• Saturday, December 09, 2023
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The ‘unPresidential’ answer

The ‘unPresidential’ answer

At a meeting with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace in the UK on Wednesday, the first time since he assumed duty after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Buhari, who had travelled to the UK for a medical checkup on October 31, had an encounter that agitated Nigerians.

The Monarch had asked President Buhari if he had a house in London.

When Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant to the President on Digital and New Media, in a Twitter post last Thursday, shared a video of the two world leaders speaking, stating: “He asked me whether I have a house here. I said ‘no’. Even in Nigeria, the only houses I have are those I had before I got into government. I’m not very much interested in having assets all over the place. I feel much freer when I have nothing,” he thought he was doing a great job for his principal. It is not every conversation that must be made public.

President Buhari may have treated lightly the question that was packed with so much meaning.

King Charles, who has been following Nigerian President’s visits to London, both for medicals and other sundry reasons, may have sat down to do the math on the financial consequences of the junketing on Nigeria. He was just imagining that given Nigeria’s ways of doing things, the huge expenditure to keep Buhari alive all these years must have been borne by the country. But just to be sure if anything has changed, he reasoned like it is done in responsible countries that some of those huge bills would be defrayed by the president himself. He asked if Buhari had a house in London- a double whammy question that demanded high-level intelligence to handle because of its intricate nature. But not surprising, as usual, our dear president took the flippant path. In his usual way of adorning the cloak of integrity, he said he had no house in London because he does not believe in having properties all over the place. But he did not realise that Nigeria bleeds so much by virtue of maintaining his costly frequent visits. The cost of accommodating him and his usual retinue of hangers-on called aides is huge. Some of his aides are said to be having fun by collecting huge amounts of foreign currencies as estacodes. That is why they are always eager to arrange all manner of foreign trips- back to back- for their principal, even though most of the foreign trips have no positive impact on Nigeria. Back to King Charles’ inquisition.

Buhari’s holier-than-thou attitude evident in his “I don’t have a house in London…” must have given an impression of a waster, who would have been spending far less if he stayed in his house in London each time he visited than being a huge drain on Nigeria by either staying in Nigeria’s lodge or expensive hotels. That’s one. Two, King Charles must have greened and said, “Oh, London is good for you to run to for medicals but not to own a property? London is good for you to run to for all manner of holidays and not to own a property in?” A lot of things may be running in the mind of the British monarch which the President and his minders should try to figure out. The question that Buhari was asked may look simple on the face value, but it is pregnant with meanings.

Read also: King Charles the ‘Green Monarch’ and future of the British monarchy

Could it be that Charles had wanted to dash Buhari a house as he (the Nigerian president) has always gone to London or any other Western country seeking one assistance or the other? Ever receiving and never able to be independent!

My candid advice is that efforts must be made to get Charles to explain. Nigeria surely needs an explanation. Could the question have arisen to enlighten King Charles on the person of Buhari in relation to attachment to worldly pleasures that Nigeria’s elite are known for? It is a known fact that many Nigerian politicians and businessmen own properties in many countries across the globe. But those who know Buhari too well say that he may have said the truth because according to him, he lives for himself and does not think about tomorrow, which is the reason there is no known establishment, in any sector of the nation’s economy that has his name as the founder. Apart from staff taking care of his herd of cattle as he confessed that he has a number of cows, he has no company, no business that employs anybody. All the years he spent, seeking the office of the President, he was just sleeping, waking up and eating in Daura and Kaduna, without any blue chip investment.

How can a President who has made London his second home be sermoning against having a property in a land that has kept you alive? Buhari had spent several months at a stretch in the UK during his first tenure, on grounds of ill-health; he has continued to visit at different occasions for follow-up medical trips. And here he is saying he had no need for a house in London.

One Ubani Chimaobi, reacting to the development, said: “He may think it’s just an ordinary question King Charles III is asking of him but there’s an undertone to it.

“It is possible Buhari doesn’t have a house in the UK but he spends so much on rent in the UK whenever he travels, but I wonder if the UK government is unaware of the societal menace happening in their former colony (Nigeria).”

An online publication had urged the President to look into the implication of the question, saying, “It was not a compliment for King Charles III to have asked President Muhammadu Buhari, whether he has a house in the UK, but a sort of mockery.”