discourse in the past week. First, is the raging rumour on the “death”, or otherwise, of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is officially said to be on a 10-day vacation in the United Kingdom. I first chanced on the news of the president’s supposed death on the social media about two weekends ago, and immediately waved it off as one of the fake news for which that medium of communication is becoming quite notorious.
But, I had apparently underestimated the great interest and excitement that any negative news about Buhari and his government generates among certain segments of the Nigerian population. What I had thought of as a mere tale spawned by some idle social media tattlers soon took on a life of its own, complete with intriguing plots and murderous suppositions that could dwarf any tale told by James Hardly Chase and the other old grand masters of fiction writing.
Strangely, many of the carriers of these tales have worked themselves into a frenzy over a “development” that they believe is likely to lead to “Nigeria’s second civil war, if not an actual dissolution of the country”. Many of the purveyors of this most unlikely story can hardly keep their excitement under check, as they surreptitiously regale those with whom they choose to discuss the matter, with “details” of how the president was flown, “totally unconscious”, out of the country, and died shortly after arriving in London. Yet, others hold firmly to online accounts of how the president was caught “trying to commit suicide”, and rushed to the hospital, where he is now in a vegetative state, while his handlers, are trying to hoodwink Nigerians and rule the nation by proxy, as happened in the last few weeks of the late president, Umaru Yar’Adua.
Others say Buhari has even been buried, while one person said he had called the president’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, and asked him why he had joined others by telling lies on the matter of the president’s death. The person, strangely, insisted that he did not believe that Buhari was dead, but he was convinced that his media handlers were lying that he was alive. What a contradiction!
And the tale of the president’s death has not been limited to Nigeria. I have received calls from friends in the UK who say that the Nigerian community in London is agog with the news of Buhari’s death and how it is likely to throw Nigeria into turmoil. As one of the callers put it, “every Nigerian over the age of 25 in London has been talking about nothing other than the impending trouble in Nigeria over “Buhari’s death”, in the past one week.
Ask the local weavers of these intriguing tales and you will hear that “with the president now dead, the people in Northern Nigeria have vowed not to accept the constitutional provision that the vice president, who incidentally is Prof. Yemi Osinbajo from the South –West, becomes the president”. Not only that, they will tell you that the recent meeting of the Northern Governors Forum with some of the nation’s former leaders from the North, was called to pressurise VP Osinbajo to either resign or face death, so that he would not aspire to the office of president when Buhari’s death is announced. Some even said Osinbajo was already being held hostage in Abuja. The story goes further that the Nigerian strongmen from Southern Nigeria, such as ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, have vowed to resist the move of the Northerners, hence the need for all Nigerians to begin praying violently for Osinbajo so that he is not killed by Northerners, as they have vowed to destroy the country if Buhari dies by any means, whether natural or otherwise
When all these scary suppositions are woven around the antics of some Fulani herdsmen who have actually been holding Nigerians of other tribes to ransom and killing them in large numbers in different parts of the country; the recent DSS clampdown on the Christian cleric, Apostle Suleiman of the Omega Fire Ministries, for calling on Christians in the country to defend themselves when herdsmen attack them; and the Christians in Southern Nigeria who are themselves getting into a frenzy over the Apostle Suleiman matter, it is not quite out of place for anyone to believe that Nigeria is about to become a cauldron wherein the different ethnic and religious groups will take up arms and engage themselves in a fight to the finish that will lead to the breakup and eventual destruction of the country.
Where, exactly, does one begin unraveling these troubling suppositions? Already, pictures of the president with his wife, and with Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, which were recently released by the president’s handlers, have been disputed, and described as old file pictures, by doubtful Nigerians. Concerning the matter of President Buhari’s supposed death, it is highly unlikely that this is so.
I, personally, never get worked up over the rumoured deaths of public figures. This is simply because the death of a public figure like Buhari, in which different people have different stakes, cannot be hidden for long. So, why would anyone hide it at all? And, why would any Nigerian, in the manner of the proverbial groom to whom a bride is being taken, break his back while trying to catch a glimpse of the bride by climbing a fence?
Again, Muslims bury their death within 24 hours of their demise. If Buhari were to have died when he was rumoured to have passed on almost two weeks ago now, he would have been buried. No political suppositions or calculations will make true Muslims postpone the burial of their dead. So, we can safely assume that Buhari did not die when he was first said to have passed on, and he also had not died up till yesterday evening, otherwise the country would be preparing for his burial today. So, why are some Nigerians troubling themselves and, where did all the rumours of death come from, in the first place?
The simple truth is that many Nigerians who harbour ill will against some of their leaders that they do not like and can do nothing to remove immediately, have developed itchy ears that seek to “hear” every evil and believe every evil about these leaders. In this task, the social media has become a veritable tool for the dissemination of jaundiced news and views to titillate the ears of such people. As if all these are not enough trouble for one country, some of the people of the South-South are said to have determined to financially strangulate Nigeria to bring Buhari to his knees, while some of the South-East citizens are said to be bent on breaking away from Nigeria. If these worrisome claims are not enough to throw well meaning Nigerians and our compatriots in the Diaspora into emotional turmoil, I wonder what else can.
As Mr. Tony Okoroji reportedly said in a recent Saturday Breakfast programme on television, Buhari is daily being killed on social media where there is an ongoing war to control and guide the minds of youths and other vulnerable Nigerians to detest him. Crude propaganda is being deployed as ethnic and religious missiles to turn the hearts of ordinary Nigerians against the president and his administration. And, all these are being done to gain advantage over him and the ruling APC on the Nigerian political chessboard in the run up to the 2019 elections. With all the ethnic and religious tension being given vent on social media, Nigeria needs to be careful to avoid a degeneration of thinly veiled hostilities among its various peoples and religions, to genocide.
It is time to stop the dangerous incubation and propagation of ethnic and religious animosities on social media. It is also time to check the war across the nation’s social classes. This country is in deep shit, and we all need to keep our heads and put heads together and on how to get the country back on track, instead of these endless battles against our imaginary enemy in Aso Rock.
Back to Buhari. The president’s media handlers have said he will be back in the country this Friday, which is just 48 hours away. Let all tingling ears take a break and await either the president’s return , or the news of his death or incapacitation.