A report entitled, “Buhari’s daughter: My father told us to study hard because he has nothing for us,” published by an online newspaper, attracted three related comments, which I found interesting, for a reason I will explain later. Below is the edited version of the comments, as picked from the online newspaper.
The first commentator declared: “President Buhari, to his daughter: ‘Study hard.’ I guess, it is better to teach someone how to fish, than to give her a fish for one day. The president may not have a fish to leave for his daughter, but giving her education will prepare her for life.”
The second commentator replied: “Story!!! My own father said the same thing to me and I have three children. Almost on a daily basis, I say the same to each. So this is not news, within the African society context.”
The third commentator retorted: “Omo Ibo with their usual negative attitude to public opinion. Why? So you don’t consider that as philosophy to someone’s sibling?”
I found these comments interesting because of their “Nigerianness.” There is hardly anything discussed or action taken in the country that would be free of tribal sentiment and colouration. The first person commented on the issue, which is what President Buhari told his daughter, as revealed in the documentary on the human side of the president. The second person dwelt on the subject matter, in reply to the first person. The third person did not address the issue, but brought tribalism into the matter. The question is: What has Igbo race got to do with the comments a supposed Igbo man made about his feelings regarding President Buhari’s advise to his daughter? Nothing absolute!
To be sure, this encounter is an expose of Nigerians and their idiosyncrasies. It shows that actions and inactions, in the country, are mainly interpreted from tribal prisms. Also, it shows how others perceive the Igbo man. If a supposed Igbo public commentator made his comments on an issue, and another person saw it as typical “negative attitude” of the entire Igbo, then something is definitely wrong. How do the comments or action of one Igbo man become the action or comments of the entire Igbo race? It is generalisation used when people want to give a dog bad name in order to hang it. It is, indeed, bad that when Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba men say or do anything, it is no longer seen by its merit. Tribalism would be brought in. That is why the problem of Nigeria will never end.
I must emphasis, however, that the encounter by the three Nigerians and many other showed how people took the recent documentary, “The Human Side of President Buhari.” I have wondered what the government intended to achieve with the documentary. Is it to convince Nigerians that the President is human? Or to show that Nigerians are reading President Buhari wrong? Or both? Well, if the documentary was meant to prove that President Buhari is human, the government failed. Humanity is seen and believed. It is not a function of what some people say about someone. It is about what the majority see or know about someone. If government has to take such pains to do a documentary, with the view to convincing Nigerians about the humanity of President Buhari, then something is wrong. It means the president’s humanity is in doubt. However, the way to convince Nigerians about his humanity is not by showing them a documentary. It is by way of attitude, style and character change. Humanity is like a pregnancy. It can never be hidden. It is like the moon, which can never be covered with the hand or anything.
Yes, the documentary on President Buhari’s human side was a waste of time and resources. It also came at the wrong time, at a time Nigerians are feeling the pangs of fuel scarcity caused by government’s neglect and failure. How could the government possibly believe that Nigerians would be convinced about the humanity of President Buhari by what members of his family and aides say about him? Nobody expects members of Buhari’s family not to say something nice about their patriarch. Also, nobody expects ministers and other government officials to say ill of their principal. We know that sycophancy is a virtue in government and it was on display in the documentary. Leaders are mainly praised when they are in power, even when they are doing the wrong thing. When the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, for instance, was in office, people around him and those who wanted one favour or another praised him to high heavens. Nobody around him, at that time, ever said he was a bad man or treasury looter. When Abacha was out of power, having died in office, his real humanity was unveiled. It was then that people started saying he looted the treasury. Therefore, if the Buhari government thinks that by airing a 55-minute documentary about the President’s human side would change Nigerians’ perception of him and his government it has misfired.
In any case, what has humanity got to do with the situation of things in the country? Would President Buhari’s human side change the price of fish, as it were? There is even a contradiction between the human side of Buhari, which the government wanted to portray in the documentary, and the reality on ground. At present, cost of living has hit the roof. Standard of living is at all-time low. Fuel is scarce, at a critical time of the year, when Nigerians embark in extensive travels for Christmas and New Year. Electricity supply has not improved. Unemployment rate is very high. There is massive loss of jobs. Businesses are having a bad time and folding up. Nigeria’s economy is bad. That is the reality. How does the human side of President Buhari change these?
The natural excuse would be that these problems did not start with the Buhari government. Of course, yes. We have always had bad roads, epileptic electricity, decayed infrastructure, insecurity, etc. However, the difference is the effort to solve a bit of the problem, within the tenure of government. In close to three years that this government has been in place, has Nigerian found it easy? Instead of the buck-passing and blame game Nigerians have seen, what they expect is decisive action to change their fortunes, so that when they look back they would say the government has tried, against all odds. When there is improvement in the situation of things, it will show in the lifestyle of Nigerians, the economy and businesses.
For the avoidance of doubt, what would alter the perception of the majority of Nigerians about Buhari’s humanity is a change of the style and characteristics of the President. President Buhari has been accused of nepotism and favouritism, for example. This perception cannot be changed with a documentary. It could only change when appointments, in quality and quantity, are evenly spread, when there is fairness and equity in government appointment. As President Buhari had announced likely cabinet shake-up and expansion, he has the opportunity to address the complaint. This is the only thing that will change the perception in that regard.
President Buhari has been accused of not addressing the menace of herdsmen across the country. The perception is that, since herdsmen are from the North, he is reluctant to go after them. He would only change this thinking and belief not with a documentary, but if he addresses the herdsmen’s onslaught, by taking actions that would bring to justice those behind it. President Buhari has been accused of selective action in the fight against corruption, which he could only change by ensuring that everybody who has questions to answer, irrespective of political affiliation, accounts for stewardship. He has been accused of double dealing in his actions and policies. For one, the Department of State Services (DSS), at present, said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has no power to ask it for explanation on how money is spent on intelligence, whereas former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, is facing trial over security expenditure. He can only change this perception if the accountability he has subjected Dasuki is expanded to his DSS, police and army.
Most importantly, perception of Buhari’s humanity would only change when his actions begin to wear a human face, when government absorbs stress instead of passing all the burden to Nigerians, when what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander and when the conquistadors attitude against some people is jettisoned.