Stranger than fiction
Icriticize Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari a lot because he is guilty of what I have characterized as false advertising: what he is in office is disappointingly different from what he marketed to get in. But I can testify that contrary to a popular theory, the man now answering the title of president of Nigeria is not a clone. Or a body double.
In fact, I can prove it. The Buhari who took office in May 2015 is the same one who was in Poland last week for COP24, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The Real Buhari (TRB) is the one who was sufficiently worried before and during that visit to address the rumours during a town hall encounter with Nigerians there.
Thereafter, TRB posted a video on Facebook in which he said the question about his being a clone had arisen during his meeting with Nigerians during his visit.
“The ignorant rumors are not surprisingwhen I was away on medical vacation last year a lot of people hoped I was dead,” the transcript swears he said, as he is extremely difficult to understand on the video. “I can assure you all that this is the real me. Later this month I will celebrate my 76th birthday. And I’m still going strong!”
Denied like a true clone, or body double, would have chosen. Put another way: would an impostor have confirmed that he-or it-was indeed fake?
Buhari’s sense of moment was absent. It was a giant comedic opportunity to market himself as an impostor pretending to be Buhari-instead of Buhari denying being fakebut he didn’t seize it.
Instead, TRB, choosing to speak for himself in the mistaken belief that would underline he was whom he claimed to be, unwisely ad-libbed into international farce, and instantly became a punchline.
If you seek proof, you will find videos all over the Internet of comedians and audiences in various stages of hilarity about the denial.
But those who are laughing must stop. I confirm that the Poland Buhari is TRB because TRB being distrustful of Nigeria and Nigerians especially in Nigeria, makes his big statements abroad:
In Iran, in 2015: he declared he would recover every penny looted from Nigeria, “all that [officials of previous governments] took by force in 16 years.” Some of the persons involved are “hiding” within his party and government.
In the United Arab Emirates in 2016, TRB signed a Memorandum of Understanding to aid the extradition of corrupt Nigerians hiding stolen funds in that country. Not one has been extradited.
In Germany in 2016, he warned his wife: “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”
In the United Kingdom last April, he denounced Nigerian youth as lazy and uneducated people who think Nigeria is a rich country and “they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free.”
Thus the “Poland Declaration” by TRB about TRB, dead or alive, man or machine, Muhammadu or Jibril, is consistent with this pattern of behavior, so I testify he is whom he says he is. Jibril or a machine would have addressed Nigerians in their own country.
But as often happens with his government, there was no thoroughness of planning. There was no strategy, and predictably, the therapy has compounded the disease. When a person’s story is so convoluted that he seeks to persuade by announcing “this is the real me,” truth only reduces everyone to laughter.
What TRB needs to understand is that this matter is not really about a possible interloper in the executive branch. The “body double” gained traction in the first place because TRB’s performance has betrayed and victimized the electorate. For every inch of progress since he assumed office, Nigeria has traveled miles backwards in the other direction, Nigeria now run by the very people he swore to strip to their loincloths.
Look at the view from the “other room.” The day before TRB returned from Poland, first lady Aisha publicly implied in Abuja that two persons in the government were more powerful than her husband and were preventing the government from achieving anything.
If this were not so tragic, it would have been hilarious: the scandal that a man with presidential powers has somehow been taken hostage by two specific appointees and prevented from serving the people.
It is the perfect summary of the tragedy of the Buhari government: that TRB is not in control but is being manipulated. What kind of chief executive goes home to lament his frustrations to his wife that he has been emasculated?
The clone theory is therefore that we have a four-year government of excuses which wishes to extend to eight years. It ought to be a government of apologies heading for the exits with some pride.
Moving into the final days of 2018, let us remember that one of Buhari’s electoral promises four years ago was “6,800km of modern railway completed by 2019.” That included the Lagos-Ibadan rail, which was scheduled to be delivered this month.
But those waiting for it are in for disappointment. Last Tuesday, Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi announced that the line may now go into operation no earlier than February 2019.
To that end, he asked the contractors to make something-anything-move by February, to give him “transport sense,” that is, symbolic transportation.
“What I mean by transport sense is that, it must be able to carry passengers from Abeokuta if not up-to Ibadan...” Mr. Amaechi explained.
Neither the tracks nor the bridges are ready. There are no trains. The prospects are so poor that by February 2019 when the project would have made perfect “election sense,” the plea is for “transport sense.”
How did we get here in four years? Speaking at the Lagos Traffic Radio lecture in June 2016, Amaechi affirmed that the project would be completed before the end of 2018, as would the Port Harcourt-Calabar segment of the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail.
In September 2016, he reiterated that the Port Harcourt-Calabar line and the LagosKano modernization project would be ready this year.
Similarly, at the ground-breaking event of the project in March 2017, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo re-affirmed it would be delivered this month.
In May 2018, following an inspection tour involving stakeholders, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed reiterated that delivery in December 2018 was “non-negotiable.”
Amaechi repeated that promise just three months ago.
But here we are, discombobulated and incoherent: “There must be train on the tracks before February…a train on the track that makes transport sense…it must be able to carry passengers from Abeokuta if not up-to Ibadan…”
It is dispiriting that even a high-profile project which has enjoyed such executive close-marking for three years cannot be delivered on schedule. We are now left with excuses and explanations, and perhaps re-budgeting, to follow.
Stranger than fiction.