Posted by News Express | 8 February 2016 | 3,876 times
My people, the Igbo, claim that no matter how well a mad man had been adjudged cured of his mental illness, he must, from time to time, wink and mutter to himself. While meditating on, and reading the many comments on the latest verbal flagellation of Nigerians by – who else – their president, I started thinking that this proverb can be creatively applied to the case of Nigeria’s current helmsman and his regular talk-down on Nigeria.
I remember vividly in 1984 or so, when the gifted musical activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, released that song, in which he described as ‘animal talk’, the tendency of the Buhari administration to routinely castigate and write off Nigerians, at every drop of the hat. The indefatigable Fela, like most other Nigerians at that time, were angry that Buhari had ruled all Nigerians as lacking in discipline, and had gone ahead herding them in the queues, with horsewhips, like herds of cattle. If Nigerians had been pained, they had mostly borne their pain with equanimity, as not many people had the courage – or foolhardiness – to complain openly, as Fela had done.
For Buhari in those days, that horrendous indiscipline, against which he inaugurated the elaborate ‘War Against Indiscipline’ (WAI) was so pervasive that it even included saying anything that caused embarrassment – even it was true – to those in authority. Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson, The Guardian journalists that got imprisoned for doing their job, will forever, remain the living icons of the intolerance of the era of General Buhari’s first coming.
While Buhari prosecuted his quixotic battles against indiscipline in 1984 and 1985, there were many people, in and outside Nigeria that had pooh-poohed the whole exercise as hypocritical, arguing that the take-over of an elected government with the force of arms was, perhaps, the gravest form of indiscipline. Even if Nigerians had reluctantly ignored that fact, it was difficult to excuse the fact that his ADC’s father was allowed to pass through the Customs gridlock at the Lagos airport, which was as narrow as the ‘eye of a needle’ with 52 suitcases of ‘whatever’, unsearched, when the country’s entry points were under a vice-like lock, as the nation was embarking on the issuance of new currency notes. After that 52-suitcase saga, Buhari’s WAI campaign became less worthy than the paper on which it was scripted.
No matter how much Muhammadu Buhari has tried, since his return to seek power under the democratic dispensation, to prove that he has metamorphosed into a born-again democrat, the vestiges of his past disdain for the people, has stuck out like a sore thumb. President Buhari has hardly stopped looking down on everybody else, in the typical manner of the military that had been inherited from colonial masters, on the people as mere subjects – idle civilians. He still sees himself as a koboko-wielding soldier, looking down on the rest of us, idle civilians, and wishing to ‘double’ all of us with a frog-jump.
Even though he is doing his honest and transparent best to bring succour to the nation economically by trying to convince foreigners to come and invest in our country, Buhari has proved to be the worst enemy of that possibility, because as Nigeria’s best and number one salesperson, he has always presented his country and his people as those that should not be touched with a ten metre pole. Because Nigerians are corrupt, robbers, fraudsters, cutthroats and other manners of criminals, with which foreign prisons are inundated, why would anybody bring his money and business here, only to be pillaged and out-foxed? After all, they were warned by – who else – their president himself!
If the way President Buhari has presented Nigeria from outside our shores – in the USA, South Africa, India and elsewhere – had been adjudged condemnable and undiplomatic, his performance in the United Kingdom, last week, has been without comparison. Speaking to The Telegraph, a key news organisation, our president was quoted as saying that Nigerians were so criminally-minded that they hardly deserve being welcomed into the United Kingdom. Most Nigerians, especially those who are in the Diaspora, working very hard daily, performing marvellously in different areas of human endeavour, to earn a living and place Nigeria’s name and reputation on the world map, had felt very insulted at such a presidential faux-pas that indiscriminately threw saints and crooks alike in the same pit.
Many of them, as well as Nigerians at home have been speaking out angrily, pointing out that we are anything but criminals. Yes, Nigeria, like any other country with endless years of clueless of poor and incompetent leadership must have criminal elements in its midst, but that hardly qualifies the country to be tarred in a wholesale hue of criminality. Nigerians all over the world have taken to the social media to slam Buhari for being so unpresidential in his stereotype of a country whose interests he had sworn on the Koran to defend and correct. One is often wont to wonder whether it is inferiority complex or lack of understanding of the obligations of a national leader or even the failure of information managers that makes our president to so often sell our country short before the world.
Perhaps, unknown to our president, Nigeria, with all our current domestic problems is not anywhere near one of the worst countries, crime-wise, in the world. Leaders of such countries like South Africa and Brazil where criminals and cutthroats reign supreme never tar their people in putrid colours. At a time, where you could be murdered by merely walking alone on the street in Durban, Johannesburg or Cape Town, their leaders like Mandela, had marketed the country so well to the world that everybody wanted to go there and invest. They even became the first nation in Africa to be awarded the hosting rights of the Mundial. I have never heard or seen any leader that castigates his country before foreigners. I would be happy to see anybody point out one such leader to me.
In spite of the havoc the likes of Buhari wreak on Nigeria’s image, there are still some ‘daring’ foreigners and journalists, who have held their breath and come to Nigeria, with gritted teeth, only to discover to their pleasant amazement that Nigeria has been sinned so much against, through the types of vile stories that are told about it.
One cannot blame Buhari’s handlers too much if one understands the difficulty in handling ‘these people’ who believe they know what to say and how to say it – an ailment that affects most people who are and have been in uniform. Something tells me that his handlers would be writhing in pain. Perhaps, it would help them if they manage to inform him that the title coined for him, after his Telegraph outing, by ‘FirstLadyNaija.com’ blog on the Internet, to wit, the ‘president of criminals’, is gaining currency.
And if he does not like that title, he should desist from seeing and addressing his countrymen and women, as criminals.
•This article originally appeared in Uche Ezechukwu’s weekly column, CAPITAL MATTERS, which appears in The Authority newspaper. Ezechukwu can be reached via email@example.com
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