President Buhari’s Sallah message felicitating with Nigerians on the occasion of Eid-el-Fitr has continued to spark more controversy from different quarters of the country.
In the short audio recording which was released by the Presidency to debunk reports that Buhari was suffering from speech impairment, the president was heard delivering his Sallah message in Hausa language.
The voice message was the first time Buhari addressed the country since he left on a medical trip to the United Kingdom on Sunday, May 7. But his choice of language in the message has been faulted by some given that there are more than 350 ethnic groups in the country, while some others don’t see anything wrong in the message.
For instance, Senator Shehu Sani, the lawmaker, representing the Kaduna South Senatorial District, opined that since Buhari had transferred power to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, only the Acting President was empowered to speak to the country officially.
In a Facebook post, Sani however, stated that the controversy over the Sallah message by Buhari was avoidable, especially at a time when ethnoreligious issues in the country had been elevated to the front burner. He wrote:
“There is nothing wrong with the President sending Sallah message in Hausa language. He is on medical vacation. He has transferred power to the Acting President. It is the Acting President that is bound to act ‘officially’ on state matters, including speaking in our official language – English.
“Understandably, we live in times when everything is sensitive and subject to interrogation and interpretation. This is avoidable.
“Let us pray for our President and our country, and work hard to surmount our challenges rather than harp on the superficial and the mundane. The Presidency should also periodically update the nation on the progress of Mr. President’s health to neutralise conjectures, speculations and ripples of rumour.”
On the other hand, Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, and members loyal to the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party have faulted President Buhari’s Sallah message.
Speaking on Monday, Gbajabiamila and the Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, condemned the President’s handlers for Buhari’s choice of language in conveying his message to Nigerians.
Gbajabiamila, who is also the All Progressives Congress caucus leader in the House, said the criticisms by different groups and individuals were not unfounded.
While admitting that the President’s handlers should have ensured that the language of communication was English, Gbajabiamila however, argued that what was most important was that people heard Buhari’s voice. The PUNCH quoted him as saying:
“The criticism is not unfounded, but I am the leader of the House in charge of government legislative busines, not a Presidential handler.
“I think that question should be directed to those who handle Mr. President. But as a matter of opinion, I would have preferred he spoke in English. But, again, not every Nigerian speak English, not everyone is literate.
“Yes, at this critical time and with all that is unfolding, it would have been better to speak in the official language. However, moving beyond the form to the substance, at least now, we have heard Mr. President speak.”
The Markafi and the Ali Modu Sheriff factions of the PDP in the House have also disagreed on Buhari’s choice of language in sending an audio message to Nigerians during Sallah.
While the Sheriff group said the message was meant for Muslims, who largely spoke and understood Hausa, the Makarfi faction argued that there were Muslims in the South-South, the South-West and the South-East as well, who should benefit from the message.
Also, an APC member from Kano State, Ado-Doguwa, opined that Buhari should have sent the message to Nigerians in English and not in Hausa. The lawmaker believed the decision was an oversight by the President’s handlers and should be overlooked.
“To be candid, Mr. President should have spoken in English, being our official language. But for me, it is an oversight that could be overlooked considering his medical conditions.
“Let us not trivialise everything. The most important thing, for now, is for Nigerians to pray for Mr. President’s recovery,” he said.