“Whether or not the words were improperly chewed or revealing what we all failed to notice won’t change the fact that in less than a year in office, Buhari has managed to rack up far more regrettable utterances than any President we have ever heard.”
A lot of us had at least one people’s ‘Bros’ around us while growing up. If he wasn’t family, then he was a neighbour or family friend. ‘Bros’ always greeted everyone with a smile and parted with the words – ‘bless you’. Every child was either his ‘main man’ or his ‘wife’. One thing he had going for him above everything else was his understanding of the power of words.
He knew a ‘Well done ma’ to your mother in the kitchen before sticking around could earn him a free meal and he understood how much an investment a bottle of soft drink on Christmas or Sallah could turn out to be. He didn’t have much but ‘you were too much of a great person’ to not celebrate with. He was in everybody’s good books because he always said the right thing and at the right time.
President Buhari is nothing like my ‘Bros me’. He would have to be the generous type for you to love him back then for only generosity could mitigate any damage his ‘okpata-leaking’ mouth had already caused. For a man who has been depicted as Nigeria’s number one fan long before he assumed office as President, PMB has spoken words that have more than suggested otherwise.
Whether or not the words were improperly chewed or revealing what we all failed to notice won’t change the fact that in less than a year in office, he has managed to rack up far more regrettable utterances than any President we have ever heard. Walk with me as I highlight 8 of them.
1. ‘…DASUKI CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO GO ABROAD TO SEE HIS DOCTOR WHILE THERE ARE OVER TWO MILLION PEOPLE DISPLACED’ – (Presidential Media Chat)
This may sound pleasant to the ears of the average Nigerian and even draw a few tears from the eyes of some but it is Buhari openly flaunting his disregard for the law. Dasuki would not be released despite being granted bail by the courts and by so stating, he lost every moral right to brag about respect for the rule of law like the leaders before him whenever the need presents itself. With the current bad state of the economy and the untold hardship occasioned by the fuel and power scarcity, most of the people cheering him back then have joined the ‘math club’.
There, they add up El-Zakzaky’s continued detention and non-prosecution, the killing of his defenceless members and the demolition of his sect’s structures with Buhari’s Dasuki statement to arrive at a ‘new’ answer. Perhaps it wouldn’t have this much tendency to burn him in the long-run if he made the comment in a roomful of ‘Aluta-charged’ students but it was his maiden media chat which was being beamed live to the whole wide world on a night everyone wanted to hear just how much we had ‘changed’.
2. …’LET THE CHRISTIANS GO AND FIGHT THE TERRORISTS OR THE MILITANTS IN THE SOUTH’-(Al-Jazeera interview with Martine Dennis)
This was the President’s controversial response to a question on concerns in some quarters that he was trying to Islamize Nigeria by joining forces with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition of Islamic states to combat terrorism. PMB obviously allowed his anger get the better of him. While his intentions are good as the nation stands to gain a lot from joining them, his remarks are capable of starting another war for him.
I sincerely doubt if majority of Christians have anything against such a good move and it was quite sad to watch the man attract unnecessary heat to himself. The perfect response would try to allay fears, highlight the benefits of a more secure Nigeria and just how much we stand to gain from the coalition.
But Mr. President had to go tell ‘those Christians’ to go fight the war. And come to think of it, the ‘few’ concerns aren’t entirely baseless. The Ibos are yet to get an appointment asides the ones made mandatory by the constitution and his northern brothers far outnumber everyone on the non-ministerial appointment list.
3. …’YOU KNOW MORE ABOUT OUR BUDGET THAN I DO’-(Al Jazeera Interview with Martine Dennis)
The President first made this remark in a reply to a question on the huge funds allocated to the state clinic in the villa. And that was just after he had said he had to study the ‘budget’ before he could comment on the outrageous $25,000 allocation to the Vice-President’s office for books in an earlier question. Study our budget? Seriously?
You knew he obviously didn’t think it was wrong to pay Martine such a compliment after he told her for the second time she knew more about our budget than he did in justifying the retention of security votes. The lady like any smart journalist would, didn’t probe him on the impropriety of a President knowing so little about his budget and instead settled for a huge score with her employers who would be so proud of her work. It would be noted a sitting President once admitted she knew more about his country’s budget than he did but as a Nigerian, it was disgusting to watch my President tell a foreign journalist that.
