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Pulse Opinion Buhari's government does not have a human face

The president has missed too many opportunities to offer Nigerians emotional comfort.

  • Published: , Refreshed:
Muhammadu Buhari became Nigeria's president in 2015 in a peaceful handover of power after becoming the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president play President Muhammadu Buhari (AFP/File)

During a meeting with members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) on Thursday, February 8, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his frustration with how Nigerians believe he has been irresponsible in the discharge of his duties.

The president was reacting to the public reaction to his efforts to provide a solution to the herders/farmers crisis that has led to the death of at least 100 victims across several states in January 2018 alone.

The president said, "The impression created that I was sitting in an air-conditioned office and home, enjoying myself while these things happened, is dishonest.

"At every step, I have tried to foresee these problems because I have the experience as a former military officer who commanded three out of the four divisions of the Nigerian army, in Lagos, Ibadan and Jos.

"I am quite aware of the problems we have and I am doing my best to get law enforcement agencies to be on alert."

It's not a difficult task to think of a reason or two why the president might feel aggrieved with the public perception of his efforts in Benue.

play (Prsedency Nigeria/Twitter)

 

Despite his protestations to the contrary, many Nigerians, and the president's political opponents, have insisted that he is incapable of dealing with the crisis in an impartial manner because the perpetrators belong to the same ethnic group as him.

The president has held several security meetings and even constituted a committee to deal with the issue, but the suspicion about the president's bias and/or incompetence refuse to go away.

While the president may rightfully feel hard done by due to the accusations and finger-pointing regardless of his best efforts to prove them wrong, he has to look closely at why they tend to stick.

History of silence

If nearly three years of President Buhari has taught Nigerians anything, it's that the nation's Commander in Chief does not surrender to emotional whims.

Since the president's inauguration in 2015, he has failed several times to offer emotional comfort during times of tragedies that the country has experienced.

One of the most significant examples of this happened in 2017 when hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by an unfortunate flood crisis in Benue.

Despite the humanitarian mess that the crisis created and the public calls for the president to show up in the state and interact with victims, he resisted.

He eventually sent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to meet with victims after he completed a week of Eid-el-Kabir vacation in his Daura hometown.

Same old song

In attacks perpetrated by suspected herdsmen in Benue State in January 2018, at least 80 people were killed.

Again, there has been intense public pressure on the president to make an effort to visit the state and get a first-hand experience of the grief in Benue but he has largely ignored those calls.

In place of a visit, the presidency has provided regular updates about the government's coordination of relevant security agencies to bring an end to the crisis.

Despite how pivotal this is, Nigerians still regard the president's refusal, or delay, to visit Benue as a lack of will to empathise with victims of a terrible situation, and they have analysed it as a representation of the president's supposed ill intentions.

Not only has the president not helped himself with his continued refusal to land in Benue, he has done things that have made that decision appear even more starkly cruel.

Since the security crisis in Benue started, President Buhari has been to two ribbon-cutting ceremonies in two different states.

On January 4, only two days after about 50 people were killed in Benue, President Buhari was in Kaduna to commission a string of projects as he beamed with smiles for the camera.

More recently on Tuesday, February 6, the president jumped on his plane and headed for Nasarawa, which is less than an hour's drive to Benue, to commission a string of projects in the state.

President Muhammadu in Nasarawa play

President Muhammadu in Nasarawa

(Facebook/Garba Shehu)

 

Again, the president failed to seize on what seemed like such a good opportunity to show that he cares about the people now that he's president the same way he professed when he was not.

What's Buhari's real face?

The president can whine all he wants about how Nigerians fail to see his efforts to resolve what is a terrible crisis, but the truth is there's not been much to actually see with our own eyes.

This is not an attempt to discredit the president's efforts to coordinate security and ensure lasting peace. In fact, this is the most important part of resolving the crisis.

However, the president has to realise that he has failed to subscribe to the complete package, and there's an emotional factor that he's bent on ignoring anytime there's a crisis that calls for a presidential gesture.

In a misguided attempt to 'humanise' the president more than what Nigerians see with their own eyes, the president's media team aired a 55-minute documentary titled "The Human Side of President Buhari" in December 2017.

The documentary showed senior officials and political associates of the president speaking rather glowingly about his admirable qualities that they insisted the public was neglecting.

If that documentary was an attempt to portray the president as a kindhearted man with a  heart of gold, Nigerians were not paying attention because the reality they are exposed to is that of a different man whose emotional investment in running the affairs of the nation appears non-existent.

It's not the fault of Nigerians for not believing the president possesses a quality that they cannot see with their own eyes.

So while Buhari might be unhappy that he's not getting the recognition he 'deserves' for his efforts, he should have a glance in the mirror and realise that it's his own fault.

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