When Bayo Omoboriowo, the restless personal photographer of President Muhammadu Buhari barged in on the president requesting to have his picture taken as he watched the match between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, it certainly didn’t occur to him that he was opening a window to the world on the facts of life of a man who was singly responsible for the 2015 victory for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Bayo said to me that it was the best picture of his short professional career.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been known to be a disciplined retired military General who lived a simple and austere life devoid of ostentation. He is not known to have the common vices associated with politics and politicians. He does not smoke or drink alcohol.
He never belonged to a rich or royal family. He is known to have grown up with an enthusiastic desire to serve and his choice to serve in the army was not, therefore, by accident. Even at 74, Muhammadu Buhari is known to enjoy a better health status than people much younger until, of course, the recent bout of illness from which he recovered.
I think the reason that Bayo wanted to have that picture was a burning desire in him, and in all of us, to show that the president is well again, and has resumed his normal life.
What a majority of Nigerians saw in that picture was a lot more than that. The many who saw the image and shared it with millions of others on the social media with their comments, observed that it was a major revelation of the lifestyle of this public figure who has changed politics in Nigeria and Africa for good. They gave all sorts of interpretations to the TV set, the TV stand, the curtains, chairs and every item visible to the eye in the picture.
The image also had the effect of projecting the popularity of the president in the social media. On our official channels on Facebook, including that of the president, the special adviser on media, Femi Adesina, and my own, we had thousands of comments, and shares. We equally had a bountiful number of replies, tweets, and re-tweets on our twitter handles. More than 80 percent of all these were positive comments.
Here a few random ones:
Umar Yakubu @Umaryakubu: “This man’s simplicity makes one wonder why we hassle for so much in life”;
Musa Garba Bawa @khalamuddeen: “PMB all the way, no shaking 2019 In-Shaa-Allah. Mal. Garba Shehu continue the good work we are 100% in support. Let Super Eagles win”;
Adamu Kassim @Kasimupro: “Truly this man is a leader. I will sell my TV to buy something like this”;
Femi Fakolade @femikolade: “We brought nothing to this world and we shall go with nothing”;
Badong Joshua @Joshua_badong: “This alone shows how caring and all inclusive leadership style of our President”;
Olademeji @Omoniyi22: “Look at the home of our dear noble PMB, just very simple… God bless you”;
Ohalem Charles Bekee @ohakem_b: “Simple”;
Thywill Mac Diri @MacDiri: “This TV is 32″. This man is a simple pal”;
Chibuzo @ogopans: “I love dis (this) man soo much”;
Bayo Lee @triplebayo: “modest sitting room belonging to such a humble man! Welldone”;
Nuel @nuelinc: “This man is super humble….imagine my President’s set of electronics….love you plenty Sir”;
iamLaBelle @sallyz80: “Can’t remember where or when last I saw this TV stand in any politician’s home. @MBuhari is so simple”;
Ezekiel Dan @vandamie: “This President LG TV is LCD not LED let alone Smart TV. He’s so humble and real. How I wish he’s not this old”;
Ole Gunner Silksjaur @Asaemzii: “I love leaders like u! That’s why I will be voting Raila Odinga to be the 5th President of Kenya. Change is inevitable this time. #UhuruVsRaila2″;
Sulaiman @Smoosty: “Ur simplicity and humility made me fall for you…Glad to have you as my President”;
Abdulkadir Wanka @abdulkaiwanka: “The same TV stand I usually complain my grandma of using bcos its outdated is wat my President uses…simplicity at its peak”;
Fatima Mohammed @timezglobal: (In posting the lavish parlor of an ex-president) “Who can compare Baba’s sitting room to this? This is absolute humility! May God guide and protect our dear President”;
Horay of Ife @shalamsee: “Humility at its peak… this impressed me”;
Baba Salami @sola Salami: “Baba still dey use VHS?”;
Jamal Bibinu@jamalbab: “I love your simplicity sir! So humble my President, has anyone noticed d TV stand n cushions not the ones in vogue?”;
Akhimie Godwin on Facebook: “Look at this selfless man, using an old television set and old furniture. I will always support you because of your modest lifestyle, unlike an average Nigeria(n) politician who will acquire all what they don’t need. Sai Buhari for life!”
Emmanuel Udom: “where on earth do you find a president of the most populous black nation on earth living a moderate life? It can only be Muhammadu Buhari. An answered prayer; that’s what Buhari is, a man of integrity, a man of impeccable character. Sai Buhari for 2019; he deserves it, we’ll prevail on him to continue with the good job he’s doing.”
Nasiru Yola: “the epitome of simplicity… such a decent man will only be abhorred by the ill-informed or the fantastically corrupt… carry on PMB….”
Ijale Timothy: “A born patriotic leader. God give you health to deliver this country beyond 2019. Love you my PRESIDENT.”
Adamu Bashir Njobdi: “If I wish to be a local government chairman, my living room will be far better than for the current president. May Allah continue to bless and give my president sound health. #PMB till 2023”.
Odeku Wisdom: “This is really nice. Enjoy the holiday my president. Sai Baba”
Salihu Abdullahi: “May Allah guide and protect our great leader.”
Abubakar Waziri: “Integrity, very modest house for the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ex-Military Governor, Ex-GOC, Ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Ex-Head of State and C-in-C, Ex-Chairman Petroleum Trust Fund. Integrity speaks for itself. Please name another individual if you disagree.”
Ahmed T. Abubakar: “A leader with prudence, integrity, fairness and truth worth (trust worthy?) we believe in you”
Ajayi Olulope John Fnimn: “Simplicity and humility everywhere around him. Focused and patriotic. No weapons fashioned against you will prosper, Dear President.”
Adamoleken Femi: “God bless the President”
Jafar Umar Wathanafa: “Everyday, this man teaches something about vain life! modesty (a)musing.”
Oga Omoyemi Tilewa: “Just wanna be like this man, the same TV since he entered.”
Dami Ogunloye @Dami4change: “This room doesn’t worth mummy Diezani’s kitchen.”
I have two narratives to add to these positive sentiments. One, in the course of the campaign, I remember the then candidate Buhari being ushered into a lavish guest house of a serving governor. Each of the single seats was as big as a settee or a bed, if you like. President Buhari jocularly commented that the chairs alone have filled up the room: Why this big?
Two, many may recall that when he gave out his daughter in marriage sometime last year, the president ruled out the use of government funds in all of the activities. His reason was that this was a private, family event and should be kept as such. And so it was.
A country struggling with its economy should consider herself lucky with a leader who husbands state resources as prudently as he does his personal resources.
All politicians have their selling points. For President Muhammadu Buhari, it is his simplicity, honesty, incorruptibility and personal integrity. Let the naysayers dispute this!
Garba Shehu is senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity.