government all over the world is the protection of lives and Nigerians can no longer continue to fold their hands while compatriots are being daily hacked down by marauders.”
In both tone and deed, the PDP’s move to rally Nigerians appeared an uncomfortable development for the State House, prompting Mr Adesina to exhume a string of past killings he said occurred without declarations of national mourning by the opposition party when it was in power.
Rather than exercise “decorum, deep introspection” and help proffer “actionable ideas” on how to end the senseless killings in the country, the PDP danced “on the graves of the dead, playing cheap, infantile politics,” with its national mourning, Mr Adesina said.
Mr Adesina said the PDP’s mourning exercise would fail because “Nigerians are politically discerning, and cannot be hoodwinked by cheap antics.”
The spokesperson went on to list the following past incidents and called out the PDP for allegedly failing to mourn the casualties at the time.
– November 20, 1999. Odi, in Bayelsa State, was invaded on orders of a PDP President. About 2,500 people killed. No national mourning.
– Between February and May, 2000, about 5,000 people were killed during riots over Sharia law in different parts of the North. No national mourning.
– In 2001, hundreds of people, including the old, infirm, women and children were killed in Zaki Biam. No crocodile tears.
– Between September 7-12, 2001, Jos, Plateau State, erupted in internecine killings. Between 500 and 1,000 people were killed. Flags were not flown at half mast.
– In February, 2004, at least 975 people were killed in Yelwa-Shendam, Plateau State. No mourning by the then ruling PDP.
– Between November 28 and 29, 2008, Jos was in flames again, with 381 deaths. No mourning.
– In 2010, 992 people killed in Jos. Mum was the word.
– In 2014 alone, according to Global Terrorism Index, at least 1,229 people were killed in the Middle Belt. No mourning.
– Boko Haram killings in PDP years were over 10,000. PDP flags were still fluttering proudly in the sky.