Opinion: Why Buhari should be very upset that his aide called him a ‘private citizen’

Opinion: Why Buhari should be very upset that his aide called him a ‘private citizen’

Editor’s note: The writer Buchi Obichie questions Lauretta Onochie’s statement that President Buhari seems to be like a private citizen. She notes that someone who occupies the highest political office cannot be said to be a ‘private citizen’ except he is no longer president, and cautions the president’s aide to be careful with her choice of words, except she is trying to say something in a coded manner.

There are people who believe I don’t talk much. In fact, there are those who would swear that I am an extremely quiet person - until I’m highly offended of course! Lol!

The thing is this though - I made a conscious decision to be cautious with my words in public; especially when I’m in a gathering of people who are not part of my inner circle (my family and closest friends).

Why did I choose to be this way, you ask? It’s simple. At a very early age, I discovered that I wasn’t as clever as my brothers. I also found that I was a better writer than a speaker…as a matter of fact, my thoughts are clearer when I’m putting them down on paper.

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I also found that people are deemed to be more intelligent than they usually are, when they are miserly with their words.

When a known talkative speaks, people may not take him so seriously because they have become accustomed to his superfluous words; but just watch how people pay rapt attention, when someone who usually doesn’t talk much decides to speak on a particular issue.

The difference is light night and day!

Not talking too much in public also helped my IQ…because I listened more, and learned quite a bit as a result. It also means that I am at lesser risk of contradicting myself.

Now, knowing what wonders being cautious with words can do for an individual, I have been very angry lately with Lauretta Onochie, President Muhammadu Buhari’s social media aide.

Granted, there are times when her statements are so outrageously colorful that they make me laugh; but then, sometimes, she says thing that make you wonder what her thought process is like!

Recently, she was speaking on Channels TV about the #ReturnorResign protests against the President, when she made a very flabbergasting statement.

She said: “As we speak, we have an Acting President. As we speak, President Buhari seems to be like a private citizen at a moment. We have no right and it is very disrespectful for anyone to ask for his health status”.


First of all, it is questionable that a presidential aide would not seem to know the implications of referring to her boss as a ‘private citizen’.

Now, the dictionary definition of the term is “a citizen who does not hold any official or public position”. Buhari holds the highest political position in the land, so what is this woman talking about?

And saying “seems like” doesn’t even cut it!

The president has not resigned. He simply communicated to NASS, that he was proceeding on medical vacation- as required by the constitution in such circumstances- so that his deputy could act in his stead.

But then, Yemi Osinbajo is only referred to as ‘Acting President’, not ‘President’. We do know that Buhari is still ‘President Muhammadu Buhari’, right? He is by no means a private citizen.

A private citizen is what he was before he assumed the office of President, and it is what he would become again, when he leaves office. But at the moment, it just isn’t what he is!

By the way, he can’t even be a private citizen or ‘seem like’ one, when he is still being accorded all the privileges that come with the office of President.

He cannot ‘seem to be’ a private citizen on an ongoing presidential salary that has so far not been halted.

He cannot ‘seem to be’ a private citizen when the presidential jet is still parked at a London airport, pending when he uses it- at our expense!

By the way, i hear the reason the presidential jet is still parked in London is because according to protocol, the aircraft always has to be within the vicinity of the President.

'The President'...not 'the private citizen'!

In the words of Garba Shehu, “No world leader who travels abroad is left without plans for immediate return or possible evacuation”.

'World leader' ...not 'private citizen'.

He cannot ‘seem to be’ a private citizen when a team of staff members are still on his beck and call, even over there is London, attending to his every need in his capacity as President, at the expense of Nigerian taxpayers!

And for the life of me, he cannot ‘seem to be’ a private citizen, when Governors are trooping to London, to visit the ‘President’, and when Osinbajo is still conferring with him as ‘President’, before taking major decisions!

So, what in God’s name, was Madam Lauretta talking about? Or was it a Freudian slip? Well if it was, then Madam may just have revealed a highly guarded secret.

Was she trying to pass a message subliminally?

It would have been fine if the President’s aide ended the statement at the fact that we indeed do have an Acting President who seems to be doing just fine, so far. That would have been a better argument.

Or she could have taken the Femi Falana route. After all, the respected SAN did just say that there is no time limit for the President to return, based on the constitution.

As a presidential aide in the thick of the storm, one would not expect Madam to goof so badly and annoyingly! But she did! Why?

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I think it is because Ms. Onochie is so used to saying so much, that it is difficult for her to pause for a moment and process her thoughts before spitting them out!

I haven’t even touched on the arrogance with which she warned us not to be ‘disrespectful and intrusive’ by asking questions about ‘our’ President’s health!

Is that a crime? Is it illegal for us to do so? Did Buhari become President by himself? Were votes not cast for him? Is he leading himself? Is he not answerable to the Nigerian people? Does Madam Onochie think she is working for the CEO of a private company? Does she not realize that her boss is the leader of an entire country?

In any case, I would advise Madam to take a crash course in Etiquette for Presidential Aides- if there is any such subject-and refrain from uttering any more questionable and ludicrous statements.

And while she’s at it, she should also store away the phrase ‘private citizen’, and never again use it to describe her boss, until he leaves office! Except there is something she is trying to tell us!

This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.

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