Bowing to public opinion in virtually all cases translates to bowing to what is right. Like the all too popular saying goes ‘Vox populi Vox dei’ (the voice of the people is the voice of God). Nigerians had grown sick and tired of watching other Presidents not only give regular updates to the press since the coronavirus scourge started but also make themselves available for questions each time they did.
They expected Buhari to lead from the front by reassuring them personally that his administration was doing everything humanly possible to contain the spread of the virus on our soil if at all he was not going to tell them how he planned to utilize the N1trn intervention fund the Central Bank was handing him.Even his rubber stamp Senate was calling on him to speak up.
Buhari was quiet and his fellow country men didn’t look like they would stop banging on his door.Then finally on Sunday 22nd March, his aide on new media, Bashir Ahmad posted a 23 second video of Buhari telling nigerians he was working together with the Ministry of Health to tackle the spread of the virus.He had bowed to the voice of the people but to be quite frank, Buhari couldn’t have displayed a more blatant disregard for not only the Nigerian people but the gravity of the situation his inaction and improvidence has landed them in. Is Bashir Ahmad’s twitter page now the official medium to address 200 million nigerians?. Since when did we matter so little?.
If Buhari was refusing to talk,there were ways of disguising his reluctance like a written statement for example instead of being recorded speaking for 23 seconds with no clear beginning indicating whom he was referring to and no definite end to a video that stopped while he was still talking.
For a man that has failed his people and is the singular reason why we are in this mess,Buhari needs to be remorseful and show us some respect.
Nigerians run to places like China,Italy and the US to treat ailments our hospitals can’t handle. The mere fact that these places were struggling to deal with this disease is the reason why a responsive government would have restricted entry from the coronavirus hot spots after the very first case.We simply can’t afford to have an epidemic here.
If you lock down a nigerian city for a week,there are people the government would have to start making plans to feed because they might have to attack and steal from those with enough food. How can a government that occasionally joins us to lament figures on how many people in Nigeria live in poverty fail to take into consideration what it would do to most nigerians if you tell them to abandon their means of livelihood and stay at home?.What about those in the rural areas?.Are we capable of catering for them just as well as we would those in the cities?.How many medical facilities and medical personnel do we even have in these places?.
Whether due to a ‘disease no dey kill black man’ mentality or out of sheer wickedness,Buhari sat back and did nothing even when an overwhelming number of nigerians were calling on government to ban entry from high risk countries.
A third case was confirmed just hours after the first 2 were testing negative and we were coronavirus-free.The only logical explanation to Buhari’s refusal to fight the world’s biggest health scare with travel restrictions despite most countries having done so was that he wanted to deal with a problem we would rather not have instead of preventing it.
A lot of nigerians were ecstatic when his coronavirus committee eventually announced an entry ban from 13 highest risk countries but when we were told barely an hour later that we had recorded 5 new confirmed cases at once from persons coming in from the UK and the US, you just had to see it what for what it really was-a damage control measure intended to absolve Buhari of blame. People would be too carried away with news of the ban to go hard at him for refusing to shield us from these easily preventable 5 cases; by far the highest we had ever recorded at once.
On a sunday people were waiting to see if the President would at least suspend his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu for not only posting an invite to a gathering of Barewa College old boys a day earlier in flagrant disobedience to the government’s call for such events to be discouraged but also for attending as keynote speaker, Buhari chose the twitter page of his aide on new media to hand us a 23 second bumble on his government doing its best to tackle coronavirus.
It is important no one laughs too hard at the ‘Covik 1 9’ sound bite to forget that the man who made us all sitting ducks to this virus feels throwing a 23 second video through an aide on twitter would pass for an address to the good people of this country. Such disrespect must not be tolerated.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano