Opinion

Who does Buhari speak to? By Tony Okoroji

Access Bank

Did you listen to the President’s Independence Day speech? It is a pity that many Nigerians seem to have tuned off on him.

I have said before that I am a sucker for words masterfully put together. I believe that words used the right way can move mountains. They can make men fight like hell in war. The right words can bring peace where strife reigns. The architecture of change is words. The building is action.

I am one of those who believe that Nigerians have had to endure the excruciating pain we are suffering today because we have a president who has very little skills in the use of words.

President Buhari was elected practically, without saying anything to anybody. An avalanche of people like Adams Oshiomhole, Festus Keyamo, Bola Tinubu and co. hugged the microphones at campaign events and spoke for Buhari and made promises on behalf of Buhari. Please check, Buhari personally promised Nigerians very little. With hindsight, Nigerians never really had a chance to measure Buhari.

Masterfully, the minders of Buhari scattered the presidential debates organized by BON during the elections. Across the world, the political debate has become a critical platform for assessing politicians and their abilities, their communication skills, their temperaments, their mastery of the issues and their readiness for the job. That is why nations do not joke with debates and nobody gets elected without a debate. Words matter.

On the debate stage, Buhari would have been on his own. There would have been no Garba Shehu, no Femi Adesina or Lai Mohammed to tell him what to say. There would have been no press release to tell us what he means. We would have heard him unfiltered and left to make up our minds.

If you think that Donald Trump lost the last U.S. presidential election on the day of voting on November 3, 2020, then you were not quite following the events. Joe Biden won the Presidency fair and square on September 29 on the debate stage in Cleveland Ohio.

Words matter. Just imagine how many people have been moved by the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jnr in his ‘I have a dream’ speech. What of the unforgettable ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ speech of John F. Kennedy? Without ‘Yes we can’ would Barack Obama, the young man of Kenyan ancestry, have become President of the most powerful nation on earth?

As a Nigerian, I keep scratching my head in search of the memorable or inspirational words of our President. Of course, the lack of appreciation of the use of words by those who purport to lead us, to paint their picture of tomorrow and to inspire us to dream big dreams, has something to do with the level of our underdevelopment. President Buhari’s inability to lift us up with his words and heal our wounds at this time of distress, is a sore in the heart of many Nigerians. Words do matter.

The President was correct when he said in his broadcast: “The seeds of violence are planted in people’s heads through words. Reckless utterances of a few have led to losses of many innocent lives and destruction of properties” I will plead with the President to honestly look in the mirror and ask whether he is guilty of the offence he is complaining about. Has he used words that have raised the tension and maybe violence in the country?

There are many who believe that the President is almost consumed by the ethnic agitators in the South and appears not to be sufficiently concerned by the gory killing fields in the north. These killing fields have made hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen refugees in their own land. As the President spoke, our air force is said to be bombing parts of our country, a nation technically not at war! Schools are closed in some parts of the north with millions of children at home because nobody can guarantee their safety from bandits. Cell phone networks have been switched off in several parts of the north to deal with what is clearly a horrendous break down of law and order.

Yet in his broadcast, the President mentions just two names form the South. He said, “the recent arrest of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo and the ongoing investigations have revealed certain high-profile financiers behind these individuals” Please Mr. President, who is financing the mayhem in the north? Kanu and Adeyemo are not known to have done anything to create the chaos that is consuming our nation. They are ethnic agitators and there are those who will tell you that it is the actions of the government that have made these hitherto unknown individuals the superstars they have become with huge cult followership, even while in jail.

I am sure everyone remembers that during his first inauguration, President Buhari said these words: ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody’. The words practically caught fire. They were repeated over and over across the country. Those nine words conveyed deep meanings of which a major book could be written. I had hoped thereafter to hear from our President such deep words that can exalt Nigerians and elevate the desire of Nigerians, man and woman, to do the work necessary to uplift our nation.

Why is it important? No general fights a war alone. He must inspire his commanders and foot soldiers to feel what he feels, take on the enemy with gusto and lay down their lives if it becomes necessary. A good army is like an orchestra. All the instruments are in tune and every instrumentalist follows the slightest gesture of the conductor. My gut feeling is that Nigeria is at war but the foot soldiers necessary to win the war are not engaged. Our Commander-in- Chief has not properly articulated the war so Nigerians can fight with him. So, President Buhari and his handful of people are fighting the war alone. I do not know how they are going to win. I know not where it has happened before. No conductor plays a symphony all alone.

Do you recall the Arise News interview of our President? It was very revealing of the mindset of the man who makes life and death decisions on our behalf. Did he calm our nerves, or did he pour more fuel on the fire burning across the nation? Words like “the dot in a circle” matter.

Words and the way they are used matter at every level of leadership, at home, at work, in religion, in politics, everywhere. The greatest salesmen are those who know how to use words. The greatest preachers are those who know how to use words and definitely, the greatest leaders.

I am in anguish wondering whether our President truly understands the power of words.

 

 

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