Cruel. Wicked. Callous. These are the words that were thrown at the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, after his insensitive comments on the massacre of citizens in Borno State.
On Sunday, news became public that massive killings had taken place in the village of Koshobe and other rural communities in the Jere local government area near Maiduguri, Borno state; resulting in a death toll of 110.
In response to the jarring incident, Garba Shehu had implied that the farmers killed by Boko Haram at Zabarmari carry the responsibility in their own slaughter even though he said that he was not trying to cast blame.
He stated, in an interview, that the slain farmers ought to have obtained clearance from the military before heading to the rice farms where they were killed.
“Was there any clearance by the military which is in total control of those areas? Did anybody ask to resume activity? I have been told by the military leaders that they had not been so advised and certainly, therefore, it was a window that the terrorists exploited.”
“Much of those areas have been liberated from Boko Haram terrorists but there are a number of spaces that have not been cleared for the return of villagers who have been displaced. So, ideally, all of these places ought to pass the test of military clearances before farmers or settlers resume activities on those fields,” Garba Shehu declared.
Of course, Nigerians were infuriated and rightly so. The backlash was massive and the unified anger was very palpable. Not only did the comment come across as inconsiderate, but it also showed the inefficiency of the Nigerian government.
Shehu, upon the backlash, doubled down on his comments stating that he was only “human with tons of compassion and empathy, and could not have said that the victims deserved their fate for ignoring security clearance” and that he “was merely explaining the mode of military operations in the war zone of the North-East.”
The events in Ondo State over the past few weeks, the recent massacre in Borno amongst other bursts of violence across the country has shown that Nigeria has a very big insecurity problem. However, Shehu’s comments are even more revealing and have shown that we clearly have incompetent leaders who lack the capacity to take accountability.
Toluwanimi Onakoya is a spirited writer, creative and videographer. Her biggest drive is to connect with people and depict tales using various forms of media.
Toluwanimi is available on Instagram and Twitter @nimi_onaks