President Buhari’s notable achievement at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York was doing a good job of reading out a high-minded speech that contradicted his worldview as if it were a poem from his heart.
His posturing was too convincing for a man that is seldom credited with a talent for playing to the gallery. His powerful audience were so taken in by his dissembling that they instinctively applauded at every juncture where he sounded like the voice of reason admonishing a stubborn world.
Buhari’s well-received speech was not so much an address to the world as it was an unwitting exposure of the asymmetrical hemispheres of his morality. He revealed the two territory-specific consciences he harbored within himself: the default conscience which governs his decision making on the home front and an alternate conscience which inspires his scripted performance on the global stage.
He spoke from his standby, ideal conscience when he offered a humanist commentary on the most serious crises confronting the world today.
He namechecked ISIS, North Korea, and corruption in developing countries. He said the right things. And he used the right tones.
Buhari honed in on the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar. He bemoaned their suffering and apparent statelessness. He said it was a shame that, after the international community had helped facilitate the genocides of Bosnia and Rwanda through fatalistic acquiescence, it was silently watching the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Muslim minority gather momentum.
He also elaborated on the need to advance the peace process in the Middle East. He said it was time to move beyond the rut of diplomacy and take the steps towards a two-state solution. He urged for the dismantling of the blockade of Gaza as a step towards the urgent realization of sovereignty for the Palestinian nation.
Buhari effectively laundered his image by taking sensible positions on the key issues. If speeches alone sufficed to make a moral leader, he would have walked off that stage bigger in stature and significance. Except that he doesn’t live up to the spirit of a noble speech before an exotic assembly: he lives down to expediency.
His affectation of empathy for Rohingya Muslims was a cold, diplomatic exercise in hypocrisy. If he truly held the rights of religious minorities to exist and worship to be valid and sacrosanct everywhere, he would, likewise, believe those rights to be inviolable everywhere...including his very own domain.
However, we know that his affected concern for Myanmar Muslims is at odds with his domestic record. He neither respects nor protects the rights of religious minorities in Nigeria. He countenances the annihilation of people who don’t follow his preferred interpretation of Islam.
The holier-than-thou Buhari who remonstrated with the world about the scorched earth attack on Muslim natives of Rakhine state by the Myanmar military did not scream blue murder when Nigerian troops desecrated Shiites’ shrine in Zaria and proceeded on a three-day killing spree of Shiites in that town.
He pretended to be grieved by the campaign of ethnic cleansing against Myanmar Muslims but he enabled the forced disappearance and kidnap of 600 Nigerian Shiites. What suggested to him that the extermination of the Zaria Shiites which bears his endorsement and fingerprint is a less heinous crime than the genocidal war on Rohingya Muslims? What made him assume that he had the moral right to denounce a state-sponsored atrocious persecution on another continent?
Buhari is on record as promising to “comment" on the Shiite killings once he received the report of the police and Kaduna State government. That’s his first and last remark on that incident. Almost two years after the incident and one year after the state government received the report of an inquiry into the incident, Buhari has yet to follow through on his pledge to "comment." Nor has he taken any action on behalf of the victims of the massacre.
President Buhari has been holding Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, captive since December 2015. After Nigerian soldiers slaughtered El-Zakzaky’s followers, killed his sons, blinded him in one eye, and paraded him on a wheel barrow, Buhari determined that the Shiite cleric can only be allowed the freedom to breathe the air within the four walls of a secret cell.
A court has ruled the cleric’s “immediate” release from ‘protective custody’. But Buhari ignored that verdict because he didn’t like it. He has continued to hold El-Zakzaky hostage in order to subject the Shiite sect to the kind of lethal atrophy that results from the emasculation of the leadership of an organization. He struck the shepherd so that the sheep may scatter.
It’s rich that Buhari went to New York to make a play for the role of defender of the Rohinyga Muslims of Myanmar though he remains adamantly opposed to the rights of the Shiite minority of Nigeria to flourish. He appealed to the world to do right by the Muslims in Myanmar while he remains sworn to depopulate the Shiites of Nigeria. He canvassed for justice for strangers, whereas he denies his own people same; people whose fate are literally in his hands.
Buhari seems to have an appetite for using the UN pulpit to preach what he doesn’t practice. He uses the platform to market himself as a sensitive and responsible leader. A decent human being.
In his outing last year, he made a pitch for the independence of Western Sahara and Palestine. He spoke like a good man. Just that as he was preaching the gospel of self-determination, he had hundreds of pro-Biafra activists packed in various detention facilities across Nigeria for demanding Biafran independence. His cruelty stopped at home; his charity began abroad.
Before departing for this latest United Nations General Assembly, he made sure to unleash troops in the South East for a cynical “Operation Python Dance" whose one mission was to militarily suppress the clamor for self-determination in the region. His minions improved on his militarization. They “officially” criminalized support for Biafran secession and made identification with the cause tantamount to acts of “terrorism.”
Buhari preens himself before appearing before the United Nations General Assembly. He presents himself as a moral hygienist, an angel of light. He dissimulates to the global audience in order to appear better than he really is.
He acts a lie to impress the world. He is not proud to go without a mask. He fears that the world would scorn him if he showed his real face.
But we know him beyond his fleeting annual performance at the United Nations. We know the real Buhari.
He is an insecure relativist. Expediency decides what he condones or condemns.
Not right and wrong.