In a Blaze of Controversy

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Some of President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent statements that are very critical of the country and the youth attract caustic reactions from a bewildered public, writes Iyobosa Uwugiaren

For those who rallied round and supported President Muhammadu Buhari’s aspiration in the 2015 general election, his reputation for good character and resounding goodwill, were some of the attributes they considered, even when many of his critics said the testimonial was a makeshift.

But, even if Buhari’s cult-like-followers will swear that his reputation for astuteness, personality and favour were some of the resilient attributes the president won over the years, events of the last few months have shown that he is fast losing these attributes more quickly.

Debatably, the swelling opinion among political monitors for Buhari’s dwindling approval rating is that he appeared to have let down many people’s belief in his character and judgment. And to be sure, going by the feedbacks from Nigerians day after day, it does appear that the president is now finding it very difficult to persuade Nigerians to accept his statements. If you like, the remarkable words of Great Cicero resonate in Buhari’s present difficulty. “We give no credit to a liar even when he speaks the truth.”

In countless attempts to rationalise his seeming failure or refusal to act on several burning national issues that don’t go down well with Nigerians, Buhari and his spin-doctors have recently resorted to what literary experts refer to as ‘’Ad Populum’’ (Latin), a plea to the biases of the people, presumptuously that their claim could be sufficiently defended without further support if they emphasise a belief or attitude that the people share with them, by regularly appealing to patriotism of people, whenever they mess up.

Many instances abound about this fallacy. For example, Buhari recently told British Prime Minister Theresa May that while politicians were preoccupied with the forthcoming general elections, he was more concerned about the security of the people and the growth of the Nigerian economy.

The president stated this when he held a meeting with the British Prime Minister at 10, Downing Street, London.
According to a statement by the presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, the three-pronged focus of Buhari’s administration resonated through the conversation.

“We campaigned on three major issues, to secure the country, revive the economy and fight corruption. We have elections next year, politicians are already preoccupied with the polls, but I am bothered more about security and the economy,” the president said.
However, less than 24 hours later, the president put lies to his own declaration to the UK Prime Minister, when he announced Festus Keyamo (SAN) as his official spokesman for his 2019 re-election presidential campaign organisation.

Still in London, the Buhari also told the Archbishop of Canterbury, …, that the herdsmen killing Nigerians were foreign assassins trained by former Libya President Mammar Ghaddafi.

But many, going by their reactions, wondered what informed Buhari’s appeal to citizens in Benue State, some weeks back to accommodate the same people as brothers.

A political analysts and public affairs commentator, Mr. Faruk Adejoh-Audu, was pissed-off with Buhari’s double-speak: “If indeed they are serious in their claim that our president is a man of integrity, then, it’s time for them to start advocating for him to undergo psychiatric examination.”

He wondered what kind of man of integrity lies and contradicts himself, so casually on every count, without even realising it.
He added, “If in the course of this presidency, his character has undergone such fundamental alteration, different from what they sold to us, then it’s time to call in a shrink except of course they are now willing to admit that their original claim about his pristine integrity is like all other promises of the APC – false or at best dubious.’’

While that double-speak of the president in the UK was still generating huge controversy, especially on social media, Buhari on Wednesday made another incredible statement, criticising the attitude of some Nigerian youths, and stated that they were only shoving to get on the gravy train.

“More than 60 per cent of the Nigerian population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” the president was quoted as saying in a panel appearance with world leaders at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London.

Those familiar with Buhari’s previous rating of the Nigerian youths said that the president’s comment further re-echoed his earlier one he made criticising Nigerian youth.

In an interview with UK Telegraph in February 2016, Buhari said some Nigerians in the UK, mostly youths, were disposed to criminality and should not be granted asylum there. The president was ferociously panned by Nigerians for the seeming ridiculous comment, with many of them saying he failed to send the representativeness of Nigerian youth’s adventures.

Clearing Buhari’s mess, Adesina, few hours later said his boss didn’t say “all Nigerian youths, but “most Nigerian youths” were lazy, illiterates, who want free life.

