By Oladeinde Okawoyin
SATIRE SATURDAY rarely moves out of Lagos but it will be grossly unpatriotic for this column to carry on as though it is unaware of what is happening at the seat of power in Aso Villa.
The part is an extension of the whole and Lagos, ipso facto, is a microcosm of Nigeria. It follows, therefore, that one would barely be able to write of Lagos bus conductors and their ways if Nigeria is unwell or its leadership chooses to be “unaware” of the fact that the nation may be dancing on the brink. And so, this column shifts its gaze away from Ikeja today.
If there is any word that captures the personal philosophy of President Muhammadu Buhari, that word should be “unawareness”. It is still unclear why the President has not communicated same to the National Assembly as part of our fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy.
From May 29 when he assumed power, the president has not hidden the fact that he was not aware of the job of nation-building he chose––some would say he was “conscripted”––to handle.
A fundamental part of effective leadership is to be proactive. While it is near-impossible for the president to be everywhere at the same time, it is expected that he would be in the know given the avalanche of “intelligence” experts at his beck and call. For a nation like Nigeria that is battling the twin problems of insurgency and sporadic killings by bloodthirsty beasts masquerading as “herdsmen”, among other headache-inducing problems, the president cannot just be “unaware”. It becomes more fundamental given the K-leggedness of our governance system which confers immense powers on the president.
The seeming helplessness of the Benue people and their governor––who ironically goes around with the grandiosely empty appellation of “Chief Security Officer” of the state––is a pointer to this fact.
President Muhammadu’s handlers have consistently told us he means well for the nation. But that claims falls flat on its face when juxtaposed against the serial confessions of the president that he is barely aware of important issues of national importance. Pray, how do you prove that you mean well if you don’t even know about key issues and, by extension, how to tackle them?
The president has been accused of serially passing the buck; of always shifting the blame on others. And in the last few quarters, he has not disappointed.
First, when the pension fugitive, AbdulRasheed Maina, was surreptiously reinstated into the federal civil service and PREMIUM TIMES broke the story, it took the presidency days to react to the revelation. Expectedly, the president said he was unaware and quickly ordered the reversal of the decision. If people felt that was the height of presidential unawareness, Mr. Buhari shattered all expectations.
The concern has moved away from the embarrassing to the utterly ridiculous, with the apogee being the appointment of people folks on Twitter Nigeria described as “ancestors” into positions in boards, federal agencies and parastatals. While it could be argued that oversight failure could possibly not be the sole responsibility of Mr. President, it speaks to the overall leadership culture of the Buhari administration.
Just when we felt we had seen it all, the president earlier in the week told the people in Benue that he was, quite expectedly, “unaware” of IGP Idris Ibrahim’s disappearance from Makurdi in the wake of the Benue massacre. It didn’t matter that PREMIUM TIMES had, forty days earlier, published an exclusive report detailing the IGP’s disappearance. Two days later, the president mistook a condolence visit to Yobe for a Grammy Awards welcome party and had a red carpet reception during his visit. In all, he was “unaware”!
As a student of communication, I find the president’s “unawareness” quite intriguing, despite claims by “wailers” that the excuse was far from the truth. If I was still in school, perhaps I would have presented a proposal on the topic “Unaware Pictures and President: A Semiotic Analysis”, because discourse on the “Unaware” picture is one fascinating aspect of Photography and Photojournalism I really love.
Okay, let’s establish some context.
In Photojournalism, the UNAWARE picture is considered the best of shots. A journalism student would earn more grades with an UNAWARE picture than he would with the PR-ish AWARE and the often bland semi-AWARE pictures. It’s almost a no-brainer. Back in the day, I think I had one of my best grades in Photojournalism—Thanks to UNAWARE pictures!
Of course because I have deep emotional attachment with anything and everything ‘UNAWARE’, I love our well-meaning but UNAWARE Mr. President too.
But if I had any reason to work on a thesis that relates with the subject of “Unaware Pictures and President”, my first research question would be less inquisitive: “Is Muhammadu Buhari really aware that he is Nigeria’s president?”
Of course, because of my love for Mr. President, I would resist the temptation to carve out a hypothesis from the RQ.