Buhari and 2Face: A Weekend of Cancellations

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President Muhammadu Buhari and 2face Idibia

Popular hip-hop musician, Innocent Idibia, popularly known with the stage name, “2Face,” which he recently changed to “2Baba,” came under heavy criticism over the weekend when he announced that the protest against Nigeria’s dwindling economy, scheduled to hold on February 6, 2017, had been cancelled. Interest in the protest tagged “One Voice” had been building up for weeks, with government and security agencies issuing threats and condemnation against the planned protest.

However, the musician, who became popular through his song, “African Queen,” shocked many on Saturday evening when he announced via his Instagram page, “Official2baba,” that he was cancelling the planned protest. In the video, he said as follows:

“Dear Nigerians, after due consultations, it has become clear that the #OneVoice Nigerian protest scheduled to hold in Lagos and Abuja on Monday the 6th of February is under serious threat of hijack by interests not aligned with our ideals. The point and intent I’m making is not worth the life of any Nigerian. It is a fact motivated by the need to demand a better deal for the ordinary Nigerian.

“I therefore announce the cancellation of the planned protest. We will share further information in due course.

“I appreciate the massive support and I am convinced that our voices have been heard.

“May God bless you all and may God bless Nigeria.”

If 2Baba had not announced that cancellation through a video, few people would have believed him. But the video made it clear that someone did not hack into his account. The announcement was seen as betrayal. There were allegations that he was threatened, blackmailed or induced to back out of the planned protest. Some pointed out that he acted in line with his name “2Face”: double face. Whatever was his reason, it was clear that that action would affect his rating in the eyes of his music fans for a while. If he comes out in the future to lead any campaign, many will not believe him. If he had not chickened out, he would have transformed from a music icon to a national crusader like Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Everybody knows that opposing the Federal Government in Nigeria is not child’s play, especially when it is led by someone who does not brook opposition. So 2Baba should have thought the protest through, weighed all the possibilities, including detention, threats, blackmail, abduction, physical harm, emotional torture, and even his death or the death of a member of his family or a protester. If he was convinced that he could bear any of such challenges, it was only then that he should have started such a campaign against the government.

What has worsened the image of 2Baba is the fact that in spite of his announcement, the protest took place in different parts of the country as scheduled on Monday, February 6. Shortly after his announcement of the cancellation of the protest very late on Saturday, conveners of the protest promptly issued their own statements, announcing that the protest would go on as planned. They added that 2Baba was not the convener of the protest but was only co-opted as a celebrity to give traction to the planned protest.

Be that as it may, it bears pointing out that the way presidential aides and the police reacted to the build-up to the protest was disappointing. Nigeria is supposed to be a democracy. Protests are an integral part of democracy. True democratic nations and institutions like universities create parks or squares where people can gather to protest against or in support of any cause under the face of the earth. It is their right. It tells the government what the people want, and a proactive government starts solving the problem in time before it snowballs into a crisis.

On Sunday, another cancellation was announced. This time, it was from the Presidency. President Muhammadu Buhari, who went to the United Kingdom on a 10-day vacation, was scheduled to arrive on Sunday. Because of that expected date of arrival, 2Baba had last week announced that the protest would be shifted from February 5 to February 6, so that the President would be in the country during the protest.

However, a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, on Sunday stated that “The President had planned to return to Abuja this evening, but was advised to complete the test cycle before returning.” The statement added: “The notice has since been dispatched to the Senate President, and Speaker, House of Representatives. Mr. President expresses his sincere gratitude to Nigerians for their concern, prayers and kind wishes.”

Coming on the heels of rumours of the death of the President a week ago, that announcement about the indefinite postponement of his return, created waves across the country about the state of health of the President.

President Buhari is human, and humans can be ill. Since early 2015 when the campaign for the Presidency peaked, there have been insinuations that he is not of good health. In the one year and eight months of his reign so far, Buhari has gone on vacation three times abroad. Each time, the information about his vacations has not been managed well.

Those who use his age as an excuse do him incalculable injustice. At 74 years old, Buhari is not very old. Professor Wole Soyinka will be 82 years old on July 13.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo will be 79 years old on March 5.

Mr Barack Obama’s Vice President, Mr Joe Biden, who left office last month, will be 75 years on November 20.

President Donald Trump will be 71 on June 14. These septuagenarians and octogenarians are agile. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was some months away from 79 years old in 1983 during the campaign for the presidential election. Even though there were campaign materials mocking his age, there were no rumours about his health.

If there is a medical condition that Buhari has, his compatriots need to know, to avoid regular rumours and uncertainty over his health. The more rumours arise about his health, the more difficult it becomes for him to turn around the nation, because there will be uncertainty and caution over the unknown.

However, it should be noted by those who wish the President dead that wishing him dead cannot kill him. Nobody has any control over when another person will die. Nobody knows who will die first between the old and the young or between the strong and the weak. But that there are people wishing the President dead should send a message to him. There are families who are mourning because their relatives were shot dead by security operatives over a protest or rally, and President Buhari has shown through his words and actions that he endorses such killings. There are families who have been wiped out by the repeated invasions of Fulani herdsmen across the nation. Then, there are families who have been thrown into hopelessness and hunger because of the mismanagement of the economy under the watch of Buhari. These classes of people will definitely not be happy with Buhari. There are also those who hope to benefit politically by the demise of the President.

However, Buhari can learn something from the man who founded the Nobel Prize. As a result of mistaken identity, Alfred Nobel read his own obituary in the newspapers. The media celebrated his “death,” labelling him the “merchant of death”. It touched him deeply and made him to set up the Nobel Prize with his money, which changed the image of Alfred Nobel forever. Once Buhari returns, let him start rebuilding and uniting the nation by extending true love and justice to all sections of the country. Let him drop his ineffectual economic policies and seek pragmatic ways to revive the economy, so that history will be kind to him.

Written by Azuka Onwuka

– Twitter @BrandAzuka