The spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Ikenga Ugochinyere, said in a statement last weekend that President Muhammadu Buhari needs to undergo a mental health check over claims made by his wife that his government has been hijacked. Somewhere in his statement, Ugochinyere asked an important question.
“How could a President not speak to any Nigerian media house or journalist for over three years? How could a President hold his entire country’s media and citizens in such disdain that he speaks to them only through a crowd of spokespersons many of who have questionable characters and mostly dish out fake news to citizens?” he said.
How did Buhari get away with this? That is the questions Nigerians need to ask of themselves with the elections around the corner. In the buildup to the last elections, President Buhari flatly refused to attend a presidential debate. He was the challenger in that election, but the appetite for change was so strong that he was certain he could get away with it, and he did. Lots of excuses were made on his behalf, as the beleaguered Jonathan administration was lambasted.
So Buhari went into Aso Rock with an air of invisibility. Since May 2015, the president has sat down for a presidential media briefing just once, in December 2015. That’s three years ago. No other president has stayed away this long from speaking to the press. Even the late President Yaradua responded to journalists more times than Buhari has done, and Yaradua did not get to complete his first term. Every now and then, while on his foreign trips, the president speaks to a foreign reporter, but the Nigerian press and the Nigerian people are left to contend with statements from Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesmen.
Why this question matters: Because another presidential debate comes up in a couple of weeks. If his antecedent is anything to go by, then the president would be looking to skip this one too. That is not something Nigerians should tolerate.