The gaps were so many. Firstly, Mr President’s dressing was not in solidarity with the traditional wears of his hosts. His appearance was unmistakably and proudly that of a fulani general and cattle rearer, His host spotted the trademark Benue cap over the a modernized caftan that contrasts with the so called national dress. This was a remarkable departure from his known practice of wearing clothes in solidarity with the outfits of host states while on state visits.
Secondly, his visit’s 3 – point agenda as announced the previous day, was changed or lumped together without notice. He did not pay a courtesy call on the Tortiv and other traditional rulers as planned, neither did he visit any of the 9 IDP camps in the state. The Tortiv was not to sit on his elevated throne like the Gbom Gwom Jos did, but to a lowly stool like any other citizen to be admonished by a visitor for his or his people’s lack of love for other Nigerians.
Thirdly, the governor’s speech was clear, direct, polite and trade-union-like, bereft of pleasantries that were meant to gratify a more senior authority. No mention of any appointments by Mr President to Benue citizens, no mention of plans in the pipeline, if any, and so on. The gap was obvious. Above all, there was strange silence over their common document, the party manifesto or the implementation of the 3 point agenda that brought the two leaders to power. There’s obviously a collapse in ideological synergy.
Fourthly, the normal superlative media publicity blize that accompanies Presidential state visits was almost completely zero. No social media panoramic pictures of a sea of heads of hungry Nigerians cheering the motorcade of Baba. No room even for Nigerians with dissenting views to carry placards and display their discontent with the Federal Government. Military personnels constituted almost one third of town hall meeting. It was a war room briefing, not a condolence visit.
Fiftly, there appeared to be no lunch served for the president and his entourage by the governor of the food basket state, at least it was not shown or mentioned in media reports. . There were no commissioning of projects, no toasts of champagne or soft drinks, no swange dance, no exchange of traditional gifts, no school children lining up the major highways to welcome him on this very first visit to Benue. These gaps were certainly too wide to escape notice.
Finally, there was no mirth on the face of the visitor and those of his hosts. Virtually everyone wore frowns, tight jaws, red eyes and distant looks. There were concrete requests on either side, but no promises, absolutely no promises. The president deferred his comments on the request of the governor for infrastructures till the time of his next campaigns and the state governor did not seem to concede to the repeal of the anti open grazing law vaguely alluded to in the president’s request for peaceful coexistence.
What a presidential state visit! What an encounter between two adults, what an ironic confrontation between two groups with a common goal yet a palpably different approach to helping each other. It was a rare sight to notice public officers shun obvious protocols and pretensions of diplomacy or empathy. What a strange visit. What a waste of time and energy.
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