By Rotimi Fasan
AFTER weeks of playing the deaf-mute, weeks during which some Nigerians called, many cried and most wailed for his intervention in the killings perpetrated by militias in the pay of Fulani herders scattered across Benue and Taraba, President Muhammadu Buhari finally chose to respond in between mouthfuls of Nigerian delicacies- yes you heard right. Buhari after weeks of wailing by Nigerians decided to respond to their heartbreaking cries with a dinner organised, last Thursday, for some leaders of the ruling APC.
Talk of Nero fiddling while Rome burns! But it was at this dinner, in the course of which many of the dignitaries present must have had and belched over their fill of what denizens of Aso Villa treat themselves to daily in the name of food to make them grow so insensitive to the pain of others- it was during this oral feast when teeth, some of which must be so unused to what it means to taste a presidential recipe, were being picked that Buhari waxing in postprandial eloquence decided to give Nigerians a peep into the complicated working of his mind, a walk through as it were, of his cognitive process.
During this carousing that must have been partly, if not entirely, organised to perfume and table the president’s (non)-performance record and hint at his post 2019 agenda, Buhari not without some chest-thumping and self-righteousness announced to the rest of us dim-witted Nigerians that he has not been insensitive to the cries that have filled the land. Rather he had been taking his time thinking about everything before speaking. The Yoruba say that if it takes one three years to train for madness when would one finally start running amok? Pray, if in order to think before acting it took the president this long to respond to a crisis in just a part of the country, if Buhari needs this much time to reflect before acting, how long would he take to execute the outcome of such reflection?
If President Buhari needs to think for so long before acting at a time when many Nigerians were being slaughtered, for how long would he need to think if and when Nigeria is under external aggression? When we were young, we behaved like youngsters but when we grew old, we threw away the things of youth, right? So the president wanted Nigerians to know he has grown old and wiser than the immature and tactless army general that took the reins of power in 1983 and immediately proceeded to clamp hundreds of Nigerians into detention, without as much as a fair trial, one should add. Buhari remembered his own days in detention and probably saw the need to tread carefully. One of the major criticisms of this president is that he has failed to learn from the past. In other words, many Nigerians believe that President Buhari has refused to change going by the manner he has so far governed which in the perception of many is selective, biased in favour of the Islamic north and especially his Fulani kin.
It would, therefore, come as a bitter irony to many that the president would tout his slow-coach approach to governance as a sign of maturity. Surely, Mr. Buhari wouldn’t mind some applause which he readily got from his visitors led by the party chair, Odigie Oyegun. But Mr. President, Sir, a major attribute of good leadership is the ability to think on the feet and make quick and intelligent decisions, not wait until heaven crashes on everyone. It is no virtue to keep silent in the name of reflection while many literally die in heart-rending misery. I salute the president’s modesty even if he obviously didn’t mean it to be so. But I salute him for admitting it takes him so much time to think in order to arrive at a decision. That could be a symptom of old age, a warning sign that the mind is growing or has grown old. This on its own is no crime. It is nothing to be ashamed of to admit one’s limitations which is what basically the president’s claim that he needs so much time to think and make a decision comes down to.
The president is not alone in that. Many great leaders are not necessarily great or, worse yet, fast thinkers. Many are in fact intellectually deficient or are perceived as such. Not much was thought of George W. Bush (not to mention Donald Trump) as an intellectual, to take an example from the ‘world most powerful nation’. But Bush, like his father, led America at a dangerous period in the history of America. Or what could be more demanding than a war? A leader needs not be an intellectual or the wisest person around to govern. That is why they have and must listen to their advisers. But it appears that to stay around Buhari is to walk on egg shells. The President, as Baba Buhari, is seen and projected as the all-knowing one, the wise patriarch who cannot go wrong. Not minding that his surrogates, knowing his weakness, probably always have a good laugh behind him.
Even Buhari’s famed body language is an act of intimidation that sends out signals that he is not open to ideas. A fact that must be compounded by the readiness of surrogates to exaggerate the abilities of their principal. Since he assumed office, Buhari has acted like only his opinion matters. Thus, when he was called out for his lopsided appointments, he simply ignored all comments. When the criticisms increased with more lopsided appointments, the man simply doubled down on his earlier conduct to say that he had a right to cater first for the 97% that voted for him as against the five per cent that did not. He has continued more or less in the same vein. His recent appointment of Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the Director General of the NIA confirms that Buhari is not a listening president, clearly a sectional as opposed to a national leader.
Or how else do we explain the fact that in appointments that were already overwhelmingly weighted in favour of the north, the president replaced Babachir Lawal with not just another northerner but Lawal’s cousin and still went ahead to pick someone from his own state of Katsina to replace Olusola Oke? Added to the earlier appointment of Lawal Daura as Director General of Directorate of State Sercvice, DSS, Katsina, one of the least educationally developed states in Nigeria, now has two of its indigenes as head of Nigeria’s security outfits. Yet, presidential aides like Garba Shehu blab on about competence and qualifications! Judged by educational training or experience which state in the north can hold a candle to any in the south?