The backlash of a mishandled situation continued to rage on social media, but rather than maintain a studied silence, President Muhammadu Buhari’s media ream rolled out a statement to justify his gaffe at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Not one to let an opportunity to berate the ruling party pass it by, the opposition
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says that President’s off-the-point answer is a further confirmation that he lacks the prerequisite education, and personal inability to understand and effectively communicate in English language as required by Section 318 (iii) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Said the party, “Nigerians can now see why the Buhari administration has remained miserably incompetent, lacking in tact and desired capacity to manage the affairs of a nation as complex, demanding and multifarious like Nigeria.
“Moreover, it has also exposed why the Buhari Presidency overtly lacks the intellect and confidence to engage other world leaders, a situation that has led to the diminishing of the integrity of our nation in the international arena, in addition to the dearth in foreign direct investment under his watch.”
The party cautioned the Presidency over its press statement which it aalleged poured insults on Nigerians for commenting on President Buhari’s embarrassing outing at the UN.
“Instead of insulting Nigerians, the Presidency should apologize to our citizens over the embarrassments constantly brought to our nation by President Buhari,” it added.
President Buhari had been asked in a panel discussion at UNGA, “President Buhari, Nigeria has a very young population; perhaps you might highlight what a pathway for a resilient future looks like?”
The President resorted to a prepared remark which went off tangent. Many, especially journalists at home, who merely got the prepared remarks without the true context, reproduced online at home.
Most media houses (including Nigeria Everyday) reported the remarks with the opening comments by Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina.
However, the next day (Tuesday), one of the President’s aide, Tolu Ogunlesi released a video which gave the context of the remarks. It was a huge embarrassment as the President appeared to be answering a different question or reading a remark meant for another occasion.
Twitter went agog with larcerating criticisms of the President, except for a few sympathisers who saw nothing wrong with his answer.
And the President’s media team spun a response no one dignified with a signature. Titled, FRENZY ABOUT AN ONLINE VIDEO FROM UNGA IN NEW YORK, it reads in full:
On Monday September 23, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari participated alongside other world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019.
Since then, we have seen conversations on Twitter doing what Twitter allows many people to spend a lot of their time on: getting things horribly wrong and/or focusing on the wrong things, while completely missing the real/meaningful/actual message.
And so, this is a backgrounder/explainer, focusing on Nigeria’s commitment to climate action, under the Buhari Administration.
The Climate Action Summit was convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, to provide an opportunity for world leaders to, “come to New York on 23 September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.”
The theme of President Buhari’s panel was, “Towards a Resilient Future” — with the rider: “Announcement of plans to mainstream climate risk in decision making.”
So, note that the goal of the panel was to elicit ‘announcements’ from the panelists on behalf of their respective countries: Fiji, Nigeria, Netherlands, the Bank of England, etc. In other words, panelists were billed to deliver remarks announcing their country/organisation plans to build a resilient, climate-sensitive future.
To address the theme of the event, President Buhari chose to deliver prepared remarks.
And the moderator’s question, was, in keeping with the theme: “President Buhari, Nigeria has a very young population; perhaps you might highlight what a pathway for a resilient future looks like?”
The President did exactly that, in his prepared remarks, over the next few minutes, highlighting what a“resilient future” will look like in Nigeria — by focusing on the administration’s policies (the ones already being implemented, like the Green Bonds, and the ones set for implementation, like the new tree-planting campaign, and the energy mix target).
His prepared remarks were wholly in alignment with the theme of the Panel event, and the question he was asked.
Keep in mind that as panels often work, the moderator’s question was meant to invite/usher him to take the stage, and share his remarks. As a panelist it was up to him to choose to respond ex tempore, or to go the ‘prepared remarks way.’
He chose the prepared remarks way. And most importantly, he touched on the issues re: mainstreaming climate action for the future and for the young people of Nigeria.
The only story here, for all serious minded people, is what he said, and what it means for the future and for the young people of Nigeria. His remarks read in parts:
“I share the sentiment expressed by the Secretary-General that the world is on the verge of climate catastrophe. Undeniably, Climate Change is a human-induced phenomenon.
“In the water sector, Nigeria will issue a Green Bond for irrigation and construct multi-purpose dams for power, irrigation and water supply. We will strengthen solid and liquid waste management systems to attract more private sector investors.
“We will mobilize Nigerian youths towards planting 25 million trees to enhance Nigeria’s carbon sink.
“Specifically, Nigeria is progressively working to realize 30 percent energy efficiency and renewable energy mix by 2030.
“Furthermore, the Federal Government has commenced the implementation of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Programme in Ogoniland, to recover the carbon sink potential of the mangrove ecosystem of the one thousand square kilometers (1,000 KM2) polluted site in the affected area.
“Finally, permit me to add that the forty million citizens in the Lake Chad area expect this Summit to take into consideration their concerns. They anticipate that the outcomes of this meeting would include solutions to address the Climate Change impact in the Lake Chad area.”
We believe that the important things for young people of Nigeria to do now should be around holding the government to account on these ‘announcement’ and promises, and ensuring they are fulfilled and delivered in a timely manner.
One of the most exciting should be the tree-planting campaign. Ethiopia recently set a world record on that account — perhaps Nigeria’s young people might even be able to pressure the Government into scaling up the ambitions of our own planned tree-planting campaign.
Therefore the online hysteria is completely unnecessary.