THE IMPERIAL PRESIDENT AND HIS SELF-ABSORPTION – By Nosa Igiebor, Guest Writer
Muhammadu Buhari is hypocrisy personified in very vivid colors. The irony of the cosmic distance between his words and deeds seems to be always lost on him. He and his shrinking army of his core supporters think that he shouldn’t, and cannot, be judged by his words and what he does or fails to do as president and commander-in-chief. He’s the imperial majesty who’s beyond any reproach from his ungrateful subjects. That’s why he considers it condescending for him to address the people even during their moments of extreme distress.
Enter the two resident Goebellian megaphones of Aso Rock, Femi Adeshina and Garba Shehu. They’re the presidential media aides who speak for the president and talk down to the public all the time. They really don’t care if what they’re saying on behalf of their boss makes any sense or not. And they care even less how the public receive their messages. Under the reign of the imperial president, what the people want and how they feel about the performance of the government are totally irrelevant.
So it’s entirely in their character when one of them issued a statement last week, that casually announced that the president was once again traveling out for yet another medical appointment. According to the statement, he was going for “a routine medical checkup” in the United Kingdom, his preferred destination as a committed medical tourist.
This is his sixth trip for medical checkup and treatment in six years of his underwhelming presidency. This is after he had issued a policy directive in early 2016, barring all public officials from accessing medical care abroad at pubic expense. In other words, public officials would no longer enjoy the federal government’s financial support for foreign medical care. What we didn’t know at the time the directive was announced, was that Buhari and his especially privileged family members were exempted from it.
And why not? After all we are supposed to be grateful to him for just being our president. So we can’t complain when he has become a serial breaker of the promises he made to the people while seeking their mandate to be in Aso Rock. His presidency is all about what’s best for him, his family and a large coterie of cronies who’re never embarrassed no matter how low he falls in his utter lack of grip on the country that’s is in turmoil.
His latest medical trip came against the backdrop of the threat by resident doctors to shut down the health system nationwide for failure of the government to cater for their needs, including the accumulated duty allowances that have remained unpaid despite numerous promises made to them. As he luxuriates in the opulent surroundings of the Nigeria House in London while undergoing his “routine medical checkup”, thousands of patients have been prematurely discharged from public hospitals all over the country because of the resident doctors’ strike.
Since he has no faith in our hospitals, including the Aso Rock clinic that was meant to be the first port of call for any basic medical intervention for the president and other high government officials, he doesn’t use them. Not even for ailments as rudimentary as an ear ache, which necessitated his first medical trip abroad in 2016, as we were told then.
Just as he has no faith in our hospitals, he doesn’t trust his physicians to do his basic medical checkup here. He has more confidence in his British doctors who have been taking care of him for many years before he became president, according to Garba Shehu. So no matter how loud we grumble, and in complete disregard of his own directive on medical tourism for public officials, he would always run to his trusted doctors in London. And leave the rest of us, his hapless subjects, to cope with the dire consequences of poor medical services in public hospitals now compounded by the doctors’ strike.
The president also made the trip while the 39 students of the Federal Government College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State, were yet to be rescued. They were kidnapped by bandits, who now dominate an increasingly large swath of ungoverned spaces particularly in the north-west, early last month. The bandits’ raid on the college was the third of such major incidents in about two months, following the ones in Katsina and Niger States.
By time he travelled out, not much had been heard about what the government was doing to free the students whose parents have been desperately crying out for decisive action to rescue their children. And since Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna State governor, has vowed never to negotiate again with the bandits and other criminal gangs, that usually lead to huge ransom payments, there seems to be no way to get the students back. Any forceful rescue attempt could cause some serious collateral damage and endanger the lives of the students.
While the students are languishing in the bandits’ dungeons and their parents are writhing in endless agony, the president is resting comfortably in his official London mansion and getting the best medical care our money can buy. His conscience is un-pricked by the plight of the students and the desperate cries of their families. As far he’s concerned, he has done his best, having issued yet another directive to the military and security chiefs to find the bandits and neutralize them. The number of times he has issued the seemingly worthless directive has become embarrassingly countless. His sheer incompetence and lack of energy for the job he sought in five consecutive presidential elections, has turned Nigeria into a joke and an object of scorn globally.
Surveying the wreckage that the Buhari presidency has morphed into and the existential threat it now poses to the country’s unity, one major endorser of his candidacy in 2015 is now reduced to wallowing in embarrassment and wringing his hands in regrets. During an interaction with TELL’s senior editors just before the COVID-19 lockdown last year, he said that he couldn’t explain the disappointment Buhari has become as president.
While he wasn’t expecting much from him in areas like managing the economy and grasping the intricacies of international affairs, he had thought that he could handle the security challenges capably. And decisively deal, especially, with the Boko Haram terrorism and eliminate the fiendishly destructive group.
He has failed woefully even in the one area where it was generally believed he had some competence. Insecurity has become pervasive. The Fulani militias called bandits and hordes of killer herdsmen have joined Boko Haram in terrorizing the country from north to south and east to west. Excepting him and his family, nobody is safe anymore anywhere in the country.
This was graphically demonstrated by the recent daylight attack on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State by those suspected to be killer herdsmen. As usual, the president expressed his regrets at the situation and did what he always does without any result: he directed security chiefs to fish out those who attacked the governor. The governor knows, like we all do, that nothing will happen thereafter. Indeed, it’ll be a major break from the norm if the attackers are eventually found and arrested.
The economy is in tatters, insecurity haunts every nook and cranny, and the country has never been this divided, dysfunctional and disgruntled. Yet the president carries on like it’s the country that owes him for being where he is.
He loves the power, authority and all the bountiful perquisites of his office. Such as enjoying the best medical care at public expense. But he detaches himself almost completely from the obligations and responsibilities of being president. Creating the unmistakable impression that he’s not in charge even of his own administration.
The huge army of his uncritical, starry-eye admirers has dwindled significantly after six years of sitting atop a rudderless and the most incompetent government this country has ever had. But there is still quite a sizable number that’s in denial about Buhari’s disastrous tenure in the presidency. And the clear and present danger his lack of any serious engagement with his job poses to the country.
Which leads to the question: What will his legacy be after eight years as president? With his poor record of leadership so far, (and there’s nothing to suggest that will change soon), the inevitable verdict will be: Buhari came to the presidency by deception; he cornered the powers of the office for his own benefits and to pursue a narrow, atavistic agenda; and he destroyed Nigeria.
For a man who’s self-absorbed with a medieval mindset and totally unschooled in dealing with the dynamics of a fast-changing world, the implication of such a damning verdict on his presidency may not register with him now. But by the time he’s out of office, it would be too late for him to change his abysmal record of poor leadership.
Convinced like many people who rooted for Buhari in 2015 that he was a real patriot, late Prince Tony Momoh, usually unflappable and not given to cant, had placed a huge bet on Buhari’s preparedness to change the country and create a new, positive narrative for it. Just months into Buhari’s first term, Momoh who was an APC chieftain and Buhari’s long-time political associate, challenged Nigerians to “stone us” if Buhari failed to deliver good results in two years.
It’s quite arguable that Prince Momoh died regretting his misreading of Buhari as someone who meant well for Nigeria. Six years into his presidency, it’s no longer debatable that Buhari has really changed the country. But not in the way Momoh and millions of those who first elected him president had hoped for.
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