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Buhari-Watch: When silence isn’t golden

By Martins Oloja
15 December 2019   |   4:16 am
Silence is golden at times. It’s probably the best thing to practise when an argument is going nowhere. It’s also the best policy when you don’t want to soak in the negativity of other people.

‘Even The President’s Wife Is Complaining’

‘Silence is golden at times. It’s probably the best thing to practise when an argument is going nowhere. It’s also the best policy when you don’t want to soak in the negativity of other people. It’s advised to stay silent when you are not sure of what you are saying, you have incomplete information or if you have something unkind to say. Besides, silence is meditative, it helps us connect with our inner self and bring out the best in us. It helps you take the best decision. It has a medicinal quality to it.

But silence is not always golden. When you withhold information, an emotion or an important conversation, it’s anything but medicinal. It turns toxic and ruins relations, emotions and the universe around you…’ (Parmita Uniyal)
THIS is yet another counsel to our leader and those who manage his reputation. They need to note that this is a perilous time when silence is not golden. Doubtless, President Muhammadu Buhari who just won re-election is gradually losing the country as I once predicted on this page when the oracle warned in a piece titled, “Curious desperation to lose Nigeria” (

The president needs to break his silence today. There is fire on the mountain and as our own Asa once wondered, “There is fire on the mountain, And nobody seems to be on the run”. There is indeed “fire on the mountain top, And no one is a running”. The president who has done only one Media Chatin four and half years should no longer wait to go abroad before addressing the political challenges in his presidency. Nigeria’s leader should freeze congratulatory and condolence messages to even Boris Johnson and some bereaved citizens at this time to be able to defuse the raging fire on the mountain. There are weightier matters of the law that most people say, is not ruling. He needs to understand that silence on these things can be dangerous. The king’s business in Abuja requires some urgency. Main reason: even the wife of the president is complaining that all is not well in the presidency. This is not a time to debate the propriety of the rebellion of the President’s wife.

This is a period of consequences I have been talking about here too. This is a time for the President to assure Nigerians that he is in charge contrary to what his wife has revealed. This is beyond meretricious press statements. The media the government is struggling hard to fight through multifaceted bills have indeed woken up. They won’t doze off again. They will feel the heat of the constitutional responsibility of the press (to serve public interest) from this moment. They have stepped out. They are shouting about, “Buhari’s lawlessness”. They have begun to shoot straight on, “Mr. President, this is not 1985”. They are already hitting hard on the curiosity and implications of “Ruling Nigeria by proxy”. Even the moderate ones are using the front-page news to question our leader on this presidential docility: “Buhari silent over Munguno, service chiefs, others”.

There is already fire on the mountain, and so I think the president should be on the run – to break his silence. The explanation of our leader should be able to cool the already frayed nerves. Any speech from the throne now should be capable of ministering grace to the people who are angrily asking about the promises Buhari made to unite and develop the nation from the rubble of the Jonathan’s government in 2015. This is a time for the Buhari administration to study the coup speech of August 27, 1985 and have some introspection too on why people and even his wife are complaining about his administration now. 

Yes, there is fire on the mountain. The president’s men should not wait for the irrepressible Letter-writer General of the Federation, also a General to write to the president before addressing what the people and the wife are complaining bitterly about: that there is a state of anomie and that is so because government of the most populous black nation in the world has been allegedly outsourced to a cabal that doesn’t have regard for even the president’s wife. 
The oracle noted on this page last week about the urgency of reputation management. The dust hadn’t settled before fire landed loudly on the mountain with the fireball reading, the “lawlessness in Buhari’s regime”. It is time for our leader to swallow pride and vanity and speak to the nation. He needs to talk about the rumble in his house and other weightier matters of lawlessness and the war on the media and civil society. If these issues are not addressed, people will be free to conclude that the president who is not capable of managing the home front well should not be expected to be able to manage a complex federation such as this.  
Yes, last week, I noted here that, “It is important for us to tell Nigeria’s leader and his men that they need to invest in public relations and strategic reputation management at this time. It is serious and urgent. There have been too many public relations disasters that no one is managing for them at the moment. Don’t get it twisted, it is not about competence of the media and communications managers in the presidency. It is about the image of Nigeria that President Muhammed Buhari is leading at this time. It is beyond blame-game debate. They need to recognise first that reputation management is quite critical in today’s governance and leadership process even as disruptive and innovative technologies keep shaping forces of globalisation and its discontents. 

