Buhari’s lamentation in Owerri

President Muhammadu Buhari was the guest of Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State recently. He was not the guest of the majority of Imo people because they reportedly deserted the streets. It is as recent as Tuesday, 13 September, 2022. He was there to inaugurate projects in Orlu and in Owerri, the state capital. Afterwards, the president addressed the people of the state. He told the people and by extension, the nation and the world that his administration had done creditably well given the resources available to it. A lot of people on Twitter said they believed that Tuesday’s speech of the president while in Owerri was about the most sincere and heartfelt address President Buhari might have given since becoming Nigeria’s leader in 2015. Their stand was that it was unlike the previous coarse speeches that they found confusing the nation and which needed further explanations. I think our president is improving fast and has begun to do really very well in that regard.

Part of the takeaways from the Owerri visit by the president was his lamentation that the trumpet of his administration had been abandoned. Those whose duty it is to be blowing the trumpet to constantly alert us of of the excellent performance of our dear president, have quietened the instrument. They have rested the trumpet and we are all wondering who these people are. How could they be so audacious and disobedient!

President Buhari said that his administration has done “extremely well.” Note that he did not micro-place the performance of the administration. He summed up the totality of his governance and gave the verdict. He did not mince words in awarding himself an excellent grade in his handling of the country in the past seven or so years. However, he said he wondered why those saddled with the responsibility of saying that the Buhari administration has done extremely well were not doing that. So, he had to personally take this important responsibility of telling all who are blind to see and deaf to hear. He has thus added the job of being his own government’s kakaaki to that humongous (and onerous) task of leading Nigeria to our current Eldorado. And this is no tooth-picking business!

The president said: “In terms of time and resources, this administration has done extremely well. I have to say it because those who are supposed to say are not saying it. I don’t know why.” The president’s hype men have “killed their drums” and silenced and rested their megaphones. The president said he doesn’t know why this is so. It’s indeed a thing to ponder – why has our King’s hype men gone quiet? Our president’s bards have gone to sleep way too early, the president has lamented.

Kings’ hype men are the bards. They are naturally well honed and tenacious in their craft. They have sweet tongues, the best of instruments and compelling poetry. In parts of Yorubaland, they are called ‘the one with the voice of salt’. Their job is to rouse and they do it admirably. Hype men simply employ their complicated craft to stoke the king and also do the opposite. They know those things they would tell the monarch to make him feel good and on top of the world. Their job is varied but is mainly to massage the ego of their master. In the Africa of yore, they existed as palace poets and entertainers. They were also in Akan, Zulu, Songhai, Mali and others. The Ikoyi have some of the most beautiful panegyrics, and bards know this. Even a German heavy metal band, Edguy sang in “Wake up the king”: “How many times have you found yourself under the influence? Now it’s time to stand up, tear down your inner door. The birth of yourself can’t wait anymore.” Indeed, we all love to be hyped. We all love to be massaged. We all want our feeling assuaged. One way or the other, we all want these sometimes. Who does it for us and why might differ.

President Buhari had expected that the people of Imo State would line the streets of Owerri and Orlu to receive him and to sing his praises for doing extremely well. The people did not troop out with flags because they also did not know why they should do that. They are also victims like the president, because those who were supposed to tell them did not do their job. The people too did not know, or is that not what the president complained about?

Others might have thought differently though. There are still people who do not agree with President Buhari that his administration has done “extremely well”. An instance of this is found in an article entitled ‘Legitimate Struggles: Why Nigeria needs a grand strategy’ by Fola Aina, a political scientist and doctoral fellow at the African Leadership Centre, King’s College, London, published by The Africa Report magazine. Aina held in the opinion article that Nigeria has, again been crowned as “the poverty capital of the world.” The Africa Report tweeted on September 12, 2022, the day before President Buhari landed in Owerri thus: “According to the World Bank, Nigeria now has the highest rate of multidimensional poverty in the world, attracting the label of “poverty capital of the world.” That is on the economic front. There are others who would look in the direction of infrastructure. Some would lampoon the oil theft that has further incapacitated our one-legged economy and so on.

While the president was in Imo, Catholic bishops were also there for their plenary. They made a number of observations on the nation under President Buhari. One of their observations is this: “Owing to mismanagement and a failing economy with an ever increasing debt burden, there is poverty and hunger in our land, in spite of our huge human and natural resources. Spiralling inflation, high costs of goods and services, soaring unemployment, crude oil theft and non-functioning refineries have inflicted untold hardship on the citizens. Furthermore, governments have resorted to unnecessary borrowing, jeopardising the well-being of the present and future generations.” The clerics, in addition said: “We continue to decry the worsening state of insecurity in our nation as well as activities of terrorists and insurgents, kidnappers and bandits. Armed robbery and cybercrimes have continued unabated. Attacks on travellers and worshippers in churches and other places of worship have become too frequent. An instance is the recent mass shooting and bombing attacks on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, on Pentecost Sunday, 5 June 2022, in which 41 worshippers were killed and 70 grievously injured.”

These are not positive reports on a government that has performed “excellently well”. Such reactions from the public might be among the reasons the trumpeters of the government’s ‘excellent performance’ have rested their trumpets and abandoned their drums. They have obeyed the off your mic rule.

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