Buhari’s Sallah audio message in Hausa sparks controversy

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*President Buhari

For the first time in 50 days since President Muhammadu Buhari left the country for the United Kingdom, the Presidency, on Sunday, released his voice message to Nigerians.

NAN reports that the voice message was released to debunk reports that the President was suffering from speech impairment.

The audio clip, which is the President’s voice message to Nigerians on the occasion of the Eid-el-Fitr, is in Hausa.

The president’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, had, in a statement on Saturday conveyed the message of the President to Nigerians.

On Sunday, the BBC aired a recorded audio version of Buhari’s message.

The message, which took the president about one minute and three seconds to deliver, is the audio version of the statement released by Shehu.

Buhari stated in the message, “I am immensely grateful to God for his mercy in guiding us successfully to conclude another Ramadan. My greetings to all Nigerian Muslims and our brother Christians on the occasion of Eid-el-Fitr:

“May the lessons of Ramadan, namely piety, self-denial, prayers and generosity to the poor and the needy, be with us for all time.

“I, again, appeal to all Nigerians to avoid reckless statements or actions against our fellow countrymen. We should all resolve to live in peace and unity in our great country, which is the envy of many less-endowed nations.”

There have been reports on the social media claiming that the President is suffering from speech impairment and memory loss.

Reacting to the message, a Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said: “Other than propaganda, I wonder what they (President’s handlers) intend to achieve by putting out such an audio clip (message) at this time. The President needs our prayers and we sincerely pray for his quick recovery and safe return.’’

Also reacting, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere,  said  Buhari’s statement failed to address the issues of concern in the country.

The group which described the audio message as “flat” said through its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin that it expected the president to have cautioned Arewa youths against their ultimatum to the Igbo, noting that instead, Buhari simply danced around the issue.

“The statement is so flat; it did not address specific issues on the ground. In view of what is going on in the country now, I would have thought he would have appealed to those, who are issuing notices to quit against some other tribes, to desist from doing such a thing.

“He was talking about reckless speeches. What constitute reckless speeches? I think he should have been more specific in terms of what we are facing now because the country is under stress.”

Odumakin berated the president for speaking in Hausa in the recording, saying that was not good enough.

“Addressing the nation at this time in Hausa does not bring inclusiveness. I don’t think it’s good enough for the President of a multi-ethnic nation to have made a national address in the language spoken by a section of the country,” he said.

A former special assistant on social media to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Reno Omokri, on his Facebook page, condemned Buhari for addressing Muslims in Hausa.

“In a country, whose official language is English, President Muhammadu Buhari broadcasts his Sallah message in Hausa! Would Trump (whose origin is German) address America in German? So what about all those Nigerians who can’t speak Hausa?

“Ideally, the President should have spoken in English first; then, if he feels like it, he may also speak in Hausa. The way he spoke only in Hausa makes it seem as if he is only concerned with those who gave him 97 per cent of the votes while those who gave him five per cent can take a hike!

“How would the rest of the country have felt if President Olusegun Obasanjo had released a Christmas broadcast to Nigerians in Yoruba or if President Goodluck Jonathan had done so in Ogbia?

“How can a national leader address Nigerians in a sectional language? Nigeria has never had a leader as divisive as Buhari! There is no difference between President Buhari and Nnamdi Kanu.

“President Buhari is the President of all Nigeria; he is not the President of only those who can speak Hausa! This is an outrage! (The late) President Umaru Yar’Adua also spoke to the BBC News by telephone. He is Fulani, like President Buhari; yet, he spoke in English because he was President of all of us!”

However, the former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army and a leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Brig. Gen. Idada Ikponmwen (Rtd) and former chief whip of the senate, Senator Rowland Owie said the prayers of all Nigerians is that President Buhari gets well soonest so as to fulfill his campaign promises. They, however, said that the leadership of the ruling party can find immediate solution in the event that the president becomes incapacitated.

Idada also said President Buhari’s led administration will not lead this country to progress through rhetoric’s but addressing those issues that led to the agitation for a Biafran state by Ndigbo and other sections of the country.

“We are happy with the news coming in that our President is getting better and we are happy with that because a lot of things are going on wrongly without him and that is why Nigerians voted him in. If he is recovering it is well for Nigeria. But if not I we must look for a solution because the country is too big to be left lonely.”

On his part, Senator Owie asserted that “as a man who has seen it all in the politics of Nigeria I pray for President Buhari to recover quickly because people are suffering and dying of hunger. Osinbajo has his limits and there is nothing like a President with full powers. But in the event that he can no longer carry on, the President can resign because APC will still be in power with Osinbajo.

“Health is more important, it is sad we found ourselves in this situation but we cannot question God. All I am saying is that people should not push the President too far, if he is not able to function properly let his Vice take over and we move on. He will still be alive like Pope John Paul 11 did. So this is not politics but reality.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTS: PUNCH, VANGUARD

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