By Fred Itua
Africa is an interesting continent. It is the cash cow of the West and a conquered territory of our ineffectual leaders. The continent is governed by its worst, while its best idle away in foreign lands. The continent is populated by wicked leaders, who preside over the mass suffering of millions of illiterate Africans.
In Africa, leadership is by force. Our bloodthirsty leaders manipulate electoral systems to remain in power forever. Differing opinions are seldom welcome. Die-hard critics are silently murdered, while the rest of the world moves on. These are the insurmountable challenges bedeviling my unfortunate continent.
Like President Muhammadu Buhari, African leaders misfire at home and pretend to be saints when they face their international contemporaries. They pay heavily to enjoy friendly international coverage, while they express inexplicable disdain for their local media.
They attend functions where their inputs are seldom needed and leave the very important role of governance on the back seat. They make pronouncements that are in sharp contrast with the realities in their home countries. Like chickens going home to roast, they make policy statements abroad, in the full glare of foreign media, while citizens of their country rely on ‘second hand’ news from international media outlets.
The most distasteful is the sanctimonious posture of African leaders whenever they leave the shores of the continent. This is where our Septuagenarian President Buhari, who should be taking a rest at home as a grandfather, comes in.
During the week, President Buhari visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, in Oświęcim, Poland where he paid tribute to Holocaust victims. Yes, you read that right. Read it again if in doubt.
Buhari’s media assistant, Garba Shehu, in a statement, which could not be independently verified, stated that after a guided tour of the Museum, devoted to the memory of the victims who died at both camps during World War II, Buhari penned a hand-written tribute in the visitor’s book, quoting Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”.
“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones,” Buhari was said to have noted. The President also laid a wreath at Block 11 of the Museum, known as the ‘‘Death block.’’
The presidential aide quoted an epitaph in the Block: ”Male and female prisoners from all parts of the camp complex where held in this building …following brutal interrogations, they were in most cases sentenced to death by shooting.”
Shehu revealed that shortly before leaving the Museum, which included the Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Buhari fielded questions from State House Correspondents traveling with him.
President Buhari was accompanied on the visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum by members of his entourage that included Governors of Enugu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Niger, Abubakar Sani Bello, of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello; and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t fault this gesture if President Buhari were a man who would say something and stand by it. But no. For me, this is the height of hypocrisy. I am not sure why the President’s handlers opted for this publicity stunt, but it is as ridiculous, just as it is insensitive. For me, it shows that the life of a Nigerian doesn’t mean anything to President Buhari.
Let me take you through a time line.
According to an investigation carried out by Punch Newspaper, no fewer than 3,094 Nigerians have been killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015. This period is between May, 2015 to May, 2018. With recent reports of gruesome killings, the number has obviously gone up.
In early 2018, over 70 victims of herdsmen attacks, were given a mass burial in Benue State. For several weeks, the world tuned to Nigeria and watched the gory pictures and videos of hundreds of Nigerians slaughtered by armed herdsmen. It happened in Buhari’s Nigeria.
In December, 2015, the Nigerian Army, reportedly killed over 300 members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria in Zaria, Kaduna State. The leader of the movement, Sheikh Ibrahim El- ZakyZaky, was arrested and has been kept incommunicado since then by Buhari’s government.
In mid 2018, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) revealed that it discovered a mass grave of its members who were allegedly killed during the military operation tagged Operation Python Dance II. The group alleged that it discovered the grave in Obiawom village of Ogwe Autonomous Community in Asa Ukwa West LGA of Abia State, adding that its intelligence unit discovered the grave, which it described as horrific and gruesome.
In November, again, members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria were killed by security goons in Abuja during a protest. As I pen this piece, President Buhari is yet to break his golden silence on that unfortunate nonsense. There was no official condemnation from Buhari’s government. No one was arrested or tried. Everyone moved on as if nothing happened.
The most recent is the gruesome killing of over 100 soldiers by suspected Boko Haram terrorists in Borno. No national mourning was declared. No special honour was accorded to them. No national broadcast to calm the nerves of angry and apprehensive Nigerians. President Buhari reluctantly released a statement when he was under fire.
This is a catalogue of killings that have been perpetuated in Buhari’s Republic. Nigeria is becoming a killing field, where the sanctity of life is no longer sacred. The life of a cow is now worth more than my life as a Nigerian.
On the other side of the divide, Nigerians are treated with disdain. Many Nigerians are in jail in foreign countries over crimes that are too infinitesimal to warrant a jail term. Thousands of Nigerian sojourners have been swallowed by the Mediterranean Sea, while scouting for a greener pasture.
In the South East and South South, there are mass graves where victims of the Nigerian Civil War were given mass burials. There is a Civil War Museum in the East. There are sites littered across every length and breadth of this troubled country.
Questionably, President Buhari has not visited any sites. He has not visited the mass graves where members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria were buried. Buhari has not visited the mass grave where victims of herdsmen were buried in Benue. He is yet to visit the purported mass grave where IPOB members were reportedly buried.
Lest I forget, he has not visited the grave where our gallant soldiers were killed. He has not visited our War Museum. He has not visited the South East and South South, where hundreds of thousands were killed during the Nigerian Civil War.
Curiously, it was very convenient for President Buhari to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, in Oświęcim, Poland and pay tribute to Holocaust victims. To what end? To achieve what exactly? To boost his international rating and accepted as a pan Nigerian leader who doesn’t favour 95 per cent over five? To what end Mr. President?
Buhari travelled to Poland with Governors and his Ministers to pay tribute to Holocaust victims at the expense of tax payers. He has never visited any victim of herdsmen or the families of the hundreds of soldiers that Boko Haram members have slaughtered. If this is not insensitive, I wonder what should be.
This desperation to aggressively launder the image of the President internationally is not only a slap on our faces, but an act of cowardice. As a young Nigerian, I have never seen, read or heard where Mr. President celebrated victims of the Holocaust. Why the sudden U-turn? Just to galvanise international support ahead of the 2019 presidential election? God save us.
The country is on auto-pilot. Folks who should ordinarily check mate the excesses of the executive, are too busy with their reelection bids. They seldom attend plenary now. We are in trouble, we don’t just know it yet.
The executive and legislative arms have failed. In 2019, we must not reinforce failure. We must not tolerate this affliction and insensitive leadership in 2019. Who knows, Buhari may visit the grave of Adolf Hitler when next he visits Europe.
Fred Itua is a journalist, an expert in political communication and a columnist.