For the first time since President Muhammadu Buhari left the country for the United Kingdom 50 days ago, the Presidency, on Sunday, released his voice message to Nigerians.
The News Agency of Nigeria 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 Buhari’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 in the social media claiming that the President is suffering from speech impairment and memory loss.
Some Nigerians however expressed mixed feelings about Buhari’s message with some civil rights organisations and prominent individuals berating the President for speaking to Nigerians in Hausa.
A member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, wondered what the President’s handlers intended to achieve with the audio message.
He stated, “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, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said Buhari’s statement failed to address the issues of concern in the country, describing the audio message as flat.
Its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said he expected the President to have cautioned Arewa youths against their ultimatum to the Igbo, noting that instead, Buhari simply danced around the issue.
He said, “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.’’
He contended that there were many non-Hausa Muslims.
“It’s like the Acting President (Yemi) Osinbajo addressing the nation in Yoruba because he is a Yoruba man.
“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.
Reacting to the President’s message, 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.
Omokri stated, “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!”
In its reaction, a civil society organisation, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, said the President’s use of Hausa in his salah message was discriminatory as more than half of the population would not understand him.
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwumadu, stated, “The lingua franca of Nigeria is not Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba or Ibibio, but English. Therefore, while we appreciate that the President is not in the best of health condition, it is far-fetched that he would communicate on this occasion in a language that is not understood by more than half of the population. That was not well advised.
“This is a heterogeneous society, where we have over 200 indigenous languages. I think the President should focus on what unites us rather than what divides us. If he mustered the energy to talk at all, he should talk in a way everyone would understand. It is not proper.’’
Also, the Ijaw Youth Council expressed surprise that Buhari, whom it noted Nigerians had been eager to hear from, spoke in Hausa in his sallah message.
IYC spokesman, Mr. Henry Iyalla, said, on Sunday, that it would be difficult for Nigerians to agree that the President was actually the person that spoke to Nigerians on the BCC.
He explained that the President should have spoken in English, the official language of the country, adding that it was only English that the entire Nigeria would be able to hear and understand if he was the person who spoke.
Iyalla stated, “He is not only the President of the Hausa, he is also the President of Yoruba, Igbo, Niger Delta and other ethic nationalities.
“We are not really sure that he is the one who really spoke and this has not doused any tension about his health.”
The umbrella group for the Igbo, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, declared that Nigeria had descended to the level of a ‘Banana Republic’, if the President could address Nigerians in Hausa.
The Deputy Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Enugu on Sunday, doubted the authenticity of the message.
Ibegbu noted that there was a big problem if the message was found to be authentic, saying the message should be investigated.
“First of all, we have to ascertain the veracity of the voice because in these days of technology, a lot of things can be cloned, including human voice,” the Ohanaeze spokesman.
“But if it is true that Mr. President addressed Nigerians in a local language, it means something is wrong somewhere.
“I want to believe that the voice is not real, but if it is Mr. President that actually spoke, then, it means that we have descended to the level of a Banana Republic.
“The Federal Government should tell Nigerians whether it is actually Mr. President’s voice, or not.”
Ibegbu noted that the address couldn’t have been meant for Nigerians if it was delivered in Hausa.
He said, “Which message; message to who; in what language? Is Hausa our lingua franca? If Mr. President wants to address us, he should talk to us in English, which is our lingua franca.”
But the Arewa Consultative Forum said Buhari’s Eid-el-Fitr message was a good development in view of recent happenings in the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Muhammad Ibrahim, told one of our correspondents in Kaduna on Sunday that Buhari’s appeal to all Nigerians “goes to show the President’s belief in one and indivisible entity (country).”
Also, the National Chairman of the Northern Elders Council, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, prayed for the President’s quick recovery.