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The Tragedy of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Foreign Trips


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has now been to Europe to meet with the heads of governments from EU Power; he has paid homage to the US president, and has joined his fellow heads of states and government in the United Nations. Each of these trips had been a disaster and brought shame to Nigeria, the Giant of Africa.

The giant of African means that these disasters are African disasters. If for no other reasons, PMB should at least understand that he is understood to be representing Africa whenever he is abroad and should not bring shame to the continent.

Each of PMB’s missteps is blamed on other people but PMB. The blame this time is on the Nigerian Mission in New York but it is wrongly placed.

Let us review some of the disgraceful behaviors during some of these trips:

As the president-elect GMB went to 10 Downing Street to meet the British PM, we saw pictures of him standing at the gate like a pauper, pictures of the PM leaving him at the door before his car came to pick him up, etc. We still wonder what went wrong. Was his appointment properly scheduled? Why was his car and driver not waiting for him? Did he have a brief case? 

PMB went to consult with EU Leaders on how to help Nigeria. He was advised to bring along a shopping list. But he did not know that the Soviet Union no longer existed; he did not know that there is no more East and West Germany and he did not know what the leader of Germany is called. He did not present a detail picture of the kind of help he sought. He came back with a basketful of promises and empty hand. He was not their equal.

European trip was a failure, but the UN trip was a disaster of incredible magnitude. He was either a no-show or a late show in very important events like the Chad Basin Initiative; he could not meet the Pope even though his country is 50% Christian and going through a religious conflict. It would have been worth his while to be seen shaking hands with the Pope. We now have to interpret this event any which way we like. 

Did he snub the Pope to show how a devoted Muslim he is? The fact that he did not even know the gate into the hall and was turned back at the wrong gate is beyond redemption. It made us look like a little boy that wandered into a no-go place, or trying to crash the gate. And when he finally got to speaking he faced an empty chamber, the result of failing to make any impression so far on the world scene.

Who is to blame for all these? It is difficult to say. But here are some possibilities:

1. His staff and close advisers are afraid of him. This would be a disaster and would mean that these things would continue to repeat. When advisers are playing it safe; they avoid meeting with the boss and when they must they fail to tell the boss the truth. Remember the story of a naked king on the village square. That is what happens when a leader is feared. Fear and respect are different things.

2. He is not teachable. In other words he was properly briefed but could not understand the briefing and messed up. Not finding the right gate falls under this possibility. It is hard to imagine that neither he nor his staff knew the gate to the UN hall.

3. The broad mistakes of his EU and UN trips would be placed squarely on not having a Foreign Minister or Foreign Minister designate. The absence of a Foreign Minister would invariably result in communication failures. Certain international issues are communicated with protocols, minister to minister, HoS to HoS or Minister to Ambassador. PMB does not have a Foreign Minister or Ambassador in US and probably did not get ALL the communications he needed.

4. National Leaders going on a foreign trip usually have advance team preceding them. These teams would meet with all the people the president would meet and talk about everything including any documents that would be signed. They would review the sitting arrangements, the logistics, where their cars would be packed and when. They would walk the walk (literally) to estimate time and the ability of the president to do so; security details, etc. Did PMB do these things?

5. It is understood that at some point PMB was hungry in NY and there was no food and he was asked to fall in line for a buffet dinner. I hope that this is not true. But if it is true, we need to see heads rolling. At his age and religion, PMB cannot eat anyhow. But this reflects on the quality of his staff. The staff ought to know when he usually eats and what he usually likes to eat.

6. Enough is enough 

I do not think that this job is too much for Muhammadu Buhari. He can do it, but needs to soften himself enough so that he is approachable by his supporters. He needs the services of knowledgeable people around him. He needs to have his speeches proofed before delivering them. 

When I was on the workforce I learned a lesson from a colleague, one of seasoned VP’s, he told me that everything going to the president must be baby proofed. He meant that all reports must be such that the president could not make any mistakes.

I was stunned, because I thought that the president was the mister-know-it-all. I very quickly learned the truth.

Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba, Boston, Massachusetts

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