• Saturday, June 22, 2024
businessday logo


Like Buhari, Obama or Fayose? One thing still stands out, food…


Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari stunned us all with a high rating move, when he suddenly decided to personally serve his guests.

The move, it would seem took the President’s popularity a notch high as it was taking a turn for the bend as hunger, suffering, and harsh economic situations hit Nigerians below the belt. It was a new, never seen chess move by any of Nigeria’s Presidents.

Before this night, the President had broken his fast with groups from different walks of life, each day of the week and this night it was the turn of the Internally displaced persons and some victims of the northeast insurgency.

Arriving at the venue I noticed that the list of those attending had stretched to include the physically challenged, taxi drivers, commercial motorcycle riders, artisans such as butchers, hairdressers, barbers, tailors, members of the Buhari Support Organisation, the President’s neighbours in Lobito Crescent (mostly private security guards), and junior workers in the headquarters of the All Progressives Congress.

They arrived in coaster buses, gaily dressed and were ushered into the beautifully decorated banquet hall at the presidential villa. After the President finished his prayers and was ready to break his fast he proceeded to the hall where his guests gave him a rousing welcome.

If at this point you expected the President to take his seat, I would not blame you because we really did not see it coming. He was led straight to the tables holding the buffet in preparedness for him to start dishing out food to the physically challenged who had been compelled to sit in the first two front rows of a pre-arranged sitting  positions in the banquet hall.
I can bet it was a wow moment for them, to have the President serve them food and it showed on their faces. This was a big deal. He ladled pap into soup bowls, as well as akara, rice, stew, and meat or whatever they requested for.

Well, I remember the first time I stumbled on a video of American President, Barack Obama and his family serving homeless veterans, it was the first of its kind and to me, it was an overwhelming moment. I could only wonder how they felt. Arousing a belief that Obama also understood the principle of “stomach infrastructure”.

In Nigeria, the issue of ‘stomach infrastructure’ is known to have been used as political strategy especially during elections to curry votes.
Food, air, and water are metabolic requirements for survival in all animals, including human beings, according to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Well, on the lighter side, growing up my mother always reminded me that the way to a man’s heart is through his belly (a Calabar mythology for its maidens).
Ok, Back to Nigeria again, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, one of Buhari’s diehard critics, is renowned for his stomach infrastructure policies and gestures. This, many said endeared him to the grassroots in his state.

Meanwhile, since photos of the President serving out food went viral, some Nigerians swung into action putting together pictures of Obama, Fayose, and Buhari doing the same with headlines like “Is Buhari
copying Obama or Fayose? I love my people, we smile and make light of everything, even in the midst of hardship.
Whatever the case or whoever President Buhari was copying, his gesture was a laudable one to most, even his new critics. Even if we have to wax religious, the bible says he who is the greatest must be a servant (Mathew 23:11), but Nigerians despite the pat on the back still want things to speed up. They want things to work out faster despite promises by the government. They feel that it is taking too long to fix things so that the change can begin to unfold.
On the other side, it is always interesting when the President speaks extempore. At the Sallah homage in his official residence where he received the Muslim community from the Federal Capital Territory, he
replied an earlier comment by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that he had lost weight. Osinbajo had earlier estimated that the President may have lost about two kilograms during the fasting period.

When he took the mic, Buhari went straight to it saying he slightly disagreed; we wondered what he was going to say. “My neck used to be 16inches, but now it is 14 and a half”, he jocularly said and everyone burst out laughing.
Then he proceeded to talk about other things like the fastest ways Nigerians get information these days. If you need to listen to news and there is no NEPA or whatever form it has taken now, you can just
walk into a barber’s shop and pretend to be busy, the radio or television is mostly on there, President advised.
It was also in this forum that the President declared that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable. You see, he reminded us of 1967-1970 (again) when he was a junior officer and the fight to keep Nigeria in
one piece.

“I assure them that the saying by General Gowon that to keep Nigeria is a task that must be done. In those days we never thought of oil, all we are concerned of was one Nigeria. So please pass this to the militants, that one Nigeria is not negotiation and they had better accept,” he said.
Well, we Nigerians love stomach infrastructure, we love food, we also love the extra day added to our just concluded public holiday despite the economic losses incurred but what we would no longer negotiate is the existence of a better, stronger, secured and developed Nigeria.
Yes, Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable, but we all look forward to the Nigeria of our dreams and hope we all get there soon as promised.


Elizabeth Archibong