Opinion

Coronavirus, Lagos Explosion and Buhari’s Silence

By Eric Elezuo

As calls continue to stream in for President Muhammadu Buhari to give hope to the Nigerian people by giving a presidential broadcast as regards two events that have ravaged the country in the last one week, silence has remained the answer.

On February 27, 2020, the country recorded its first positive case of the dreaded Coronavirus virus which has held the world down in the last 90 days, putting the people under real tension for the first time since the disease broke out on December 31, 2019. The virus was brought into the country by an Italian whose identity has remained shrouded in secrecy until yesterday when he was declared negative and fit to reintegrate into the society. And ever since, 12 more positive cases have been recorded; in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti.

Nigerians have therefore chided the President for failing to address the nation like his counterparts across the globe. Presidents of countries like Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe Canada, united Kingdom, United States and others have addressed their nations. But Buhari has kept mum since the outbreak of the pandemic.

As the call continued to reverberate, an incident of great magnitude took place at Soba community, Abule Ado area of Amuwo Odofin, Lagos. A pipeline was supposedly said to have blown up causing great havoc, destroying property and wasting lives. Many described it as as novel as it has never been seen or witnessed before in the history of the nation. One week after, the President has remained silent. Rather, the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has to take the pictures of the incident to Buhari in Abuja to inform and show him.  He did not visit the scene, bringing to remembrance Lai Mohammed’s statement in 2011 thus:

“A President that is not too busy to receive all manners of people in Aso Rock has not deemed it fit to embark on a quick trip to a state as strategic for all Nigerians and the nation’s economy as Lagos, after such a state was hit hard by a natural disaster. Even if the President and his advisers did not understand the symbolism of such visit, they could have taken a cue from what obtains in other climes.”

Lending their voices to the people’s call, the Senate advised the President to as a matter of urgency address the Nigerian nation on the matters on ground, but instead of heeding, the Presidency lashed out at the lawmakers, berating those who called on Buhari to address Nigerians in a television broadcast.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement described such calls as nothing but cheap politics. He saw it as an attack against the ruling All Progressives Congress.

The statement read in part, “We also plead with Nigerians not to see this most peculiar of times as one to be politicised or seen as an opportunity to regurgitate grudges against the government or the ruling All Progressives Congress. North, South, East, and West – all Nigerians must unite to fight this plague, irrespective of religious or ideological affiliation.

“In this regard, populist advocacies such as the one accusing the President of ‘complacency’ simply because he has not made a television address by ranking members of our respected parliament are cheap and sensational. These are not the times for populism and cheap politics.”

Shehu said accolades should rather be given to Buhari for removing N20 from the price of petrol. Imagine the cheek!

President Buhari has had a history of silence in matters of urgent national importance, staying away from the public. It is on record that the only time the president has consistently addressed the nation was during the presidential election campaign. And of course, they were for political gains.

In reality, Buhari’s address will have no effect on the country as not many looked forward to drawled speech full of mispronounced words. But like the Minister of Information will say, he just take a cue from what is obtainable in other climes.

 

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