Yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari made a brief virtual resurgence from his administrative hiatus, by way of an audio recording. The benevolent message on the recording was made out to Muslims in the country celebrating Eid-el-Fitr. But not everyone – if anyone – is pleased with the language in which it was conveyed. That the message was produced from somewhere in London, is another matter.
In the recording, President Buhari’s voice is heard addressing the country in Hausa. A problematic gesture in the sense that, while being a prominent Nigerian language, Hausa is still only spoken by around 30 percent of Nigeria’s population. This fact subsequently underscores two more social issues with the president’s address – one being that the Head of State might be subconsciously ethnically-motivated in his affairs, and the other being the blatant sidelining of other Muslims who are not from the Hausa-speaking parts of Nigeria.
Thus far, high-profile Nigerians including former presidential aide, Pastor Reno Omokri, as well as members of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo group have aired their opinions. Their responses characterise yet another round of criticism of the president’s leadership, with the latter party claiming the president has descended to the level of a ‘Banana Republic’, and the former calling his action divisive and likening him to Biafran spokesman, Nnamdi Kanu. Also, the Afenifere group labelled the message “flat” and having no impact on the ongoing ethnic rift in the country.
In addition to the fact that the virtual presidential address has currently heightened emotions in the country, it intensifies speculations about the state of his health. Various reports have it that the president is highly indisposed, and so the audio recording must have been doctored in a bid to prove otherwise. Particularly the part about the president suffering from a speech impediment. One thing is clear from listening to the recording – whoever spoke in it sounds frail.
The conclusion then is that rather than reassure Nigerians their president is in a position to give a speech whenever he chooses to, the recording only highlights said speech impediment and makes us question the authenticity of the recording and even more curious as to whether or not the president is alright.
All the comments, observations, and criticisms surrounding President Buhari’s latest blunder are warranted for reasons already stated and more. However, it is pertinent to properly outline and understand the obvious implications of the president’s most recent unwise decision.
As previously pointed out, the president’s use of Hausa in place of the more neutrally spoken English language instantly disregards other tribes in the country with practising Muslims. Islam may have spread from the northern part of the country and is the dominant religion in those parts, but it is certainly not exclusive to it. Therefore, linking the religion to that part of the country shows the president’s – perhaps unintended – bias, amongst other shortcomings.
Even within religion, there already exists a chasm between Muslims from different camps and factions, speak less of different parts of the country. One can only wonder the effect of the president’s good wishes on those who already feel marginalised in certain ways within their religion.
Relatedly, it is almost needless, but definitely depressing to bring up how supposedly addressing the entire country in the language of one tribe might affect the existing delicate conditions of ethnicity in Nigeria.
Ironically, in his message, the president’s voice touches on the recent declarations and outbursts by ethnic groups in the country, while preaching peace and unity. Disappointingly, in practice, this topic seems to be another matter.