Looking at the brouhaha that has greeted President Muhammadu Buhari’s more than 100 days in London, wherein he is recuperating from an illness not officially disclosed, two words come to mind: Trust and distrust. The Wikipedia dictionary defined trust thus: “Firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something; acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation.” It also defined distrust as: “The feeling that someone or something cannot be relied upon; doubt the honesty or reliability of; regard with suspicion.”
At present, most Nigerians do not trust the current government. They do not accept “the truth of a (government) statement without evidence or investigation.” Even when there is evidence, they still doubt it. This has left me wondering whether these government people, who are claiming to love the president more than other Nigerians put together, have ever sat down to ponder why, despite the explanations offered about President Buhari’s health condition, only a few people seem to believe them. Put in another way, have they ever seriously thought about why this is so?
Methinks that this lack of trust is not because most Nigerians do not like the government. It is not because they do not love President Buhari. It is not because they wish the president dead. It is simply because the government and those in government have done things that put their credibility on the line. This is why, for most people, whatever the government says is propaganda. This is why, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors and party chairman visited Buhari in London and came back to say he was well, there was doubt. This can explain why some people did not believe Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who said, on return from London, where he met with Buhari, that the president was getting better. This is why some people still have some misgivings, despite the fact that PDP governors, who visited Buhari with their APC counterparts in London a few weeks ago, declared that the president was doing well. Most Nigerians do not trust the government and, therefore, take everything said with a pinch of salt.
Last week when the media team of President Buhari visited him, and, as a proof that he was well, made him to walk up and down in their presence or what someone called a “cat walk,” I could not help but feel sorry for the president and our nation, Nigeria. The government may think that by making Buhari to walk round in the presence of his visitors and actually doing a video recording of it, they have put a lie to the thinking that Buhari was incapacitated. The truth is that they only succeeded in making a mockery of the most powerful man in Nigeria. How could they make a president, no matter what you want to prove, walk round in front of a camera? How could you subject a president to such humiliation, in the name of proving to doubting Thomases that he was well, when all you need was to win Nigerians’ trust and they would believe?
The Buhari government does not need to show Nigerians some clips of the president walking round, discussing, having handshakes or holding court to prove that he is hale and hearty. Most Nigerians know that Buhari is getting better. Most Nigerians know that the president could not have been in most terrible and horrible condition. If he were, the world would have known, one way or another. After all, is he not in the United Kingdom? Therefore, the government should work on its battered credibility instead.
Part of the problem is that those in the current government have changed their positions about things so much so that discerning minds see them as hypocrites and pretenders. Those concerned have taken different positions from their previous stands, just because they are now in government, as against being in the opposition. For the avoidance of doubt, when the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was ill and ferried outside the country for treatment, some of those in government today made comments that suited them then. Now that they are in government and a president is ill, they have either taken different positions or kept mum.
President Buhari, for instance, said then that the ailing Yar’Adua should be impeached. Speaking in March 2010, when members of the Kaduna Unity Forum visited him, he was quoted as saying: “Political expediency won’t remedy this kind of problem because, if the Executive Council of the Federation had acted in accordance with the Constitution, by invoking the necessary sections to declare the president incapacitated, we would not have found ourselves in this present situation.
“As you can see, adopting extra-constitutional measures have not addressed the problem. If it had, we would not have been subjected to the raging debates and controversy going on. So, we must go back to the constitution.
“The Executive Council of the Federation must do the right thing because once we start moving away from the constitution, then we are inviting anarchy.”
Seven years after, the Yar’Adua situation has recurred and Buhari has played the ostrich. He is not contemplating resignation or the option of being impeached by the National Assembly. The thing that has changed is that Buhari is now president and does not want to take the medicine he prescribed for Yar’Adua. This is part of why Nigerians no longer trust the government.
Also, on the Yar’Adua health issue, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, speaking for the opposition political party at that time, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), did demand daily updates, briefing or explanations. He had said, in 2009: “Since the president left these shores over 40 days ago, we do not know who has really seen him or who has not. Information on the state of health of the president should not be left in the hands of unscrupulous spin doctors, the (Michael) Aondoakaas and the PDPs (Peoples Democratic Party) of this world, who have been muddling the waters just to serve their own selfish purposes.
“It is clear to discerning Nigerians that those pretending to speak authoritatively on the president’s health are deceiving the public, since they are neither well-informed on the issue nor competent to speak on it. Therefore, a daily briefing by the Minister of Information, based on authentic details provided by the president’s doctors, should start forthwith.
“As we have said many times, the health of the president, as a public figure, can no longer be of interest only to his family and friends. Nigerians have a right to know.”
Eight years thereafter, Mohammed is singing another tune. For him, President Buhari’s health controversy is different from Yar’Adua’s and, therefore, what he prescribed in 2009 does not apply in Buhari’s case in 2017. Nigerians have seen the double standards and cannot trust Mohammed and the government he speaks for.
Taking all these together, it is clear that the goverment and those in it are the cause of the distrust. Their faux pas is haunting them. To come out of it, they must take measures to win back the trust and confidence of Nigerians, instead of showing needless video clips, which would not change the perception of anybody. This, I know, will be an uphill task, but it is not impossible. Those who played god in the past, thinking that the world was in their pockets, should have the humility to repent and apologise. That’s the first step towards winning a majority of Nigerians back and making them believe in the government. Until this is done, The Federal Government would continue to battle with distrust and credibility issues.
On a lighter note, I have been wondering why President Buhari gets well when abroad and experiences health relapse when he returns to the Presidential Villa. Is it possible that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s media adviser, Dr. Reuben Abati, who said there are demons in the Presidential Villa (Aso Rock), was right? If Buhari does well in London, health-wise, and experiences health challenge in Aso Rock, is the problem with the demons of the Presidential Villa?