By Paul Onomuakpokpo
Bristling with rage at the unceasing carnage and fecklessness that have bogged down the nation since the emergence of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as the president, Prof. Wole Soyinka recently warned us against the fate of a people whose affairs are presided over by a leader in a trance.
But not a few of those who are befuddled by their devotion to Buhari sniggered at Soyinka’s position as another instance of the dramatist over-dramatising the perceived failings of his president.
But those who did not share Soyinka’s prescience and thus did not appreciate the horrendous developments that validated his position can no longer ignore what has happened since that grim verdict.
Indeed, we have all been confronted with subsequent stark developments that have been triggered by the administration of Buhari which show that Soyinka’s position remains unimpeachable .
In this regard, what strongly alerts us in recent times to a president who is in a trance is Buhari’s declaration when he visited Benue on Monday that he just learnt that his Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris defied his order to relocate to the state to stop the killings by Fulani herdsmen and restore hope to a much-traumatised people.
When the IGP violated the directive of the president, it was a shocking development that gripped the public consciousness. It provoked so much outrage from the citizens who saw in it a clear indication of the president not being in charge of his government.
Some also considered it as a measure of the president’s double talk and complicity in the ordeal being inflicted by herdsmen. For, the president was not outraged at the insubordination of his chief security officer.
Thus, after the presidential directive was given and violated, some citizens did not rule out the possibility of Buhari and Idris withdrawing into an inner chamber of Aso Rock to gleefully take count of the losses of the victims of herdsmen with the macabre expectation of a rising death toll.
Even the state Governor Samuel Ortom raised the alarm that the IGP did not relocate to Benue as directed by the president. He only stayed one day and left for Nasarawa State even though his own security personnel were also being killed by herdsmen.
This violation was a major news item in the media. And since then, the IGP and the governor who ought to be rallying points for cohesion in Benue have become sworn enemies. The IGP once deployed a proxy to prosecute his battle against the governor.
In the IGP’s estimation, the proxy acquitted himself creditably when he dismissed Ortom as a drowning man. But the IGP wanted to drive home the disdain he has for Ortom and his likes when he used the occasion of the northern stakeholders’ security summit to declare that state governors should not make laws against open grazing until they established ranches.
Yet, two months after the president gave his relocation order to Idris, he declared unabashedly that he was not aware that his chief security officer defied him.
We are thus faced with the challenge of unravelling how the reality of the president is defined. What is the president aware of? How does he know what is happening in the nation he is presiding over?
Does he get information himself or is he solely fed information? While the president was in Taraba recently to condole with the state over the killings by herdsmen, he boasted that he had several ways of getting information.
Yes, as the president, he does not need to be physically present to know what happens in any part of the country. But in the light of what he said in Benue, there is the need to find out the kind of information he gets and how this comes to him.
Going by his comment, it is not far-fetched to say that he is oblivious of reality in the country. We have a president whose head is in the clouds. His reality is not that of the citizens
True, as the president, his reality should be defined by the information he gets from his aides and security operatives across the country. But the tragedy is that such reality that is presented to the president is tweaked in favour of the parochialism of those around him. These have been identified as the cabal that wields the levers of power in Aso Rock instead of the president.
We are confronted with the danger of a president who apparently does not verify information that is given to him. Yes, he is given executive briefs. Does he read them himself or is his case like that of United States President Donald Trump whose executive briefs are reportedly read to him because of his limited attention span ?
Does the president on his own bother to read newspapers or listen to the news on television or radio to get acquainted with what is happening in the country? Yes, Buhari’s media handlers have at different times circulated photographs of the president listening to the news on television.
But if he really does this, to what extent does this help him to appreciate reality? Or are there some special channels that tell the president what his handlers want him to hear, thereby cutting him from reality?
We must note the very tragic situation in Benue. Over 73 lives were lost. And more have died since then. In other climes, the president would have gone there immediately he learnt of the tragedy that befell his people in a bid to be personally involved in efforts to rescue them, offer the victims hope and roll out measures to avert its recurrence.
If the president did not grasp the significance of going to Benue and he did not know until about two months later that Idris disobeyed his directive, why do we expect him to take interest in lesser matters that affect the citizens? How would him know that the man on the street is facing hardship spawned by the absence of a deft economic management?
It is simply because Buhari has apparently handed over the reins of his government to the cabal that the inanities that shock right-thinking patriots have become regular features of his administration.
In this regard, we should not be shocked later when Buhari declares that he was never aware that his administration defied court orders leading to the continued detention of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki and Shiites leader Ibraheem El-zakzaky even though courts ruled that they should be allowed to go home while facing their prosecution.
A major charge against former President Goodluck Jonathan is that he was never in charge of his government. He was never in control of his aides.
This was why they were on fiscal rampage, looting the treasury ruthlessly. But now Buhari himself has given room to the suspicion that that atmosphere of corruption under Jonathan is now being replicated under the current government.
Since Buhari’s aides do not allow him to appreciate reality in all its ramifications, he needs to interact with the citizens in order for him to know the truth about them. But even here there is the danger that he may not still be allowed to confront reality.
For what may happen is that his aides may arrange his party supporters and other people to tell and show the president what the officials think he should hear and see.
Those who would speak would not be so pained like Ortom and his people that in the course of purging themselves of their suffering, they would speak the truth with aplomb.
There is the further danger that the president may not even be allowed to meet with those who could tell him the truth. He would rather be holed up in a government house by state officials who do not tell their own people the truth.
Worse, Buhari still has almost a year to subject the citizens to his perverted version of reality . And for those who are bent on bringing him back, they have another four years after May, 2019 to be racked with the perils of this reality. The choice is theirs.