By Festus Adedayo
Two political events of last week must have proved very damaging to the candidature of President Muhammadu Buhari. On the reverse, last week was akin to a staker’s boom to the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and ex-Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Of all the criticisms that Buhari had been subjected to on account of his capability, capacity, or lack of, to administer Nigeria beyond 2019, none has had the force of facts and potency of an eyewitness’ narrative as those momentous events. At a town hall meeting projected live by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) during the week, Buhari manifested clearly to the people of Nigeria by unwittingly letting off his guard and showing Nigerians his unmistakable and unambiguous current state of self. That same week, at the ceremonial handing-over of flag to the Delta State gubernatorial candidate of the APC, Great Ogboru, Buhari revealed to those who doubted the fears of his critics about his current state of health and his mental capability to continue to administer Nigeria, that the president’s situation could be far worse than we all imagined.
Abubakar, who carried two fundamental baggage into this presidential contest, had one of them boldly relieved him, again to the consternation of those who had earlier seen him as unworthy to mount the presidential podium. Incidentally, this writer belonged to the latter school. In an earlier piece, I had canvassed the unworthiness of Atiku Abubakar to be the next president of Nigeria on two prongs. The first is the widespread perception of his corruptibility. My argument was and still is, an Abubakar, with such unmitigated stain – either real or imagined – would run a government that is of same hue with Jacob Zuma’s. On the score of a president who might not be allowed entry into the United States, I reasoned that we might be on the way of having as president a Nigerian version of Noriega of Panama, who was arrested and jailed by America for drug trading. With Abubakar in the States and no feather whooshing, in spite of the earlier volcano raised on his indictment in the Jefferson bribery scandal, commentators like us who had earlier denigrated him may have to eat the humble pie.
The details of Buhari’s drama at those functions are in the public domain and as such need not detain the reader further. At both the Abuja and Delta events, we were confronted with the image of a Nigerian president who needed the empathy of all of us, without us playing politics with it at all. So many other issues came into clearer focus. One is that those who had been alleging, since the illness which necessitated the president’s unceremonious medical travel to the United Kingdom in 2017, that an underhand manipulation by a cabal in the administration of Nigeria might not be wrong after all. If Buhari exhibited such absence of synchrony between his body and mind as he was shown at those events, with a vacant mind and inability to process simple messages, how can he process the complex messages of Nigeria? Indeed, how has he been processing issues Nigeriana, myriad, confusing and in need of an utmost presence of mind, such that is the lot of a president of Nigeria? How can such a man who needed to be interpreted to every simple word, comprehend the bills that are sent to him by the National Assembly for assent, for example? It goes without saying that memos worth billions of Naira must have been signed by him without him comprehending what they meant. No wonder all those exhibition of lack of knowledge of very consequential issues that affect Nigeria by the president. Beyond trying to mock a man’s existential battle since all of us have or will battle our own issues of existence as Karl Jasper and other existential philosophers say, the president, at those events, demonstrated a mirthless presence that is beneath the office of the President of Nigeria. It speaks to his earlier demand to excuse himself from the campaign exercise.
It is also apparent that the quest for Buhari to continue in office beyond May isn’t his and if it is, is not in his advantage at all. Those to be held responsible for this infraction are his wife, Aisha, his children and his family members. They should be charged for an attempted murder of an ailing man. While it is human to ail, it is inhuman to spite your ailing body by subjecting it to manifest and unnecessary rigour. It is apparent that the benefits that will be accruable to some inscrutable persons in Buhari staying in office beyond 2019 are the reason why there is a frenetic jostle to keep him in office and the calamity, Nigeria’s. Posterity will never forgive those behind this covert operation. At his advanced age and with the lustering attainments he has made in life, it is obvious that Buhari would go to his grave as a man who has successfully and meritoriously undertaken the voyage of life. Many fell by the waysides. How many of his classmates are alive today? How many of them, if alive, are tending their cattle in idyllic Daura? It is obvious that it is not in the financial and power interest of some persons for Buhari to have his deserved rest and by that, extend his days on earth; they are using him as an object of sustenance of their material wealth acquisitions and retention of their power base.
It reminds me of this age long traditional practice among Yoruba of subjecting their twin kids to the vagaries of alms soliciting. The picture that burrows into my mind is one of the films of renowned film-maker, late Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade Love); Kadara, I guess. As an aside in the film, a woman always went out every morning, backing his twin children with whom she begged for alms, on the pretext of this traditional practice. She employed the services of a drummer who pepped her chants of e ta ibeji l’ore o…(please, gift my twins alms). By evening, they both retired into a corner, counted the alms and shared the money accordingly. Her retort as the drummer proceeded to leave, with the metal fripperies decorating the neck of his drum jangling, fascinates me. She told the man, aa mon r’ode lo o (may we always be blessed in this alms voyage).
I am of the opinion that Buhari is just like those helpless kid twins who is being deployed and commodified by the so-called cabal, for their selfish purposes. He has been reduced to a commodity around which their sustenance is woven and as such, the battle to retain him in office is the battle of their lives.
Yet, but for the fact that Nigeria does not exist in our individual minds, Nigeria should have propelled every Nigerian who watched that NTA event or listened to Buhari’s apparent manifestation of acute dementia in Delta State to resolve collectively, in the interest of Nigeria and in the interest of the long life of Buhari himself, to ask him to go back to Daura. Every minute they foist that man on the presidential seat, they are shrinking his days on earth. Same cabal killed Umaru Yar’dua prematurely. I have read sad and very saddening commentaries on the social media and comments by those who should know, sauced in the brew of politics, ethnicity and religion, urging Buhari to carry on nevertheless. Some even said that, per adventure his effigy is what is retained in office from 2019 to 2023, they bother less. The truth however is, no matter the so-called sparkling performance Buhari has made in the last years of his government, that man the whole world came into contact with last week deserves rest and not governance.
Those who understand the trait say that, from their reading of those interfaces Buhari had last week, he is very likely to be suffering from dementia. They said Buhari’s disconnected look, sudden prolonged silence mid-sentence, the tangential answers to questions that demanded straight-laced answers, are symptoms of dementia. An anonymous respondent on the social media, who said his father, said to be down with Alzheimer’s, manifests virtually all those traits seen in Buhari last week. He raised posers on how Buhari sat with a disconnected look and how, while making his very perfunctory speech, “he pointed to the far left (while mentioning Ogboru’s name) while the man (Ogboru) was standing next to him on his right.” You must have heard of his waffle of calling Ogboru presidential, senatorial and governatorial candidate.
Dementia, from my reading up the illness, is “an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain. There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Some people may have a combination of types of dementia… Symptoms of dementia can include memory problems (having) problems retaining new information. They might get lost in previously familiar places and may struggle with names.” Apparently aware of these embarrassing manifestations, journalists who cover the Presidential Villa are said to have long been screened off the normal and usual process of inviting them to cover visits of guests of the president. The media aides of the president rather cover the events and send the story to the reporters.
In the absence of the presidency’s full disclosure of what ails our president, we may not be wrong to hanker guesses about the true state of his health. The honest truth is, we will all suffer for every action or inaction we take to spite this country. The question I have posed ever since watching those events’ clips is, if that character waffling helplessly at those events were to apply to manage our individual concerns, would we avail him? We are not bothered because Nigeria is a remote construct that does not have any bearing or meaning to us. It does not exist in our minds. And slowly but surely, we are leading this country on the path of doom and apocalypse.