Buhari, Chatham House and the enemies of truth, by Uche Igwe


Hate him or love him, the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi remains one of the greatest assets to the political machinery of the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(rtd). It was Mr. Amaechi who mooted the idea that it was necessary to present his boss some opportunities to engage the global community and Nigerians in the diaspora. His argument was that many of the people who knew Mr. Buhari met him almost thirty years ago as a military leader and a dictator. Amaechi suggested that the world needed to meet the Buhari who has become a converted democrat. His thinking struck me and coincided with the time when some international organisations were also seeking to host Buhari. I decided to offer some assistance in that regard. That was how the whole issue about General Buhari travelling abroad started. The initial plan was for him to take a break and travel to speak at the prestigious Washington DC based think-tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on the 26th of January. We reckoned that the General could stop over in London and also speak at Chatham House. Two of my friends, Jerome Okolo and Engr. Preye Aganaba worked with me closely to put the arrangements together. Preye is a resourceful politician and the APC candidate for Baylesa Central Senatorial zone. I can say without equivocation that both gentlemen are patriots who love this country and are always ready to contribute to anything that will bring progress to it. Everything about the trip was already set when we learnt that United States Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry will be visiting Nigeria and had requested to meet with General Buhari. We had to put off all the plans until a future date.

I decided to tell this story to enlighten the public about how this whole thing began. There are those who have attempted to distort the story and other who insinuate lies and spread falsehood that any of these events especially that of Chatham House was procured. Nothing can be farther from the truth. No one paid anything to these two prestigious independent organisations that have done very impressive research work on Nigeria. I believe that even propaganda has got its limits. I find the allegations of President Jonathan’s supporters like Femi Fani-Kayode and Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State as preposterous, comical and even foolish. One will at least be worried about someone like Femi that claims to have gone to some familiar schools. However if the news about his mental history is true, then I will gladly forgive his outbursts which fits into medical manifestations of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). For Ayo Fayose, no one is surprised at all. That he is a product politics of brigandage and rigging is known to many of us. He is one guy who can do anything to express his gratitude to those who masterminded his underserved victory. For those who do not know, this Chatham House that they talk about with such disdain was ranked the second most influential think-tank in the world by the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank’s Report recently released by the University of Pennsylvania. Such organisations are heavily relied on to set global foreign policy agenda and craft new initiatives. How will these Jonathan’s apologists dare to smear such a reputable institution? Funnily President Jonathan’s National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd) spoke at the same place a few weeks ago. Does that mean that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), spent billions too to procure the opportunity? If so, then they need to explain to the world who they possibly paid the monies to?

On a more serious note, I think that the lies spread about the health of General Buhari is both unacceptable and wicked. Let us for the sake of argument say that he visited his doctor after a hectic nationwide campaign tour. So what is wrong with that? Anyone can go to hospital. Even some of us who are younger do go to check ourselves from time to time. Those who are fixated on issues of the health of the APC Presidential candidate are simply distracting Nigerians. The election is only a few weeks away. I noticed that President Jonathan has taken a few important steps during the break offered by the postponement of the elections. The Nigerian President’s visit to conflict ridden areas of Baga and Mubi was very a strategic and helpful move. However I consider it belated and opportunistic. Why did the President wait for this long after many people have been murdered by Boko Haram? What was he waiting for? Be that as it may, I expected his supporters to spend time on spreading such messages nationwide to convert those who are still sitting on the fence about their candidate rather than dwelling on fictitious rumours and outright falsehood about his opponent. Back to the Chatham House event. I arrived at the venue early so that I can be one of the first persons to see General Buhari on his feet! The falsehood about his poor health situation was so strong and spread quickly in Nigeria that many people were alarmed and almost believed. How can people just wake up to manufacture unfounded rumours? One serving Senator called me to ask for the true position of things but I assured him that all was well and the man will come to the session. Former Speaker, Hon. Felicia Etteh was one of the early arrivals, followed by former Governor Oyinlola, then former Governor Kayode Fayemi and Mr. Garba Shehu of the Buhari Campaign organisation. I stood outside for a while and was literally peeping into every car until a car pulled up from where Mallam Nasir El-Rufai appeared. I could not hide my anxiety but he quietly assured me of General Buhari’s impending arrival. While we were talking with him, a black Mercedes Benz mini-bus pulled up from where General Buhari, Governor Amaechi and a few others emerged. It was a momentary frenzy as all of us struggled to take a picture of him as he made his way promptly into the Chatham House waiting area. I was pleasantly surprised that he showed no sign of someone who suffered or is suffering a debilitating illness the kind that has been painted and peddled in sections of the Nigerian media. I will not dwell so much on the General’s speech. Many analysts rated it as one of the most excellently written and delivered by any politician about our country lately. No doubt the APC candidate needs to do more work on the eloquence of his message and his flow though I must add that he has improved considerably. In all, I was impressed by the firmness of his promises to promote infrastructure, reform the political economy, curb Boko Haram insurgency and the explanation he offered about how he will lead these efforts from the front. His clarification that there will be no confusion about where he stands on the issue of corruption re-affirmed what many people in the audience wanted to hear about how he will bring political will to brought to bear in the battle against the most cancerous scourge in the Nigerian polity. By taking responsibility of his actions as a military ruler, the APC candidate charmed many and presented himself as someone ready to lead and learn. Despite the rain and the interference of the few ‘rented’ protesters outside, I left the venue to my Brighton abode with a sense of fulfilment. For me if the public reception of his Chatham House speech affect the 28th March elections, many Nigerians will decide to vote for Buhari. However time will tell.