Promoting Good Governance.

How not to ask blundering Buhari questions on live TV

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari was unsystematic and passive in answering questions that Kadaria Ahmed asked him on live television between 8 and 10 pm on Wednesday at the presidential town hall, co-produced by Daria Media and NTA with support from MacArthur Foundation.

Two basic facts could be deduced from Buhari’s incoherent responses: he is either having a hearing difficulty or he is mentally incapable of grasping straightforward questions. If these suggestions are contested, it means that Buhari does not understand English and the questions should have been translated to him in a language that he understands. And if the medium of interaction is not the problem, then there is no other reason for his bumbling on live TV.

Here is the first question to Buhari: “You have been ruling Nigeria now for close to four years. You want Nigerians to give you another opportunity to do another four years. Why?”

This is how the president responded to the question: “Well, I said it much earlier. Our national executive committee of our party. It is my party recommends me to its executive, I will contest. And I did that to save time and with discussions among members of our party. Those who felt strongly about it left the party. Party nominated me. Why? I felt that three fundamental objectives we campaigned on in 2015 are still relevant and we want Nigerians to see where we started in 2015 and where we are now. What we have in between these three and half years with the resources and time available to us.”

What was apparent in Buhari’s response to the question was that he was incapable of articulating his thought. He moved from his party nominating him, some left the party because of that decision, to the three unmentioned objectives he campaigned on in 2015 and paucity of resources. After he stopped talking, Buhari did not answer the question and he did not make any meaning from what he said.

His thought process was in staccato. His sentences were separated from each other and did not make logical flow. He jumped from one idea to another without making meaning. This neurological condition left the viewers asking what exactly was the president saying.

If the town hall was a job interview, Buhari would have been scored zero in his first response. But actually, the town hall was a job interview for the job of president of 200 million people and it was as simple as asking Buhari why the job should be given to him again.

The same question that Buhari blabbed about, his vice Yemi Osinbajo was lucid in his response. Osinbajo started by saying that they came into power on the ticket of anticorruption, security and economy, adding that they have laid solid foundations on these issues which Nigerians should give them another opportunity to consolidate on them.

As the questions and answers went on during the live town hall, it was obvious that Buhari was not only incoherent but he displayed overwhelming incapacity of expressing logical thought. When he was asked why his fight corruption was biased against the opposition, Buhari rather mentioned how he set up committees across geopolitical zones when he was the military head of state and concluded he had to be careful as a civilian president.

The obviously frustrated moderator had to reframe the question by giving the example of the sacked secretary of the government of the federation Babachir Lawal who was accused of embezzling funds meant for internally displaced persons in North East, yet he still has not been prosecuted by the government.

Even with that particular example and other follow up examples on the same question, Buhari still could not articulate a response. Osinbajo had to intervene to say that the case of Lawal was already with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), adding that everyone who had been investigated would be put on trial regardless of any other consideration.

What Buhari’s blurry responses revealed was that he should not have been asked questions the way he was. The moderator failed to gauge Buhari’s disposition from his initial responses. She was too wordy and Buhari could not register meaning from those long questions. So, Buhari decided to respond to whatever he thought were the questions.

Make no mistake: Kadaria Ahmed was professional in her presentation. It is just that she should have lowered the bar for someone like Buhari. She should not have asked Buhari two or three questions in one fell swoop. She should have taken it one at a time.

This was the mistake other participants at the town hall who asked Buhari questions made. They asked him long and wordy questions that he could not process and struggled to understand those questions by getting help from Osinbajo and Ahmed.

For having such an unusual guest as Buhari, Ahmed should have broken each question into simple words of not more than seven words per a question. In this way, Buhari might be able to understand the question but not a guarantee that he would give a logical answer. At best, Buhari should only be asked close-ended questions that come in form of yes or no, agree or disagree.

Yes, Buhari is the president and should be capable to answer questions like a president. But he was not and that is the problem. Unlike his vice, Buhari was extremely passive and had the audacity to disregard the audience by making illogical expressions.

Though the spectators at the town hall did not help Buhari but rather fooled him with false applause even when he gave his usual vague and incoherent responses.

If Buhari would ever appear in a live question and answer programme or media chat, the questions should be structured in close-ended. In that way, Buhari’s thought will be understood better, rather than trying to make him respond to long questions that confuse him.


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