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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Buhari, Gerontocracy and Early Missteps, By Jafaar Jafaar

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by Jafaar Jafaar

Wait… Wait… Pardon my youthful ignorance, please. It seems young men approaching midlife tend to be amnesiac.

Pardon me, again, I thought Ahmed Joda was dead!? No, Buhari recently reminded me, he was not dead. With all respect, I never wish the old man ill or dead. It’s in our nature to completely forget friends and acquaintances when they are out of sight.

Malam Ahmed Joda, who became federal permanent secretary in 1967 after serving in Northern Regional Government, is (in perhaps conservative estimate) 85. He has been working before independence and after independence.

Joda was probably born during the colonial era of Nigeria’s second Governor-General, Sir Graeme Thompson; that was, perhaps, shortly after the departure of Sir Frederick Lugard. He joined elementary school during the time of Sir Donald Cameron, attended Barewa Collage in the days of Sir Bernard Bourdillon, completed college in the days of Sir Arthur Richard and was admitted to Moor Plantation, Ibadan and later had a short stint at the Agricultural Centre in Yola in the days of Sir John Macpherson. In the colonial regime of Sir James Roberson, Joda cut his journalism teeth at Gaskiya Corporation, Zaria. He was also at Pitman College, London in the 50s. After Independence, he worked during the era Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe at the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, serving as the editor of NBC Kaduna, then joined the Northern Nigeria civil service as Chief Information Officer. He was in this capacity during the military regime of General Johnson Aguyi Ironsi. But before Ironsi, forgive my ‘jumping’, he worked with the late premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello. At the beginning of General Gowon’s regime in 1967, Joda was appointed federal permanent secretary, Ministry of Information. At the end of the civil war, he was deployed to the Ministry of Education and later to the Ministry of Industries.

Well, I could go on and on. I doubt if there is a government, from the days of Sir Macpherson to the dying days of President Jonathan, which Ahmed Joda didn’t serve in.

But that is our nature, Nigerians. We tend to task and give daunting duties to old men while we go for the sinecure. I always wonder why Nigerians tend to employ old men who should be in care homes as ‘maigadi’. While most burglars tend to be energetic and agile, why do we employ grandpas to man our gates? Why do we employ grannies – who should be in care homes – as nannies? Why can’t Buhari’s strategists bring in someone who is physically and mentally agile? I mean someone with deep knowledge of the current realities. I’m aware that the transition committee is not ‘government’, but tell me what role would Joda play in Buhari’s transition committee as chairman?

Joda’s inclusion in the transition committee as chairman is giving the incoming administration a bad image – that of a gerontocracy. If the youths tolerate Buhari as a leader despite his old age, there is no reason for Buhari not to ‘tolerate’ the youth in his government. That we tolerated Buhari does not mean we will tolerate old men in his government.

That I promoted the ideals of General Buhari during electioneering doesn’t mean I will support everything he does, warts and all, as a leader.

Buhari’s second misstep is the banning of the African Independent Television (AIT) from covering his activities. The ban on AIT was wrong despite the fact that the media house’s actions during the electoral campaign was against all the ethics of journalism. We have the courts. For Buhari, nothing seems novel in going to court. He can still take legal action against AIT.

A writer Na’Allah Mohammed Zagga argues that, “Creating a media siege mentality cannot help his government; instead, it may portray his government as intolerant or impatient with due process – that is to say Buhari can pursue his case against the AIT through the courts rather than using a presidential diktat to stop any media organisation from performing its legitimate duties… If overzealous security advisers had their way, President Jonathan would have banned the Daily Trust, Leadership and The Nation reporters from the Presidential Villa because of their perception as “members of the enemy press.” President Jonathan didn’t do so because it could have done him more harm than good. Banning AIT from covering Buhari’s activities should be reviewed immediately. It is potentially dangerous fighting the press”.

Ko ba haka ba?

Jafaar Jafaar is a public affairs analyst.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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