PMB and the mask: Is there something we are not being told?

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By Bala Ibrahim

As usual, President Muhammadu Buhari was out in the public yesterday without the face mask. The President observed the Eid prayers with his wife, Aisha, son, Yusuf, and other members of his family at the villa, where Aisha and himself appeared visibly without the mask. This is not the first, second or third time the President is appearing in public without the mask. In fact, it has now become the norm, for President Buhari to receive visitors or appear in the public without the mask. Is there something we don’t know, or is there something the public is told differently?

Last month, because of the rising Covid-19 infections, the 36 state governors asked President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the compulsory use of face masks in public, believing that without the President’s approval, there wouldn’t be the needed uniformity and coordination of policy at federal and state levels, towards tackling the pandemic. Accordingly, at the 31st joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, the secretary to the government of the federation and chairman of the Task Force, Boss Mustapha, said the wearing of face mask is now mandatory for all Nigerians. He said the use of face mask is not an option but a directive that is backed by law, which was signed by the President. Anyone who violates the law, is liable to arrest and prosecution by the security agencies.

The FCT had since commenced the arrest and prosecution of violators. Also, anyone seeing the President, is compelled to wear the mask. But the President does not wear the mask. Is there something we don’t know, or is there something the public is told differently?

In a tweet, the Personal Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, revealed that the president doesn’t need to be wearing face mask. According to her, expert medical protocol states that there is no need for face mask when in a safe environment, hence Buhari’s reason for not wearing it, she said. “The rule stressed that only those visiting must wear face mask to ensure they don’t leave behind droplets in a safe environment”.

Lauretta Onechie’s defense of the President has triggered a number of attacks on both the President and the Presidency. If truly the Presidential environment is assessed and adjudged clinically safe, why is it that all other persons around the President are wearing the mask, in the same environment, including his children, with whom he shares a common abode? Why is it that only the wife and him, enjoy the exemption? If the president is not at risk, why are they at risk? Is there something we don’t know, or is there something the public is told differently?

It is pertinent to note that, the coronavirus has afflicted a number of leaders and heads of governments in several countries around the world, prominent amongst which are Australia, Iran, the United Kingdom, and Canada. In America, the mayor of Miami is one of those that tested positive for the COVID-19. When a leader of a country becomes afflicted, the whole country is afflicted, emotionally, politically and economically.

The biggest quality of leadership is therefore the ability to pilot by example. Leaders set the direction by helping the followers to see what lies ahead and where necessary, give them the courage to confront the challenges ahead. Through that, the leader sees everyone’s potential and inspires each to achieve his or her best. That is the meaning of leading by example. By wearing the mask, the President would encourage the public to follow suit. Defiance at the top, has the potential of encouraging disobedience at the bottom.

In all his broadcasts to the nation, the President always appeals to the public to be patient and abide by the advise of the medics, in order for the country to defeat the disease. The most common advise of the medics and members of the Presidential Task Force on the Covid-19 is the wearing of the mask in public places. And to encourage compliance, they always wear it, even if it’s for show. It is nothing but a demonstration of leadership by example.

“The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has informed me that, a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts. So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person. At this point, I will remind all Nigerians to continue to take responsibility for the recommended measures to prevent transmission, including maintaining physical distancing, good personal hygiene and staying at home. In addition, I have signed the Quarantine Order in this regard and additional regulations to provide clarity in respect of the control measures for the COVID-19 pandemic which will be released soon,” the president said in April.

Unless the Presidency want’s Nigerians to treat the President’s April appeal as an April fool, and in the interest of leading by example, those in charge of the President’s health, should encourage him to be wearing the mask, even if it’s for show. Like the President want’s Nigerians to stay safe, Nigerians also want their President to remain safe. They know what they suffered when he went sick.

In a situation where cynicism seems to be eating deeper in the minds of many, about the genuineness of the disease, and the growing suspicion regarding the sincerity of the handlers of the virus in the country, Nigerians may think there is something they are not being told, that is why the President is not wearing mask, or appearing perturbed about the pandemic.

Do as I say, and not as I do is a popular idiom in English, that implies the speaker is imperfect and liable to make mistakes. The ambition of the phrase is to inspire you to model yourself after the instructions of the speaker, and not his actions. Is the Presidency implying that the president is making a mistake, to which the public is expected to ignore?

PMB is the promoter of the slogan, Change begins with me. It’s either there is something we don’t know, or there is something we are being told differently, I think.

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