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How Lockdown Has Kept Buhari For Us



By Emmanuel Aziken

It has yet to be confirmed whether the three months President Muhammadu Buhari has stayed in the country without travelling out is his longest stretch with us since his election as president.

If it is not, then it is certainly about the longest stretch that our president has stayed around since his first inauguration in May 2015.

Well, given his reputed Spartan inclinations, President Buhari will certainly not be accused of frolicking abroad. Even if he had been criticized for travelling for meetings and engagements he ordinarily should not have gone for, no one has, however, raised a miff of scandal around his foreign trips.

His mother is not alive for him to throw a birthday bash for her in Dubai just as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila did last March in loving appreciation of the tender love shown him by his adorable mother.

So if the president and Nigeria’s elites have stayed with us this while essentially because of the global lockdown brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, then the malaise offers an opportunity to pluck other low hanging fruits that the country could gain from the pandemic.

Of course the first fruit is the savings that have come from the lack of junketing that our public officers are used to. Even governors who presided over their states from Abuja have been forced to relocate.

Unfortunately, the social distancing protocol for surviving the COVID-19 pandemic may have impeded the country from benefiting from the president reaching out and relating more with people.

It would have been suggested that he uses the opportunity of being around to travel and familarise himself with the different areas of the country. He would by that relate, and make friends beyond his tribe and tongue that critics have much savaged him for.

If it is not, then it is certainly about the longest stretch that our president has stayed around since his first inauguration in May 2015.

But expectations for that were dimmed last Monday after hopes of the president even talking to the citizenry on the next stage of the gradual lift of the lockdown were trashed by his Special Adviser on Media, Chief Femi Adesina.

Whether it is out of shyness or for what, President Buhari has turned out to be very coy on the issue of relating with those he leads.

It is at times like this that leaders show presence in word and action by leading from the front.

Against the background of his relative lack of visibility during the pandemic, the expected presidential address would have gone a long way in showing empathy and connecting the Buhari in the palace to the ‘pandemic panicked populace.’

The pandemic and the arising lockout of the Nigerian elite from their playing fields abroad may have resulted in the good fortune of facilities which ordinarily would not have been of consideration in the eyes of our leaders.

The rush to build new hospitals and even the provision of free treatment for COVID-19 patients, both rich and poor, has underlined one basic fact; to wit that Nigeria has the resources and ability to run a good government only if the leaders are sincere.

Indeed, had this pandemic not ensued, the health infrastructure would have continued to receive the neglect that once won them the notorious appellation of mere consulting clinics at Buhari’s first advent in 1984.

Now barred from travelling abroad, the elite has seen that it is to its interest that it provides for the well being of the poor in the land. The theory is that even if the elite keep themselves away from the virus, they still have to interact with their drivers and others in the lower rung of the social divide who can pass on coronavirus to them. So, the desperation of the elite to see to the end of the pandemic is understandable.

Still on solutions to lasting problems, one of the major submissions towards revitalizing the country that this correspondent heard this week was the proposal to ban generators in the Presidential Villa and all government offices.

The purveyors of that proposal submit that doing that would automatically compel the authorities to find a solution to the nation’s epileptic power situation in the way that they are now desperate to ensure the wellbeing of all in the quarantine centers across the country.

Indeed, the amount of money spent on fueling and serving generators runs into a significant proportion of the Federal Government budget.

It may look inconvenient for the president, for example, to suffer the same distress that millions of Nigerians really suffer on account of power failure, but that would, in the end, bring him and every other Nigerian to the same shared experience that would enable him to shape and direct government policy to the benefit of all.

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