The major criticism of Nigerians about President Muhammadu Buhari’s #EndSARS protest speech is what they have described as its complete lack of empathy.
The speech was considered too little and too late given the level of destruction and anarchy that preceded it. It could have come much sooner and saved everyone the painful but avoidable losses on Nigerians who could not fathom why it took the President the whole of two weeks, during which everything that could go wrong went wrong, before he would deem it fit to make any statement to douse the tension in the country.
The speech made no direct reference to the elephant in the room, which was the unprovoked and apparently premeditated attack on defenceless protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate by persons clad in military gear but whom the Nigerian Army has since disowned as not remotely connected to it.
Rather than speak to the event at Lekki, the President in his belated speech, that many Nigerians claimed left them speechless, sought to posture as a law and order leader. While this aloof indifference would seem to be in character with the President, Nigerians would not understand the reason for it at this time.
But they didn’t have to wait for long to know the reason for the callous indifference of Buhari’s brief speech that was loaded with account of the ineffectual social empowerment programmes of his administration which, had they worked, would have eliminated the suppressed anger that boiled over as the street rampage that engulfed the country in the days following the speech.
Femi Adesina, one of two senior media assistants of the President, self-identified as the writer of the speech on Channels’ ‘Politics Today’ where he lamely tried to pass off a general comment in the speech as a direct reference, which only he could see, to the Lekki incident. It was only recently I said here that the media handlers of the President are not doing enough to help their principal.
It is bad enough that the President is doing too little to break down the wall he had needlessly erected between himself and the Nigerian public. His media spokespersons have in addition been making a hash of their job.
In the case of Femi Adesina, he has become the hawkish voice of the presidency. It was, therefore, no surprise to me that he was the writer of the speech that is remarkable for both its lack of empathy and general drabness. Why on earth does Buhari have to wait for briefings from security chiefs and or military commanders before making a humane statement on the carnage that spread across the country for all of two weeks?
But this was the malarkey with which Adesina made Buhari open his #EndSARS speech in a vain attempt to justify the unwarranted abdication that made him unresponsive to the growing tension built into the #EndSARS campaign that eventually spilled across Nigeria.
In tones now chastened by the national outrage against a government believed to have turned its arms against its own people, Adesina strained to paint a picture of a meticulous president that only responds to situations after thoughtful consideration. Whatever happened to prompt decision-taking as one of the attributes of a good leader?
Is Adesina telling Nigerians that Buhari had to have all the details of the events at Lekki and across the country, even while these were being reported in real-time for the most part of two weeks before it took a violent turn; is Adesina telling Nigerians that President Buhari could not just make a conciliatory statement that is not read from a script? Could he not just appear on the lawn of Aso Villa to say a word or two in a humane gesture that would mitigate his unhealthy distance from the people that elected him into office?
The office of president was not thrust on him. He actively sought it on four different occasions! As a paterfamilias worthy of the name, the President didn’t have to wait for two weeks before ferrying his son, Yusuf, abroad after he fell off a bike while endangering his life in the name of enjoying it with his friend.
What more strengthens the charge that his utterances lacked empathy than his rhetorical gaffe on the #EndSARS protest in general and the tragic event at the Lekki Toll Gate in particular? Yet, many of those at Lekki are of the same generation and age as Yusuf. What could it have cost the President to have spoken earlier than he did, not after the near-universal pleas and threats by foreigners and Nigerians, including former presidents? He is neither his own speechwriter nor would it have been necessary that he generate the ideas that went into the speech.
That’s what his advisers and minders are for. All he needed to do was present himself before the cameras as he eventually had to do after the worst had happened, all thanks to unhelpful advisers and hawks in the form of media assistants, speechwriters, ministers and service chiefs, etc.
The same lack of promptness in responding to dire situations is what played out in the way food donations for COVID-19 palliatives were stockpiled in warehouses rather than distribute them to Nigerians who needed them. Which resulted in the nationwide looting of government and private warehouses by those now being faddishly labelled hoodlums and miscreants by the very same people that created these armies of delinquent youth.
What was the point in hoarding/storing donations that were meant to palliate Nigerians and cushion the effects of the lockdown at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic? How can anyone explain why such donations are still being kept in warehouses even when the lockdown that prompted them months ago had been lifted?
The criminal action of the looters mirrors the action of the callous politicians who chose to keep in warehouses perishable goods and food meant for a hungry, pauperised and beleaguered people.
How can anyone blame the so-called looters many of who resorted to stealing to stave off hunger without blaming, even more, the criminal politicians who have been so unconscionably selfish and wicked to their own people? How long does it take to re-bag or distribute food items that Nigerian politicians are taking months to distribute? How could they inspire confidence that they are not up to something else?
Reckless as it was, the nationwide looting mayhem needed to happen for Nigerian politicians to appreciate the depth of anger against them and hunger in the land. They have brought home ant-infested faggot and must not mind the visit of lizards. Hopefully, they now know they can only run but cannot hide.