President Muhammadu Buhari was on Upfront with Mehdi Hasan on Al Jazeera today and the retired general was roasted like suya on a dusty road in his hometown of Daura.
Buhari is a one-trick pony with depth-free answers to all questions – anti-corruption, security, relocating the army command to Maiduguri and so on. He tries to stick to that script and ends up not answering the questions or the follow-up.
Watch the interview here:
Hasan asked Buhari if he could defeat Boko Haram by December as he claimed. He told the president that over 1,000 people have died since he was elected and that things were not getting better. All Buhari could offer was that “we are being honest about it”. He then claimed that Boko Haram are now restricted to Sambisa Forest and that they would be finished after the rainy season. If the insurgents are like Fred Astaire and prefer “dancing in the rain”, the president didn’t quite explain.
He was asked about how he knocked the former president for being unable to rescue the Chibok girls and he said he was willing to negotiate to ensure their rescue. He wasn’t quite clear on what he would negotiate with, money or prisoners. It was clear that the president had been informed about the need for negotiation, but not briefed on the intricacies of the matter.
The president dropped the ball on the questioning around human rights abuses by the military. He claimed that he had not received the report from Amnesty International. He was then told that the report was in the public domain. He stuck to the script, only to be told that it was not a new report. A proactive president would have asked to be given the report and then read it and take appropriate action to investigate. It was clear that the president didn’t care about human rights abuses by the military. The default position of people in this situation is to deny all knowledge.
The biggest embarrassment was when Hasan showed he had done his homework by questioning Buhari on his comments about Sharia in 2001. Buhari advocated the total imposition of Sharia law, which is what Boko Haram are about. The president tried to claim that Boko Haram are not about Islam, but Hasan was having none of it. He repeated the question to Buhari whether he supported the imposition of Sharia Law. When pressed to answer the question, Buhari almost lost his rag.
The president ducked the question and said he couldn’t impose it. He never said anything about whether he supported it.
His silence on this was very revealing.