Buhari’s latest outlandish comment has attracted impulsive and strict reactions from the public, including members of his ruling political party, APC.

The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Comrade Timi Frank, has asked the president to apologise to Nigerian youths over his comments that the country’s young population is lazy but wanted free things.

The APC chieftain believed that the government had not given the youths opportunity to serve, hence no need to de-market them at an international event like the Commonwealth Business Forum.

The APC chieftain said the country had the best brains in the world, adding that Nigerian leaders had refused to create enabling environment for the young population to excel.

“If Nigerian youths are lazy, you won’t find them all over the world seeking greener pastures. Again, we have so many Nigerian young entrepreneurs, who are doing well all over the world without support from the government,” the APC chieftain stated, adding: “So I disagree with Mr. President on this particular comment. Nigerian youths are hard-working. We have best brains in entertainment industry, sports, medicine, to mention a few, and I think they deserve an apology.”

On his part, a foreign university don, Professor Farooq Kperogi, wondered: “Buhari supervises a government that serially engages in secretive, illegal employment of the children and relatives of high-ranking political elites (including his) in well-oiled, high-paying government agencies, while millions of brilliant, hardworking but underprivileged young people vegetate in agonising misery. Yet, he goes to London and called young Nigerians lazy, uneducated, and entitled; as people who want to sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free.”

The renowned scholar added: “These are not the young people I see when I travel to Nigeria; they are not the young people I interact with on social media. Maybe Buhari is describing his children and himself. If he insists he is describing most Nigerian youths, then, his disconnect from reality is more severe than we had previously imagined.”

Mr. Reno Omokri, a media assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan, also hit Buhari for his comment. “Ten million jobs lost since 2015. It is not laziness that makes Nigeria’s youth jobless, it is Buhari’s incompetence that makes them jobless.”
Like other critics, the Peoples Democratic Party said Nigerian youths, by their demonstrated industry, cannot in any way be described by anybody as lazy.

The major opposition party said Nigerians find it exceptionally shocking that Buhari could make such comment, describing it as “false, derogatory and unpatriotic comment,” against Nigerian citizens at a time the nation was looking up to him to properly present its potentials to the global business community.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP described the president’s outburst as alarming and shocking. “It is alarming that at every international event, the president makes it a favourite pastime to de-market, paint and denigrate our dear nation and her citizens in very negative light. This is an indication that he has stopped believing in Nigeria,” the PDP spokesman said.

But as usual, the presidency has rationalised Buhari’s comment about the Nigerian youths, saying every country has its own share of idle population.

Adesina, in yet a different statement released to journalists said the president’s comments about Nigerian youths being ‘lazy’ did not apply to all Nigerian youths.

“Indeed, every country has its share of idle population, and it is the bounden duty of government at all levels, to create an enabling environment for them to actualise their potential. That is what President Buhari is committed to doing,” the presidential spokesman contended.

He claimed that the storm over the President’s comment was the handiwork of “manipulators and twisters.

Adesina said: “Typical of their stock in trade, manipulators, and twisters of statements of Mr. President, who lie in wait to make mischief, interpreted the comment to mean that President Buhari had taken all Nigerian youths to the cleaners.

“But elementary English recognises a wide gulf between ‘a lot of’ and the word ‘all.’ How can ‘a lot of them,’ suddenly transmogrify to mean ‘all of them?’ Mischievous and unconscionable!

“There is no way President Buhari, father of the Nigerian nation in every sense of the word, who equally has biological children of his own in the youths’ age bracket, passed a vote of no confidence on all youths. It can only exist in the imagination of those who play what the president has described as ‘irresponsible politics’ with everything.”

Adesina further said the President was focused on creating opportunities for Nigerian youths to excel, adding that “the focal areas of the administration: securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption are actually intended to give youths a future and a hope.”

According to him, this much was emphasised in an April 5, 2018 comment by President Buhari, while receiving Letter of Credence from the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria, when he said that insistence on probity was to encourage people to be accountable, and accept honesty as a lifestyle so as to secure the future of the nation’s youths.