Bukola Saraki, the enormously corrupt and filthy rogue who rose to the position of Nigeria’s number three citizen after robbing a bank and a state blind, managed to summon enough human feeling to beat President Buhari to a reaction to the recent massacre committed by Fulani herdsmen in Enugu. Bukola Saraki expressed sadness over the Enugu tragedy and urged expedited action on the escalating terrorism of Fulani herdsmen.
Here is a portrait of Saraki. He is facing a mountain of corruption charges. His undivided attention is now focused on a vast architecture of bribery as he moves insane amounts of money through the system to bribe the judiciary, the media, and every bribeable Nigerian in the vain hope of scuttling his trial and retaining his seat as Senate President.
A crook this busy should not be more alive to the duties, obligations, and responsibilities of the Nigerian president than the Nigerian president but, alas, it has happened. Even if Saraki’s reaction to Enugu is more of political expediency – anything that could cast him in a positive light helps in his desperate circumstances – than genuine concern for the dead and their families, he sha did it.
The Presidency did not stop at dereliction of duty. It would be very un-Nigerian if power stopped at dereliction of duty in terms of her relationship with the Nigerian people. There is always that little jara insult that power is ever in a hurry to administer to the people; that added humiliation that must be inflicted on the sensibilities of the people. Power is never content in Nigeria when she has not added insult to injury.
Thus, the Presidency eventually reacted to Enugu via Lai Mohammed who tucked in the President’s statement as an aside during the book launch ofSenator Ike Ekweremadu! Ogbeni Ekweremadu’s book is entitled, “Who will Love my Country: Ideas for Building the Nigeria of our Dream.’’ Every day, somebody in the political class wakes up and decides to compete with Basketmouth and I Go Dye in the comedy business. Ekweremadu has ideas for building Nigeria? After how many useless years of being part of the problem by gorging on immoral and amoral allowances in an indolent Senate? Ekweremadu has ideas? Hehehehehehe. Walahi talahi, there is nothing that Pius Adesanmi’s eyes will not see in the hands of Nigerian politicians.
And it is the launching of this book that the Nigerian presidency has elevated over other urgent matters of state, including Nigerian lives. Let’s be clear: the only reason a statement was released about Enugu boils down to the fact that they had no way of launching a book with the glitz of a Presidential address without first acknowledging Enugu. Issuing a belated presidential statement on the tragedy of Enugu was a distant hurdle that had to be scaled to clear the path for the jamboree of a book launch.
I thought about the callousness of making the statement on Enugu an aside during a book launch and winced. The Presidency and the National Assembly are lucky that they have and deserve each other. Otherwise, the handling of the idea of the sanctity of Nigerian lives by the President is an impeachable offence. All his predecessors have been guilty of this offence – Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan. Calculated indifference to the lives of ordinary Nigerians is chapter one in the instruction manual of the Nigerian Presidency. President Buhari was supposed to be the one who changed course but he has apparently decided not to rock the boat.
When a taciturn President jams an information manager like Femi Adesina who pompously believes that talking to the people is a favour that the Presidency must dish out with considerable parsimony, it is a recipe for tragedy. I have said it once and it bears repeating: if President Buhari does not kill Femi Adesina, Femi Adesina will kill President Buhari.
Some have suggested on social media that we need to borrow a leaf from the American White House where there are regular press briefings by the President’s spokesman. Great idea but we have a greater psychological war to wage before we arrive at those specifics. The psychology of power in Nigeria, so eminently personified by Femi Adesina and President Buhari today, believes that every mechanism of relating and communicating with the people is a favour done for them, a privilege granted unto the people.
The war against this mentality, against this atrocious psychology of power in Nigeria, must be waged before we settle down to agree on how many times the President needs to address us. No matter how many times the President addresses you, if it is packaged as favour and privilege, it will always be an insult. Your dignity will always be trampled upon first. The war must start with this Presidency so it doesn’t get carried over to the next: Femi Adesina’s coconut head must be cracked so that he will come to understand that when President Buhari communicates with his employers, the Nigerian people, it is his duty, it is his responsibility. He is not doing us a favour.
The President also obviously needs help in the department of optics. Because his presidency persists in not seeing how certain things look; because his presidency has been consistent in displaying unbelievable infantilism in terms of their understanding of the importance of perception, it is necessary to show them how the narrative of the Fulani herdsmen looks to people who are not within their bubble of filtered reality.
If you have a way of getting past Femi Adesina’s filter to the President, tell him that the prevailing perception is that he is indifferent to the terrorism of the Fulani herdsmen because they are his kinsmen. Tell him that in the realms of perception, it doesn’t really matter whether this is true or not. That is why we call it perception. Tell him that he is feeding this perception by constantly threatening the Creek boys who are vandalizing pipelines and instantly threatening IPOB for even non-violent protests while maintaining stoic silence bordering on callousness as Fulani herdsmen unleash terrorism all over the country.
If you have the ears of the President, tell him that we know that some people are deceiving him that the Fulani herdsmen wahala precedes him. Such people have been telling him that this issue was there under Jonathan and that people are only bloviating now to smear him. Tell him that the coconut headed idiots telling him these things do not mean well for him and for Nigeria. For starters, that it happened under Jonathan is no justification for anything. Secondly, the Fulani herdsmen now seem to have acquired a new sense of boldness and impunity because they understand that nothing will happen to them under their kinsman. After all, the police and the DSS only have balls when they are dealing with IPOB and the Creek boys. When it comes to the Fulani herdsmen, their balls and scrotum disappear altogether.
Tell the President that these are the predominant perceptions that he is fueling with his attitude. Warn him that perceptions, whether true or not, have consequences. And the only foreseeable consequence of the prevailing perceptions of his handling of this matter is the doom of his Presidency. He will not have the excuse of saying: why didn’t anybody tell me.
Magana ya kare.
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Pius Adesanmi is the director of Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies, Ottawa, Canada. In 2010, he was awarded the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing. A widely-cited commentator on Nigerian and African affairs, he has lectured in African, European, and North American universities, and also regularly addresses non-academic audiences across Africa.