By Ismaila chafe/Abuja
The Presidency on Monday lashed back at the Catholic Bishop of Yola Diocese, Rt. Rev. Fr. Stephen Mamza, who unguardedly had described President Muhammadu Buhari as ”sleeping on duty as Commander-in-Chief.”
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, said the comment was unbecoming of a religious leader, to engage ”in an action that broke the old tradition of staying above politics”.
The presidential aide not only described the comment unfair, but also went further to educate him on President Buhari’s various efforts to improve the state of affairs in Nigeria, particularly in the North east, ravaged by Boko Haram before May 29, 2015.
Shehu said: ”In an action that broke the old tradition of staying above politics, the Catholic Bishop of Yola Diocese, Rt. Rev. Fr. Stephen Mamza delivered a homily in which he spoke angrily against President Muhammadu Buhari, whom he described as ‘sleeping on duty as Commander-in-Chief.’
”This is not a fair comment.
”There is so much that has changed in the past three to four years in and around Yola, and the Catholic Church in particular that a true assessment would show that but for the Change Administration of President Buhari, things would have continued the way they were, or even get worse. These could not have happened if a Commander-in- Chief was asleep.”
Shehu, however, noted that Mamza was part of the success story recorded by the Buhari administration in Northeast, especially in Adamawa.
”Bishop Mamza was, and is still a strong member of the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), composed of religious and community leaders which did the lovely work housing and feeding 400,000 displaced people from Northern Adamawa and Borno States in 2015.
”The API also did the extraordinary work of easing tensions between Muslims and Christians during that period and ensured that both groups did not turn on one another based on suspicion.
”As widely reported by the local and international press, in the premises of St. Theresa’s Cathedral where Rev. Mamza ministered, there were more than 1,500 IDPs, mostly women and children on whom the church administered food rations and issued bags of maize, cooking oil and seasoning.
”We are truly touched and very grateful for the work that the Bishop and the others had done in that difficult period,” he said.
The presidential spokesman maintained that as ”the Boko Haram has been degraded, the more than 400,000 displaced people absorbed by the Adamawa community have all gone back to Borno State and to those council areas in northern Adamawa.
”In addition to the capital,Yola, the towns of Michika, Madagali and Mubi which had been occupied by Boko Haram during their military advances have since been retaken by the Nigerian military”.
According to him, the military personnel are also clearing litters of Boko Haram’s carnage and are, through the support of the administration as well as local and international partners, rebuilding roads and bridges, power lines, burnt schools, markets, destroyed churches and mosques.
”Without an iota of doubt, the Northeast is better off with President Buhari than it was under the previous administration.
”That should explain the massive turnout of voters in the region, in spite of threats to life and property, to vote for the return of the President for a Second Term of four years.
”Sadly, one of the realities of today’s Nigeria is that it easy to blame President Buhari for the violence all around us,” he added
Shehu condemned situations were community leaders were ”too scared to blame the warlords and the sponsors of killings” because they fear for their own lives.
He said: ”What is happening in several communities racked by inter-ethnic and religious violence is arising from the refusal of community leaders to point at known criminals in their midst for the law enforcement agencies to act against them.
”They rather blame President Buhari for their woes.
”It is indeed an irony that in the week that Bishop Mamza was speaking, another Bishop with a known commitment to peace, and results to show for his work in neighbouring Plateau State, is being dispatched to go to Taraba, Adamawa and Benue to work in collaboration with security agencies in mending broken inter-communal relationships.”
While sympathising with families of those who lost loved ones as well as those injured, Shehu said this senseless violence could never be condoned by the Buhari administration.
He added that the administration’s intense security efforts and peace building would not only continue, ”but will expand in response to such explosions of violence in the country.”