It is clear that public speaking is not President Buhari’s forte.
Many people struggle with this, but the president is in a leadership position where communication and being absolutely clear are critical. He struggles to get his message across and what comes out can be hard to decipher.
What is not quite clear is whether his problem is with having to speak in English or if it is that he is not switched on upstairs.
He even struggles to read a prepared text and is just a shambles when he has to speak without notes. His address to his party’s executive committee meeting yesterday, that was meant to inspire them to resolve a crisis that was threatening to tear them apart, was as uplifting as being slapped in the face with a wet fish.
Tunde Bakare, the president’s running mate during the 2011 (s)election allegedly claimed that he rejected the position of chief of staff to the president because Buhari and his close associates usually switched to Hausa when discussing important national matters. Bakare felt he couldn’t do the job properly because he couldn’t speak Hausa. This suggests that Buhari’s fluency in Hausa means he may be a more effective communicator in the language.
There is no obvious requirement for the president to address Nigerians in English, apart from the fact that it appears more inclusive in a country with over 200 native languages. But conducting official duties in Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo is recognised in the constitution, at least for National Assembly matters. Chapter 5 section 55 of the Constitution states: The business of the National Assembly shall be conducted in English, and in Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba when adequate arrangements have been made therefore.
I think arrangements should be made, in terms of subtitles in English, for the president to just speak in Hausa when he doesn’t have a prepared text.