by Alexander O. Onukwue
In the second paragraph of the address made by President Muhammadu Buhari to the nation, he said the following:
“I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially on social media, have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far”.
More than the silence of key issues like the ASUU strike, an apparent sub on Emeka Ojukwu and the absence of any reference to the patience of Nigerians in bearing with his 103 day stay away from the country, President Buhari’s laid into those who “dared’ to think that Nigeria could cease to exist as an indissoluble union.
The theme of crossing the “national red lines” carried on throughout the entire speech as though that were the sole purpose of it. Needless to say it was hugely disappointing because this was one address Nigerians, over the weekend, really did look forward to, in no way expecting that they would be hammered for “daring to question”.
President Buhari would not let anyone cross the national red lines because, to him, “Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable” but that, according to much of the reactions, could not be further from the truth if he is the leader of a true democracy. Threatening to shut down the discussion about the status of the Nigerian state by its citizens would resurrect tendencies which his aides and bandsmen made to suppress by projecting him as a reformed democrat.
“Too far” would have been better employed by the President if he were describing the fact that the epidemic that killed many in Kogi over the past week meant our health care system had deteriorated. Rearranging the words, he could have set a national red line on the education sector which has remained stagnant for far too long.
In challenging the rights of Nigerians to speak freely about how they feel about the Nigerian arrangement, it was indeed the President who appears to have gone too far. And doing this on the back of goodwill from Nigerians on his return after a long absence was far too strange for a welcome speech.