8 January 2019
Many Nigerian politicians specialise in running their mouths, but can’t run much else. President Muhammadu Buhari showed in his so-called interview with This Day newspaper that he can’t talk like a leader, can’t lead the country, and can’t even be trusted with something as mundane as running a bath, let alone run a large country like Nigeria.
Any Nigerian that watches his shambolic, stage-managed and disgraceful showing, with an indulgent bunch of journalists, and thinks Buhari is suitable for the highest office in the land, either deserves to have their head checked or is in the payroll of the administration.
Buhari generally refuses to talk to the Nigerian media. But he wants to be reelected in February. So he opted for what Fela Kuti would have called an “army arrangement”. This must be the first time in the history of television that a presenter (Charles Aniagolu) had to introduce an interview with a disclaimer – the president declined to be interviewed live, the presidency recorded the interview (no surprises then to witness the poor sound and vision quality) and they set the rules of engagement. Despite their efforts, they couldn’t save Buhari from embarrassing himself.
Watch the programme below:
Aniagolu started the programme asking some of the interviewers to review Buhari’s performance in terms of “clarity” and being “coherent”. They couldn’t honestly answer the question. Their newspaper’s survival is at the discretion of the government, and only a few days ago, the army raided the offices of the Daily Trust newspaper. Nigerian journalists know it doesn’t pay to be on the wrong side of the government, especially with a rent-seeking proprietor like Nduka Obaigbena, who decided to take part because an interview of the president was too big an opportunity to leave to the professionals.
When questioned on insecurity across the northeast, northwest and north-central, Buhari swung the blame pendulum from Libya and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddaffi to the last 16 years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rule. This is a president seeking reelection next month and he still couldn’t come up with solutions for the most basic function of government – protecting lives and property.
He said “we are doing something about it”, but couldn’t say exactly what. He said he couldn’t fire the service chiefs for failure in keeping the country safe, but contradicted himself when he said that he removed operational heads in Zamfara State. He also claimed strangely that it wasn’t a good move to remove the service chiefs during an emergency because the officers that could replace them could be “ambitious”. But an “ambitious” officer is not necessarily a bad thing and may be driven by ambition to perform well. The trouble with Buhari is that he lacks the “ambition” to make sure that what he says makes sense to his audience.
He moved on to making bogus claims about achieving food security. Most of Nigeria’s food is produced in what is called the nation’s “bread basket” – the “Middle Belt”. This is the region most ravaged by Fulani herdsmen-related violence. Many farmers have fled their land and are now internally displaced persons in neighbouring states. It is not even clear if and how many of these people are going to vote. But the president has blinded himself to all this.
He claimed that “we don’t import rice” any more. This is simply not true.
Buhari, a Fulani and a cattle owner, who was recently endorsed by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, the pressure group representing Fulani herdsmen, once again, showed where his biases lie when he said that law enforcement should be “ruthless” in dealing with cattle rustlers and abductors. That “ruthlessness” doesn’t seem to be required for dealing with herdsmen that have been slaughtering villagers across the country and named by the Global Terrorism Index in 2016 as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world.
When questioned about his very selective anti-corruption fight, he tried to avoid the question by talking about his past as a military dictator. He had to be reminded of the example of the ex-governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, who was accused of looting billions from his state and switched from the PDP to Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) and is now working for the president’s reelection. All Buhari had to muster in response was that “I don’t spare anybody and I don’t tell anyone to spare anybody”. But that wasn’t the point. Prosecutions against the likes of Akpabio have stalled since they joined the Buhari bandwagon.
The rest of the session was as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist. Buhari kept referring his questioners to the agriculture ministry and Central Bank for stats about his performance and to “find out what we have done”. The ministry and Central Bank are not seeking reelection. The president should have been using this opportunity to give account to voters on his performance. How can anyone think Buhari deserves another four years in office when he can’t even be bothered to try and justify this to voters?
If viewers thought the president couldn’t sink any lower, they thought wrong. He proceeded to claim he that, despite not getting many votes from Igbos in 2015, he appointed several ministers from that ethnic group. Sadly, the other participants in this charade couldn’t summon the courage to tell Buhari that he is required by the constitution to appoint ministers from all states of the federation. So is not doing anyone any favours by appointing Igbo ministers. The greatest favour he would do Nigerians would be take himself back to Daura without further delay.