President Muhammadu Buhari, after a long troubling silence, decided to grant an interview to Arise Television, in what could be said to be a rare indulgence by Buhari, who had, over the years, maintained an aloofness that many Nigerians found uncomfortable.
Though, since the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo through to Goodluck Jonathan, a tradition of Presidential Media Chat was established, as an avenue for the nation’s number one citizen to shed light on burning national issues. But some how, President Buhari chose to discard the tradition, leaving Nigerians to largely dwell on rumours and the now frequent statements from his media aides, especially Garba Shehu, his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity.
Despite the fact that President’s spokesmen have been consistent in churning out releases and making appearances on television stations, such have largely remained unhelpful, as the quality of their representation and releases have been hugely doubted as the official position of the President, while at other times, they were adjudged to be condescending and making more enemies for President Buhari.
When eventually, words went out that the President would be granting an interview to the Arise TV team, many Nigerians were full of expectations, believing that he will finally address burning issues in the land and answer all their nagging questions.
However, as it turned out, the President’s interview with Arise TV fell short of the expectations of most Nigerians, with many believing that the President should have continued with his nauseating silence, instead of brewing more controversies and engaging in tirades that ended up throwing up more questions than answers.
NaijaNewsNow examines some of the statements made by President Buhari during the interview.
While commenting on agitations for secession in the country, Mr. President singled out the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) declaring that the secessionist group is is like a dot in a circle and that they have access to nowhere even if they secede.
To the President, the agitation for secession is primarily about IPOB and not the South-East or anything else, while also gloating on a claimed assurance from elders and youths of the South-South that the zone will not secede.
For the President, Biafra is potentially doomed because they will be landlocked. Such simplistic reasoning!
Mr. President must have forgotten that there are several countries, especially on the African continent that are landlocked and are still surviving. He must have also forgetten that the agitation for secession is not limited to the South-East, as same has become deafening in the South-West, with calls for a Yoruba Nation, and rallies constantly being held in major cities and towns in the zone.
On Herders Attacks
President Buhari, also in his Arise TV interview, conveniently and most unexpectedly, pushed the responsibility of securing Nigerians against criminal herdsmen, who have been terrorising farmers in different parts of the country, killing, maiming, kidnapping and raping women, to state governments.
According to the President, state governors should find a lasting solution to the farmers/herders crisis, forgetting that these same governors are mere ceremonial chief security officers of their states without commanding powers. He also failed to acknowledge the fact that most of these governors saddled with the crisis in their states, have enacted laws, particularly anti open grazing laws that federally controlled security agencies are largely reluctant to enforce.
As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the country, President Buhari is believed to have abdicated his responsibility of securing Nigerians by not taking firm action against the marauding criminal herders.
Speaking on his many appointments that have been severally criticised as lopsided, President Buhari insisted that they are based strictly on merit and not on the basis of ethnic or regional balance.
Speaking further, Buhari claimed that he cannot jettison seniority and merit for balance and federal character, contrary to constitutional requirement that that major appointments and other privileges should be shared in such a way that it reflects Federal Character; that is balance across the 36 states.
Defending this obvious constitutional breach, Buhari said he cannot favour those who have spent shorter years in service over those that have stayed longer.
He said: “People who have been there for 18 years or even for 10 years, they trained in Zaria or in Abeokuta, they come through the ranks.
“And because they served under all the circumstances, the crises and everything and they gradually rise to that status and you think you just pick somebody just to balance up? These positions have to be earned,” he said.
A quick check of the President’s latest appointment however run contrary to his submission, as the recently appointed Chief of Army Staff, Major General Yahaya Farouk, who is of Course 37, was picked above his seniors, who were of course 35 and 36.
It is also debatable that only the northern part of the country have qualified people who can be appointed based on merit, as the President’s appointments have shown.
On Boko Haram Insurgents
Credit must be given to President Buhari for admitting, in his Arise TV interview that the pervading unemployment and poverty in the country has been fuelling insecurity.
The President’s admittance is however at variance with the many positions that has been espoused by the Presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as they have always beaten their chests on the acclaimed success the Buhari administration has recorded in the areas of job and wealth creation.
Though the President claimed that his administration has done so much to fight the Boko Haram insurgency but at the same time admitting that the situation in the North-East geopolitical zone is very difficult.
Buhari however committed, again, a major blunder, when he said majority of Boko Haram members are Nigerians because Govenor Babagana Zulum told him so.
Those who are conversant with the chain of command in both the military and the intelligence community, will readily expect Buhari to have firsthand intelligence information before a Babagana Zulum would be privileged to have it, if he will ever have it.
So, for President Buhari to claim that he only got to know about the nationality of the insurgents shows that something is amiss.
It is also noteworthy to say that Buhari’s admittance that things are difficult in the North-East is a complete departure from the technical defeat or claims of degrading the insurgents.
On the whole, the President’s interview session unexpectedly fell short of what Nigerians were looking up to as burning issues of national importance were either glossed over or avoided by him.
The Buhari Arise Television interview is another classic example of when silence could have been golden!