The 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 also faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s choice of Hausa to convey his Sallah message to Nigerians.
On Sunday, the Presidency had, first time since the President went on a medical vacation to London 51 days ago, released an audio message containing Buhari’s message to Nigerians to mark the Eid-el-Fitr, commemorating the end of Ramadan.
Groups, including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, and prominent Nigerians, had, on Sunday, berated Buhari for his decision to use Hausa to pass across his Sallah message in a nation with more than 350 ethnic groups.
On Monday, Gbajabiamila and the Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, also 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.
Ado-Doguwa, an APC member from Kano State, told Th PUNCH that Buhari should have sent a message to Nigerians in English and not in Hausa.
Gbajabiamila, in an interview with one of our correspondents, agued that what was most important was that people heard Buhari’s voice.
He admitted that the President’s handlers should have ensured that the language of communication was English.
Gbajabiamila stated, “The criticism is not unfounded, but I am the leader of the House in charge of government legislative business 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.”
On his part, Ado-Doguwa aligned with Gbajabiamila that Buhari should have sent a 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.
He said, “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.”
Also, the Markafi and the Ali Modu Sheriff factions of the PDP in the House disagreed on Buhari’s choice of Hausa to send 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.
The Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Service had aired the audio tape of the President’s message on Sunday, while the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, had also released a statement on Buhari’s Sallah message on Saturday.
Shehu’s statement translated Buhari’s message as saying,
“I am immensely grateful to God for his mercy in guiding us successfully to conclude another Ramadan. My greetings to all Nigerian Muslims and our brother Christians on the occasion of Eid-el-Fitr:
“May the lessons of Ramadan, namely piety, self-denial, prayers and generosity to the poor and the needy, be with us for all time. I, again, appeal to all Nigerians to avoid reckless statements or actions against our fellow countrymen. We should all resolve to live in peace and unity in our great country, which is the envy of many less-endowed nations.”