I also drew attention to the consequences of “so many policy instruments and bills that are demonising democracy on the watch of President Buhari. Hate speech and social media bills are part of them. Such strange bills are not capable of enhancing values that define and deepen democracy in the most populous black nation on earth. Recent staggered elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states have also diminished the majesty of democracy in the country…. 

I warned specifically: But of all these blighters and darks spots, the most telling on the character and colour of Buhari government has been the desecration of the temple of justice last Friday by the State Security Service operatives. Their overzealousness has dented the image of this government. Most people who had hitherto remained neutral and reticent about the Sowore saga are now wondering what the publisher and politician from Kiribo, an Apoi town in Ese-Odo Local Government in Ondo has really done beyond what he advertised in his #RevolutionNow strategy paper. It is therefore time to advise all the president’s men that the way the world is tagging the Buhari administration with disobedience to court orders after removing a Chief Justice of the country through an Administrative Tribunal is a dangerous perception that needs to be halted. The Buhari administration needs resourceful reputation managers to assist in this regard. It is again urgent….’

Since last Sunday, a lot of waters have gone under the bridge to the extent that the bridge is even too weak to carry some weights. The president himself, (not the president’s men) need to step forward and break the silence. Where it is necessary, apology should be offered too. It is a weapon of peace building that doesn’t diminish. Yes, apology in good time elevates even the most powerful. 

Meanwhile, let’s tell our leaders and managers some cogent reasons silence is not always golden. Sometimes, it’s not the confrontation or an argument (not the endless one) that hurts, but the silence that eats you up like a termite and make you emotionally hollow. Here’re some situations where silence hurts and hurts badly:

When you need to take a stand: You know for sure someone has been wronged, but you are sitting quietly pretending you didn’t notice. You have seen a molester harassing a woman and you are standing silently in the crowd. You have witnessed an accident but you don’t call up the ambulance; instead you just choose to watch the person dying. Somebody has been bullying you unnecessarily and you don’t utter a word thinking it’s beyond your dignity to defend your position. Also, when your silence is misconstrued as your consent, it can hardly be golden. That is also why the silence of our leader we once trusted can’t be golden at this time. As I once noted, he needs some redemption songs. He needs to be told some inconvenient truth that can enable him to talk to the people at this time, lest more of his men will create more tragic errors that can lead to inevitable conclusion that President Buhari has some hidden agenda to amend the constitution to perpetuate himself in office in a ‘Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army’ that would not tolerate federalism overthrown since 1966 by ‘soldiers of fortune’. 
In case the coast I have been navigating is not clear enough, this is the conclusion of the whole matter: the nation is on edge. There is suffering in the land. The roads to our villages are still too decrepit and unsafe. Police checkpoints are too many to behold on the roads our leaders fly over. The police extort on the road. The people are angry about lawlessness and gross abuse of human rights on the president’s watch. There is war on truth, the media and civil society at this time. What is worse, there is no ‘hope of a better tomorrow’, which Ngugi wa Thiong’o says ‘is the only comfort you can give to a weeping child’.

And the heat of all these challenges has been so crushing that people except members of the ruling party have been complaining. But curiously, the security and intelligence agencies have been ruthless on dissenters, the opposition and the media – in a democracy! Now even the wife of the president has joined the opposition to the president. The Sultan of Sokoto too has joined the voice of reason against lawlessness. That is why the president needs to talk to the nation that he has not lost his mojo. He needs to assure the people that God knows that there is no cabal running his government as his wife has revealed.

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