OP-ED Opinions 

Nigeria And Its Absentee President By Elias Ozikpu

Buhari was a presidential candidate in 2003, 2007 and 2011 before emerging victorious in 2015. Despite contesting for a period of twelve years before his eventual victory, what is deducible from his growing ineptitude is that he was never prepared to be president. He simply wanted to relish the attention, fanfare and the numerous benefits that accrue to the Office of the President.

During his Chatham House speech  on February 26, 2015, Buhari promised “to lead from the front and by personal example.” But since assuming office, Buhari has been a catastrophe of monumental proportions and has disowned every promise he made to Nigerians.

His attitude in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic lends credence to several assertions that Nigeria is a country without a president. Buhari only spoke for the first time after he had been severely called out for failing to address the situation at a time when presidents of other countries give daily updates on the progress made to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Buhari’s absenteeism has become so embarrassing that it is now universally known that he is an absentee president. Recently, on Twitter, a Ugandan lady published a tweet, telling her fellow Ugandan nationals that:

“I know Ugandans deserves (sic) better. But, our president, Museveni has addressed this nation the 5th time in 2 weeks on the COVID-19 pandemic. You guys needs (sic) to visit Nigerian Twitter. They are looking for their president. He is nowhere to be found. #WhereIsBuhari #BuhariChallenge” 

It was thirty-five days after the first COVID-19 case was reported in the country that Buhari addressed Nigerians! And as he eventually addressed the people, he imposed illegal restrictions of people’s movement without recourse to due process. It is not clear when next he’ll make another appearance or if he’ll ever be available to answer direct questions from the media on this rampaging pandemic.

Also, during the recent explosion of March 15 in Lagos, Buhari only assessed the situation through the photographs supplied to him by the Lagos State Governor. It was as though the explosion occurred in Mars, where he could not visit in person.

No serious country can tolerate such a lacklustre leadership, especially from a man who vie for the office on four occasions, promised to “lead from the front and by personal example” and even cried on national television for losing the office to an opponent.

Since assuming office, however, it has been a reign of ineptitude, corruption, economic depletion, unnecessary accumulation of loans, human rights abuses and gross waste. Any attempt to question his regime’s anti-people policies comes with serious consequences.

Buhari does not understand that leadership at all levels requires selflessness, commitment, passion, communication, empathy, vision, etc.

Nigerians want a leader who understands what it means to lead and is readily available to weather the storm with them. Has it not been said on several occasions that no matter how rough the sea may get, a captain never abandons his ship? On the contrary, Buhari has long abandoned the Nigerian ship, and the ship now sails menacingly towards the Bermuda Triangle.

Elias Ozikpu is an activist and a professional playwright, novelist, essayist and polemicist.

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