By Kanyinsola Olorunnisola.
“Let me make you this promise today: We will protect your children. We will protect your wealth. We will make this country work again.” – President Muhammadu Buhari, January 6, 2015.
Three years ago, President Buhari made you a promise. It reverberated around the walls of your existence, persuading you that redemption was indeed possible, that your country could indeed be saved. Reading the quote above now, in the context of the recent terrorist attacks claiming countrymen, it feels like the punchline to a morbid joke no one finds at all funny.
A presidential hopeful running on the assurance of being a newer, more efficient alternative to the incumbent, he swore, during long impassioned speeches, to succeed where Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had failed: to strengthen our national security, safeguard citizens from genocidal attacks and mitigate the perilous powers of poverty. How far has he gone with that?
Under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch, the country has gone from being one of the fastest growing economies on the planet to having the most extreme level of poverty in the world. Make of that what you will.
He notoriously continues to claim that the violent massacres committed by Fulani herdsmen are perpetrated by foreigners, refusing to address the underpinnings motivating the slaughters, thereby enabling the senseless extremisms of such terrorists as the Miyetti Allah.
He has proven rather lax in the face of this grave robbery of precious lives. The news of the barbaric murders of innocent people in Plateau still paints headlines red. In reacting to the killings, President Buhari has employed, as Professor Wole Soyinka eloquently puts it, an “erstwhile language of complacency and…accommodativeness in the face of unmerited brutalisation.”
Consequently, the nation has become a chaotic island of tragedies. We have reasonable cause to fear for our lives. Civilians are threatening national security. Bridges are exploding right under us. We are experiencing a sure, if gradual, descent into the status of a failed state. And with all of this happening, the president has declared interest in running for a second term. We should all be outraged.
Since its completion in 1991, the Aso Villa has played host to absolute hypocrisy and utter mediocrity. It has housed guests who have made a mockery of our democracy and blemished the integrity of our people. But never in its twenty-seven year history has it been on loan to an administration so shameless in its disconnection from reality.
It appears as though, upon luxuriating in the delightful comfort of the presidential villa, Buhari has conveniently forgot the damning conditions most of his people live in. Overtime, he has displayed a complete lack of empathy and even basic awareness of what Nigerians go through.
At this point, his nefarious comments about the Nigerian youths come to mind. In a nation where the economy stifles you, where everyday is a struggle for survival, where the youths are doing all they can to not just live to see the next day but build a future for themselves, we have the leader of the country spewing untruths which expose him as someone who knows nothing about the people he claims to represent in office. Perhaps, our tax-payers’ money has made him too comfortable in the villa to see our hardship.
The President appears to live in a bubble, where his inadequacies do not exist and critics are just enemies trying to soil his name. He does not live in the same country as me and you. He does not live in the country Bill Gates describes as “one of the worst places in the world to be born”. He does not live in the country in which citizens are forced to put their lives in the hands of the degenerate health system when they fall ill. He does not live in the country where ministers hijack international scholarships meant to uplift poor Nigerians looking to rise out of hardship and escape their underpriviledged lives. Let us face it, people: the President is blatantly ignorant of our reality.
When I first came across Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 allegory “The Emperor’s New Clothes” some ten years ago, it was nothing to me more than a fairytale whose social import seemed impenetrable. Now, I cannot help relating the story – in which a vainglorious ruler, unaware of his own nudity, is surrounded by sycophants who praise his “lovely new clothes” for fear of losing their power and priviledge – to the Nigerian predicament.
Buhari is an emperor who is clothed in abject obliviousness of the situation of the masses. And he surrounds himself with those who fail – or refuse – to make him see. They cheer him on as he displays his metaphoric nudity before the world with sordid pride. How else would we explain President who thinks giving impotent speeches will satiate the hunger for justice? How else do we explain a President who is yet to jail a reprobate who justifies avenging the deaths of livestock by wasting innocent human lives? How else do we explain a President who, rather than be constructive, releases a list of killings under the PDP to somehow justify his own inefficiency in the wake of the Plateau tragedy?
The President is nude and he has to learn to wear the toga of relevant information and emotional intelligence. He has to know that we are fed up with political tricks and falsehoods which serve selfish ends. He has to know that we need justice more than anything at this crucial moment. He has to know that we, the people, want Change – actual concrete change, this time. Not that other kind.
As a final point, the President once said that he belonged to everybody just as he belonged to nobody. But, more and more, it seems only the latter part of that paradox is true. Or perhaps, he does belongs to some people; just not us, just not the Nigerian people.
A fresh graduate from the University of Ibadan, Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is the founder of Nation of Mad Men, a platform for social justice and human rights activism. firstname.lastname@example.org