President Buhari’s media aide by the name of Lauretta Onochie said a few days ago that her principal is an “adult” who does whatever he wants. But, apparently, he is only an adult in chronological age; he is emotionally and mentally a child. What “adult” grudgingly chooses to do what is right—i.e., something as basic as commiserating with people writhing in agony by physically visiting them— only after much pressure has been brought to bear on him by vast swathes of people?
But the president’s reluctant decision to compensate for insensitively celebrating with privileged people who luxuriate in obscene opulence at a time the nation is reeling from a string of horrendous sanguinary tragedies by visiting the nation’s hot spots has lost its symbolic worth for at least two reasons.
Symbolic gestures are appreciated only when they are not forced, when they are given willingly, or unexpectedly. For instance, people don’t appreciate birthday gifts from their significant others if the gifts are given only after they are demanded. The value of the gifts isn’t in their monetary worth but in the thought that went into buying and giving them unsolicited. So Buhari’s forced tour of the nation is actually symbolically worthless, but it’s at least better than his accustomed aloofness.
What is worse, though, is that the president is vitiating, even undermining, the whole point of the tour through his indelicate and unpresidential pronouncements in Taraba. The media reported him today to have said that more people have been killed in Taraba than in Benue and Zamfara combined, adding he has a way of gathering his “own information on all the crises and killings in the country.” Exactly what purpose does this insensitive hierarchization of needless and avoidable bloodletting serve? The president was clearly attempting to delegitimize the pains of the people of Benue and Zamfara. Nothing can be more painful than to have one’s pains made light of, especially by a person whose duty it is to mollify you, to comfort you. Even a single death is a tragedy, and the president has sworn to protect all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, or state of origin. So why give more weight to one tragedy than others?
Already, this unwarranted presidential gradation of tragedies has rendered the president vulnerable to charges of ethnic partisanship—and for good reason. In tense moments like this, the president should be a consoler-in-chief. He shouldn’t be seen to be escalating conflicts by playing favorites. I seriously doubt that Nigeria can survive a Buhari second term. The man simply doesn’t have the temperament, emotional maturity, and intellectual preparedness to govern a complex, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious country like Nigeria. Anyone who can’t see this is worse than blind.