Nigeria: COVID-19 - While Buhari Keeps Mum, Other African Leaders Are Speaking Up

President Muhammadu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria addresses the seventy-third session of the United Nations General Assembly.

When will President Muhammadu Buhari address Nigerians on the coronavirus pandemic has become the topic of a passionate debate across the nation.

The concerns were especially triggered by live television broadcasts of several African leaders to their people on the pandemic, including Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and President Yoweni Museveni of Uganda.

The Nigerian government has been taking drastic steps towards reducing the spread - banning international flights, closing down schools and restricting religious and public events to the barest minimum.

But what has remained constant is Mr Buhari's silence even as cases soared to 27 across five states, including the nation's capital Abuja and its commercial nerve centre, Lagos.

While leaders of African countries with far fewer cases have been speaking up, President Buhari has remained silent 24 days after Nigeria recorded its first case of the disease on February 28 in an Italian national who has now fully recovered.

African Leaders speaking up

President Museveni of Uganda is billed to address his Northeastern African nation again on Sunday.

This will be the third time in less than a week the president will make a public speech on the coronavirus pandemic even though the country only recorded its first case on Saturday, unlike Nigeria where the tally rose to 27 Sunday morning.

The first was last Wednesday when he banned all public gatherings, including closing down schools, local news - Soft Power - reported.

Mr Museveni's Sunday address will be on the country's first confirmed case, a 36-year-old Ugandan male who arrived from Dubai on Saturday.

President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana has also made three national addresses. On Saturday, being the third, he announced the closure of all borders to human traffic in the West African nation.

President Akufo-Addo made his first and second addresses on March 11 and 15.

Presidents of other African countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Morocco have all addressed their nations at least twice.

Presidency's Defence

The presidency and government officials have been defending President Buhari's silence in the face of the grave health situation.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said the time is not yet appropriate for the president to address the nation.

The Senate which earlier called on the president to address Nigerians later said it is too early to question Mr Buhari's silence.

Criticism

But Nigerians have increasingly become uncomfortable with the posture of their president. Other prominent leaders in the country, including governors and religious leaders have been speaking to encourage citizens.

Nigeria's biggest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has repeatedly berated the presidency's handling of the outbreak, said Mr Buhari's silence shows he has failed as a leader.

"PDP is worried at President Muhammadu Buhari's delay in standing up to the responsibilities of his office to address heightening national anxieties since the detection of the deadly COVID-19 in our country," the party said in a statement by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan.

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