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Opinion: President Buhari’s Ethnocentric Image Is His Fault By Peter Adeshina

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President Buhari alongside VP, Osinbajo after meeting with some leaders of the south-east in Abuja recently.
While the controversy surrounding the leak of Ibe
Kachikwu’s letter is still raging on, the Presidency is under fire again
following the comments of World Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, in an interview
where he claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari specifically asked him and his
organization to focus on the North in their aid interventions.

Many have held this as further proof that President
Buhari is ethnocentric and unfit to preside over a multi-ethnic country like
Nigeria.
To
be clear, and I have to make this clarification before I proceed, I
believe we owe it to the people of North East to help them
rebuild their communities and ease them back into life following the
carnage
they suffered under Boko Haram.
I consider strongly the fact that the context within
which the President made the request to the World Bank may have been rooted in
the pitiable condition of several states in the North East in areas of
infrastructure, housing and basic humanitarian needs – and that is by no means
wrong, or a portrayal of ethnocentrism. These people are after all Nigerians,
and the president swore an oath to protect and care for them. Also, the
scarcity of resources compels the President, at given periods, to prioritize
needs in order of urgency or other criteria he deems fit in good faith.
However, the general perception of the President as ethnocentric
is largely his fault as on several occasions, either deliberately or inadvertently,
he has displayed ethnocentric tendencies. It was a narrative that followed him
during the campaigns and upon election victory, his actions did little to
counter it; on the contrary, they fueled it.
To start with, in July 2015, two months after
Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in, he paid a visit to the United States of America
where he met then-President, Barack Obama. During his visit, Buhari made a stop
at the United States’ Institute of Peace where he fielded questions from
journalist and, unprovoked, he delivered a line that all but raised the first
alarm.
Asked for his approach to issues related to the Niger
Delta region of the country, particularly amnesty, bunkering and inclusive
development, President Buhari responded by asking the journalist if she has obtained
“a copy of our (Nigeria) electoral results” before explaining that “literally,
constituencies that for example gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated on
some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%”. According to Buhari, “these
are political realities”.
For a man who just emerged President of a multi-ethnic
and religious country in what was deemed the most divisive election since the
country returned to democracy in 1999, his comments, two months after taking
office, confirmed wide-spread allegations by his opponents and set the tone for
the perception of his actions throughout his tenure – and this was evident in
the criticism that followed his appointments believed to be lopsided and
favoring his ‘kinsmen’.
In perhaps another show of character, President Buhari
enraged a lot of Nigerians, particularly the southerners, during the last
Eid-el-Fitri celebration when he phoned in from London where he had gone to receive
treatment to an unknown ailment and addressed the country in Hausa, a language
predominant in the north. No tangible explanation was given for the Buhari’s
action as it was generally expected of him – as President – to address the
country using the lingua franca to avoid allegations of segregation and
alienation. Moreover, the celebrants, Muslims, cut across several ethnic groups
and regions of the country. Selecting the Hausa language suggested, implicitly,
that the President directed his message specifically to his “brothers in the
North”, as was speculated by members of the main opposition party, PDP.
It should be noted that this happened weeks after the
President phoned in to a special prayer led and organized by the Kano State
Government, under the leadership of Governor Umar Ganduje, to calm fraying
nerves that he was okay “and much better”.
It cannot be disproved that there are people who
constantly seek to disillusion the public by offering a partial or tailored
explanation of every move the president makes to justify preconceptions and
score political points, especially now that another election season is almost
upon us. However, on the subject of ethnocentrism, the President makes their
job easier as his actions, both direct and indirect, project one who indeed
considers his 97% constituents superior to the 5% constituents. He has himself
to blame for that.
Adeshina can be reached on Twitter via the handle – @shina_pitta

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