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Benue Flood: Will Buhari’s Physical Presence Avail Much?

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Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari is in his hometown of Daura in Katsina State to celebrate the Eid-el-Kabir holiday, but some Nigerians believe he should cut short his break and visit Benue State.

For the last 4 days, the state has been ravaged by a flood which has displaced 110,000 persons and damaged several properties and farm produce across 24 communities, the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, has said.

Since it started, many Nigerians have joined the clamor for aid to be delivered to the people displaced by the flood, most notably former President Goodluck Jonathan. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has donated five million Naira to the victims, while brands, businesses, and other individuals have made pledges.

While the flood occupies national discuss, Buhari remains conspicuously absent from the scene. He was quick to release a statement and send the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, to Makurdi for inspection of the affected areas, but this alone will not suffice.

As president, Buhari is expected to lead from the front and a visit to Benue will help boost the morale of victims most of which have lost their source of livelihood. Seeing that their leader empathizes with their loss could help the people of Benue brace up and face the challenges that face them at the moment.

Buhari’s physical presence in Benue could also draw more attention to the plight of the people while serving to garner support from more individuals. Nigerian elites are known to throng after leaders in cases like this, showing support and pledging aid, even if most aren’t redeemed.

If the President is satisfied with the hundreds of people who trooped to the roads in Abuja and Kaduna to herald his return from the 104-day forced medical leave in London, then he should pay no heed to calls for him to visit Benue. Since his inauguration on May 29, 2015, Buhari has visited just four out of the 36 states in Nigeria, Adamawa, Katsina (his home), Osun and Cross River states.

While Buhari was away, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo then Acting President visited three states, and the reception he got even from non-APC states showed that Nigerians all over are eager to see such acts of leadership. They long for close contact with their leaders especially in light of the economic hardship they face, but this has not been seen from Buhari.

While he campaigned for the post, Buhari told a packed Chatham House that “I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example”. Many will argue that this has not been the case, and as some Nigerians on twitter said, they will like to see more.

Since his arrival in Daura, traveling with his full detail, Buhari has appeared in pictures with corps members, former classmates and at prayer sessions with the Emir of Daura. It is safe to say that all these persons can do without seeing him for a few hours while he shows the people of Benue the empathy they deserve.

Below are more responses to Buhari’s statement from twitter.

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