“Buhari never said he was too old”, Acting High Commissioner clarifies

Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Sunday, July 5, 2015

Nigeria’s Acting High Commissioner to South Africa; Mr. M.N Cobham has reinstated the message of President Buhari to Nigerians while attending the just concluded AU Summit in South Africa.  The Acting High Commissioner stated this during an interview with The Nigerian Voice Newspaper on Thursday 18th June 2015 in his office at the Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria. “My message is simple. I am going to say what the president said; continue to be law-abiding. Do not do anything that is nefarious. This is a new Nigeria led by new leadership. Change from bad to good. So, we should continue to sustain those good things that will make us a darling nation! You and I have a job to do; to continue to do those things that will position Nigeria as a country that everyone will see as compass, as a leading light, as a lighthouse and beacon of Africa. That is my position”, the ambassador declared.

Speaking further on President Buhari’s attendance of the AU Summit, the Acting High Commissioner gave an insight into the personality of President Buhari having been around him all through the period of the AU Summit. “The president of course came here on account of the AU summit. And he was very happy that this was his maiden visit to South Africa. He was glad to participate in various deliberations that took place at the Summit. The President’s visit to South Africa of course showcased the new face behind democracy and the advent of a change in Nigeria’s leadership. So, I would say that the President’s visit was a success and that success is shared not only by Nigeria but by Africa in general” stated the Acting High Commissioner.

Explaining the perceived notion by many Nigerians that President Buhari is a disciplinarian and strict person, Mr. Cobham said that Mr. President is a man of the moment who has come to reposition Nigeria in the comity of nations that are respected. According to him, this is why the President was being sought after, and that’s why he is the compass of the nation currently.

Reflecting on the President’s personality, Mr. Cobham said that Mr. President by way of his background and military training is very disciplined and a stickler to system. “Mr. President is a system person, he is a soldier. You cannot, but agree, that the president only speaks when necessary. And you could have watched him that during his contributions at the Summit, he only spoke when he needed to speak, that shows that he knows what leadership entails and know what to say at the right time and at the right place”, Mr. Cobham said.

While President Buhari was at the AU Summit; the President took time out to address selected Nigerians at the Consulate General in Johannesburg. It was alleged that President Buhari’s words were quoted out of context. We asked the Acting High Commissioner to state clearly President Buhari’s words while addressing the Nigerian community. Diplomatically, the Nigerian diplomat retorted “: Mr. Niyi. Can I ask the message which was quoted out of context? Can you tell me that statement or question, so that I can now put in the right perspective?”

“It was a newsflash in the dailies that Mr. President while addressing some selected Nigerians at the consulate office in Johannesburg said he was too old to rule Nigeria” said the interviewer to the Acting High Commissioner.

Addressing the issue of the President’s misquoted statement; Mr. Cobham said that it is “a misconception. It is misguided information. It is misleading. Mr. President only said that he would have wished to be Nigeria’s president at a younger age as it will give him the vibrancy, the energy as it were to do things he would have wanted to do earlier”.

Mr. Cobham continued “but be that as it may, Mr. President for his age has wisdom, virtues and forbearance that come with age to enable him to take the country to the next level. He never said that he was too old. He spoke as a father that what is expected of a younger person, he may not be able to do that”. In-fact, old wine taste better with time!

“Let me tell you, you said something about Mr. President working with the youth. Mr. President himself cannot do the job alone. He needs people like you and I to hit the ground running for him. All we need to do is to tell him the truth of what is on the ground so that he can give required instructions. Mr. President cannot be everywhere. He will use people like you and I to do the job. You and I are the men Friday. We are the foot soldiers. So, no leader, even the youngest of leaders cannot be everywhere at the same time. Even Obama needs advisers; he needs foot soldiers to do the job for him. So, it behooves on you and I to carry on with the national mandate and do our bits wherever we find ourselves”, stated Mr. Cobham.

Speaking further on the matter the Nigerian diplomat mentioned his interaction with President Buhari when the latter asked him about Nigerians living in South Africa. “Fair enough, he asked me a question about Nigerians living abroad and what they are doing. We all are ambassadors of our country and we must be seen doing the right thing by obeying the laws of the land and doing those things that will make Nigeria have a good image not the contrary which drags us down. So, Mr. President did not at any time say that he was too old. I think they are the words of mischief-makers. I have read that today in the Punch (newspaper) and it has been on-going. What do you expect? Once you are a leader, there will be some traducers who want to remove your focus from the real thing”.

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