Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu released a statement titled “Father Mbaka is everything apart from what he claims to be,” deriding the Catholic Priest for his harsh criticism of Buhari.
This was not unconnected with Father Ejike Mbaka’s express call for Buhari’s resignation in the face of lingering insecurity in the country.
This story, and a few others from Nigeria’s seat of power, kept the media space abuzz past week.
“…Father Mbaka asked for contracts as compensation for his support. Inside the Villa, discretion prevailed, that if those pictures and requests were made public, the followers would turn against the religious leader. None of it were released. Now, this is what is eating Father Mbaka,” Shehu stated.
Shehu’s statement paints a vivid picture of a relationship gone awry.
Could Mbaka have pushed his sense of entitlement too far, having vigorously campaigned for Buhari, especially during the build up to the 2015 presidential election?
Will this mark the very end of a once robust political romance between the Presidency and Mbaka?
While there could be varied answers to the posers raised, a significant development is that the Buhari Presidency may be getting increasingly intolerant of objective criticism.
However, with Mbaka admitting that he led some contractors to the presidency, it puts to question his claims of innocence and it would be herculean to extricate himself from the mess.
His dilemma is made worse by the fact that he has had a history of wanting to blackmail government officials into funding his private ventures outside the established Catholic system.
The Presidency, on its part, gets tugged in the mud for failing to address the issue Mbaka spoke about on April 26. The glaring disconnect in Shehu’s statement accentuates the widely held belief that the Presidency is always disposed to attacking the messenger while rejecting the message.
Mbaka’s call must, therefore, serve as a strong signal that citizens on all sides of the divide are discerning enough to tell where shoe pinches and that they would continue demand accountability from the Buhari administration.
Two other talking points
Buhari’s reprimand of Ortom
President Buhari, on April 29, expressed disappointment over the critical comments made by the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, after suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded an Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs), camp, in Abegana village of the State, and killed no fewer than 7 persons.
Ortom had said, “What is happening now, to me, is very clear; Mr President is just working for these Fulanis to take over the whole country. The body language, the action and inaction of Mr President shows that he is only the President of the Fulani people; I have known this.”
The Presidency in its response through Garba Shehu said, among others:
“The lives of fellow citizens should not be desecrated by deploying them in political diatribe which unfortunately appeared to be the intent of the string of emotional attacks and blame laid at the doors of the President for those killings by Governor Ortom.”
Ortom may have spoken irresponsibly but he is not alone in dragging the Presidency for doing a shoddy job of managing Nigeria’s security challenges.
The general perception has been that, despite the monumental destruction of lives and property in States across the federation, reportedly carried out by criminal herders, Buhari has continued to quietly solicit accommodation for a group that has been declared a terrorist organization.
In all, both Mr President and Governor Ortom must rise above petty politics and rhetorics to lead with responsibility and restore hope to a battered Nigeria.
He said this at an interactive forum of Anambra governorship aspirants of All Progressives Congress (APC), organised by the State Chapter of APC patriots in Abuja.
He had said: “The thing about the kind of conflict in this part of the world, developing countries, is that it is usually a war without end. Everyone who thinks he has some monies stored up somewhere will eventually run out of money.
“Everyone who thinks he can go and hide somewhere won’t even find a place to hide, at the end, everyone will suffer. Even if you don’t suffer, parents, children, young and old people and relations will suffer. We cannot afford a war in this country, we can’t afford it.”
While Osinbajo’s submission is deemed right, and should be taken seriously by all Nigerians, what, however, becomes a thing of concern is the commitment of the ruling party to honestly deal with the issues that stir the agitation for secession by various individuals and groups across the country.
The benefits of hindsight must, therefore, act as sufficient motivation to inspire a transformative leadership that would prevent the country from being plunged into another massive humanitarian disaster.
The ball is in Osinbajo’s court to give life to his admonitions!
By John Chukwu
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