By Kingsley Obiejesi and ‘Kunle Adebajo
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari says it is evil for anyone to suggest that he could do harm to the same people that elected him into power by turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the killings across the country.
Buhari said this when he hosted a delegation of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) from the 19 Northern States and the FCT, at the Presidential Villa on Thursday.
He said the killings in Nigeria is historical and there is no administration that has not had to contend with killings in these same areas over the years.
“Let me make it clear that even a single life lost in any part of the country is one too many. I came to office vowing to ensure the protection of lives and property, and I remain committed to this despite the challenges we have experienced,” Buhari said, according to a speech shared by his spokesman Garba Shehu.
“When some, for clearly political purposes, attempt to suggest that this government is doing nothing about the killings, and that I, being Fulani, must be encouraging these satanic acts, it seems to me that there is no limit to the evil in the minds of men.
“Otherwise, how can anyone in their right minds suggest that I, as an elected President even with substantial votes in the affected areas, will for any reason do harm by an act of omission to those same people?
“To suggest that our Administration is doing nothing is terribly unfair.”
In 2015, two months after he was sworn in as president, Buhari made a similar statement after his speech at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
Responding to one of the questions that followed the address, he said: “Constituencies that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think this is our political reality.”
He added that those who made efforts to vote for his party, the All Progressive Congress, “must feel that the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place”.
Buhari also described recent killings in Benue, Zamfara and Plateau as “wicked, condemnable and completely unacceptable acts”. He said hundreds of suspects have been arrested by law enforcement agents and convictions have been secured “in a number of cases”. He appealed to the judiciary to fast-track such cases.
He urged the Christian leaders to support his administration in its efforts to bring the killings to an end, stressing that while boosting security all over the country is the responsibility of the federal government, creating the platform and mechanisms for dialogue is a collective effort.
“In recent weeks, we have beefed up strength with the deployment of extra Special Forces from the Defence headquarters. Besides, we currently have no fewer than three special military intervention forces in the troubled zones,” he said.
“Operation Safe Haven to secure Plateau State, Operation Whirl Stroke 1 (OPWS) to secure Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa, and OPWS 2 to secure Zamfara and Kaduna States.
“These forces are supported with investigative and intelligence gathering capabilities from the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and other agencies.
“Government can achieve lasting peace only with the sincere and active cooperation of communities, religious leaders, youths and other stakeholders.”
“Let us collectively shame those who are stoking the fires of ethnic and religious conflicts for their short-term political gains.
“This country belongs equally to Christians and Muslims and even those who claim ignorance of God.”