Never has a sitting president’s photograph divided opinions this much. 

A photo of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari picking his teeth, with his reflection beaming from the glass panel behind him, his babariga (traditional clothing) hanging loosely from a contraption beside him, his shoes taken off and his image on a television bouncing off the panes behind him, has quite literally broken the Nigerian internet, spurned memes aplenty and sparked plenty of politico-socio commentary.

Some of the commentary has been typically harsh, blasé, deprecating, humorous and downright sarcastic. And it’s been that way for weeks now.

The picture has been handed the title: "I cannot come and kill myself".

It was difficult at first to know where the picture emanated from as none of President Buhari’s official social media channels or that of his aides, had the photograph. However, on the afternoon of Monday, August 12, 2019, the president’s new media aide, Bashir Ahmad, owned up to it all.

It all started from his Snapchat, he confessed.

“It’s hard to understand why some people are genuinely angry because of this innocent picture. When I innocently snapped it on Feb 27 and posted on my Snapchat, it didn’t occur to me that it’s going to give wailers that strong hit. And @BulamaCartoons made an amazing cartoon out of it”, Ahmad tweeted.

He was of course referring to the caricature version of the photo where Mustapha Bulama the cartoonist has the president resting his legs on a table with a waste basket spilling with the names of some of the protests that have dominated social media chatter in recent times.

Former Education Minister and presidential candidate in the last elections, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, considered the photograph ill-timed and in character with the perceived aloofness of President Buhari. And she spilled it all in a thread. 

Dr Oby-Ezekwesili considers the photograph of a president picking his teeth insensitive (Ezekwesili media)
Dr Oby-Ezekwesili considers the photograph of a president picking his teeth insensitive (Ezekwesili media)

“That a Presidency @AsoRock and their allies found this unflattering “Fiddling-Nero-type-picture” of the @NGRPresident worthy of public view really does take their celebration of deadly Incompetence to a stratospheric realm. But then, it really is Governance of tooth-picking", Ezekwesili wrote.

Social media commentator and critic, Onye Nkuzi thinks the “photograph encapsulates the essence of the Buhari administration. Nigeria needs a tough leader like Gaddafi, Kagame and Jerry Rawlings to clean the rot of the past 16 years and transform this nation". Here we are. This is what happens when fantasy meets reality. He cannot come and kill himself on your behalf”, he shared.

Economist, writer and pundit Feyi Fawehinmi describes the photograph in the following words: “A spiritual Leader at rest. Shoes off, Agbada off, toothpick in mouth as he savours his state sponsored meal and watches himself on tv. You guys can keep shouting on twitter from morning till night in the meantime”.

However, some of President Buhari’s loyal supporters can’t seem to understand the outrage and have been having quite a laugh at everyone’s expense. 

Little wonder they equate a photograph to a thousand words.

What do you make of the picture?