Many Nigerians have been left wondering why President Muhammadu Buhari is vocal anytime he is out of the country but almost taciturn when he is back home.
The latest series of controversial interviews to the media in UK and even participation in the Commonwealth Business Forum as a panellist have left Nigerians raising questions about the president’s apparent preference for foreign media exposure at the expense of communicating with the Nigerian public through the local media.
Since becoming president in May 2015, President Buhari has only participated on one media chat which took place on December 30, 2015. The presidential chat was a tradition which was used by past presidents to inform Nigerians directly on their thinking on national issues.
It was started by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and was continued by late President Yar Adua and former president Goodluck Jonathan.
However, since president Buhari had his maiden media chat, he has not bothered to have any other one, leaving Nigerians largely in the dark on his thinking on major national issues.
Buhari has also not granted interview to any major media organisation in the country, not even the government owned and controlled National Television Authority (NTA).
But while Buhari has ignored the local media, he is quick to grant interviews to the foreign media whenever he is out of the country, in the process making controversial statements that often have negative connotations on the country’s already battered image.
“Buhari has been good at doing more damage to the country’s global reputation with his comments that doing good. And that is really sad because he is supposed to be the chief marketing officer for the country,” said a brand communications officer of one of the country’s leading banks.
He cited the example of banks where the CEO is usually regarded as the Chief Marketing Officer and does everything to ensure the banks reputation is protected.
Buhari’s trail of foreign media interviews has been one of communication blunders.
In UK, Buhari granted a controversial interview to the Telegraph UK, which was published on the February 5, 2016 edition of the paper in which he was quoted by the Telegraph to have said that Nigerians ‘reputation for criminality has made it hard for them to be “accepted” abroad.’
Also, while on a visit to Germany in October 2016, while standing next to Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the world’s most powerful politicians, Buhari told the world media that his own wife belongs in the kitchen.
This was after Aisha Buhari, the president’s wife granted a controversial interview to BBC in which she said she might not back her husband re-election bid in 2019, ‘unless he got a grip of his government.’
Also in May 2016, Buhari backed the statement of former British Prime Minister David Cameron, who described Nigerians as fantastically corrupt.
When the UK media confronted him with the statement asking if he needed an apology from the prime minister for making such a derogatory statement about the country, Buhari admitted ‘Nigerians are fantastically corrupt’ although he said that instead of an apology, he wanted UK to return all stolen funds in their possession.
Buhari admitted to the fantastically corrupt statement after two other Nigerian senators had told the UK media that the statement from the British prime minister was demeaning and demanded an apology.
Buhari’s latest statement is the calling of Nigerian youths as being lazy with a sense of entitlement.
This has attracted a lot of outrage from youths in the country who have been left wondering how the president formed such an impression of youths in the country and what has he done to correct it.
The fact that the statement was made at an international business forum has been seen as quite damaging to the country’s reputation as a potential investment destination.
Sources in media industry say that Buhari’s negative statements would have been better managed if they were made in the local media since the local media would understand local sensibilities.
“Making those statements abroad leaves the president totally exposed as the foreign media feeds on the blunder which massages their already negative perception of the country,” said a source in a top media agency in the country.
By our reporter