Of all Nigeria’s presidents, Buhari is the one with a diminutive intellectual stature. His severe intellectual malnourishment is not even a subject of debate; most of his supporters admit that he is not smart. But they taper their admittance with a claim that he makes up for what he lacks in intelligence in having integrity.
It is because of his obvious intellectual disadvantage that his handlers have stopped the routine presidential media chat, and even advise him against attending debates.
I came in full-touch with President Buhari’s vacuity in October 2014, in the heat of the battle for APC presidential ticket. I had gone to his house in Abuja with my boss to interview him. When he emerged from the closed curtains, I saw a warm and charming man. He was a bit shy. I was taken in by his easy and gentle mien. But that was it.
The interview was not so charming. In fact, it was lifeless, unanimated, and disappointing. Besides me not being able to decipher his deeply accented words, his answers to questions were like a penalty kick shot over a goalpost.
I remember, he was asked why he was opposed to the national confab convened by President Jonathan, and he only mumbled hysterically about the composition of the conference. But when asked if he had read the recommendations of the confab and what he would like amended, he said “No?” And then there was a brief silence in the room. Gbagam!
I also remember he was asked about how he would fix the challenge of power, but instead of responding to the question, he regaled us with heroics of the 1980s.
And on how he stopped the maitatsine crisis of the 1980s, President Buhari said he only gave orders, entered Kano; the riots stopped and the leader of the insurrection was captured. How that happened he could not explain.
Other questions on economy and politics were asked, but the president performed poorly, divagating and time-travelling. I knew instantly, that he lacked that stuff. He was so enamoured with past glories that I feared he was still stuck in the 1980s, and needed a “software update”.
Despite the disappointing interview, I took a liking to him. He is a likable person no doubt. But after experiencing two years of debilitating governance under him, it dawned on me that sentiments do not make a good leader.
One must be very objective in choosing a leader – ethnic, religious and personal considerations are immaterial because they are not conditions for good leadership. I could have a president from the south-east, but the roads to my region would still be death-traps.
Nigeria has a rich blend of leaders, who can stir it to success – I see Oby Ezekwesili, Donald Duke and Kingsley Moghalu. Good products are not in short supply here; we only choose what we want to buy.
Fredrick is a media personality.
He can be reached on Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo, Facebook: Fredrick Nwabufo