Presidential interview: A change in perception is necessary

Nigerians have been craving for President Muhammadu Buhari to answer some questions on the increasing uninhabitablility of the nation to all classes of countrymen and women. His disavowal of local media was glaring. But on Thursday, June 10, 2021, he broke the jinx and surprised Nigerians with the exclusive interview he granted Arise News TV. It was so unusual and startling that the media outfit had to pick its best brains and bluestockings for the outing. Among the crew were the Chairman/CEO of the establishment, Nduka Obaigbena, a boardroom guru and doyen of mass media. Next is erstwhile presidential adviser, Dr. Reuben Abati, a living legend in the noble art of journalism. From the newspaper arm of the company came Segun Adeniyi, an editor par excellence. To balance up the gender mix, there was the ever-charming Ms Tundun Abiola, the cerebral and highbrow hostess of the daily Arise TV Morning Show.

When I saw these cream of media watchdogs, I predicted easily that self censorship will inevitably be the order of the day. The company made sure it sent the best crew for the job to forestall any chances of incongruous pelting up questions that might irk the commander-in-chief. And everyone knows that whenever an interviewer red-pencils himself, the expectations and relevance of the interview becomes attenuated. But to be fair to Arise News, you cannot interview a leader who is ‘mediaphobic’ without getting yourself bowdlerized, unless you don’t want to come back the next time.

And so while we commend and congratulate Mr President on his acceptance to grant a third exclusive interview to domestic media organization in six years, there are many fallouts and takeaways from the question and answer session; out of which only two will be analysed in this piece. Prominent among these is President Buhari’s culture of generalisation. The second one is his penchant for throwing his audience into the frenzy of mistaken identity; in that whenever he speaks, he leaves many contradicting impressions. First, he conveys the impression of a monarchical ruler — an absolutist who occupies a democratic chair, as is seen when he described a section of the country as a “dot in a circle.” Then that of someone who has undying affinity for the fallacy of generalisation in logic and philosophy.

Hasty generalisation is a type of logical fallacy. A fallacy is an argument that is based on mistaken reasoning. When one makes a hasty generalisation, he applies a belief to a larger population than he should, based on the partial information that he has.

For example, if my brother likes to smoke a lot of cigarette, and he is healthy, I can say that cigarette smoking is healthy and doesn’t really give a person lung diseases. However, I don’t have a large enough sample population to make this claim. I have generalised based on one person.

In another instance, you visit a new country and the first person you meet in the airport was rude. You send a message to a friend back home that everyone in this new country is rude.

Or a driver with Enugu number plate cuts you off in traffic. You decide that all Enugu drivers are terrible drivers.

It sounds funny but that’s what Mr. President does each time he makes media outing. In the Arise interview he saw every Igbo man as an IPOB sympathiser. Such misbelief is not new.

On Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at the commonwealth Business Forum, Buhari said in response to an interview about totally unrelated topic that “Nigerian Youths are lazy.” It forced a social media backlash against his claims among the youths then, with sarcastic hashtag #lazyNigerianYouths trending.

And that was two years after he had told The Telegraph on February 2016, that “Nigerians have reputation for criminality.” In other words, Nigerians are criminals. He then asked UK not to grant any Nigerian asylum. That singular remark nearly triggered mass revolt by refugees’ rights groups who claimed that vast majority of asylum cases lodged by Nigerians were genuine.

It was on record, that while he was making that remark in Britain, back home, a cleaner at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Miss Mary Ishaya, picked a bag containing $2,000,140 at the male toilet of the aerodrome and returned it intact to the owner. A clear demonstration of honesty and incorruptible disposition. Weeks later, Anthony Obioha (another cleaner) with the same airport found and returned another bag containing $7,000 to the authorities to trace and return it to the owner.

All these were honest and law abiding citizens that Mr. President tagged “criminals” under his customary error of blanket generalisation. Such fallacy is infantile and doesn’t befit a president.

In this most recent interview, he made a statement instigating that Nigerian youths are bandits and insurgents. He also generalised the #EndSARS protesters routing for police reform and good governance as people who make our environment unsafe for investment. He said: “Tell the youths, if they want jobs, they should behave themselves and make sure the environment is secure so people can invest. Nobody will invest money in an unstable environment.” He claimed that Nigerian youths’ insurrection made investors jettison our land and joblessness came as a result.

Who will tell the president that #EndSARS protest was not targeted at unsitting him as he claimed in the interview session?

Who will tell the president that more than 90 percent of Nigerians are not bandits and insurgents. How could he understand that the less than 10 percent of our population who were made to engage in banditry and insurgency should not make all of us be mopped and defined in the same category?

Who will remind Mr. President that IPOB as a separatist agitators do not represent the Igbo nation as a whole. Ohaneze Ndigbo has never toed that line. Who will tell him that Nnamdi Kanu’s loyalists account for far less than 5 percent of Igbo?

Who will tell the president that John Mikel Obi is an Igbo man, but in the interest of national unity and patriotism, he coughed out more than $4,000 in August 2016 to offset unpaid hotel bills of Nigerian contingents and crew in Brazil during the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic games.

Mikel saw the insistence by the hotel authority that the Dream Team IV will not be allowed to go for their match in Salvador from Sao Paulo, unless they pay their accommodation bills as national embarrassment. And he had to do it for national pride.

Who will remind President Buhari of this patriotic gesture?

Who will remind him that during President Obasanjo’s reign, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led by Raph Uwazuruike staged similar crusade as IPOB is doing presently. But Obasanjo never ostracised the entire region and tribe because of the action of a few.

He truly needs to know all these things, perhaps it might change his perceptions.

Ogechukwu writes via
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