President Muhammadu Buhari has finally broken his long silence. He broke his silence last Thursday through an exclusive interview on the Abuja-based Arise TV network. He spoke on a number of important national issues. He talked about IPOB, agitation for Oduduwa and Biafra Republics, Fulani herdsmen and their clashes with native farmers and land-owners, #EndSARS protest, insecurity, poverty, unemployment and lopsided national appointments among others. The interview lasted less than an hour and the hard questions and follow-ups appeared to be a taboo.
However, that the interview happened at all was a pleasant surprise package ostensibly packaged smartly by the President’s media and publicity handlers. Since coming to power democratically six odd years ago President Buhari had remained aloof, mute, stone-faced and stone-silent in the face of the myriad of challenges confronting the nation.
In the interview he sounded unpresidential, undiplomatic and incoherent. Yet it afforded us a rare opportunity of taking another hard look at the man presiding over the woes of millions of Nigerians with little or no democratic responsibility.
Buhari is hardly an orator or a good communicator. He barely speaks to Nigerians because he is aware of his intellectual shortcomings. He loves to delegate duties because he knows that his presidential profile is one marked by mediocrity and irresponsibility. This leadership deficiency could be at the root of our national decline.
If the alleged dementia he is suffering from could permit him to come to grips with the Nigerian condition of today he would have sounded more conciliatory towards the opposition — especially the unconventional armed and dangerous hue. Those with genuine complaints against Nigeria ought to be encouraged to come to the table for dialogue rathan than using menacing language.
On the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) violently campaigning for a Biafran nationhood the President was playing ostrich by describing them as “a dot on a circle with nowhere to go”. Waxing dismissive and disconnected from the reality on the ground Buhari demonstrated his poor understanding of the issue of Biafra and the agitators desperately seeking secession.
Reaching for a military solution to the problem the Head of State made it clear he had instructed his military and police attack dogs to go on the offensive. The consequencies were obviously lost in his hawkish calculations and conclusions. The President must be an executive fool if he ever thought that Nnamdi Kanu and his boys would be impressed by his threat.
On the issue of marginalisation of the south-east region in the scheme of things Nigeriana he sought to play down the problem by asking Nduka Obaigbena, Olusegun Adeniyi, Reuben Abati and Ms Tundun Abiola to refer themselves to the federal civil service and how the Igbos were justly represented. Rathan than answering the crucial question of marginalisation and injustice being meted out to the Igbos systematically he begged the question disingenuously.
He spoke about the massacres (orchestrated by Fulani herdsmen) in Benue State and how he felt the Governor, Samuel Ortom, had been calling him out unfairly. The Benue Governor happens to be the only courageous Governor among his 35 peers who had stood up to Buhari taking issues and exceptions with his poor leadership and his favouritism of his Fulani ethnic group. Of course Buhari is only good at nepotism and tribalism! Governor Ortom would be remembered, long after his gubernatorial exit from Makurdi, for his hard pro-people positions and intrepidity.
On poverty and unemployment the embattled underwhelming President acknowledged that his regime had failed to empower Nigerians blaming the accentuated insecurity and terrorism on the growing army of the poor and the needy amongst us. Yet he forgot to recognize his failure in creating jobs (despite promising a million jobs or out-of-poverty schemes during the presidential electioneering campaign) and provinding avenues for the growth of want and despair.
About the 2023 presidential poll as it concerned the ruling APC party Buhari hit the Tinubu gang in Lagos below the belt! He minced no words in saying loudly and clearly that no one in Lagos would be allowed to impose a candidate or dictate the pace for the next general elections. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his Lagos mob must have been demobilized and demoralised by the presidential declaration.
Concerning the controversial appointment of yet another northerner, Maj-Gen. Farouk Yahaya, as the new Chief of Army Staff (despite the fact that he was neither the most competent nor the next-in-line) he had said that he went for ‘competence’ in flagrant disregard of hierarchy. The President was being clever by half and telling half-truth hiding the obvious clannishness and regionalism behind the appointment. How could Gen. Yahaya be more competent than those senior to him in rank beats our imagination!
Speaking on the #EndSARS massive nationwide protest of last year October Buhari told his interviewers that the popular mass revolt was meant to remove him from power! Sadly he is still in the saddle muddling up everything. If the #EndSARS demonstrations had succeeded in removing him from power Nigeria would have since become a better place to live in.
And on Niger Republic and the railway he was building from Kano to Maradi he confessed his attachment to the French-speaking neighbouring country saying that his relations were there. He said that as Hausas and Fulanis were found in Niger so you could find Yorubas in the Benin Republic. He declared that the white men in general and the French in particular tinkered with natural boundaries for their colonial conveniences and interests! Besides, since oil had been discovered in Niger Republic building the rail-line would facilitate oil and gas trade between the countries at the expense of Benin Republic.
About the contentious question of banning of open grazing the retired General referred to the old practise dating back decades when Nigeria was still a normal country and Nigerians respecters of the law. When you recall that the southern Governors had, in the so-called Asaba Declaration, decided to ban any form of open grazing in their respective states and the silly reaction from the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, then you can afford to conclude that cows and their herders are indeed special breeds in Nigeria!
Malami even went on to compare the murderous herders and their business to the southerners (mostly Igbos) doing legitimate business selling auto spare parts in the north! Utter balderdash, arrant nonsense from the chief law officer of a dynamic great country. AGF Malami could work under President Buhari because they are both square pegs in round holes!
For us, therefore, the Buhari interview on Arise Television was nothing but a pathetic media sortie of a reclusive taciturn dictator in civilian clothes. We were disappointed by his declarations and decisions. It was one hell of an interview, all things considered.