Nigerian President Buhari publicly denied rumors that he died and was replaced by a body double or even a clone.
The septuagenarian leader spent several months outside of the country last year being treated for an undisclosed illness, which naturally gave rise to rumors about what was really going on. While there will inevitably be people who believe all sorts of gossip such as what was being alleged about Buhari, the fact of the matter is that this fake news interestingly served an important purpose by forcing him into the public spotlight, a position that he’s pretty much been averse to since entering into office for his second non-consecutive time in 2015. Nigeria, as Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, needs strong leadership in order to carry it through its tumultuous rise as a Great Power, especially bearing in mind the threat that’s still posed by Boko Haram and southern separatists.
Buhari’s disappearance from the limelight at precisely the moment that his country needed him and his promised leadership the most was a disappointment for many, and it’s these sentiments that his political enemies took advantage of to spread speculative claims about him. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Nigeria goes to the polls in February, so that might also have played a role in why Buhari decided to wait until now to address these rumors despite them having already been circulating for over a year now. He might have wagered that ignoring something as ridiculous as this would make it go away, but while that might in theory have been a reasonable approach, it ultimately didn’t work because he failed to be the public face of Nigeria that people expected him to be and thereby inadvertently fueled this gossip even more.
As such, several lessons can be learned from Buhari’s experience. The first is that leaders must be accountable to their people and fulfill their expectations, especially if they’re former military men who were voted into office partially because the citizenry expected them to “lead from the front” during a period of domestic crisis such as what Nigeria is going through when it comes to Boko Haram. Secondly, prolonged periods of absence from the public spotlight, particularly if the said leader is abroad for medical treatment to deal with an undisclosed illness, will naturally lead to speculation that only grows more outrageous with time. And finally, the last lesson is that the longer that one waits to address these issues, the less that the public will trust them, which might bode very negatively for the incumbent if there’s an election right around the corner.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review