President Muhammadu Buhari’s Minister for Propaganda was at it again yesterday. The man that gave us “Buhari’s body language”, as an explanation for fanciful claims of progress last year, unleashed a new phrase to justify the president’s endless globetrotting.
The spin-doctor aka “Comical Lai” claimed: “You do not run a country by being isolated. The personal presence of Mr President in many of these fora is important because before now, we were almost a pariah state”.
Buhari only just returned from “vacation” in the UK last week and is off this weekend to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to howls of discontent from many Nigerians, now wondering why so much travel at such huge expense is necessary in a country facing acute revenue shortages and many socioeconomic challenges.
Rather than sit his behind at home and deal with Nigeria’s problems with his “body language”, Buhari’s mouthpiece would want Nigerians to believe that his “personal presence” abroad is all for our own good.
And in line with their “change” agenda, this administration has to present their lies as a departure from the previous Goodluck Jonathan administration, suggesting the country was a “pariah state” then. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jonathan was also junketing like there was no tomorrow – just as Buhari is doing now. There was similar outrage against Jonathan for flying out of Nigeria in the middle of various crises. In June 2012, Jonathan departed for a UN earth conference in Brazil, as Boko Haram bombed three churches in Zaria and Kaduna. Buhari flew out in the first week of this month, first to Strasbourg and then to a Syrian refugees conference in London, just a couple of days after Boko Haram torched the village of Dalori in the northeast, killing up to 90 people.
In 2012, Jonathan travelled abroad at least 20 times. That’s not pariah-like behaviour. Buhari has already been to France alone three times in nine months. He travelled abroad 12 times in his first six months in office, including two trips to the US. He hardly goes anywhere in Nigeria and is regularly disparaged on social media as the “Minister for Tourism”.
While the president and his party, the All Progressives Congress, campaigned on a platform of “change”, it is clear to even casual observers that it is “business as usual” in most aspects, especially the love for excessive and unnecessary foreign travel.
It was the same with Olusegun Obasanjo in his eight years as president from 1999 to 2007. Strangely enough, Obasanjo, in a rare moment of candour, admitted in an interview with the Financial Times: “In three years I went round the world and did not get anything… I went round the countries in Europe, twice over, I went to Japan, to America, to Canada and got good words… but no action at all.”
No amount of lies from Comical Lai can mask the fact that the very expensive costs of transporting Buhari’s “personal presence” across the globe are of no benefit to the country and no “change” from previous administrations. And Nigeria was no “pariah” nation before Buhari, but if he continues to ignore Nigeria’s problems while collecting air miles at huge expense, he runs the risk of becoming a pariah in his own country.