The announcement of the President’s five-day vacation last week was interpreted vastly differently by individuals and groups across the country, generating both commentary and debate. This was because it happened less than a year into office. The good old man has also spent so much time thousands of meters above many big seas, crisscrossing from one hemisphere to another over the last eight months that a break away from his cluttered desk seemed to have more irony in it than meets the eye.
One of the subjects of intense debate during the vacation was whether indeed it was wise for the leader of a troubled country to spend more hours inside “Eagle One”, his official jet, than in his office at the Nigerian Presidential Complex, Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
A devout believer in President Buhari observed that the only person that seems to believe in this government is Buharihimself. I interpreted that to mean the President is surrounded by sceptics and saboteurs, who give obsessively critical citizens evidence to employ in “embarrassing” the President.
I think the people have a reason to be worried by the existence of an itinerant President who ought to be around to monitor events, instruct his men and supervise the execution of approved solutions. Since the weight of the nation’s problems rests on the President’s shoulders as the father of the nation, it’s seen that the only vacation he needs right now is a long one inside his Office. This way, the institutional lapses that result into uninspiring policies, corporate fraud and escalating terrorism, like the grossly inflated budget, electricity tariff hike and uncertainty over territories under Boko Haram respectively, would be tracked with keener presidential interest.
Some of our damaged foreign relations, which the President rushes to repair, can be fixed by proxy or through delegations. This is even the reason he has ministers with portfolios. Or these trips can wait for the President to finish his most pertinent homework. In fact, we have lobbying agencies available for engagement, to communicate our agenda to the Big Brothers who, nonetheless, always watch. What can’t wait, while the President junkets, are the collapsing internal structures of the country. What can’t wait are problems that “body language” can’t fix, at least from a foreign land. What can’t wait are the so-called budget mafia, and all who would only perform their tasks diligently in the presence of a monitoring spirit.
This was why, on reading report of another proposed trip by the President, a three-nation tour of the Middle East, I think the people need to beg him to postpone it. If not for his health, then for that of the nation plugged to his integrity and decisions. Our internal affairs, which even yesterday killed over 50 innocent citizens with an attack on an IDP camp in Borno State, are, for now, more damaged than our foreign relations. A wise man doesn’t need a second thought to note which, between home and abroad, to make his priority.
It’s scary that we’ve built a political system in whichsycophantic citizens play the role of the President’s spokesman, issuing statements in authoritative tones to defend the President. This was the syndrome exhibited by a tribe of partisans referred to as “Jonathians” in the days of President Goodluck Jonathan, but it appears that the wave of pro-Presidential partisanship amongst a tribe that parades itself as Buharists is even more obnoxious. What must be pointed out is, the President owes the people a responsibility. What he does isn’t based on altruism, but as instructed by the very Constitution on which he swore an oath to correct the accumulated wrongs he inherited from the administrations before his. He also travels around the world on public funds, yet, for simply demanding to know his foreign policies or asking why he doesn’t engage the services of smart lobbyists instead or even sit to serve as the nation’s father, any conscientious enquirers are described as political skeptics or the unintelligent epithet “wailing wailers” by a people adept in mischief.
That the President appended his signature on the calamitous fraud that is the 2016 budget is an unfortunate twist for which, going by his antecedents, he ought to apologise to the nation and promise to correct the flaws and prosecute those culpable. This is because he ought to have engaged a technical review team to vet the proposals before the circus on the floor of the National Assembly. Nobody would’ve blamed a certain “budget mafia” for the discrepancies in the budget if it were Goodluck Jonathan. We have shamelessly lowered the bar for our man in power, protected him from taking responsibilities for all the things he was elected to redeem. We also crucified Jonathan for refusing to visit places and people hit by the terrorists. This should not change under Buhari. We shouldn’t change the meaning of responsive and responsible governance to suit the style and flaws of the new President. If he were not overseas so often, a visit to the grieving may not bring back the dead but it certainly will comfort both the victims and unaffected citizens and assure them that, despite the setbacks, efforts are in place to redeem their conditions.
What is even most heart-breaking is that censorship has been instituted by the Buharists who disapprove of basic analyses of the President’s foreign policies and bilateral relations and agreements with all the places visited. Instead of dissecting Buhari’s foreign policies, we are blackmailed or chose to fawn over how he shakes hands with cool white men in prim suits and stands in front rows in their photographs. This is the depth to which civic responsibility degenerates. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter