“We should never judge a President by his age, only by his works” – Thomas Jefferson
In 1984, during a US Presidential debate between Republican candidate Ronald Reagan and the Democratic candidate, Walter Mondale, Reagan who was having old age as an electoral baggage compared to his much younger opponent had this to say: “I want you to know that I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” By this, the older Reagan tries to turn the table on his younger challenger.
That goes a long way to show how far politicians can go to exploit the weaknesses of an opponent during electioneering and also further shows the extent they can also go to turn around negatives into positives.
It is against this backdrop that I am actually not on the same page with those who criticize President Muhammadu Buhari’s spine doctors for trying to get a huge mileage about his trekking from Daura Eid praying ground to his country home, a distance of about 800 meters.
In truth, every public relations or marketing practitioners look out for anything that could add to their product quality to be able to catch the buyer’s attention. Electioneering year is usually periods of product boosting to attract buyers. It is a period of window dressing when products are showcased.
This stratagem though has an upshot because in the cause of trying to showcase the weak as good and solid, you could unknowingly be highlighting in real terms the weakness.
For a 75-year-old President who is presenting himself for re-election in six months’ time and who just returned from a medical vacation, he needed to prove something on his health to the electorate hence the choice of walking home instead of using vehicles already lined up by the protocol operatives.
Who knows, perhaps if this 800-meter trek had taken place before our President visited the impudent and cheeky US President, Donald Trump last May, the “so lifeless” insult which is in addition to the “shithole” earlier dropped on the continent could have been avoided.
According to dictionary explanation when somebody is lifeless, he lacks in him any signs of vigor, vitality or excitement which was conspicuously missing by the rating of the American controversial leader.
That Daura trek from all indications appears to be a clear well designed window dressing that boomeranged. President Buhari to my mind did not establish anything in his denial that he did not trek to show fitness. That to many observers was unnecessary and a panicky reaction to opponent’s jibes. What is wrong in an old man who is being accused of getting tired in the middle of a journey and who feels he can still continue showing it?
There is something about this regime and trekking. Long before President Buhari performed his symbolic Daura trek last week, in 2015 shortly after his historic victory, so many Nigerians trekked from different parts of the country to Abuja in salute. Some trekked from Yola, some from Lagos and so on in such long arduous journey all in bliss for the President’s electoral victory.
Don’t even ask where those trekkers are or how they are feeling now because your guess would be same as mine, suffice to say that three and half years after, the President himself is trekking to proof to them that he is strong to secure another mandate from them.
But the question is, what do Nigerians want? A walking or a working President? One would think that what really we want is a leader who does the work not a John walker who moves around the globe without anything meaningful to show for it.
What happened in the administration during the 10-day absence of the President and the excitement that greeted those actions clearly shows that what Nigerians need is indeed a working President. A working President does not need to walk 800 meters to establish his presence. In fact, he can be lying down and yet be working through his pronouncements.
The Daura trek appears similar to what was witnessed in Zimbabwe. When Robert Mugabe was virtually a vegetable and the wife Grace and some military cabals were running the show for him, then in a smart symbolic window dressing, Robert was usually resented in rallies jumping up and down waving to proof his strength.
When the Zimbabwean military that were in league with the same Grace in the treachery, got tired of living in denial, they threw her and the husband away and installed themselves. Then an angry 90-year-old Mugabe abused the Zimbabwean army, describing them as the most useless military in the World for priding themselves for overthrowing a 90-year-old man. What implication do you deduce from that Mugabe’s outburst, it shows that he actually knew the reality that at 90 years he was so ineffective that no brave person should pride himself for defeating anybody at that age?
When the youthful Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, among his reasons for dumping the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), alleged that President Buhari is seriously sick and his Presidency is under hijack by cabals, they reacted angrily and followed it up with the now famous 800-meter trek. But what happened during the 10-day absence of the President when the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo, held forth clearly accentuates Governor Tambuwal’s allegations. A vigor of sought was brought into governance leading to a number of populist actions. There was some kind of prompt responsiveness very much unlike the regime.
During the 10 days, Nigerians did not only watch the cabals being sidelined but one of their key players was even sent packing. It’s no hidden fact that the disgraced former Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, a kinsman of the President was a strategic player in the cabal team that have held sway in the government since 2015.
Unknown to Lawal and other members of the cabal, a Pharaoh that did not know Joseph was on the throne on Tuesday morning August 7, 2018, when he and his cabals acted beyond their powers by dispatching armed masked troops to block the nation’s parliament. That was enough provocation to activate the long suppressed anger of the man in charge at the time who as a professor of law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) had on October 8, 2016 watched in pain similar action in the homes of Judges and Justices at the dead of the night. Then he could not act because he was not in charge so the DSS had their way. But since it’s a long proven fact that every day is for the thief and just one day for the owner, the DSS DG met his waterloo as he was not only fired but was arrested and confined.
The King of the moment did not stop there, he threatened the other arm of the cabals, the Police and the Inspector General having seen what befell his DSS colleagues quickly distanced himself in a public statement. While he did not get the hammer as his DSS colleague, he got marching order for him to reorganize the most notorious human rights abuse arm of his unit called, the Special armed forces squad more known as SARS. So for 10 days, Nigerians watched in ecstasy a hitherto ineffective Presidency come alive.
Tambuwal by the events of the 10 days merely found evidences to establish his assertion that the President is old, sick and unable to perform Presidential duties, and that some marauders around the seat of power held him hostage. The verve that was brought into governance in the 10 days of the President’s absence loudly underlined the perception that the cabals were the ones in charge.
But now that the President is back and fit as the great trek wants us to believe, the 21st President of America, Chester A. Arthur, has some advisories in this regard: “Be fit for more than the thing you are doing. Let everyone know that you have a reserve in yourself; that you have more power than you are now using. If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it.”
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