Buhari can go on as many trips as he wants in his bid to ‘re-brand’ our image in the international community but comments like these speak volumes to the outside world of the new man in charge. No President who wants to be taken seriously would tell an interviewer that.
4. …’IS THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR PETROLEUM NOT IBO?’ – (Maiden Presidential Media Chat)
When asked why he hadn’t been appointing Ibos (south-easterners)in compliance with the Federal Character provision during the Presidential media chat, he tried to dodge the question by saying there are restrictions placed by the constitution in an apparent bid to feign ignorance of the fact that the interviewer meant non-ministerial appointments. As fate would have it, Oga ran into a hold-up on his detour and asked if the Minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, wasn’t Ibo? Kachikwu is from Delta state in the south-south region of Nigeria.
5. …’I AM PLEASED THAT NIGERIANS WHEREVER THEY ARE, WHETHER SOUTH AFRICA, SAUDI ARABIA, EUROPE OR ALASKA FOR THAT MATTER,YOU WILL MAKE IMPACT BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE’ – (While addressing Members of the Nigerian community in South Africa)
Yes, PMB said he is pleased even with those making negative impact in foreign countries. Mr anti-corruption and death-to-all-drug-peddlers did say that to Nigerians living in South Africa. I wonder how our ‘exported’ fraudsters, drug traffickers and prostitutes felt after he turned around to blame the criminal antecedents of Nigerians living abroad as the reason why foreign countries are wary of us. God help us.
6. …’THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT CAN STILL AFFORD IT’ – (Al Jazeera interview with Martine Dennis)
On the face of it, there is nothing actually wrong with the President saying this when asked if he would pull his kids from their schools abroad as a result of the high dollar exchange rate. He owes no one any explanation really but he came across as being quite insensitive. A more dignifying response would be-‘If I can no longer afford it, I would have no other choice but to pull them out’. The parents who are forced to pull their kids only wanted the best for them and I dare say a better man would have even gone as far as sympathizing with them instead of a response no different from one an ‘Omata’ trader would give to show off.
7. …’I HAVE BEEN WITH THEM THROUGHOUT OUR TRYING TIMES, WHAT THEN IS THE REWARD OF SUCH DEDICATION AND SUFFERING?’ – (BBC Hausa Interview)
This interview effectively shuts down all ‘Competence over Ethnicity’ theories the Buharists try to sell to us each time we decry his lopsided appointments. Mr President admitted to rewarding loyalty ahead of even competence and don’t nobody tell me I didn’t hear right. It is settled. The Chief ‘Changist’ is not scared of telling the world that government positions are for his ‘day ones’. And, please, it’s high time his handlers correct his understanding of our constitution.
Here he opens his defence by telling us to do justice to him by resorting to the provisions of our constitution as regards appointment of his closest officials that don’t require Senate ratification. Section 14 (3) states that the composition of the Federal government and its agencies must reflect Federal character. He can’t possibly hide behind the grundnorm to legitimize his lopsided appointments. Well, he then went on to talk about loyalty. God help us.
8. …’CONSTITUENCIES THAT GAVE ME 97% CANNOT BE TREATED ON SOME ISSUES WITH CONSTITUENCIES THAT GAVE ME 5%’ – (Q&A Session at United States Institute of Peace)
Our leader chose the United States of all places to say those who voted en masse for him would be treated better than those didn’t on some issues and that there would be justice for all. I wondered if the President actually understood what justice meant. In even the most non-legal contexts, justice connotes impartiality, equity and fairness. Every Nigerian has a right to freedom of association and it is unconstitutional to discriminate against anyone based on their political affiliations. They have equal rights with those who voted in numbers for the APC and deserve to be treated equally. It would have been better if he had kept his plans to close to his chest and not gone ahead to poo all over himself.
For the good of Nigeria and its good people, I sincerely hope I wouldn’t have to write a second part any time in the future.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano; Twitter:@alaye26; Email: email@example.com
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