Akiri got it wrong on Eisenhower

Chris Akiri

Sir: I refer to Chris Akiri’s opinion piece in The Guardian, July 4, 2017 with the title, “The President’s ill health and the rest of us.” “A cursory look at American history and politics will show that when the aides of some former U.S. Presidents like William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower (all of whom died in office) tried to hide their health conditions from the public, they did not get praised for doing so.” Chris Akiri, The Guardian.

The president’s ill-health and continued absence from the political stage in his first term in office no-doubt lulled activities in the polity. But Akiri got it wrong on president Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. It was easy to spot that one out because I read a book about the bitter feud between president Dwight Eisenhower and president Harry Truman who feuded as enemies would in the 1950s. This feud raged on – even when Truman left office throughout the tour-of-duty of Eisenhower. They only buried the hatchet at president J.F Kennedy’s state funeral in 1963 after Eisenhower had left office.

Eisenhower was a place-holder, not an ideologue and his larger than life persona was needed to unify America after World War 2. He served out his term from 1953 until 1961 as the 34th President of the United States and died of a massive heart attack in 1969. So sir! President Dwight Eisenhower didn’t die in office. Away from Eisenhower. Hausa is only widely spoken in the north and is not the language of the north as stated by the writer. Sir Ahmadu Bello tried passing law in the northern parliament to make Hausa the official language but failed. I know many people in Plateau State who can’t speak Hausa, neither can many elsewhere.

Yesterday, someone who loves to bother me, asked me why President Muhammadu Buhari should broadcast a message in Hausa? So I asked him, “why does BBC have a Hausa service? He couldn’t answer. I went further, “the president is comfortable in his native language which is Fulfude the native tongue of the Fulani. Then I went on, “are you aware he spoke another man’s language?” “You love to hate the Hausa, are you aware no Hausa man has ruled Nigeria?” He didn’t know.

They all don’t know. “But English is the official language of Nigeria.” He managed to say. “Is English our language?” I asked him. We are like the Scottish people who were once a Gaelic-speaking people. They abandoned it for English and yet ask for referendum to leave the English. I was invited to a service recently. The grammar from the clergyman was too heavy. I pitied those who wouldn’t understand him. We delude ourselves into thinking that all Nigerians understand the white man’s language without developing ours. The Chinese did. The Han people make up about 90 per cent of the population but they have variants in their languages. Regardless, they have a written language and all Chinese can speak Putonghua, the official language. Do we all understand English in Nigeria? How much is voted in the teaching of English? On Lai Mohammed. The writer should cut him some slack. Three criteria determine who become an information minister and government appointee. 1) Loyalty 2) Policy compatibility 3) Professional competence.

A true professional remains loyal to his boss even in death. General Bamaiyi, General Victor Malu and Wada Nas proved it. Some people, the upper ten in the administration of the late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who were privy to his health condition and knew he was going to die sang songs of patriotism for him to quit – not for love of country but to their benefit when the batten changed. We are students of history. We saw what happened then. Is the country any better now? There is nothing wrong with loyalty so long as it is not the “Okija shrine” type of loyalty. It was Mary, Queen of Scots who said and I believe it to be true, that, “He who does not keep faith where it is due, will hardly keep it where it is not due.”
Simon Abah wrote from Abuja.

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