Opinion: President Buhari And His Love For Global Stage – By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I don’t know if you saw the interesting picture I received and posted about two days ago. It was a photograph of our dear President Muhammadu Buhari standing in front of the Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris and seemingly having a discussion with her. No one is sure of the topic of their discussions, whether they were just exchanging pleasantries or talking about serious affairs of state. Or even whether they understood each other or whether it was a mere photo-op. All I know is that both leaders met in France at the opening ceremony of the Paris Peace Forum, where World Leaders gathered to discuss issues regarding how to foster peace in the world.
It is obvious that President Muhammadu Buhari loves the global stage and craves being under the spotlight of the klieg-lights and the flashing bulbs. President Buhari looks most happy whenever he is climbing into his Presidential jet and flying abroad. His look of sullenness when he returns is sometimes a pretty picture. Home doesn’t look like paradise for him. Not that I blame him though. Nigerians can be tiresome, and Nigeria is obviously tiring to rule particularly if you are really a fish out of water like our President is. Whatever you may feel, the President clearly appears much more relaxed and comfortable and less taciturn when he is overseas. He hardly misses any opportunity to fly out of the country which compares to his abysmal record of internal flights to visit places that a President should normally visit, especially in times of disaster and calamities.
The President’s penchant and love for foreign travel you will recall that even when South Africa was rude to Nigeria by slapping and beating our citizens black and blue, and worse still, maiming and killing them, our very own President Buhari flew to South Africa to inspect military parades, enjoy gun salutes, and personally received whatever apologies President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa and his people had to offer for the unprecedented hostility, humiliation and murders suffered by our people at the bloodthirsty hands of the natives. In the same vein, our President had no time to resolve the debilitating and economically damaging issues of the Nigerian shops that were shut down in Ghana, but he found time to attend ECOWAS meetings which should have addressed such flagrant breaches of the right of free movement, commerce and trade between member nations and their citizens. Our President only grants Press interviews at home once in a blue moon but prefers to speak to foreign media at every opportunity even if such occasions lead to gaffes and goofs. The Reno Omokris attempt to make the President’s stay abroad uncomfortable and miserable are not enough to deter him from embarking on his traveling spree. Such is his love for foreign trips which understandably oftentimes also serve as clandestine forays to visit his doctors.
To be quite honest with you, President Buhari was the last person I expected to attend such a world conference on peace and unity. How can a man who has blatantly and studiously refused to promote peaceful options at home find the temerity to attend such an event? How can our President stand confidently, and with a straight poker face, tell the world about how Nigeria has been more peaceful than he met it in 2015, or how he has worked tirelessly to unite Nigerians? I don’t get it. To be quite frank, a lover of peace would never do what President Buhari has been doing to fellow Nigerians in the last six years. A few examples of his unbelievable and unfortunate transgressions and flagrant trampling on peace and unity will suffice.
In President Buhari’s first term, the attacks against the National Assembly which is supposed to be the second tier of government and one of the bastions of democracy was so rampant and blistering. It was so bad that at a point many of us feared for the life of the then President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki. Such intolerance and malevolence are uncommon in a Democratic setting, but our President appeared unaware, unperturbed and unconcerned. Yet Saraki was one of those who had worked day and night to get him back into power after his long hiatus and sojourn in the cold and dark political wilderness. Thank God for Saraki’s calmness, resilience and cosmopolitanism, he absorbed all the darts thrown at him with equanimity to the very end. And when they couldn’t get him in Abuja, they pursued him to his homestead and made sure he did not return to the Senate and have even the slightest degree of power, possibly as leader of the opposition in the Senate. Such was the venom, vindictiveness and ingratitude, of the ruling government of President Buhari.
