Looking Beyond Headlines: An Op-Ed by Magnus Onyibe (F09)


As President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC mark one year in office, the media have been full of screaming headlines in praise or denunciation of the leadership style and its positive or negative impact on the lives of Nigerians. To achieve a more holistic assessment of the new Aso Rock occupant and the new ruling party, we have to look beyond the headlines by focusing more on the trend of events since power changed hands in the presidential seat of power on May 29, 2015.

To borrow the phrase made popular by Mario Cuomo, the former charismatic governor of the state of New York, USA, President Buhari and APC campaigned in poetry and are now governing in prose. Let me explain. Literarily speaking, presidential adviser, Femi Adesina’s piece in the vanguard newspaper of Saturday, May 28, 2016 titled “Beyond the Iron and Steel” where he regaled readers with the humane side of his boss, is one of the many headlines extolling the political and social virtues of the ‘new Sherrif’ in Aso Rock villa.

In all honesty, Adesina’s headline article was rendered in very fine prose, which underlines the title of this article and justifies Mario Cuomo’s popular political mantra ‘campaign in poetry and govern in prose’. The kernel of Mr. Cuomo’s famous quote is that when politicians are on the campaign trail, they are long on promises, but when they take office, they resort to speaking in prose, when they can’t deliver on their promise, as we are currently witnessing.

The truth is that no matter the superlative and fabulous adjectives presidential husbandmen deploy in airbrushing President Buhari, he remains a stern man, who is on a mission to change Nigeria, but too much in a hurry to catch economic thieves, than to fix the broken economy. So, my worry is that he has been a tad inflexible in policy formulation and a bit strenuous in his approach to bringing about the change which he promised.

Although these shortcomings could be excused as vision-related challenges and are therefore amenable to modification in future, after all, he is only one year in office of four years tenure. But President Buhari and his government would only be compelled to conform to democratic tenets, when men and women of goodwill call a spade a spade by continuously reminding him of his failure to meet the expectations of the masses that constitute his core support base.

That’s my raison d’ete for this intervention as a public intellectual as opposed to personal animosity against the president and his team, as some are alleging in some quarters. The truth is that, a dispassionate assessment of Buhari’s first year in office would reveal that there has been tremendous adversity in Nigeria and as the saying goes, not even all the spices in India, can wash that away or cover the odium.

Read the full Op-Ed here

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