Premium Times

Buhari under fire for recording Sallah message in Hausa

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has come under fire after his office released an audio of the president greeting Nigerians in Hausa on Ed-el-Fitr, the Muslim celebration after the month-long Ramadan fast.

Critics said addressing the nation in Hausa, a language not understood by millions of Nigerians, was divisive and capable of blighting ongoing efforts at lowering ethnic tension in the country.

In the recorded message, the ailing president thanked Nigerians for wishing him quick recovery and preached peace across the land.

A State House press statement had initially conveyed essentially the same remarks in English on Saturday. But the presidency later released the audio in an apparent response to distrustful Nigerians who had not heard from Mr. Buhari for nearly two months.

Mr. Buhari has not been seen or heard since May 7 when he was flown to London on his second medical trip this year.

Reports that the president has lost his ability to speak due to the undisclosed ailments have circulated online in recent days.

Government officials often dismiss inquiries about the nature of the president’s illness by pointing to the role of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who now wields all executive powers.

But rather than gushing over the audio, Nigerians expressed outrage that the president chose Hausa over English, which is the official language of the country. Estimates put the number of Nigerian languages at over 500.

“Mr.President’s Eid-el-Fitr statement in Hausa was totally wrong because Nigeria is a clime of hundreds of tongues where English is the official language,” said activist and university lecturer, John Danfulani, in a message to PREMIUM TIMES. “Whosoever advised him to use Hausa has done a great disservice to him”.

Other critics argued that the president’s action was divisive and could reverse the gains the administration recorded through recent peace moves by Mr. Osinbajo.

Mr. Buhari had been criticised for similar actions before. In December 2016, he apologised to the people of Bauchi State in Hausa, after abruptly cancelling a working trip to the state. Bauchi has minority indigenous languages.

The president has also been accused of making lopsided appointments that failed to reflect Nigeria’s federal character.

This time, the president has been widely criticised.