While his travels have mostly been unremarkable, his trips abroad on the other hand have presented a different picture- they have recorded and become predictable for missteps, misspeaks and damage controls. Rather than accomplish the tasks of burnishing Nigeria’s sagging international image, his international forays have put the country to ridicule, disrepute and discredit. Buhari has managed to characterize Nigeria to the international community as a country of bumbling idiots and thieves, thus engendering lack of confidence in our polity.
Buhari portrayed Nigerians as bumbling idiots for electing an intellectually handicapped octogenarian as President, when after taking part in the 25th assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Johannesburg, barely one month in office, said to Nigerians resident in South Africa, “I wish I became Head of State when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do.”
This unflattering image of Nigeria was further perpetuated, when on his trip to the G7 meeting in Germany, wrongly referred to the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, as “President Michelle” of “West Germany”.
Following his ill-conceived official visit to the US, reports linked to a member of Buhari’s delegation, and the presidency, broke out that the US Government has handed a list which contained the specific names of the Nigerian oil thieves to Buhari. Although this turned out to be bogus, as refuted by the US government, the damage was already done; the false news dominated the media space, eclipsing any positive accomplishments of the visit. It was also during this trip that he in response to a question, on how he intended to deal with issues in the Niger Delta, particularly Amnesty, bunkering and inclusive development, president Buhari said; “…constituencies that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%…”
President Buhari also got the international community scratching its head when during an interview with French television station in France, in response to questions regarding his delay in constituting his executive cabinet, denigrated the globally coveted ministerial roles, saying they are only there to “make a lot of noises.”
At the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting Buhari and his team are again in the news, but again for the wrong reasons.
President Buhari and his UNGA team were conspicuously absent at an event organized on the sidelines of the UNGA to explore aid to millions of people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency across the Lake Chad Basin area. As reported, the U.N. aid Chief, Stephen O’Brien could not hide his disappointment saying that Nigeria, where most people have been displaced by Boko Haram attacks, did not send anyone to the United Nations event. Other international reactions to this blunder came from the U.S. and European Union diplomats who expressed dismay at Nigeria’s absence at the event.
As is in most cases of Buhari’s Snafus, his spin doctors, who have become as much or even more recognizable as he, due to their nonstop wall-to-wall reconstructive spin operations, have proffered predictable laughable explanations for this major blunder. Lost on these spin doctors, is the counsel of a US president, Abraham Lincoln, who said it is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Mr. Femi Adesina, a media aide of the president, in a lackluster effort to justify the lack of presence of not even one of their 22 member delegation at the crucial Boko Haram meeting said “Yesterday’s meeting was a sideline meeting…Not that it was not important…But we were in a more important meeting…The UNGA has several sideline meetings and there is no way a country can attend all the meetings.” Excuse me? We thought Boko Haram was on Buhari’s priority list? For a bunch that disclaimed its campaign document, it is confusing to know what to believe and which direction they are taking the country.
In an equally concerning and discordant note, but consistent with the cluelessness of this administration, another member of the 22 man UNGA delegation, Dr. Kayode Fayemi said “we were not even aware of the side meeting. Boko Haram has been in the forefront of the president’s engagement since we came.”
This incompetent government has resorted to spin as substitute for good governance. Unfortunately, spin has little relevance to, but may in fact be exacerbating or masking the lack of confidence in our polity, by local and international financial institutions.
Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor and Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee, Mr. Godwin Emefiele raised an alarm about the Nigerian economy, when he said, “…the overall macro-economic environment remained fragile. The economy further slowed in the second quarter of the year, making it the second consecutive quarterly less-than-expected performance. The committee noted that growth had come under severe strains arising from declining private and public expenditures.”
In another development significantly impacting our economy, The United States-based lender, JP Morgan, recently said Nigeria will be phased out of its Government Bond Index (GBI) by the end of September due to alleged lack of liquidity and transparency in the nation’s foreign exchange market.
If Buhari and his so called “top notch” appointments, working along the much vaunted civil servants continue to fumble, it may not be too soon to call in the “Noisemakers”.
Edward Oparaoji is a professor of pharmacy and chairman, Nigerian-American Leadership Council, a Washington DC Based thin-tank.