Buhari In The Media: Hypocrisy Of Pen Pushers?


In this season and time, I do understand why truth, or its less amorphous sibling-objectivity, has become casualties in many public discourses of commentaries in the media. This is political campaign season and every party and individual seeks to outsmart the other even by foul means. I can understand if politicians do that. But journalists or columnists who write to inform and educate the people have a duty to be objective no matter what slant they want to give their reports or opinions.

That is why I found Sonala Olumhense’s piece: ‘Mixed Metaphors: Hypocrisy in high places,’ published in Daily Trust of September 16 a most unpleasant anti-Buhari article to be written by a journalist. The piece reeked of hate and political mischief and is nowhere close to what one may call ‘criticism’ or ‘informed opinion.’ It falls unquestionably among commentaries aimed at stopping President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election plan.

First he declared former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, ‘A certificate-forger’ and goes on to say it was an indication of “the weakness of the anti-corruption claims of the government.” Now let’s look at the issues. The Department of State Services, DSS and the Nigerian Senate were supposed to clear all ministerial nominees.  President Muhammadu Buhari did not employ the staff of the DSS, and it is not the job of the DG, which is a political appointment, to do the actual verification, but that of operation staff.   So, what it means is that Buhari inherited an ill-equipped and incompetent DSS. But Olumhense chose to ignore that fact and preferred to blame it on a so-called weakness of the anti-corruption war.

It is curious that the writer also chose to ignore the complicity of the Senate headed by Bukola Saraki, which has worked more in opposition to the ruling party than for it. In more established democracies, the job of ministerial screening is not left to the security agencies alone. It is one of the most important jobs of the senate. But the writer conveniently left out the senate and blames Buhari, what pathetic mischief!

To show that Buhari is the target of the article, he quickly jumps on the president, accusing him of collecting ‘a N45m gift from a shadowy political group,’ referring, of course, to the purchase of presidential nomination form by a youth group-the Nigerian Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN).

The writer called the form purchase as a ‘scam’ because the group ‘made the payment only one day after the formal announcement of dates for the APC primaries.’ He described the president’s action as ‘a shame’, wondering why the ‘president of a democracy would accept a gift of this nature from a dubious and dangerous source.’

It beats the mind that any responsible public commentator, much more a columnist of a respectable newspaper, would use such derogatory and judgmental terms to describe legitimate civil actions of fellow citizens. He condemned innocent citizens as criminals without providing any shred of evidence! It could be acceptable to slant information, news or opinion. But it is unacceptable in journalistic practice to twist or ignore facts.

The NCAN is made up of Nigerian youths who on their own raised funds to purchase the presidential nomination form for the man they believe are the right person to lead their country at this time. They are also not a shadowy group because Nigerians saw their faces on television, and no media has reported yet that any one of them is on the wanted list of EFCC or ICPC either now or in the past.

In any case, if the president’s action was undesirable, why are the presidential aspirants of the main opposition party-the PDP, also getting groups buy nomination forms for them? The answer is they all want to appear as being loved by the people the way president Buhari is loved.

Nigerians contributed money for the president’s campaign in 2015, but we’re yet to hear or read any report alleging the president used his office to unduly favour anyone.

The writer also made a factual error when he claims that in 2003, “it was revealed the Anambra State governor had rigged the governorship election.  That gentleman is the current Minister for Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and the governorship election had been paid for by his political godfather, Chief Andy Uba!”

If the writer cares about facts, then let me educate him about what happened in 2003 in Anambra State. I was the bureau chief of the Punch newspaper in Enugu at the time and I was the one who reported the story for the Punch. It wasn’t Ngige who rigged the election or claimed the election was rigged. It was Chris Uba (not Andy Uba) who claimed he rigged the election in favour of Ngige when he was fighting to remove him (Ngige) as governor because he didn’t do the bidding of the political god-fathers. Uba made the claim to ridicule and undermine Ngige.

The piece also described the appointment of Yusuf Bichi as DG DSS as an appointment “for a corrupt power cabal” because it did not, to him, showed the president cared about federal character. First the writer deliberately failed to acknowledge that the DG DSS is a political appointee, and that the president could choose anyone he likes so long such person is qualified.

He also mischievously described the appointment of Bichi as a “rebuke” of the Vice President who appointed Mathew Seiyefa. Pray, in what way does it represent a repudiation of the VP? Seiyefa was only appointed in acting capacity-meaning he may or may not be confirmed as substantive DG.

Moreover, the entire cry about the appointment reflecting Buhari’s tribal politics is only based on sentiments and the existing narrative of marginalization by some interest groups in the country. If Buhari is guilty of sectional politics with the appointment of Bichi, then all previous presidents are as guilty. You only need to look back at the people who occupied the position under previous administrations and you will see they are all nepotist in that regard.

When Olusegun Obasanjo was president, the DG DSS was his brother Kayode Are. Umaru Yar’Adua appointed Afakriya Gadzama from the North as his DG while Goodluck Jonathan appointed Ita Ekpeyong.

I am not justifying such appointments, but only saying there is no reason to demonize Buhari over the issue and on similar appointments.

Olumhense is also piqued because the APC announced VP Osinbajo will represent Buhari at proposed presidential debates in the 2019 elections. What would the writer have said if the APC had stated it presidential candidate would not participate in any debate? It is no doubt desirable if Buhari makes himself available for any debate at all. But this is a man seeking re-election, not presenting himself for the first time.

Nigerians would have the opportunity to hear from him during the campaign and make up their minds on his suitability or otherwise. If the president is unpopular as the writer seems to suggest, what would scare him more is the campaign run, and not a debate on television.

In the true spirit of political hatchet which the piece represents, the writer throws in the sales line: “Buyer beware: If you advocate or vote Buhari, you write your own epitaph: “Here lies the fool who closed his eyes and sold his soul.” Need I say more?


Idara wrote this piece from Lagos.