President Buhari is allegedly getting a helipad built in his Daura hometown. This is to save the president the inconvenience of the one and half hours’ drive (about 52 miles) when he lands at Katsina Airport with the presidential jet.
The president is very much entitled to travelling in a style presidents have become accustomed to. At 72, his comfort must be of utmost priority. Most reasonable people should not have a problem with reasonable costs associated with presidential travel.
But eyebrows are being raised over the helipad because some of these comforts are not in line with the president’s austere posturing and the urban tales peddled by his supporters on social media.
This was a man that was rumoured to be reducing the presidential fleet of jets. He was said to have refused a limo ride from Heathrow Airport provided by the Nigerian High Commission in London, when he was president-elect. He allegedly flew economy back to Nigeria just before his inauguration. He has also claimed that the cupboard is bare and belts needed tightening.
That “man of the people” image was jolted a bit when his wife Aisha wore a £54,000 watch at the inauguration. The expensive watch, luxury chopper landing facilities and so on go with the territory for the Nigerian ruling elite. We expect them to live like that, and to usually do so at our expense. In the infamous and insensitive words of governor Rochas Okorocha, in reference to his private jet, it “shouldn’t be a big deal”.
However, the president’s “deal” with the people that voted for him was on the basis that he was different from the rest, that it was time for “change”. It would be a “big deal” for “change” to become, in reality, nothing more than business as usual, with all the luxuries and perks thrown in for good measure.