With Buhari in UK, aide’s advice on Made-in-Nigeria patronage sparks backlash

A call by President Muhammadu Buhari’s aide for Nigerians to patronise locally-made products, ironically at a time the president is receiving medical treatment outside the country, triggered a social media ruckus on Friday, with many accusing the presidency of hypocrisy.

Bashir Ahmad, a media assistant to President Buhari, earned the ire of mostly Twitter users after advising Nigerians to help drive up the value of naira by patronising locally-produced goods.

The clash began when Mr. Ahmad, 25, propped up a newspaper report that said the naira had been making gains against the U.S. dollar at the parallel market, following this week’s foreign exchange decision by the Central Bank.

“Within the last 48 hours, dollar crashes to N470, it was N520 before — and external reserves rise by $3.2bn,” Mr. Ahmad posted. “Good for the Country.”

The jubilatory tweet drew a backhanded response from a Twitter user, Toyin Olakanpo, who sarcastically reminded Mr. Ahmad the president promised an equated dollar and naira during his electioneering campaigns.

“We are waiting for it to crash more. You promised $1/N1,” Ms. Olakanpo, @ToyinO1, said.

To that, Mr. Ahmad offered a seemingly innocuous reply: “When we stop going to overseas for everything, start patronising only #MadeInNigeria this may not be far from possible. Govt can (sic) do it alone”. He apparently meant to say the government cannot do it alone.

Critics promptly leapt at the evident irony at a time the president is on extended vacation in the United Kingdom.

“Buhari that went to Overseas for Medicals when we have state house clinic must be a foreigner then. You just shoot yourself, brother,” a user, Mr. Tony, said.

Another user, John O. Balogun, using ‏@orllumeeday, tweeted “@BashirAhmaad @ToyinO1 You mean when Baba buhari and other govt functionaries begin to equip our hospitals & seek medical help in Nigeria???”

One user even used a parody account of President Buhari to chide Mr. Ahmad.

Tweeting at @idealBuhari, the user said “Bashir, you should’nt say things like this when I am getting medical treatment in the UK, not Nigeria”.

Others accused Mr. Ahmad of passing a subliminal insult at his principal.

“President Buhari is still alive and you’re subbing him this early. You’re the first to decamp! Brother!” @alegallawyer said.

Mr. Buhari has been on medical vacation in London since January 2019. The trip is the third of such since he became president less than 2 years ago.

The first officially disclosed vacation was in February 2016, barely eight months in office. He took the second one in June 2016, apparently to receive treatment for ear infection which Nigerian doctors insisted was not above their paygrade.

The frequent foreign trips by the president was in contravention of his own policy against state funding of foreign trips.

Although Mr. Buhari did not particularly ban public officials from seeking medical abroad, he made it clear his government “will certainly not encourage expending Nigerian hard-earned resources on any government official seeking medical care abroad, when such can be handled in Nigeria.”

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Samuel Ogundipe is a general assignment reporter at PREMIUM TIMES. At various times, he has covered the Presidency, National Assembly and Defence.

Twitter: @SamuelOgundipe

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