President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to China eventually turned out to be an auspicious platform for him to air his views on the herdsmen’s terrorism in the country, which he blamed on the shrinking of the Lake Chad. He also accused the Nigerian media of exaggerated and biased reporting of the herdsmen’s terror.
It was quite difficult to fathom how a state visit to China could conveniently be converted to a plea platform to excuse the lapses of the administration in its internal security challenges. Was it just to allay the fears and consternation of the prospective investors being wooed by the country? Or was it an attempt at self justification in the sight of the international community?
Here in Nigeria, the president found it easy and convenient to request Governor Samuel Ortom and his people, in the wake of the horrendous killings in Benue State, to “accommodate your countrymen” even though the herdsmen were not similarly inclined. The herdsmen have been relentlessly bloodthirsty in their landgrabbing campaign in the country despite public outcry. In any case, the president’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, could only offer a terse admonition to those who held sentimental attachments to ancestral lands to choose between those lands and their lives. It would seem that the president has not relinquished his clearly prejudiced persuasion that the terrorists who have been a scourge on the other members of the larger Nigerian community deserve preferential treatment at the expense of the majority of Nigerians.
His position in China was that of a compulsive advocacy for a terror group that has caused massive deaths in the country. It is no wonder then that the Nigerian state has not been able to rein the group in despite the gloating of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). Quite absurdly, the president has, in his narratives on the herdsmen’s terror campaign at various times, proferred shifting hypotheses. At a particular time, he said the herdsmen’s terror was sponsored by opposition politicians who were hell bent on discrediting and destabilising his administration. At another time, he posited that the herdsmen were sponsored mercenaries from Libya. But in China, he blamed their terror on the shrinking Lake Chad.
By now, it ought to be clear to any serious administration what the sources of its challenges and predicaments are without jabbering unnecessarily. The president’s continuous prevarications smack of either insincerity or cowardice or both. The truth is that the safety of life and property as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is inviolable and it devolves on the executive arm of government to ensure that it lives up to its statutory responsibilities without let or hindrance. It would seem that President Buhari is caught in a dilemma between the requirements of his office as the president of a plural society and his loyalty to the interests of his ethnic group.
It is however sad and unfortunate that President Buhari has chosen the media as the whipping boy for the obvious lapses of his administration. Media reports about the killings have not been exaggerated. It is not possible to sustain the charge of biased reporting against the media without proofs. What, for instance, informed the bias? What are the perceived advantages to the supposedly biased media? Could the advantages be pecuniary or political? We think that the president’s grave accusation needs to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Without proof of bias or exaggeration, the president’s accusation against the Nigerian media must be treated like all free assertions that can be freely negated, denied and repudiated. As the president of a democratic Nigeria, Buhari must do better than deliberately courting the enmity of the press knowing full well that such a course of action will lead to no good. Buhari has to learn to speak like the president of a democratic Nigeria and not as the spokesperson for a terror group like he did in China.