JOKES aside, the President’s age should not be of fleeting interest to Nigerians. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which should be that the President swore on oath (candidates swear on oath to affirm veracity of the information on the forms submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC) that he was a certain age.
If what he presented to INEC is different from his present age, 74, or 75, as he was told, he is guilty of perjury. Who would charge a god, as he is perceived to court? Better still, he has immunity under our Constitution.
I would have suggested for his famed integrity he should resign, if he is guilty of perjury. I, however know, that questions over the value of integrity, have ruined that option.
Either way, something, more than the arrogant, deliberate ignorance of the pains of Nigerians, is wrong with President Muhammadu Buhari. He admitted that much in the interview where he added to the controversy about his age. I have no qualms with an 80-year-old being President, if that is what Nigerians want. Democracy, centres on choices, it is a choice, too, to make uninformed choices.
The issue is performance not age. Ethiopian Miruts Yifter, won the 1980 Olympic gold medals in 5,000m and 10,000m. Some claimed he was over 50 years old.
Yifter who passed on in December 2016, gave this pithy response to why he does not count his years, “Men can steal my sheep. Men can steal my chickens. Nobody can steal my age.” A better response could have been that age did not stop him from winning two Olympic gold in two grueling events within days.
My grouse is with President Buhari making the admission about his age without seeming to care whether it has legal or moral implications. How old is the President? We may not know. Should we not know?
In similar manner, he dismissively discussed his health. He was healthier, the President said, because he was eating more and sleeping longer hours. Apparently, he was following his doctors’ instructions. Did he think through that revelation, or again, it didn’t matter what anybody thought?
At a time most Nigerians wonder if the nation’s challenges would task a 24-hour day, our President is investing longer hours in sleep. Who does not know it is about his health? I only wonder about the acquiescence that President Buhari’s decisions about how he manages Nigeria should be more important than how those decisions affect the lives of millions of Nigerians, especially those who rejected him at the polls.
The President’s recent revelations now end the mystery about celebrations whenever he presides over routine matters like the Federal Executive Council. It’s news, the pictures are there to confirm he made it, he joked with those present, and that he was in charge, whatever that means these days.
If there were doubts about offices and being in charge of things, the raging fuel scarcity has left no further doubts. The Minister of Petroleum Resources, also the President, after weeks of public angst, offishly stated that he was being briefed about the situation. If you thought that was bad, more was to come.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who delights in re-stating presidential slips, as if the President can’t speak for himself, spent minutes selling fuel this week, a move that supposedly meant that there was no scarcity. It was really a cruel joke that confirmed that the Vice President, even if he was not sleeping longer hours, was not as busy as we thought.
Then Osinbajo took matters to those dizzy heights of duplicity that makes Nigerians ask how we got to this point.
According to the Vice President, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, not the Federal Government, was accountable for the fuel crisis. He forgot the Federal Government owned NNPC 100 per cent. Maybe, he didn’t know, or didn’t care, that the President, who was awaiting briefing on the fuel scarcity was the Minister of Petroleum Resources, and that NNPC reported directly to the President/Minister.
The situation is not lost on Nigerians. We have a President of an indeterminate age, we applaud. We have a Vice President reporting the President’s failings to us, we clap, thinking it is an appropriate photo opportunity for the VP while Nigerians groan under scarcity of a single product that affects water, medical services, transportation and our ability to watch a documentary proving that the President was human.
We joke so much that we miss moments that call for sobriety. There is a fuel crisis and nobody is firmly concerned about it. The blames, explanations, mostly excuses, are incapable of restoring normalcy to Nigerian lives. The damage to a regressing economy appears of minimal consideration as we celebrate platitudes.
A nexus exists between the President’s age, longer sleeping hours, and this crisis. Age not only matters – it counts.