I watched with keen interest as President Muhammadu Buhari spoke to the nation about the unrest that has gripped the country in recent days. It was a belated broadcast, served cold, lacking content, disconnected with the realities on ground. In the school of journalism, we were taught that speeches must reflect the mood of the times, but Buhari’s ‘speechless speech’ never did. He read out the speech as someone who had just landed on this planet earth after a long sojourned in the moon.
I think our dear youths should please accept my apologies on behalf of Mr President. He might have delivered a wrong speech. The heart of the youths are still bruised, the speech did not inspire hope.
Mr President should know that the youths believe in Nigeria. How do I know? The social media was awashed recently with the picture of a nursing woman with a child, stretching a twisted fist towards a people to give more meaning to her voice, because the future of the child in her hand must be secured.
From the streets I saw a young lady weeping, she sat on a statue meditating on how her loved ones fell for police brutality, but in that her moment of grief, she still held on to the Nigeria’s flag in her hands.
With all these, isn’t Buhari’s speech supposed to inspire hope? Without making any mention of the shootings of peaceful protesters at Lekki toll plaza on Tuesday night that prompted international outrage was the height of heartlessness and lack of empathy.
Security operatives had opened fire without warning on thousands of peaceful protesters singing the national anthem on Tuesday night, killing at least 13 people, according to Amnesty International. In reaction, scores of rioters took over the streets, critical infrastructures were not spared, they broke into a warehouse, public and private properties were torched with reckless abandon. Looting has gone on almost unabated. Palpable wrath has enveloped many parts of the nation. Jail breaks and attempted jail breaks have been repeated in different parts of the country.
Violent mobs have virtually taken over some areas from the government. Innocent Nigerians have been caught in the middle of the chaos, with priceless lives and valuable properties swept into oblivion. The nation has truly been in a state of crisis, nay, a state of emergency. And the President has failed to provide bold and visible leadership despite the earnest urgings and pleadings of the people.
Following widely reported shooting of peaceful protesters by soldiers at the Lekki toll gate, the world united in urging immediate and apt response from the President. Many called for a national broadcast to pacify a grieving nation.
But as the President spoke in his highly anticipated speech, I wondered who wrote the speech for him while the broadcast last. The President spent the bulk of his time asserting his authority as Commander-In-Chief, warning ‘subversive’ elements against destabilising the nation.
He barely expressed any condolences to the families of protesters lost in the senseless violence involving law enforcement officers, or empathise with the long-oppressed teeming youths yearning for change. In fact, he condescendingly declared that agreeing to disband SARS had been mistaken for weakness, signalling a possible new approach which will see bold and assertive display of raw state power.
For me, President Buhari missed a unique opportunity to aptly communicate to a nation in pain. A nation in crisis. A people divided.