Still on Buhari’s Al Jazeera outing, by Ikechukwu Amaechi

Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

I am sure that when his aides bring to his attention the monthly performance survey carried out by Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN), which showed that his job approval rating slipped for the first time last month, President Muhammadu Buhari will most likely shrug it off.

He does not care about public opinion.That is scary. The most dangerous leader is that man or woman who does not care about public perception, who does not give a damn about what the people think.

This is a very dangerous curve for the country. The monthly poll, which tracks the performance of governments at all levels in Nigeria, indicated that for the first time since December 2015, more Nigerians score the president low on jobs, economy, power and rule of law. The most interesting outcome is that many Nigerians now blame Buhari for the country’s woes rather than, Jonathan.

According to the poll, more Nigerians now hold him responsible for the terrible state of the economy just as many have been convinced that he may not have the capacity, to do the job he sought for 12 years.

Of course, the Buhari apologists, just like their principal, will dismiss the poll result as the machination of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the wailing wailers.

But to dismiss this poll result with a wave of the hand is to live in illusion. If  there is any surprise at all, it is that there is still an odd 32.8 per cent of Nigerians who still believe in the capacity of Buhari  to deliver on his mandate.

For some of us who voted for Buhari, disappointment is an understatement. It was not as if we were not warned.

But watching Buhari’s interview on Al Jazeera, while in Qatar, he confirmed the worst fears of most Nigeriansthat he remains a man with no finesse, rigid, undiplomatic, uncaring, vindictive and egoistic.

I found his response to three critical issues particularly distasteful and pathetic. Asked by Martine Dennis why he should continue to fund the education of his children in foreign schools while restricting foreign exchange (forex) for families with children in schools abroad, Buhari acknowledges its “tough luck.”

“Those who can afford it can still afford it. Nigeria can’t afford to allocate forex for all those who have decided to train their children outside the country,” was his response.

When Dennis asked him whether Nigeria will join the Saudi Arabia led Islamic Coalition Force Against Terrorism, he answered in the affirmative. Of course, his answer contradicted what his aides told Nigerians on the same issue. But that is not even the issue. What he said when he was told that his decision may have been insensitive to the desire of Christians that make up 50 percent of Nigeria’s population and may not be comfortable with such a move was rather instructive.

Referring to such Christians as religious bigots, Buhari retorted with undisguised venom and malice: “Why can’t those Christians complaining go and fight terrorism in Nigeria or fight the militants in the South? It’s Nigeria that matters not opinions of some religious bigots…” But that is the case of the axiomatic kettle calling the pot black.

On the killing of Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) peaceful protesters by Nigeria’s armed forces, acting ostensibly on orders from above, the president refused to watch the video when offered. The interviewer shouldn’t have bordered.

Told that the security forces have been very heavy-handed in dealing with the peaceful protesters, Buhari could hardly hide his bitterness. His response was virulent. The protesters were “interfering with movement of troops and the economy,” he alleged without any shred of evidence that IPOB members were “joking with Nigeria’s security and Nigeria will not tolerate it.”

Then the ultimate question. “Why don’t you invite them for talks?” His response couldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who knows the president’s mindset particularly when dealing with the Igbo. “Why should we invite them?”

Rather than inviting them for dialogue, Buhari will not blink an eye if the boys are massacred in cold blood. Here is a president who has said that he was ready to dialogue with Boko Haram if their authentic leaders could step forward. That was the president at his narcissistic best. It was prejudice at its worst.

At the end of the interview, the interviewer chuckled, almost sneering. I could imagine her saying “tough luck to Nigerians,” because it was almost incomprehensible that the president of a country could harbour such contempt, hatred, and loathing for the people he governs.

That interview has done irreparable damage to the Buhari presidency. The interview exposed him as a religious bigot, a leader ruled by prejudice, a president who is not prepared to take responsibility for self-inflicted faux passes of his government. Buhari may well be advised that prejudice is not a presidential virtue.

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