Buhari’s botched visit to Lagos

Much against all expectations, the highly publicised visit by President Muhammadu Buhari to Lagos, the other day, was aborted after so much preparation and expectation by the people.

Curiously, no cogent explanation has come from either the host state, Lagos, or the Presidency, beyond the ludicrous “scheduling difficulties” offered as an excuse by the latter. Without mincing words, everything about that botched visit, which was unbelievably scaled down only a few hours to its commencement, was a poor advertisement of what could now be interpreted as a baffling tardiness in the presidency.

Posters decked major roads and landmarks in the city as a welcome gesture. This in effect was an indication that it was not a hurried arrangement: it was a long term idea that got the nod of the president, hence the elaborate preparations. But then, hopes were dashed at the last minute.

It is most unfortunate that the reasons for canceling the visit, complete with travel guide, has now been left in the realm of speculations. Besides, the economic importance of Lagos does not seem to have been accorded due recognition and respect.

This is a manifestation of shoddiness which momentarily presented this administration as one without feeling for the business community that was forced to sacrifice resources for a presidential visit that never was.

Not even the representation by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and assurance of a reschedule coming after the Ramadan, could offset what was at once an embarrassment and a disappointment.

Had Buhari come to Lagos, it would have been the first official visit by a sitting President in almost 15 years. This grave error, in symbolic and substantial importance, is made more agonising by the fact that no serious apology has been offered for the inconveniences caused the residents. This is one big mistake that should not be repeated even for any other state of the federation. It is better not to agree to a state visit than to cancel one at the eleventh hour.

Mr. President should know that what he planned but botched was a state visit and could not be delegated, not even to the vice-president. Pray, when has the presidential itinerary become a mystery to his handlers that it could not be effectively managed? In the absence of any cogent reason till date for the official mess, if for any reason it comes down to Mr. President as having unilaterally decided against the trip, it is a minus for him as a statesman.

The Lagos ‘no-show’ becomes more intriguing against the fact that he had earlier spent a couple of days in his home state of Katsina without any hitch and during which he participated in an economic summit. Besides, it is quite revealing that while the vice-president was standing in for him in Lagos at projects listed for commissioning, President Buhari was reportedly attending to other duties in his office, even receiving visitors. That, at least, put the lie to claims of health challenges. Of course, the rumour mill was alive because the cancellation was shrouded in unnecessary secrecy. Certainly, the Lagos incident was an anti-climax and a slight on the people of Lagos which should be re-dressed.

Critics of Buhari’s administration or his style of governance have always pointed to ineffective communication with the citizens on policy matters as one weakness. The cancellation and its aftermath may have reinforced that claim one more time. Unfortunately, the Lagos State Government also fell short by not coming out with some convincing details about the failed arrangement. There could not have been a bigger disappointment for Lagos residents and business operators especially the already mobilised market women than that cancellation. The joy of seeing the president again, well after his election campaigns, was frustrated and that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

It was an opportunity lost, temporarily as it may be, to address the agitation of the indigenes and residents of Lagos, for example, for a special status for Lagos as the commercial and business hub of the country. And whenever the visit is rescheduled, it may no longer carry the same air of expectation as the one that was botched.

President Buhari’s words to his people, even on the most mundane matter, must always hold firm. That is the hallmark of statesmanship. The investment of trust and love in him is something he cannot afford to take for granted as he seemed to have done with that botched visit.

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