By Vincent Atondu
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Benue State have expressed their disappointment in the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar for failing to condemn the attacks on their communities which have forced them into different camps for more than five years.
The IDPs were reacting to what they called “Atiku’s lame statement” when he addressed the PDP presidential rally yesterday at Aper Aku stadium in Makurdi. Atiku, while speaking on the occasion, said if elected, he will ensure that peace returns between herdsmen and farmers in Benue state and also promised to provide security. But he failed to condemn the attacks by his Fulani kinsmen on the state. This has angered those who are in IDP camps and some of them vehemently spoke out and vowed to reject the PDP presidential candidate during the coming elections. Remember that INEC has made arrangements to give IDPs the opportunity to also vote.
One of the IDPs Tersur Ayaga who spoke in Tiv language at the Abagena camp said “what is more disturbing to us is the fact that Atiku makes campaign promises to ensure security, but is not being sincere. His silence over the killing of our people shows that he will be worse than Buhari. We were waiting yesterday to hear him condemn the attacks on us and warn his Fulani people who have occupied our communities to leave, but he didn’t do anything like that. We don’t trust him”.
Another member of the camp, Mrs Bridget Shember said Atiku’s refusal to visit the camp and sympathize with them when he knows that he needs their votes is proof that he is only pretending about what he said that he will provide security.
“Since his brothers started killing us, he has been in Benue state but not bothered to know how we are surviving. Atiku has never sent even a bag of garri to us. Is it when he has power that he will remember us? I don’t believe him ooo”
A young man named Jonathan Mnenga who lost both parents during the 2018 twin attacks on Guma and Logo and has been living with his younger siblings in the Daudu IDP camp, broke down in tears while reacting to what he described as Atiku’s mockery of the victims.
“Who will vote for Atiku if all Benue people are killed before the elections? He has shown hatred towards the people of the state. For him, the lives of cows are more important than the lives of human beings. Does Atiku care to know how I and my younger ones feed? All he wants from us are our votes. I won’t vote for a man who does not believe that I exist”.
The Benue IDPs pointed out that as the “Zege Mule u Tiv” Atiku has not visited the state even once to say ‘thank you’ to the people after they voted for him in 2019 when he defeated President Buhari in the state. Nearly two million Benue people have been displaced with over 6,000 deaths recorded as a result of herdsmen attacks on Benue state.
As the 2023 general elections draw closer, the PDP Presidential candidate has an enormous burden to win the confidence of the Benue people. Unfortunately, observers say Atiku does not seem to realize this fact. They fear that he will be only for a section of the country and not for all Nigerians. That he will pamper and protect Fulani terrorists because of his ethnicity. These and more fundamental issues are starring Atiku in the face as we head to the 2023 polls.