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On Buhari’s ‘body language’ and students’ abduction

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Sir: Kinesics is a field in the communication firmament that specialises in “body language.” Body language involves the use of eye contact, hand gesture, body movement, and what have you, in establishing, reinforcing and reiterating meanings between two or more parties, which wouldn’t have been ordinarily expressed verbally or orally.

Arising from the abduction of over 300 schoolgirls in Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, on Friday, February 26, #BringBackOurGirls co-convener Aisha Yesufu has come out to decry and declare the general abduction of schoolboys and schoolgirls as a result of the President’s “body language.”

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I suspect what Yesufu takes to be Buhari’s body language technically differs from the perception of body language as deployed in enhancing common ground among individuals. She speculates that body language is “saying one thing and doing another thing.” And, what’s more, this is what the Buhari regime has been demonstrating from the kidnap of the Chibok, Dapchi and Jangebe girls, on the one hand, to the Kankara and Kagara boys, on the other hand.

The intuition that our words do not match our actions becomes clear. Buhari’s body language is, according to Yesufu, “ineffective” and “incompetent.” Yesufu could have been presupposing that ideal leadership is not parameterised after the ability to talk – but the ability to act. In other words, talk is cheap. And since actions are costly, many there are who daren’t carry out life-changing actions. Weapons of mass actions are what we actually need in rescuing the North in students’ abduction.

I think Buhari has been eminently passive, but eloquently active, not inspired by previous attacks to actionably intervene on the tragic and historic scene we’re distastefully watching and hearing every now and then.

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So it’s about time we became real political actors and participators. Our mouths shouldn’t any longer be far away from our hearts. That is, our confession should match our action. In developed nations where the grundnorm of democracy is highly hinged on the led-people, the people are always at the centre of decision making. The people are always at the forefront of every developmental agendum and sustainable development goal. If we really lead human beings, we need to cherish and value their trust by not betraying and leaving their hopes in shame and shambles; we need to respect public opinions above public office or political ambitions, and we need to, above all, remain faithful and committed to the promise we made and the oath we swore in seeking their votes and assuming office.

Our attitudes and dispositions should not be patterned after the similitude of Trumpism, which, to me, is saying one thing and doing another thing. That’s not how to communicate effective meaning to the audience: The “body language” is not meant to act against the “mouth language,” but meant to act on it to carry out the “speaker’s meaning.”

Segun Ige is a freelance journalist in Lagos. igesegunadebayo5@gmail.com

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