The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some civil society organisations (CSOs) have expressed displeasure over the private trip to Paris, France, embarked upon by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu amid rising cases of abductions and other security challenges in the country.
Recall that President Tinubu departed Abuja for France on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, with his handlers saying it was “a private visit”.
“He will return to the country in the first week of February, 2024,” a statement issued ahead of his trip, signed by the presidential spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale, said.
However, the groups that spoke to Daily Trust on the trip decried that there was “no transparency” in the announcement, considering the description of the president’s trip as a private one.
The groups’ position is coming in the wake of criticism by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who questioned the purpose of a private visit to France amid the heightening banditry and other security challenges bedevilling the nation.
But the presidency said despite his absence, Tinubu remained on top of the domestic situation, and has been giving the security agencies all the necessary support they needed to win the battle against criminal elements, in order to secure every inch of Nigeria.
Tinubu left Nigeria while debate was ongoing over a series of attacks in Plateau State, abductions and killings around Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, and most recently, the ambush on a school bus in Ekiti State where pupils were abducted.
He’s taking citizens for granted – NEF
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said President Tinubu’s private trip to Paris at this time is a pointer that he is only pursuing personal goals instead of encouraging Nigerians in a time of need.
The Director of Publicity and Advocacy/Spokesperson for the group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said the forum believes that for Tinubu to embark on a private trip to France at a time when the country is virtually under the siege of rampaging bandits, kidnappers, and other criminal gangs is a confirmation of the concerns that Nigeria has ended up in the hands of “A citadel of poor governance, indifference, insensitivity, and unprecedented impunity.”
The NEF spokesman said Tinubu’s decision to prioritise a private trip over the urgent needs of the Nigerian people has proven the general fear that Nigeria is being led by individuals who are ill-equipped and ill-prepared to lead.
“It is a stark reminder that our leaders are more concerned with their personal interests than the welfare and security of the Nigerian people.
“In February 2023, Nigerian voters placed their trust in Tinubu, believing that he would lead our nation through and out of its limitations, into a future where we would live secure lives and pursue livelihood in a united Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, just a few months into the new administration, Nigerians are beginning to realise that they have been abandoned to the mercy of armed criminals. The lack of political will and capacity to confront them has created a vacuum that they sense and exploit. Our leaders, including President Tinubu, seem more interested in pursuing personal goals than supporting and encouraging their people in times of need.
“The consequences of this lack of leadership are dire. The rampaging bandits, kidnappers, and criminal gangs continue to wreak havoc on our communities, instilling fear and insecurity in the hearts of ordinary Nigerians. Families are torn apart, lives are lost, and livelihoods are destroyed. The Nigerian people are left to fend for themselves, with little hope of protection or justice,” Suleiman said.
President’s absence a disaster – Ohanaeze
On her part, Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned President Tinubu’s private visit to Paris amid “The current daunting security, economic, and other pressing challenges facing the country.”
Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said Tinubu’s trip came at a time when the nation is experiencing huge financial and economic challenges.
Isiguzoro urged Tinubu to communicate the reasons behind engaging in private visits to the Nigerian people.
“We would like to ask the president to fulfill his constitutional obligations by formally sending power to Vice President Kashim Shettima in his absence.
“Nigerians are already suffering immensely due to the escalating security challenges and the dire state of our economy, exacerbated by the crash of the naira in foreign exchange markets. The consequences of neglecting these pressing issues pose a severe risk, as the potential fallout could be nothing short of disastrous,” he said.
He noted that Nigerians are deeply dissatisfied with the worsening state of security and the persistent decline in economic activities, pushing their patience to its limits.
“The president must not underestimate the resolve of the Nigerian people or take their grievances for granted. It is imperative that he expeditiously address the grave challenges of insecurity and economic turmoil in the first quarter of 2024, to avoid the potential eruption of citizens’ revolt akin to those witnessed in Venezuela and the Arab Spring in Nigeria.”
He has grounded governance – CHRICED
Also speaking on the matter, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Comrade Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said: “What this private visit means is that whatever semblance of governance would have to pause. For every day the president stays away, Nigerians have to face the insecurity, and economic challenges of the country, without the leader being in charge.
“This runs contrary to the promises in the Renewed Hope Agenda, which the president promised to implement vigorously when he was running for the highest office in the land,” Zikirullahi said.
On his part, the National Coordinator, Good Governance Team (GGT), Mr Tunde Salman, however, said that the president appears to have delegated top officials including the vice president, to engage the issues.
“For instance, a small summit was hosted on security with regards to the upsurge in crises in Northern Nigeria, with the VP and ministers of defence playing active roles.
“The same can be said with the constitution of the wage review committee as well as the revenue targets FIRS announced recently. Nonetheless, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should personally address some of the issues,” Salman said.
Tinubu on top of the situation – Aide
Reacting to the concerns raised, Bayo Onanuga, the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy said Tinubu remained on top of the domestic situation, giving the security agencies all the necessary support they needed to win the battle against criminal elements and secure every inch of our country.
Onanuga, in a statement said: “President Tinubu did not travel without informing Nigerians of his whereabouts. He announced a private visit to France and announced a return date.
“While in France, President Tinubu has been following developments at home and is on top of the situation in the country. He is in constant touch with his officials and security chiefs and has directed them to stamp out every form of criminality in the country.
“He has particularly ordered them to apprehend those criminals responsible for the murder of two monarchs in Ekiti State and the kidnapping of some pupils in the state.
“We are already seeing results with the arrest of over 139 kidnappers around Abuja, Kaduna and Benue states in the last one week. The police Special Intervention Squad (SIS) and DSS have also rescued 154 abducted persons in the last few days.”
Situation different in other climes
Daily Trust reports that many Nigerians commenting on social media said while it is absolutely within his right to travel, Tinubu should have opened up on the real reasons he left the shores of Nigeria, whether on a business trip or to attend to his health.
They cited the example of King Charles of England, who recently underwent surgery but opened up to the citizens ahead of time.
A few days ago, Namibian President, Hage G. Geingob informed his citizens of his intention to undergo a seven-day ‘specialised’ medical treatment in the United States after the discovery of cancerous cells in his body by his medical team on January 19.
In a post on his X handle, Mr. Geingob said he accepted the medical offer by leading scientists and medical professionals in Los Angeles, California to undergo novel therapy for cancerous cells in the United States of America.
According to the statement, the travel, medical, and accommodation expenses of the president will not be incurred by the government.