Nigeria: On Buhari's 'Body Language' and Students' Abduction

3 March 2021

Kinesics is a field in the communication firmament that specialises in "body language". Body language involves the use of the eye contact, hand gesture, body movement, and what have you, in establishing, reinforcing and reiterating meanings between two or more parties, which wouldn't have been ordinarily expressed verbally or orally. It is believed that non-verbal communication cues supplement those of pitch variation, melody, intonational patterns and the rest.

Arising from the abduction of about 300 schoolgirls in Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, on Friday, February 26, #BringBackOurGirls co-convener Aisha Yesufu has come out to decry and declare the general abduction of schoolboys and schoolgirls as a result of the President's "body language". Could the President's "body" have been affecting his "language", illocutionary discourse, prerogative power, or what? And what's Buhari's 'body language' got to do with the increasingly alarming rate of students' abduction?

I suspect what Yesufu takes to be Buhari's body language technically differs from the perception of body language as deployed in enhancing and harnessing common ground among individuals of perhaps idiosyncratic splendours, temperaments and persuasions. She speculates that body language is "saying one thing and doing another thing". And, what's more, this is what the Buhari regime has been demonstrating from the kidnap of the Chibok, Dapchi and Jangebe girls, on the one hand, to the Kankara and Kagara boys, on the other hand. All in the North in one fell swoop!

The intuition that our words do not match our actions becomes clear. Buhari's body language is, according to Yesufu, "ineffective" and "incompetent". Yesufu could have been presupposing that ideal leadership is not parameterised after the ability to talk - but ability to act. In other words, talk is cheap. And since actions are costly, many there are who daren't carry out life-changing actions. Weapons of mass actions are what we actually need in rescuing the North awash and whitewashed with increase in students' abduction. I do not know why these ruthless bandits, or what are they called, have suddenly capitalised on kidnapping apparently innocent and benign schoolboys and schoolgirls who have simply taken to their studies, and nothing more. It's really, really tellingly disastrous that this seizure of students could so have sequentially and geographically taken place without any form of check or crackdown on the abductors. I think Buhari has been eminently passive, but eloquently active, not inspired by previous attacks to actionably intervene on the tragic and historic scene we're distastefully watching and hearing every now and then.

It's such a despicable narrative that these terrorists have desperately been rumaging in the nook and cranny of the North performing different horrendous wonders, while we go to sleep without any security measure of dispatching our security forces, until recently. To start with, enlightening the local security personnel on their role in arresting any surge in students' abduction is very necessary. And fortifying Operation Shege-Ka-Fasa, for instance, is crucial in containing areas potentially vulnerable to terrorist attacks of not only Zamfara State, of course. The importance of community policing cannot be overemphasised.

As part of the Nigerian justice system, the Nigeria Police Force are meant to provide justice to criminals who've been threatening and torturing the peace, safety and existence of our people. Let's add also that why there are more talkers than actors is because of how insincere and inordinate we've been organising our organic arms of government. The legislature, for example, doesn't have certain rights to oppress or suppress the constitutional operations of the judiciary.

The executive, furthermore, doesn't have any power to undermine the fundamental duties of the press. These bodies and agencies are saddled with one form of responsibility or another that shouldn't be "checked" anyhow; which is why they've been essentially "separated" from one another. Each of them does need to steer clear of sound-bite sumpsimus stimulated by stinking hypocrisy and cowardly silence. So it's about time we became real political actors and participators. Our mouths shouldn't any longer be far away from our hearts. That is, our confession should match our action. In developed nations where the grundnorm of democracy is highly hinged on the led, the people are always at the centre of decision making.

The people are always on the fore front of every developmental agendum and sustainable development goal. Unless it's not a "government of the people", the overall democratic processes of such countries are filled with lots of "lootings" and "shootings", economically and politically speaking. If we really lead human beings, and I believe we do, we need to cherish and value their trust by not betraying and leaving their hopes in shame and shambles; we need to respect public opinions above public office or political ambitions; and we need to, above all, remain faithful and committed to the promise we made and oath we swore in seeking their votes and assuming office. This view would surely have eased off the endemic monopolisation and manipulation of brazen brigands in the North.

And, to be sure, it's not only Buhari's body language that is ineffective and incompetent. By the way, old age doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how effective and competent one's body language is. Numerous Nigerian officials' body languages have traditionally and customarily been immovable and insensitive to the gross overhauls overheaded by some armed men spearheaded by some group of underground principalities and powers. We need to start suspecting and sanctioning certain officials who have not been active and proactive in making decisive decisions to the really repressive and deeply depressive episodic fairy tales of students' abduction unleashing uncontrollable, volcanic catharsis.

Our attitudes and dispositions should not be patterned after the similitude of Trumpism, which, to me, is saying one thing and doing another thing. That's not how to communicate effective meaning to the audience: The "body language" is not meant to act against the "mouth language", but meant to act on it to carry out the "speaker's meaning". Even though the American democracy is the bedrock of our leadership system, its peculiarity and particularity of domestic terrorism, political extremism and riotous activism shouldn't be the decision problem of our government. We're still solely responsible for any loophole and pothole it finds itself. Democracy is fragile, and so must our character, conviction and confession be consistent with our consequential actions.

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