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Opinions of Thursday, 6 May 2021

Columnist: Ojo Maduekwe

Buhari’s actions, not media reports, fuelling hate, insecurity in Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari President Muhammadu Buhari

The circus presidency that is President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration reeks of hypocrisy and propaganda. At every turn, the administration through Buhari’s spokespersons tries to sell us the idea of a working president interested in Nigeria’s progress. In his poor attempts at self-praise, Buhari keeps blaming everyone but himself for the country’s troubles.

A few days ago, in a statement by his spokesman Femi Adesina, to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day, Buhari told those in the media to be mindful of inflammatory “words and actions” that could “further hurt our unity in diversity.” The statement asked that they be sensitive to what Nigeria was currently going through, urging them to avoid anything that will “exacerbate the situation and further inflame passions and emotions.”

Normally this statement would have been taken seriously, however, coming from Nigeria’s ‘Divider-in-Chief’, most Nigerians will find it rather amusing. More than any President, Buhari has hurt Nigeria’s unity, been insensitive to our plight, and done things to worsen them. The resultant effect of his actions has been inflamed passions and emotions.

People’s Gazette has reported extensively on Buhari’s nepotism, including his recent divisive plot to deny Moses Jitoboh, a southern Christian, the position of police inspector-general in violation of the federal law he signed in September 2020. The State Security Service (SSS) under Mr Buhari also conducted a recruitment drive of predominantly northern candidates into the domestic intelligence outfit.

Since his first tenure in 2015, Buhari has shown an unwillingness to unite the country. Instead, he divided Nigeria into those who voted for him and those who did not. Everyone remembers his statement of 97 per cent versus five per cent at the U.S. Institute of Peace. After that, he divided us into ethnoreligious groups, favouring the Fulani and northern Muslims above other ethnic groups and Christians.

Take a look at his appointments into the police, immigration, customs, SSS, NIA, civil defence, and boards of federal government ministries and agencies. Buhari has shown a high disregard for Nigeria’s diversity. Not the media. In doing so, he’s also abused the law. When the people marginalised by his actions have asked that he rescinds these lopsided and illegal appointments, Buhari has always turned a deaf ear, insensitive to their feelings.

These well-documented acts of nepotism by Buhari are what have brought Nigeria to its current state of chaos. The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) was right to blame the President’s nepotism for the insecurity ravaging the country. According to the group, every time competent Nigerians are overlooked to make way for persons of the same tribe and religion as the President, Nigeria becomes more and more insecure.

“Action speaks louder than words” is an age-long expression. No amount of words published by the media can be more inflammatory than Buhari’s nepotistic policies of always favouring the Fulani and northern Muslims over other ethnic groups and religions in Nigeria.

He can blame the media all he likes, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s the reason why Nigeria is in turmoil. Haven lost all shred of integrity falsely ascribed to him by his media handlers before the 2015 election, Buhari is in no position to pontificate. The self-styled “converted democrat” will for millions of voters remain Nigeria’s mistake-president.

For a man who claims to want greater cooperation with the media, under his watch, we’ve seen how scores of journalists and government critics have either been arrested, illegally detained, abducted, or sometimes murdered by security officers.

Recent oppression of the media by his administration was catalogued by the United States in its 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Nigeria. In the year under review, the report noted how “numerous journalists were killed, detained, abducted, or arrested.”

An example is Onifade Pelumi, an intern reporter for Gboah TV who was arrested on October 24 by the police, as he conducted interviews in a crowd gathered outside a food warehouse in Agege. After two weeks of searching, his family later found his body in a morgue.

Alex Ogbu, a reporter for RegentAfrica Times, killed in a crossfire while covering an IMN protest in Abuja on January 21. Grace Abdu, a Voice of America Hausa-service reporter was on November 28 assaulted and detained by soldiers in Rivers for interviewing residents of Oyigbo community on allegations that the army extrajudicially killed members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), as well as killed or indiscriminately arrested civilians during a crackdown against IPOB. Lucky for her she was released that afternoon.

In February, Samuel Ogundipe, then a reporter for Premium Times was said to have gone into hiding after receiving “numerous threatening telephone calls, having his email hacked, and being told to stop his reporting of how relations between the country’s national security adviser, the army chief of staff, and the chief of staff for the presidency were strained.”

Not just journalists, regularly the Buhari government clamps down on television and radio stations. In August 2020 the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) citing violations of amendments to the sixth edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code, fined Nigeria Info 99.3 FM for comments by the former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Mailafia, alleging that a northern governor was a sponsor of Boko Haram.

During the monumental #EndSARS protests in October of the same year, NBC also sanctioned television stations such as Africa Independent Television (AIT), Channels TV, and Arise News. According to the regulator, the affected TV station’s reportage of the nationwide #EndSARS protests relied on unverifiable video footage from social media handles.

Buhari’s nepotism is the reason for the rise in secessionist voices. Under his watch, the Yoruba and Igbo, two of the three major ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria are clamouring for a country of their own. Middle Belt states in the north want to pull out from the region, while the Christians there remain endangered and politically and economically marginalised.

Nepotism, insensitivity to Nigerians plights, illegal appointments, random arrests, illegal detention, abduction, and murder of critics by state security officers. This is Buhari’s trademark, his legacy. Not the media.

All these are actions that speak louder than any news or article that can ever be published by the media. As a matter of fact, whatever the media have published has always been a response to Buhari’s actions. Blackmailing people who daily risk their lives to shine a light on his failures and incompetence cannot change the narrative.

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