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Thoughts On The Presidential Media Chat By Gimba Kakanda

January 1, 2016

President Muhammadu Buhari's first interaction with the nation this Week highlighted the hope of a new Nigeria, as well as the potholes, speed bumps and roadblocks ahead. It's perhaps the most honest ever revelation by a Nigerian president, even as such blunt and frank positions may undermine the efforts and popularity of the government he heads.


I'll leave the praises of Buhari's performance at the chat to his media handlers and their fire-spitting minions, and address a few issues not exactly impressive.

The revelation that our security agencies have no intelligence on the whereabouts of the girls of Chibok is saddening, and perhaps even worse is the statement that the government has no credible means of establishing contact with the leadership of Boko Haram. What have the intelligence units of our various security agencies been up to all these months? This, to say the obvious, is reckless and not something any leader should say without feeling a sense of guilt or embarrassment. So, who have we been fighting all along? Ghosts? We've people like Ahmad Salkida and Barrister Aisha Wakkil around to serve as consultants in contacting this terrorist group and Nigeria still confesses to cluelessness.

The president's seeming disinterest in the Shiite—Army clash is only a leeway to an imaginable disaster. Despite claiming to have no conclusive report on the clash yet, he's already judged the clash and couldn't even mask his disgust at the activities of the sect. His reaction was more of old military elite losing his mind over the audacity of a gang of teenagers to dare confront members of the active military elite class.

The Shiites have already lost on moral grounds, and perhaps only need an unbiased foreign court, through interested human rights organizations, to file a case against the government of Nigeria for the unjustifiably brutal use of force to decimate their erring members. This court may interpret and exact the rule of engagements employed by the militaryand point out the moment their traffic offence degenerated into criminal offence, punishable by such horrible death.

The probability of banning the hijab, if the suicide bombings continue, is just a joke taken too serious. And if we apply a certain logic in understanding this, we may have to argue that perhaps cars used in bomb attacks should also be banned in public places.  If hijab was marked a threat to national security for the fact that it's easy to conceal an object inside it, how is Agbada or Babban Riga any less spacious for hiding explosives? We should ask everyone, including the President himself, to stop wearing Babban Riga to public events. The last I checked, suicide bombing wasn't carried out by the female alone. What our security personnel need, instead, are effective bomb-detecting devices.

President Buhari dismissed the possibility of the Nigeria Police Force investigating a civil case involving members of the Nigeria Army as an abomination, that "it shouldn't be the other way round." That wasn't a joke. He meant it. That was apparently a military officer yet to understand that the system has changed, and that the present arrangement is such that the police are to investigate the Shiite—Army clash.

One confusing puzzle from the chat is a rhetoricby the President. "How can (the Shiites) create a state inside a state?" The question is, at what point did they know that the Shiites had actually created a state inside a state, knowing that investigation into their clash with the Army is yet to be concluded? If the Shiites were actually running a parallel government long before December 12, why was the present Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, romancing with them, despite knowledge of them being enemy of the state, in the course of the campaign season? Or is it that Nasiru el Rufai is a cluless politician? If the Shiites had created a state inside a state, or are running a parallel government, why didn't the President take the decision to declare them as criminal before the clash, and dismantle their organizational cohesion judiciously? This could've saved us the December 12 tragedy.

It's obvious that the President wasn't prepared to answer questions on forex restrictions. His honesty was a buzzkill. Rough roads ahead for Nigerians overseas or likely to have private interactions that involved forex. The president seems to have no clear idea of its impacts on both the economy and social life of Nigerians. He really has to confer with the CBN Governor on the way forward. The position on forex is also a bad news for those wishing to hoard dollars in anticipation of rumoured devaluation of Naira.

The trials of Sambo Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu, in court on charges of corruption and treason, respectively, may be one of the instances the President suspended his adopted political precepts as a reformed democrat. It's clear that the President won't adhere to the rule of law. Even though he claimed that he won't interfere with the outcomes of the judiciary, the positions of the institutions trying Dasuki and Kanu, on bail applications, are already an interference with the judiciary.

Overall, the media chat is a commendable effort and, despite dampening the spirit of some Nigerians, it shows that we are finally free from a regime of mendacity, as witnessed in the years of the Hat-wearing zoologist who, without blinking eyes, and aware Nigerians were watching him, claimed the state of the nation was better; and that power supply had improved. We would be proud of a president who has not claimed to being a know-it-all, and moderate in his endorsement of lies as done on the question of N5000 stipend for the unemployed youth. To which he said, "When my VP was quoted, how can I come here and disown it?" This may be the most honest man we could have for this job. May God save us from us!

Follow Gimba Kakanda on Twitter @gimbakakanda