“You can’t be silent and create silence in being silent.So you have to create silence or rather the effect of silence through words”–Peter Handke
The virtues of silence practically cease to apply the moment one starts to hold a public office.There is always a need to set the facts straight,keep the people abreast of developments and reassure them their trust is in safe hands.
This country has never been this precarious in recent memory and any sane government would understand it has to thread with caution.People are already coming out of lock down to waylay vehicles conveying food.When the frustration heightens,a full fledged onslaught against the authorities is what to expect and for a government scared at the mere mention of the word ‘revolution’, the Buhari administration doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of its comfort.
Last week, there were several reports of hoodlums robbing and maiming families in Ogun and Lagos. By Friday, countless residents in vulnerable neighbourhoods had started staying up at night to protect themselves. That all but negates the police’s theory of most of the robberies being fake. President Buhari didn’t make a single mention of the security situation in both states in his address to the nation. As a matter of fact, he hasn’t till now. Why are there no police vehicles patrolling vulnerable areas? Do the police need reinforcements from other states considering that the security challenges are peculiar to only a handful of places in Ogun and Lagos?. In the first place, if the police were moving around enforcing the lock down, would criminals have had this much room to operate? As at this moment, no one knows if he has as much as spoken to the Inspector General of Police.
People staying up to light bonfires and wield machetes to protect their vicinity amidst a lock down in 2 of the 3 states he has declared shut really should worry him. He is not worried they will reason with those that have been pushed by hunger to attack food vehicles and wage an ‘Enough is Enough’ war on government.
The second of Buhari’s sinful muteness is regarding Idris Derby. The Chadian President over the weekend claimed that Chad was shouldering the Boko Haram fight alone. Two spokespersons have spoken in the military’s defence with none tackling the issue head on. While one addressed the deadline issued by Derby for our troops to move into the Nigerian territories his men have seized from Boko Haram by April 22 or they would leave, the other said Nigeria wasn’t ‘slowing the war down’. The issue was whether the Chadians were fighting the war alone.
With the foreign media singing the praises of Derby; the strong man of Chad as they have fondly dubbed him,only a statement from Buhari himself would gain as much attention.No one would blame Derby if he didn’t call him before embarking on the 9-day Operation Bohoma Wrath because trust issues would understandably not be misplaced.Our President released 1,400 Boko Haram terrorists for being ‘repentant’ without any single case in court anyone can point to.The town where Chadian soldiers were killed, Boma; is very close to the border with Nigeria and Niger.It is practically impossible for a thorough boko haram clean up to go on without taking them into our territory. Did Buhari and our soldiers just act like nothing was happening despite encroachment into territories they were supposed to be protecting?.
Derby was outraged to the point of saying no Chadian soldier would ever go out of Chad to fight again. The fact that the Chief of Army staff relocated to Borno right afterwards more than anything indicated Nigeria was not taking the war seriously as Derby has alleged and was about doing so. It could also be interpreted to mean something was being done for the optics.As they say,only the guilty are afraid.If we were really doing what we should,there would no need for panic measures.Press releases by 2 military spokespersons will hardly make any headline outside these shores.What has however, is the Chadian President saying he was shouldering the Boko Haram burden alone. A Buhari counter is not forthcoming.
Two days ago,publisher of Opinion Nigeria.com, Jeff Okoroafor did a twitter thread highlighting the plight of Nigerians in China after speaking to a friend over there. The Chinese were not only seizing the international passports of Nigerians, they were kicking them out of their homes and hotel rooms including women and children to sleep on the streets. The closest thing to a reaction from Nigeria has been the Speaker of the House of Representatives meeting with the Chinese ambassador.President Buhari has not deemed it appropriate to talk to the nation about the inhuman treatment fellow Nigerians were being subjected to abroad.
Before President Buhari’s address on Sunday,the Foreign Affairs minister had told journalists Nigerians overseas would pay for the planes being sent to evacuate them.How ridiculous can this government get? A lot of people in China haven’t worked for a while and whatever they might have saved up, is likely to have been spent feeding and sourcing safe accommodation.
I have heard people say even the UK and the US charge for evacuation.They always seem to forget that these countries are working fine and their citizens only leave there for jobs that pay really well. Furthermore these countries have made provision for those who can’t pay to return nonetheless and pay afterwards. Our minister never said we had such an arrangement. Our country men outside these shores are facing dire times, dire enough to make them want to return to Nigeria. They are eating out of trash cans and sleeping on the streets. Their President doesn’t deem that serious enough to draw a reaction.
There are times silence is golden and there are times it is villainous.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano