Presidency, Atiku clash over Buhari’s alleged insensitivity

The Presidency yesterday faulted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, over claims that President Muhammadu Buhari was insensitive to have failed to attend the burial of the 19 military victims of Boko Haram or send Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to represent him.

A reliable Presidency source said that president Buhari viewed the death of the soldiers as a national loss, which made him to visit Maiduguri to console the troops and the state government.

He said, "We have read the hypocritical press release by Atiku Abubakar, accusing the government of Muhammadu Buhari of insensitivity by the failure of the president or the vice president to attend the burial of the 19 military victims of Boko Haram. The loss of the gallant soldiers, as President Buhari has said is a national loss, on account of which he went to Maiduguri where he condoled the government and people of Borno State, addressed the troops at Maimalari Barracks as well as visited the convalescing gallant soldiers. This was a clear case of sensitive and responsible leadership," the source said.

Speaking earlier on the funeral held last Friday for the departed soldiers in Abuja, the PDP presidential flag-bearer had accused President Buhari of being insensitive to the plights of the soldiers.

Atiku in a statement had said, "Today, I saw the pictures of the funeral of the officers and men of the 157 Task Force battalion of the Nigerian Army based in Metele and who were killed by Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists and my heart went out to the men, their families and to our entire armed forces. May their souls rest in peace and may God grant their families fortitude at such a trying time.

"I am further pained that neither the President or his vice were in attendance at the funeral and that the Federal Government did not send a high powered delegation to represent the government at the funeral. This is sad and totally unacceptable. This is beyond politics. This touches our shared humanity. What would it cost for the President to take a day and fulfil his role as head of state by attending the funeral of such men of honour and valour? The sad part of it is that a day before their funeral, President Buhari took time out of his busy schedule to host Nollywood stars at the Presidential Villa."

But the presidency source pointed out that neither Atiku nor Obasanjo during their administration in 2001 visited or paid tribute to soldiers killed that year. He said, "On the other hand however, when a similar number of troops (19 soldiers) were abducted and killed in October, 2001, neither he (Atiku Abubakar) or his boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo paid any tributes, not to talk of visiting the grieving family members of the martyred soldiers. Instead, they sent additional troops who rounded up the people of the town, and authorized an indiscriminate shooting as reprisals."

It recalled that the BBC at that time reported that "In four ethnic-Tiv villages in Benue, soldiers rounded up and killed over 200 unarmed civilians. Zaki Biam, a town of about 20,000 people, was completely destroyed. According to eyewitnesses, the source said that the military team came in eight armoured cars. They came to Anyiin first where they were said to have summoned all the villagers to Gbeji public square, claiming that they had an urgent message for them. As soon as the villagers were gathered, the troops asked all the women and children to leave and then opened fire on the men, killing 100.

"At another village, the village head, a blind old man who is uncle to the former army chief, General Victor Malu, was killed alongside his wife. Their bodies were burnt inside the house." A BBC correspondent in Nigeria, Dan Isaacs, reported from Zaki Biam that "they have destroyed every single building. Everything is burned out—walls are still standing but everything has been gutted. They came in and shelled buildings. They shot buildings with rocket propelled grenades—there are bullet holes all around."

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