by Joel Pereyi
Garba Shehu said he has been amused by jokes of the frequency of our president’s foreign visits. He submits that all such jokes are misplaced because our dear president who also doubles as a voyager and Mr. Shehu’s principal has been using these trips to set up local and international infrastructures that will bring to bear the change we chorally yearn for.
He listed countries Mr. President has so far visited and how he had been privileged to be an accompanying person in some of the delegations. Expectedly, he laced his article with benefits of these foreign visits, the opinion of public and international diplomacy experts and how one of our former military heads of state regretted his insularity to the international community over time.
There was virtually nothing Mr. Shehu didn’t tell us to make us buy into President Buhari’s junketing. But like himself and other minders of the presidency, it is their job to market this administration to us and ours. It is their job to always paint the federal canvas in bright colours. They are paid to beatify every of President Buhari’s doing and undoing.
So we recognise Mr. Shehu’s article for what it is: a mere PR gig; an intellectually compromised piece; a work written with paycheck fixated thoughts, hence, lacking in forthrightness. So, we aren’t buying it. It is too damn petty!
Ours happen to be a nation so gifted and blessed with bright minds and skilful hands. All those witty tweets and updates rebuking Mr. President’s overly frequent trips on blogosphere can’t be wrong.
Even if in the light of Mr. Shehu’s article they seem to be wrong, let’s do the maths ourselves. How many times does a Barrack Obama, David Cameron or say Francois Hollande travel in six months? Okay, they run first world economies and our challenges are quite different. It would be unfair to compare ours to theirs.
What of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the president of Argentina or Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, whose economies largely depend on oil? Do they spend 40 out of 181 days outside the shores of their respective countries? Just like ours, aren’t their economies seething due to the falling oil prices?
Oh, they aren’t plagued with Boko Haram. They do not have internal security challenges to deal with. Their girls don’t get abducted and their male students aren’t at the risk of having their throats slit while having their well deserved nocturnal rest. Their mosques, parks and markets are safe and their churches are a tad safer.
But can we say the same of all other African countries? Have Boko Haram not extended its deadly paws to Chad, Niger and Cameroun? Was a hostel in Mali not attacked by Al shabab militants? Were there no abductions in certain parts of Africa early this year? Are extremists not operating in Libya and South Sudan? Was Paris, with her watertight security and all her technological advancement not attacked by terrorists?
All these are pointers to the fact that our security and economic challenges aren’t peculiar. As has been touted time and time again, Mr. President’s junketeering has so far served little or no utility. They have thus far yielded little or no result.
Despite his acclaimed visit to the U.S., the country and several other crude oil traders still shun our oil. Because of our refusal to devalue our currency as The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended, some of our former buyers now ditch our oil for less attractive ones. That isn’t all.
In the Nigeria of today, job losses are now the new cool. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics recorded that 1.4 million people have lost their jobs in the last six months. At this point, it is worthy to recall that our ivory towers presently churn out, on an annual basis, 1.8 million graduates with zilch spaces for them in the highly competitive labour market.
Unending spaghetti queues have since returned to our gas stations and the APC–led administration is yet to lay down a policy framework it intends to use in fulfilling the mouth watering 720,000 annual jobs, N5,000 monthly stipends for unemployed youths and several such juicy promises it made during the build-up to the elections.
Running from the U.S. to France and stopping by at Germany wouldn’t actualize these promises. Travelling to Ghana or Malta wouldn’t automatically fix our roads or create jobs. Nelson Mandela didn’t have to be a globetrotter to claim his rightful place in the world of great leaders. Lee Kuan Yew didn’t have to be a junketer-in-chief to transform Singapore from third world to first world.
The December deadline for Boko Haram is already at the corner. Junketeering wouldn’t ring the infamous group to its knees. We didn’t vote for a sprinter or marathoner. We don’t want a president who runs from pillar to post. We are a troubled race. A president who rather than tackle our problems head-on seeks an avocation in tripping and lounging is a nightmare we do not want to have.
Joel Pereyi is an award winning essayist and writer. He maintains a bimonthly column for the Abuja-based FCT Post.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.