By Emmanuel Aziken
It was on the sidelines of his first outing with the Lagos press as minister of information in the fourth quarter of 2015, that Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that President Muhammadu Buhari was looking for the first minister to send to jail!
The minister said that ministers were reading the president’s body language and that anyone who ran foul of it would sooner than later end up in prison.
The shock of the minister’s revelation at that particular meeting was matched with the presence of the NTA crew. Until then, the government owned broadcaster had been largely absent at gatherings where the then opposition rained insults of incompetence against the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
With the notable exception of the NTA crew, the journalists at that meeting were mostly those who had in the days of Alhaji Mohammed’s days as opposition spokesman helped to funnel his critical messages of how a Buhari presidency would reinvent Nigeria.
Despite delaying the appointment of ministers by close to six months with almost irreversible damage to the economy, many of the journalists at the meeting soaked in Alhaji Mohammed’s exhortations of the imminent unraveling of Buhari.
Now, more than four years after, it is fit to ask to what extent the president’s body language has checked the rot he met in office.
The decision of the authorities to shut the country’s borders as a solution to the problem of smuggling is one notable issue that brings to fore the consequence of Buhari’s body language.
It is even more interesting that Col. Hammed Ali (rtd.) the once feared ascetic officer who served as Gen. Buhari’s chief of staff prior to the election was the one mandated to check the corruption in the Customs.
Four years after, it is telling that the combined body languages of Buhari and Ali have been of little consequence to the corruption in the Customs. Just as President Buhari has failed to apprehend any minister for corruption, Ali has also to the shock of many failed to apprehend anyone in an agency of government that is generally seen as one of the most corrupt agencies of the Federal Government.
Instead of addressing corruption in the customs, what has happened under the Buhari presidency is the knee-jerk resort to shutting the borders and bringing the entire citizenry into collective punishment. And that is because an agency of government, to wit, the customs failed to carry out its job dutifully.
Prices of local staples including rice have doubled essentially because of the failure of customs agents to properly decipher what was supposed to be the body language of the president and their boss, Ali.
Even more, under the present dispensation, traders have from time to time, been subjected to unneeded intrusion by customs agents who have moved from the borders to roadblocks deep inside the country.
Also reflective of the failure of government agencies to read the body language of President Buhari is the dithering procrastination of the administration to address the rot in the nation’s petroleum sector.
Whether the president doubted the genuineness of subsidy payments prior to 2015 may be debatable at this point.
But the fact that the four refineries owned by the country have not worked productively under the present administration is a shocker especially given the fact that Buhari was once a minister of petroleum.
Even more distressing is that for four years nothing was done to bring the refineries to work. That is despite the assertion of the immediate past minister of petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu that the refineries would resume full work in 2019.
The wonder is that as at today, rehabilitation of the refineries are yet to start. The latest news is that the rehabilitation will start in January 2020 and that the refineries will not come into operation before 2022.
These examples of failed expectations of a new narrative are compounded by the situation that ordinary Nigerians find on the ground.
Your correspondent during a recent visit to Abuja was shocked at the degree to which military men and policemen flouted simple traffic rules. Not just in Abuja, the sign of impunity conveyed by the men in uniform do not show any regard for the body language of the commander-in-chief.
It is now a common saying that delinquents instead of sweating under Buhari are now the ones thriving. Not just in politics, but also in common day life as seen in the burst of crime!
This body language is certainly not one that Nigerians bargained for. The only explanation is that Buhari’s body may have aged over the years and as such not able to convey the message of discipline, diligence and decorum as was expected. In that case, we can only pray for God to renew him!