Nigerians were livid as President Muhammadu Buhari was nowhere to be found yesterday as his Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, was buried.
Ibrahim Attahiru, a Lieutenant General, and 10 other officers were laid to rest at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja on Saturday, a day after they died in a military plane crash.
The plane they were traveling in crashed, killing everybody on board on Kaduna on Friday while they were on official duty to Zaria in Kaduna State.
They were travelling to the Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria for the passing out parade of regular recruits slated for Saturday.
The crash is now the third military air crash this year and the army posted videos on social networks of the service attended by top political and military leaders at the National Mosque.
The Christian funeral burial rites were held in Nigerian Air Force Protestant Church, Abuja for the Christians officers, while the Islamic funeral service was held at the National Mosque, Abuja for the late army chief and five others who were Muslims.
the bodies of the dead officers were taken to the National Military Cemetery along Airport Road for internment after religious services for the deceased.
Prominent citizens and politicians present were the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar; Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, Governors of Borno, Kaduna, Yobe and Kebbi.
The top military officers that were in attendance were the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, a General; Chief of Air Staff, Isiaka Amao; and Chief of Naval Staff, Gambo Awwal. They were all appointed on January 26 as Mr Attahiru by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Government officials present at the burial were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Minister of Communications and Digital Strategy, Isa Pantami.
The address read Magashi on behalf of President Buhari read thus “Today is indeed a trying moment for the Nigerian Army and indeed the armed forces of our country, a period that witnessed the death of 11 brave officers and men of the armed forces in an ill-fated crash in Kaduna.
“These fine gentlemen had a glorious career in the armed forces in the course of which they served gallantly in several capacities.”
According to the statement, Attahiru “inspired courage and confidence in the Nigerian Army which informed successes recorded during his watch.
“He led the Nigerian Army from the front and was a source of inspiration worthy of emulation by all officers and men of the armed forces of Nigeria,” the president said, promising to ensure that the contribution of the deceased officer to the unity, peace and security would be remembered.
Criticisms against the President for his absence at the burial by Nigerians has intensified. Reno Omokri, a former aide to former President Goodluck, said the absence of the president from the funeral ceremonies showed that the country was ‘leaderless’.
“Sad that President Muhammadu Buhari did not attend the burial of the late Chief of Army Staff, (Lieutenant) General Attahiru. He was represented by his Defence Minister. Attahiru died serving Nigeria. Buhari, who went to Paris for four days, could not go to Attahiru’s funeral for 30 minutes”.
Omokri recalled that when former Chief of Defence Staff, Owoye Azazi died in 2012, that the then President Goodluck Jonathan attended the burial ceremony.
Japhet Omojuwa, a popular blogger, tweeted, “If you can go to France, you can attend the burial of your COAS + others and use that platform as an opportunity to reassure your troops whilst celebrating the loss of our gallant men. But I shouldn’t tweet this. I shouldn’t attract unnecessary negative energy to my timeline.”
Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer, wrote on Facebook.
“I ask again, where is the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? When the occupant of the highest office in the land becomes so redundant to the point that he cannot attend the funeral of his Chief of Army Staff and other officers who died in a plane crash while on official assignment, it is an indication that the country is leaderless. Buhari has become a mere mannequin. He is neither useful to the country nor to humanity,”
Abiola Sanni, a twitter user said, “I’m very disappointed heartbroken This is the least the President could have done.”
The is not the first time the President is being criticized by Nigerian for his absence in such occasions. Recall that Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President had in 2018 described the absence of President Buhari at the burial of soldiers killed by Boko Haram in Metele, Borno State as ‘totally unacceptable’.
Atiku also criticized President Buhari in 2019 for not attending the burial of the five Nigerian Air Force officers, who died while prosecuting the war on terror.
President Buhari did not also attend the burial of his late Chief of Army Staff, Abba Kyari, who died from COVID-19 last year.
The President was also criticized for what people call lack of empathy when he did not visit Kankara Katsina State after over 300 schoolboys were abducted while he was on vacation at his country home, in Daura in same Katsina State, which was not far from the scene of abductions, instead, he sent a delegation led by the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, to travel from far away Abuja to Katsina.