The Upper Crust

Herdsmen: A president without strategy


For some inexplicable reasons, this presidency appears not to have strategists to deal with everyday governance not to talk of emergencies. If there are, who ever make up such a club must be sure mad people. Simply put, if President Muhammadu Buhari envisioned strategists for his presidency, those people are either out of their senses or pathological haters of Buhari. But the challenge now is that the president does not know. I am tempted to say he can’t know. In which sense I’m saying he too may not understand or appreciate the enormity of the crises that have dotted his presidency. Like is well promoted by the opposition, “the president is not aware’’, this is the common retort by friends or fans of the president each time he is questioned on any issue that embarrasses the presidency.

I am a supporter, in fact I am a staunch supporter of the president (if I say so myself. Pardon my immodesty). But every support must be based on certain verifiable principles. I support the president, but there is no way I will support all his actions or inaction throughout his presidency. One of the things he does that get under my skin is his pattern of behaviour which presents him as uncaring, unaffected, indifferent, stoic and passive. There have been so many instances that the president and his presidency just keep quiet. Silence is not a virtue in a presidential democracy. A president must be seen. A president must talk, a president must be heard. We are not running a monarchy where the head of state talks to a select few. We run a democracy where the people are the custodians of the real sovereignty.

What happened in Benue state over the last couple of days has exposed the ineptitude of those whose duty it is to manage the president. These people are also called handlers. They are the same people I call strategists. Nobody knows when crimes are committed but there are two important things involved in fighting crime, one is preventing the commission of the crime through reconnaissance. The other one is arresting and prosecuting criminals after the crime. In between the two, in order to give hope to the people, there must be empathy. The trouble with this presidency is what their reaction or lack of it is whenever an emergency occurs. It is usually until Nigerians begin to call out that the presidency will they begin to be on the defensive. And I do not understand where such public relations model is practiced on this face of the earth.

The strategy team may comprise the political adviser and his staff, the media team, and the chief of staff and his team. Beyond these, personnel could be other persons like Babatunde Fashola, who has been governor of a state where his reaction to events were constantly put under media telescope. And he came out strong. There are other strategists in government right now, like the President of the Senate, who is a tough political gladiator. I expect president Buhari to take advantage of these kind of resources around him to form the nucleus of his strategy team. Even where events are not predicted, as they occur, president must summon this club or team and engage them on how best to react. In the Benue tragedy and other tragedies before it, nothing can be seen as coordinated strategy that will bring about a certain result. Things just happened haphazardly as if to say they have been handed over to God.

Within the first four days of the new year and outside of the North East, mass shootings were recorded in Kaduna, Rivers and Benue states. In their wake were more than 100 lives gone forever. These three states have recorded several such killings in many years before 2018. the deaths were caused by basically the same problems. Herdsmen and cultists/militants. The president did not stand up to draw a line in the sand, especially coming after the end of a challenging year and on the bask of the promise and hope of 2018. In Benue and Rivers, the killings continued after the first one. The presidency did not say a word until people began to complain. Before the Benue massacres was the coordinated killings of herdsmen/Fulanis in Taraba and Adamawa states. No word from the presidency, no outrage from citizens. Of course politicians also took advantage of the situation to advance their cause. Who wouldn’t? They painted the president in terrible tar. But the presidency belatedly issues condolences. He also reminded us how many people were killed under Goodluck Jonathan. What an amateurish public relations job!

Such PR job is better left to the party propaganda machinery if they have any. It is at that level that you exchange banters. The presidency should occupy itself with finding solutions and pointing such solutions to the communities that are grieving. Again, there should be some empathy in this president. Who says presidents don’t visit tragic scenes? This President makes 14 hours journey to New York but can’t make a 45 minutes trip to Rivers? Yet he will get up and go to these places to campaign in 2019. After the anguish in Benue, going to visit to empathise should be a given. Going with soothing words and gifts bears a lot of hope. It will be tragic if at the end of all these, Buhari refuses to visit Benue, Rivers and Kaduna states. The thought of it saps all energy in me.

Who can help change this president? His style is not working. He is too aloof to preside over Nigeria in a democracy. If President Buhari truly fails to commiserate with Benue people in Benue, I will review support for the man I thought will change Nigeria by his personal conduct, sacrifice and charm.


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