Former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu will, tomorrow, deliver the Nnamdi Azikiwe University convocation lecture at the institution’s 11th convocation ceremony. The lecture, titled Leadership and the challenges of national unity in Nigeria holds at the university auditorium by 1:00pm. Ribadu was the pioneer EFCC chairman, the government…
Nigerians, no doubt, are confused at the moment. The people have too many issues to grapple with at the same time. One is as urgent as the other. The scenarios are so confusing that the people do not seem to know which one to approach first. This being the case, it will be a Herculean task to seek to pigeonhole the whole of the confusing set-up here. But we can try our hands on just one of them today, namely, the health of the country’s President, Muhammadu Buhari. This is one issue that clearly spells confusion. But let us begin from the beginning.
Some time this January, it was announced that the President was going on a 10-day vacation in London. The people were told that the President would, during the period of vacation, undergo routine medical check-up. But no sooner did he arrive London than the rumour mill began to spin with confusing stories about his health. The rumours were various and varied. Some had it that he was critically ill. Others suggested that he was more than ill. There were some other suggestions and permutations about his health condition, many of which bordered on the absurd and the ridiculous.
In the midst of the confusion, it was thought that the President’s lieutenants would clear the air. But Nigerians were to discover to their chagrin that those who they thought knew something about the health of the President were as confused as the rest of the people. Where the people expected clarification, the President’s agents presented them with something more confusing. If you thought that the agents would build their story around the initial anchor, which suggested that the President was on medical vacation, you were dead wrong. The agents had abandoned that storyline and opted for another. The story was amended to read that the President was not ill and, therefore, not admitted in any hospital, be it in London or Germany. With this twist in the tale, Nigerians ate their words and waited patiently for February 6, the date his agents said he would return to work in Nigeria. The appointed date came but the President did not return.
Then the agents stepped out to inform us that the President could not return on the date earlier announced because his doctors in the United Kingdom advised against it. They said he was running a series of tests and could only return to work in Nigeria after all the tests would have been carried out and the results ready. But the agents were wiser this time. They did not give the people a new date on which the President would return. The extension of time was indefinite, meaning that the President could remain where he is now until May 29, 2019, the day his tenure would expire.
Nigerians were trying hard to see if they could make sense of the indefinite postponement of the President’s date of return when the agents deepened their woes further. They said that the President was not ill after all. That he was resting in Nigeria House in London. He was no longer running a series of medical tests. At this point, concerned Nigerians in the United Kingdom could not stomach the assault on their sobriety. They led a protest to the Nigerian High Commission in London. They demanded to speak with their President. They could not go far. They were rebuffed.
Back home in Nigeria, the people were agitated. They did not know what to believe any more. Their confusion was beginning to mutate into frustration and elementary madness. To give vent to their frustration, groups of Nigerians marched through the streets of Lagos and Abuja, demanding to know the truth about the health of their President. They also used the opportunity to express their frustration and anger about the biting hardship in the land. They demanded an end to the suffering occasioned by a comatose economy.
Surprisingly, however, the President’s agents were not moved by any of this. Their Vice President merely responded tersely: We heard you loud and clear. That was what he said to Nigerians. He did not tell them what would follow. Rather, the agents threw more confusion into the already confused state. The chief publicist of the government stepped out and made nonsense of the people’s anxiety and worries. He said that the President was not ill at all. He was well, hale and hearty. That was reassuring enough. Then you ask: why were the people kept in a state of suspended animation all these weeks? Since the President was well, hale and hearty, why has he refused to return to work? Why is he not even talking to his people? Curious Nigerians raised these and related questions. They wanted urgent answers. But the agents would not be bothered. They have told the people that the President is well, hale and hearty. What else do the people expect?
The way the agents left the issue hanging was a recipe for more confusion. And the people were truly confused. They did not know the next thing to expect. They did not know the next question to ask. The Abuja and Lagos protesters were even more confused. They did not know what to do next. Should they stage another protest or await more confusing stories from the agents? That was the question. That was the confusion.
But as the people struggled to make sense out of the confusing scenarios, the agents stepped up the confusion. The Vice President said he had been speaking to his boss. He told the people that there was no cause for alarm. Then the agents began to release pictures that seemed to confirm what the Vice President said. We have, in recent weeks, seen the President dining and chatting with dignitaries from within and outside. Some of the pictures portrayed a healthy and fit president. Some others presented him as being in bad shape. The people could not marry the differing set-ups. They absorbed them all the same. However, they could not stop asking questions. In order to find accommodation in that state of confusion, the people decided to ask for one thing. They demanded to hear from their President. They wanted him to speak to them. That was all that they needed to be fully reassured. That was what they thought would settle the state of confusion that had seized the better part of them. That is yet to happen and the matter is getting curiouser and curiouser. The latest news in town as reported by the agents is that the President spoke to his United States counterpart, Donald Trump. They said our president congratulated Trump on his election victory. But I thought that was coming too late. Trump won the election in November last year. Why is the congratulation coming three months after? And, if our President congratulated his American counterpart then, why is a repeat of that ritual three months after making the headlines? But that is hardly the issue.
We were also told that told that Trump, in the telephone conversation, told our President that his country would make available to Nigeria arms and ammunition that would be used to step up the war against terror in Nigeria. Again, this is far from being the issue.
The worry here is the telephone conversation. They said Buhari spoke with Trump. That is good enough. But the question is: why has the same Buhari refused to speak to Nigerians? What does he find so disagreeable about the people that voted him into power to the extent that he does not want to talk to them anymore? Should the President’s silence be interpreted to mean disdain for his people? These questions throw up a lot of curiosity. Seeking to answer them can only deepen the state of confusion, which the people have been thrown into over their President’s health. Truly, it is confusion all the way.