Is the President suggesting that Nigeria is not worth dying for?
BY UBAKA OKOFU
Initial events relating to the marked absence of both the President and his vice at the funeral of the Chief of Army Staff, General Attahiru and several other officers who had been victims of a crash in Kaduna were indeed quite disconcerting. In the midst of it all, some expressed the worry if the message being unwittingly communicated was that Nigeria was not worth dying for?
If any at all, there are scanty reasons a sitting President would absent himself from the funeral ceremony of a demised Chief of Army Staff. It is even more difficult to excuse his presence where the Commander-in-Chief is a retired General of the Nigerian army and a Muslim like the slain officer.
That the President was out of the country on official assignment might be plausible. That he was incapacitated by ill health might well be tolerated. However, we have seen cases in other climes and even here where sitting Presidents have had to terminate foreign trips abruptly on accounts of such national tragedies.
Expectedly, it won’t be out of place to have the Vice President stand in for the President. But in this case, both leaders were in the country. The duo had just returned from two separate foreign trips. While the President had attended a summit put together by the French government for African leaders, the Vice President was in Uganda where he attended the swearing-in ceremony of 77years old President Yoweri Museveni who had vowed to die in office.
Since President Muhammadu Buhari was in the country and cannot in all good sense be said to be sick, having returned from London where he had gone for treatment penultimate month, this is being seen as either an open manifestation of the suspected lack of empathy which president Buhari has been accused of by some or that the alleged lingering cracks in the presidency may have been at work. If not, how does one explain the absence of a Commander –in- Chief and his Vice President in a farewell military ceremony in honour of a Chief of Army Staff and 10 other military officers who died while on active service to the nation?
Major General Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other military officers had crashed and died on board a military Beach craft 350 near the Kaduna International Airport. Nigerians are not only awed that the President was not in attendance at the military ceremonies held in honour of the deceased officers, they are disappointed that no explanation was given for President Buhari’s absence. Not even the quarrelsome and cantankerous duo of Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina arrow heads of President Buhari mouthpiece could in their characteristic and usual manner offer a plausible explanation, even though anaemic as to why it would have been ‘unconstitutional and fundamentally wrong’ that the Commander-in-Chief was in attendance of the burial ceremony of a demised Chief of Army Staff held a few kilometres from the President’s work place which also doubles as his place of abode.
Lately also, we have had too many plane crashes in this country in which the Nigerian military has repeatedly and sadly been victim. In the last three months over 17 military personnel were lost to air crashes. First was the Abuja air mishap in which seven lives were lost on board a Beach Craft King B350i. This was followed by the missing Alpha Jet which went out of radar on a mission to make supplies to those on the battle front with Boko Haram. The jet and the two Flight officers on board were never seen.
The concern is that we are supposed to be at war with Boko Haram and other criminal elements in the north. Recording avoidable air crashes as we have seen would demoralize those at the battlefront , if not the entire military.
Apparently, the news of the Kaduna crash, killing all officers on board is a sad one, and the Accident Investigating Bureau and other relevant authorities must quickly swing into action with the aim to ascertaining the cause of the crash and those responsible if it wasn’t an act of God. Among other things, the air worthiness of the craft before takeoff must be confirmed. This is important if we must bring to an end incessant air crashes involving military persons in this country.
It may be too quick to cry sabotage! However, there seems to be so much doubts and uncertainties surrounding the latest crash of the 21st of May. It cannot be seen that the Chief of Army Staff had to fly in a defective air force plane. If it was so, little wonder we are in the present mess we have found ourselves today.
Nigerians are not taking it lightly that President Buhari and his Vice, Prof. Yomi Osinbajo were both absent from such a national funeral ceremony held at the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja. One had expected that while the President had led other top functionaries to the National Mosque where Dua was held for Major –General Attahiru and other who were Muslims like him, his Vice, Prof. Osinbajo would be at the Military Chapel were requiem was sung for the departed service men who were of the same faith as the Vice President.
To an extent, the presence of President Buhari would have lightened up the faces of those flushed with pain at the ceremony. The excruciating wasp and whip which the relatives of the fallen heroes would encounter in the passing months to say the least, would have been mitigated with a few consoling words from the President reassuring them-relatives, especially wives and children of the slain officers that their patriarchs were indeed undisputed national heroes.
No doubt, the absence of Mr. President and Prof. Osinbajo, his Vice at the national funeral ceremony held in honour of the late Chief of Army Staff and others without any explanation cannot be glossed over. If for anything, let it not be seen that Nigeria is not worth dying for. The deaths of Major-General Attahiru and others shouldn’t be seen to be in vain. On this, we must hold the President accountable.
President Muhammadu Buhari