President Muhammadu Buhari struggled to answer the routine questions that the moderator of the first edition of Town Hall Meeting, Kadaria Ahmed, posed to him and his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN reports.
The Vice President regularly came to the defence of his principal, which prompted Ms Ahmed to, at some point in the debate, urged Osinbajo to allow Mr. President to answer his own questions.
The presidential town hall meeting tagged, The Candidates, was broadcast live on the network of the Nigerian Television Authority on Wednesday night.
Though the series was put together to afford presidential candidates and their running mates the opportunity of informing the electorate of their plans for the country ahead of the February 16 presidential election, Mr. President’s outing leaves much to be desired in that regard.
As the head of government, most of the questions were, understandably, directed at Buhari. The first question — Why do you want to re-contest? — met with a: “I’ve said it before that if my party nominates me, I will contest.”
After belabouring it for a long time, he rounded off where he should have started from, how he has delivered on his three main electoral promises. Were the President subjected to time restriction, he would have been stopped before getting to the real issue.
The Daura-born retired general adopted his unique style of starting from the most irrelevant point while answering many other questions.
Indeed, Mr. President meandered back and forth while answering questions on issues of national importance, with Osinbajo always diving in at crucial moments to make up for His Excellency’s obvious shortcomings.
When Ms Ahmed turned to Osinbajo the first time and asked if he had anything to add to the reason his boss gave for seeking re-election, he appeared reluctant, perhaps so as not to create a wrong impression about his boss.
The first law in Robert Greene’s book, The 48 Laws of Power, must have crossed his mind: Never Outshine the Master. But he appeared to have, at the end of it all, as the VP provided the much-needed fillip to make the session worth the efforts and investment.
And when it appeared the President had difficulty in hearing (or processing) the questions from the moderator and members of the audience, Osinbajo was always on hand to repeat them to him.
The Vice-President also on many occasions guided his boss in supplying what he felt were appropriate answers for tough questions.
But if Buhari appeared not exactly poised to answer questions on some issues, that of his anti-graft fight seemed to resonate with him that he answered questions on same with the dexterity of a ‘smart politician.’
For instance, on his stance towards the Governor Umar Ganduje bribery saga, Mr. President smartly referred to the intervention of the Kano State House of Representatives as the reasons for his silence on the matter, while urging anyone who is certain about Babachir’s issue to come forth with evidence.
Mr. President’s responses to other thorny issues of national interest, such as the matter of out-of-school children in the North, called Almajiris; and the perennial farmer-herder clashes also left the audience unconvinced that the nation should hope for genuine solutions in the short term.
Despite what appears to be Mr. President’s less-than-average performance at the Town Hall Meeting, however, there were regular loud cheers and clapping from a section of the audience, even when His Excellency wasn’t coherent enough for his audience to process his answers.
As the camera occasionally beamed on the audience, the countenance of ministers and presidential aides left no one in doubt that they were concerned about the performance of their Chief Executive.
It is advisable for the Presidency to examine dispassionately Nigerians’ responses to the debate on social media platforms if that will afford Mr. President the opportunity to know what his citizens think of him and his administration and make adjustments as necessary.