On the 16th January 2019, I was privileged to once more sit up close with the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR). The occasion was the Town Hall sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation which held at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers Abuja.
Reading some people’s take on that event, I am compelled to share my experience and make an objective post mortem of that Town Hall.
First, there is no overstating the impeccable sense of time keeping of the President. The program was billed to start by 8:00pm and as I checked my time as he walked in as on other occasions, it seemed perfectly choreographed. The President’s knack for time keeping is historic and legendary. Interestingly everyone including Ministers, Aides, even Journalists who cover events involving him and Guests have come to get used and adjust to that.
As the President walked into the Hall, there was that characteristic and unmistakable aura that perennially accompanies him everywhere he goes. It doesn’t matter how many times you get close to him, the feeling is always the same (even for those who might not like him) – that peculiar feeling of awe and authority which derives from a deep sense of genuine respect and admiration; sophisticated, yet clothed in the utmost simplicity, which is far removed from the air of arrogance and vulgar power often associated with many of our leaders even at a level way below the Presidency.
As the President and Vice settled down and the questions started coming, I paid closed attention. As one with an inquisitive and analytical mind, I found myself listening beyond what was being said. I watched the body language, facial expressions and the general disposition of both the President and Vice President.
Some people have made unnecessary bone out of the fluency or fluidity of the President’s spoken English. I sincerely think those people miss the important point or as one person put it, some people ‘’were watching only to find faults or criticize rather than to understand or be informed’’.
There were moments during the Town Hall when I thought the President was stalling but on closer look, I saw a man who was thinking through and then when he comes up with his response, the sheer wittiness and wisdom packed in most of his answers showed a man whose mind is fine and uncorrupted.
This was exemplified at moments when the Anchor asked what I considered ‘gotcha questions’ like, the question on Kano State Governor, Acceptance of defeat should he lose the election, Chief Justice of Nigeria/Asset declaration saga, whether he was “frustrated” with the slow pace of the anti-corruption war amongst others. On each of those occasions, his response was not only spot on but brutally frank.
Let me confess, sincerely as a Buharist, I would want the President to be more hedgy, diplomatic, ‘trickish’ with his responses and comments but the truth is he is too authentic and sincere to be all that. He is far too straightforward and forthright and I daresay too old school to bother with being politically correct. He is not interested in telling people what they want hear, even when he knows it’s a lie. I discover that this is exactly why millions of Nigerians love him. With him what you see is what you get. Not deceptive rhetoric and flamboyant grammar that end up in monumental betrayals. Ironically, that is also why many hate him.
Furthermore, some people have tried to draw the Vice President into an unnecessary and I daresay mischievous debate. According to them, he was more expressive and more detailed. Well, let me first of all say a big kudos to the Vice President. I have never been more proud of Prof Osinbajo and thankful to God for giving us these two leaders at this critical time in our nation’s history as I was that night.
As I watched the President and Vice President on stage, I couldn’t help but observe the genuine respect the Vice President had for the President. I watched with admiration how he deferred to the President, allowing him to deal with the issues raised while knowing exactly when to drop in to fill in the gap and buttress. After all it is a Team. After all he is the Professor of Law, Communicator and younger partner in the Team.
I don’t know what some of those compulsive critics saw, but I saw something that we have not had in a very long time in the leadership of this nation – a President and Vice President who have almost perfect chemistry, genuine mutual respect for one another, united by an unquestionable determination to make a difference and move our nation forward. I saw a ‘political marriage’ made definitely in heaven where the two most powerful men in Nigeria understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are ready and able to fill in the gaps or lapses where necessary without friction.
I am not under any illusion that at 76 years of age, President Buhari would be as agile as he was at 36, but I’m also not naïve to underestimate the unquantifiable role his personality, integrity, principles, meticulousness and sheer presence brings to the table which is key to the undeniable turn around we are witnessing in the nation today.
President Buhari unarguably brings to the table authentic, unadulterated, incorruptible and focused leadership backed with decades of practical experience at nation building and the wisdom of age and time. These no amount of money or education can buy. The beauty is that whatever President Buhari lacks, Vice President Osinbajo adequately compensates for.
It is this, in my view, that has made the Buhari/Osinbajo partnership, unarguably the most effective, successful and honorable Presidential partnership in the political history of Nigeria and truth be told the most viable Partnership/Ticket out of all we are being offered for the 2019 election.
In all, sitting up close, I could not help but acknowledge the unmistakable sincerity, authenticity, passion, commitment and resolve of President Muhammadu Buhari. I saw a Leader who is totally and irreversibly committed to the progress and success of his nation. As an icing on the cake, I saw a fiercely loyal, extremely humble, highly cerebral lieutenant in the person of Professor Yemi Osinbajo who not only shares Buhari’s and our collective dream for a better Nigeria, but equally possesses the critical virtue of integrity required to navigate our nation away from the sharks and undertakers of yesterday who desperately want to hang on to power.
Conclusively, if I wasn’t a Buhari/Osinbajo supporter already, I would surely become one without hesitation, knowing fully well that not only do these two men epitomize who we truly are as Nigerians, they equally represent the realistic future of integrity, progress and genuine prosperity we desire as a people and a nation.
I humbly implore us all, for the sake of our dear nation and generations unborn to keep sentiments, partisan and ethno-religious differences aside and vote for Buhari/Osinbajo on February 16th 2019 – for the greater good of all of us citizens and not a few “friends”.
© Dr Uche Diala
Buharists & Patriot