Please, step forward Omoyele Sowore. The New York based Publisher of Sahara Reporters remained in Buhari’s gulag for such a lengthy period of time until the overwhelming voice of the people necessitated his release. Nonetheless the radical Presidential candidate in the 2019 election has remained virtually under arrest and restriction in Abuja and is unable to leave to express himself within Nigeria or to even join his family in America. His simple offence is that he dared to say that there would be a revolution in Nigeria. It matters not to Buhari and his goons whether Omoyele was being metaphorical, intentional, or just being hyperbolic. It mattered less whether he even has the capacity or ability to spearhead any kind of revolution. The Government’s paranoia about the word revolution is all too obvious for us to see, notwithstanding that in a democracy it is a simple and harmless word except to those who have become too jittery of ordinary shadows. For this innocent, innocuous, and vacuous offhanded remark, Sowore has since literally been chained to the city gates of Abuja on the excuse that he might jump bail and escape back to America and stir up this revolution. Images of Nnamdi Kanu perhaps! The truth is that the god that is Buhari is not that easy to appease. Thus, the man who flew all the way to Paris to discuss peace and unity finds it difficult to reach out to his imaginary or real enemies and offer an olive branch. For him, even ants must be crushed with a sledgehammer.
Let’s bring forward an entire race before returning to individuals. The people of South East Nigeria were alleged to have contributed only about five percent of the votes won by Buhari and they were simply marked down as enemies of our maximum ruler in civilian garb. The President said it openly that they did not deserve his mercy and largesse, as if government money was a personal fortune. No race in Nigeria has suffered so much in the hands of this government than the Igbo nation. Soldiers are drafted to the scene at the flimsiest of excuse. Military exercises with dreadful and fearsome codenames are unleashed on the unsuspecting and unwitting Igbo people. Watching the videos is like watching horror movies. Their only supposed offense is that some of them said they are tired of being an integral part of Nigeria and therefore want a new nation called Biafra. The IPOB Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, has been calling for a referendum which the Buhari government does not want to hear about. The demand for a referendum is a legitimate right of the people and is sanctioned both domestically and internationally. Kanu has since been kidnapped from God-knows-where and spirited back home to face a trial. Instead of inviting him to dialogue like President Olusegun Obasanjo did with Asari Dokubo and some other militants in those days, Buhari stubbornly refuses to be democratic and is not ready to hold any conversation with anyone. For him, might is always right and his goons are best pleased to move to South East instead of the many evil forests where the bandits hide.
As if this is not bad enough. The people of South West Nigeria have also been registered inside President Buhari’s black book. The reason is not far-fetched. Some Yoruba people had the effrontery and audacity to say some marauding herdsmen should stop destroying their farmlands, raping their wives, daughters and sisters, kidnapping them, and making insane and insatiable demands, and murdering them. A brave gentleman by the name Chief Sunday Igboho Adeyemo, who was so enraged by the apparent culpability of government security agencies who refuse to arrest the criminals, threatened to revenge the killing of his people. How he proposed to do this was not stated. Despite this obvious failing the Government assumed the worst. He immediately became the enemy of the Buhari government. His home in Ibadan was invaded in the dead of the night and the government security left their sorrow, tears and blood in their trail. Sunday has also been pursued to Bénin Republic where he was arrested but the courts have been more merciful by not deporting him to Nigeria to be eaten alive by political gods.
Meanwhile, in this same country and under the same watch of this same government, some terrorists and bandits have been sauntering in and out of their forests of a thousand daemons. In addition, Governors, Sheikhs and others have been busy over pampering them and giving irrational excuses on their behalf. This is obviously how not to lead and build a nation, when we are not living in George Orwell’s Animal Farm where “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others…”
Now that Baba has gone to listen, hopefully, to genuine peace talks, I hope he will return home to free Nigeria and Nigerians from the shackles of absurd dictatorship in a Democracy. I hope he will call terrorism by its real name and draw the lines that must not be crossed. I pray he will invite all agitators to a peace conference and for once find out their demands and make amends. Like joke like joke, the tenure of this government is drawing to a close. In less than two years, this Buhari government would have become history.
What position it would occupy in the story of Nigeria will be determined by history. It would have frittered away many opportunities in eight years that can never be recovered. That will be most unfortunate for a Leader that God loved so much by giving him a second chance as well as a second life after many had feared the worst. At the moment, the prospect of an enduring legacy seems very dim. In all honesty, Buhari has squandered all the goodwill that he enjoyed at the beginning of his administration. The hopes, aspirations and expectations of millions of Nigerians have been spectacularly dashed. The second coming was prophesied to be beginning of light at the end of the tunnel, the beacon and ray of hope that all Nigerians had clamoured for. Instead, it has been gloom and doom and the President’s traducers have apparently been proven right.
This is not how to repay God’s undeserved kindness and benevolence.
– Momodu is a respected journalist and publisher of Ovation International magazine