by Alexander O. Onukwue
Listen to a relaxed Chief Audu Ogbeh in nice blue jeans and attempt to share his wide-eyed enthusiasm in hailing Buhari’s temporary handover to Vice President Osinbajo earlier in the year as a ground-breaking achievement.
Meditate on Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s effusive praise of Buhari’s “social justice” without your mind going to at least two big names still held in detention against the rulings of courts of competent jurisdiction.
Try not to recoil in nausea as Special Adviser Femi Adesina prophesies that all will be well by 2019, even if things have gotten worse for the majority of Nigerians in the first 30 months of the Buhari administration. Pity the man fighting with cobwebs in an effort to fleshen a dry bone of a joke about a photographer’s multi-coloured stockings as evidence of the President’s sense of humour.
— Isime Esene (@IsimeEsene) December 24, 2017
You could sum up the purpose of the ill-conceived, badly-timed and poorly presented 55-minute documentary in one sentence: President Buhari likes human beings. To be precise, Mr Adesina says the President should be the One Person all of mankind, especially Nigerians, should be kind to.
Let it resound from rooftops and occupy billboards: “President Buhari loves human beings”.
To what did we owe that crude show of irresponsibility and foolishness?
Why did anyone think Nigerians needed a documentary showing the government’s Ministers and officers of the ruling party dropping tokens and wry praises about their boss?
What exactly is the sin in being a Nigerian who expects sanity from one’s leaders?
In 2014, Goodluck Jonathan was branded clueless and insensitive for dancing at a rally after a disaster at bus parks; Buhari has chosen not to be undone by his predecessor.
Ungodly crowds of people, against every safety rule in the book, are spending productive man-hours rubbing bodies and hitting gallons of inflammable content against one another’s at filling stations around the country. They are losing their sanity and patience on gruelling queues and creating the potential for emergencies of infernal consequences. What could ever go wrong with tankers in Nigeria, let alone those discharging products where hundreds of drained people can hardly wait to mob a nozzle-waving fuel attendant?
Bus parks are empty because few can afford to travel for the holidays on fares that have nearly tripled. Those who manage to stump up the ridiculous fees spend too long to get to their destinations, not certain they will make it in time to meet up with appointed events of the season – weddings, anniversaries, hospital appointments, funerals – some of which have been months in the planning.
When he cancelled his trip to Niger Republic and declined a parade for his birthday, it could have impressed some that Mr President was concerned with mass feelings of frustration everywhere from Yola to Yenagoa, Egbeda to Agbani.
But, no. Mr Buhari and his advisers remain distant and detached from reality. The consensus word is aloof, but even that fails to exhaustively describe the degree to which President Buhari misses the point. Perhaps it was his major fault that Okey Enalamah revealed when he made a plaudit out of the fact that the President is not a micro-manager. He leaves everything to the appointees, the Minister said; little wonder the seat of power has been run like a rat house at times.
It was probably these trusted housekeepers who sent NNPC GMD, Maikanti Baru, on a forced righteousness-fulfilling inspection tour this morning, while VP Osinbajo was dispatched to Lagos to move from one pump station to another, as part of the PR run-around that will boost views for Sunday’s primetime show.
Christmas is a time of cheer, joy, and hope for the coming New Year. Many people would love to be around their families, but regrettably, cannot because of the inadequacies in the fuel supply in different parts of the nation.
— Prof Yemi Osinbajo (@ProfOsinbajo) December 24, 2017
We sympathise with you and are working assiduously to eliminate this pain in the shortest possible time. We regret this inconvenience while assuring that all hands are on deck to return things to normalcy. pic.twitter.com/CIM3dUsxd3
— Prof Yemi Osinbajo (@ProfOsinbajo) December 24, 2017
After a year which has featured a barrage of scandals – Baru’s billions and Maina’s manoeuvre to name but two – after hundreds of deaths from Boko Haram and herdsmen continue to displace families and decimate livelihoods, and facing the worst fuel scarcity in recent memory, the perfect way to promise a better year is to impress countrymen and women with pictures of the President and the comments of gassy employees and loyalists.
As the picture quality of the documentary attests, palace clowns who provide Executive entertainment at the villa are still playing to a script written for an age when Tales by Moonlight were absorbed by children as true life stories.
But those NTA shows were educational and had moral relevance. What NTA showed the world on Sunday night was wretched, without depth and, to be kind, morale-bursting.
Which father, whose children are out of school due to unpaid fees, sends buddies to his house to entertain his family with gist of how he cracks the best jokes at the beer parlour? Nigerians are stretching the limits of their mental health on four to five-hour traffic jams, paying as much as N400 per litre for petrol, and paying fares a number of folds above peak recession prices, and the choral refrain from the State House is “O-h-C-o-m-e l-e-t u-s a-d-o-r-e h-i-m, funny Buhari”?
Why do we have unfortunate leaders in Nigeria? Why do elected officials in this part of the world never focus on the substance of service, wasting resources on sophistry instead? One month, a Governor creates a Ministry of trivia, the next month taxpayers’ funds are used to tell taxpayers how much they should love their President. Will a documentary on Buhari affect the price of garri in the market for good? Does humanising the President for 55 minutes bring about the change sufficient to convince Nigerians to turn up for him again in just over 55 weeks?
This piece has taken the form of a questionnaire because when someone you have reason to trust and depend on slaps you in the face for no discernible reason while you are having difficulty chewing a mouthful of rough-edged crusts, you are prompted, even in your convulsion and rage, to simply ask why. Usually, it does not take long for your thoughts to shift to another point of inquiry: why did I trust this person in the first place?