By Ikechukwu Amaechi
ON January 29, 2021, Aso Rock once again raised an alarm that some unnamed Nigerians were plotting to wage a campaign of calumny against President Muhammadu Buhari. Femi Adesina, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, said a plan was afoot to portray the president as pandering to ethnic and primordial tendencies contrary to his pledge to belong to all Nigerians.
Sketching out the alleged plot with the sole intent of sullying Buhari’s supposedly sterling repute, Adesina said it entails the release of editorials by media houses alleging, among other things, that the president places members of his ethnic nationality in sensitive positions.
“The campaign, scheduled to be launched any time soon through editorials and purported special investigative stories, is designed to further exacerbate tension in the land, by portraying the President as pandering to ethnic and other primordial tendencies, contrary to his pledge to belong to all Nigerians,” Adesina cried out.
Apart from “alleging subjugation and suppression of a particular religion and ethnic groups,” he added, “part of the planned publication is to make unwary readers believe that the President has continually used the powers of his office to shield and protect an ethnic group against crimes of murder, kidnappings, rape and banditry in the southern, middle belt and some northern states.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his conclusion that the idea was to damage Buhari’s reputation. Why would anybody bother to embark on such a campaign that will only succeed in telling people what they already know? Is it worthwhile preaching to the converted? Who does not know that Buhari is Nigeria’s most unapologetic provincial leader ever? Who does not know that Buhari as president of Nigeria values his relationship with fellow ethnic Fulani from Niger Republic than citizens who happen to be Igbo, for instance?
To be sure, Buhari didn’t become an ethnic irredentist today. What has changed is that he has used his position as president to further enhance the ethnic supremacy agenda he has championed all his life.
When he, as a former head of state, led a delegation of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, chieftains – that included former Lagos State Governor, Buba Marwa, and Aliko Muhammed on October 13, 2000 – to confront the then Governor of Oyo State, Lam Adesina, over the alleged killing of his “people” by the Yoruba, what was that?
Has Buhari ever championed the cause of any other group in Nigeria other than the Fulani? Narrating what happened in that meeting, Lam Adesina’s Chief Press Secretary, Kehinde Olaosebikan, quoted Buhari as telling his host at the Executive Chambers of the Government House, Ibadan thus:
“Your Excellency, our visit here is to discuss with you and your government our displeasure about the incident of clashes between two peoples … the Fulani cattle rearers and merchants are today being harassed, attacked and killed like in Saki. In the month of May, 2000, 68 bodies of Fulani cattle rearers were recovered and buried under the supervision and protection from a team of Mobile Police from Oyo State Command.
“That some arrests were made by Oyo State Police Command in the massacre with their immediate release without court trial. This was said to have been ordered by Oyo State authorities and they were so released to their amazement. The release of the arrested suspects gave the clear impression that the authorities are backing and protecting them to continue the unjust and illegal killings of Fulani cattle rearers ….”
Buhari asked the governor to immediately stop the killings, bring the alleged culprits to book and pay compensation to the Fulani. These allegations were false. But it is instructive that Buhari only bothered because he was fed with a false narrative that his people, the Fulani, were being massacred by the Yoruba.
But now that he is the president and it has become evident that the Fulani, most of them non-citizens, are wreaking havoc across the country, killing and maiming Nigerians, what is he doing? He asked Benue people to be good neighbours. How many people have been brought to justice over the unending carnage in the country? So, Buhari has no reputation on such matters. Nigerians know that. To borrow a legal parlance, res ipsa loquito (the fact speaks for itself). So, if there is no such reputation, what then is there to protect?
Was it not Lord Alfred Thompson Denning, the legendary English lawyer and judge, who famously said in the celebrated case of Benjamin Leonard MacFoy versus the United Africa Company Ltd on November 27, 1961 that: “You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse.” Buhari simply has no peg to hang his assumed nationalistic coattail.
Curiously, last Friday’s false alarm is the second time in a month that the Presidency is crying wolf. On December 23, 2020, the Presidency also raised an alarm over an alleged plan to smear Buhari’s image by portraying him as someone not in charge of the government. Just as he did last Friday, Adesina pointed fingers of blame at unnamed persons who have allegedly procured the services of an equally unnamed online platform to launch a campaign of calumny that would portray Buhari as not being in charge of the country.
Till date, the Presidency did not bother telling Nigerians what happened to the December plot. Was it carried out or the plotters were scared away after their cover was blown? So, why is Buhari crying wolf? It smacks of mischief. Having reached its wits end in disinformation and propaganda, the government is crying wolf to divert attention from something. Sooner than later, Nigerians will know.
But after Adesina’s latest hoax, I remembered the Igbo axiom of the guilty fleeing when no one is pursuing, or as the Bible puts it in Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
Buhari’s false alarm is a metaphor for guilty conscience. If he had taken to heart the time-tested aphorism of his progenitor, Usmanu Dan Fodiyo, that ‘conscience is an open wound, which only truth can heal,’ he wouldn’t have been in this bind.
If he is doing the right thing and living by his Oath of Office – “… in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will …” – there will be no pangs of conscience.
The problem is that the Presidency has mastered the ill-advised art of believing its own lies and Buhari has been corralled into the mendacious loop.
Charge of nepotism
Or, how else can one explain that he actually believes he treats all Nigerians equally, that those accusing him of nepotism are lying? If Buhari has somehow managed to convince himself that the charge of nepotism against him is, indeed, false, then he is a man to be pitied.
But he needs not bother about those who portray him as someone not in charge of the government because I sincerely believe that Buhari is in absolute control. He is in charge, a fact which explains why things have gone dangerously south. Those who blame his aides for all the shenanigans don’t get it.
While Buhari has remained Teflon, his aides have always taken the bullet on his behalf. That was the case with the late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, who took all the flak. A friend who had a very close relationship with Kyari insisted after his death that he was only a victim of blind loyalty.
“If you knew Abba, you will understand what I am talking about. The man just couldn’t do anything against the wishes of his boss even if he feels otherwise. Take this to the bank, he never did anything without the clearance or directive of the president. The man did nothing that Buhari didn’t ask him to do. He never did anything without the president’s say so or approval.”
I didn’t believe him then, but I do now because almost one year after the death of the man who became Nigerians’ bête noire, nothing has changed. Truth be told, nobody is launching any smear campaign to convince Nigerians that Buhari is nepotistic.
It is unnecessary. His base instincts bear eloquent testimony against him every day.
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