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[The Concourse] HARASSING THE PRESIDENT: An apostrophe or an aside?

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“A classic public exhibition of bad leadership: A president that could not in 6 years upgrade our national hospital with equipments and expertise to the level of the ones he keeps visiting in London, but can approve billions of dollars to construct railroad into the desert of Niger Republic. We the electorate really blundered.”
– Nigerians in Diaspora UK, revolting against President Buhari’s ongoing medical trip in UK.

On April 2, exactly four days back, while christians all over the world, were commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in the solemn ritual of Good Friday, Nigerians in diaspora, across the shores of Europe and beyond, led by media aid to former President Jonathan, Reno Omokri staged an onging protest tagged #HarassBuhariOutOfLondon at Abuja House, in London, to demand immediate return of President Muhammadu Buhari to Nigeria, and abort his ‘routine’ medical checkups in the English capital.

Most commonly, such demonstration hardly comes without distasteful fallouts. It was actually a harassment to Buhari’s persona and an embarrassment to what is remaining of Nigeria’s international reputation. Harassment it was, because his draconian-styled regime has earned him the reputation of being the first Nigeria President to be harassed in his official London residence in such shameful manner by his own people. But a national disgrace it was, that we could damn the consequences and desecrate the sanctity of the office of our President in foreign land.

How did we degenerate into such profanatory and iniquitous state?
It was an unholy scene. An exposé that most leaders of Black nations are cognitively stunted and intellectually inferior; always acting below standards. And this agonizing mediocrity fans the emotionally compulsive black followers into unrest.

Our problem is not that Buhari came into office sickly, after all, his PR goons keep telling us that he is not too feeble to hold the proverbial reins of power. History is replete with great Leaders who ruled their countries well from sick beds. Between 1933 and 1945, United States of America had a cripple as her 32nd President in Franklin D. Roosevelt. He performed creditably well, guiding his country through the turbulence of the World War II.

Our problem is in Buhari’s (deliberate) inability to perform. Even the great J.F Kennedy came to the white house nurturing Addison’s disease, an autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type 2. From 1981 – 1995 François Mitterrand ruled France with prostate cancer. All of them were treated in their own counties, so they could attend to the demands of their office simultaneously.

In our case, the President left us in autopilot status. The country is anaemic and in desperate need of live-saving blood and drastic leadership, which he is not providing. His men are clandestinely pressing the “spoil” button in APC-controlled Imo, and are busy linking it to ESN/IPOB without investigation. A case of giving a dog bad name in order to hang it. All these can happen because the head is not just sickly, but tired, absent and clueless.

And that was why at the civil march venue, after the national anthem, Reno spent quite a time schooling the media world through the many tragic shortfalls of Buhari’s regime. His statements were factually congruent with reality on ground and statistically consistent with NBS and T.I data. The mainstay of the protest is that Buhari cannot continue to be insensitive to the comatose state of our health system and array of insecurity whirlwind, while he keeps resorting to medical tourism and enjoy the serenity of climes where men of goodwill made things work. It is a shameless adventure.

Back home, we were watching, in utter disappointment.

Exactly the same mood Americans found themselves in July of 2018 when former President Trump went to UK and was greeted by troubling civil march against his Southern border policy. In fact, all his three separate trips to UK during his time in White House was marred by anti-Trump protests.

The difference, however, is in their systems of governance and leadership. The U.S had over the years built strong democratic system that guarantees protection of rights of its citizenry to peaceful protest, which earned her the august title of “the nation of free men.” In sharp contrast, Nigeria stifles such rights from its citizenry, and her leaders are despotically averse to criticism.

So on three occasions in UK, Trump was accosted by his disgruntled compatriots. He ensured their rights were intact. But in the case of President Buhari, he deployed UK protocol police officers who were guarding his residence to asphyxiate the protesters’ voices. But characteristic of White man’s civilized temperament, the officers accorded Reno fair hearing. They were able to discern that his anger was patriotic and has nothing to do with desire for vainglory or parochial motives as the inmates of Abuja House might have incited.

According to Reno: “When General Muhammadu Buhari’s people called the City of London Police on me, I calmly asked the officer questioning me this question:

‘Officer, has Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, ever come to Nigeria to access healthcare? So, why should you be called on me when I am asking my President to return to Nigeria to use our hospitals?’

The police officer was touched. He told me I was within my rights and flashed the thumbs up sign, and allowed the #HarassBuhariOutOfLondon to continue.”

The police calmly urged Reno to vacate the arena while his co-mobilizers continued with their demand. This was a direct mockery to the modus operandi of Nigeria Police. Juxtaposed with what obtains here, Reno would have been roundly abused and teargased off the arena, like they did Prince Uche Secondus and his fellow protesters in Abuja, on October 5, 2018 when they peacefully revolted against Osun election miasma. Or even aimed live bullets at, like they did Lekki protesters on October 20, last year.

What other brutal lesson did this bring to Nigerians?

We know the President would not yield to the call to abolish medical tourism. We know the presidency would not bulge to engender a better governance in submission to the demands of the civil action. We know Britain would never discourage Nigerian leaders from sourcing healthcare abroad. No sane nation rejects expatriates who patronize their economy.

So what exactly is the gain of this protest?

We may hazard a guess, which is that the courageous protesters have made undeniable points. They have passed a message to the records of history. Nigeria’s helplessness in all sectors is intensifying in the 21st century when other countries were consolidating the gains of millennium development goals.

They alerted the world to the tragedy of gross maladministration that has become our lot since 2015. They indirectly informed the comity of world leaders that in Nigeria is a President whose people’s Physicians are on strike due to negligence, because he trusts his own health and those of his families to UK’s top-notch healthcare system, at tax payers’ expense. While that protest was ongoing, Dr. Chris Ngige, Buhari’s honourable minister of Labour & employment is threatening the striking resident doctors with “no work, no pay” action.

All these unfortunate sceneries were laid bare to the shock of the outside world, thanks to Reno and his co-protesters.

It is true that their numbers were a little above fifty, like Gov. El-Rufai would later mockingly chide them, but he should know that aside complying with the Covid-19 safety measures, which made the convener advise many to stay back, numerical strength doesn’t make a good or successful protest; the content of the message does.

Two days later, an unconfirmed rumour emerged that the President has moved to an address in Marylebone (Abbey Lodge, Park Rd, Marylebone, London NW8 7RJ). It was discovered to be a ruse by his aids to get #HarassBuhariOutofLondon out of Abuja House, so Buhari can sneak out to see his doctors.

So, inasmuch as his allies claim the protest was not scathing the President, evidence is rife that it does, otherwise they would not have the need to serve the public such decoy just to ward off the agitators.

But the question remains, will the protest change anything? Will the President retrace his steps and rebuild our health system marred by corruption, as was seen in the allegations against former NHIS Boss? Is the President even hearing the chants of the protesters?

There is possibility that auditory complications is part of his health concerns, as we heard sometime in June 2016. In that case, he may be nurturing hearing impairment, which means the protest speeches may be a mere apostrophe — an address to the ‘absent’ or an ‘aside’ which is an address to viewers, not the addressee.

May daylight spare us!

✍Eze Jude O.


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