By Jerome-Mario Utomi
The information in the public domain reveals that President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday 9th December, 2020, via a tweet stated that he was ‘disgusted’ by the coverage of the protest against police brutality done by the foreign media. Buhari criticized the CNN and BBC for allegedly not rendering a balanced reportage of the protest tagged #EndSARS.“I was disgusted by the coverage, which did not give attention to the policemen that were killed, the stations that were burnt, and prisons that were opened.”
To be sure, my first reaction to that tweet by Mr. President was to seek the latest meaning of the word ‘Disgusted’. And this is what I got from Wikipedia, the world’s information search engine. It says; disgusted is an emotional response of rejection or revulsion to something potentially contagious or something considered offensive, distasteful, or unpleasant. In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin wrote that disgust is a sensation that refers to something revolting.
Without dwelling further on the correctness or otherwise of CNN/BBC reports, as it is not the kernel of this piece, it is however, important to underline that many commentators/Analysts have but peripherally argued that Mr President enjoys prerogatives to feel disgusted over such report that dealt very strong blows on the reputation/image of a nation under his watch.
Indeed, while I appreciates their views that every great leader should be concerned about all form of dent targeted at the image of his/her society, group, state, region or nation, no matter how little, I chuckled at the claim by some that manipulators in the media especially influential news organizations like CNN/BBC, can intentionally ignore or downplay transgressions and prevarications on behalf of the people they agree with while making an enormous fanfare about any imperfections found in their perceived enemies.
Notedly also, even as their argument was not sufficient to push through the corrupt understanding of ‘disgusted’, coupled with the fact that Mr. President claim that the CNN/BBC did not give attention to the policemen that were killed, stations that were burnt and prisons that were opened have since been found to be inaccurate, the whole episode have for two reasons left me lost in the maze of high voltage confusion.
First , no matter how long we live in denial as a nation,the Tuesday 20th October, 2020, Lekki tollgate tale where scores of protesters were reportedly shot at by shooters believed to be officers of the Nigerian military, will continue to resonate on the nation’s political wavelength until proponents of disorder develop courage and stamina to ask for forgiveness from Nigerian youths that they have wronged. Any other solution is at best temporal.
Secondly, this piece believed and still believes that, like every forest which has layers-ranging from the ground level and scaling up the heights, there exists articulated concerns in ways that render the content of Mr. President’s tweet as misguided.
Separate from the believe by Nigerians with critical minds that the country is right now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war, even if the President must for any reason feel concerned about any issue, he should have de-focussed on the Endsars debacle as the consequence of its poor management/handling has more than anything else presented his administration as a bunch that is unwilling to draw a lesson from its past mistakes/wrong leadership judgements. He should have rather concentrated more on fundamental issues such as provision of security, education, infrastructure and pursuit of economic welfare of citizens which are his constitutional responsibilities.
Infact, there are numerous examples of great leaders across the globe that in period of crisis like ours, generated breakthrough ideas via concentration on fundamental issues.One of such leaders that naturally comes flooding of which President Muhammadu Buhari could draw a lesion form is Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirate and Ruler of Dubai.
He (Al Maktoum) on one occasion stated; there was a time we used to worry about the aftermath of the depletion of our oil resources, but these worries are dissipating. We have successfully diversified our economy by focusing on trade, tourism, services and creating new opportunities. We have succeeded because we mastered the art of exploiting the best resources in the world for acquiring inexhaustible riches.
The ingrained lessons inherent in this comment is that while the Lekki Toll Gate narrative remain a sin that Federal Government must continue to share from its guilt no matter the volume of excuses generated, it would have been considered more rewarding if Mr. President in that tweet told Nigerians how his administration is tackling the offensive, distasteful, unpleasant , unacceptable, and nagging security and economic situations in the country.
He urgently needs to be familiar with the fact that the nation will continue to find itself stuck in difficulty accelerating the economic life cycle until his administration creatively contemplate diversifying, and focusing not on CNN/ BBC reports on Lekki Toll Gate shooting or its likes, but on trade, tourism, services, creating new opportunities and reduction in cost of governance.
The need for diversifying the nation’s economy becomes imperative when one commits to mind that such a step will provide options for the nation to reduce financial risks and increase national economic stability: As a decline in particular revenue source might be offset by increase in other revenue sources.
Same goes to the education sector. Mr. President must redirect strength dissipated on gloating over CNN/BBC reports, to finding answers to the nation’s education sector that is on progressive decline. And take pragmatic steps to fund the sector in ways that can bring back the kind of learning and nation envisioned by our founders. He must sincerely take politics out of education and feel concerned and remorseful that for over seven months Nigerian universities students of which youths composed a greater chunk of them have been at home. No thanks to the strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and inability of the Federal Government to meet with their demands.
This administration must take advantage of all the educational tools available to return us to a place where our public education system will be the envy of the world.
To use the words of Ben Carson, part of that education will include preparing people for jobs of the future, which will decrease unemployment and increase fulfillment while brightening future generations prospects. Last, we should shine the bright light of truth on the forces of manipulation that run rampant throughout our society today. Improvements in education, combined with wisdom and knowledge, would then turn our country around’.
Finally, while this piece urges Mr. President’s handlers to imbibe the culture of verifying information before circulating /dissemination as such is capped with the capacity to reduce citizens’ trust in the Federal Government, I hold the opinion that the government must do something to help the youths come out of this challenge. It Is in the interest of the government to develop political will to help Nigerian youths. It is also in the interest of the government to address the issue of the millions of out of school children in the country. This should be done not merely for political consideration but from the views of national development, sustenance of our democracy and most importantly, avarting future Endsars protests.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via; [email protected]. Or 08032725374.