Fact-Check: Did Buhari Ever Promise To Fly With Nigerian Public?

Fact-Check: Did Buhari Ever Promise To Fly With Nigerian Public?

President Muhammadu Buhari embarking on a journey (File photo: State House)

Since last week when it was known that Hanan Buhari, daughter of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, used the presidential jet for a personal trip, there have been mixed reactions.

Concise News reports that while the action drew outcry from a section, others have used the opportunity to revisit some of the ‘promises’ President Buhari made before he returned to power in 2015.

For the wife of the president, Aisha, she defended her decision to share the video of her daughter, Hanan, inside the presidential jet, on her Facebook page, insisting that it was not an attempt to taunt Nigerians but to boost the morale of a distraught child.

This writer picked an ‘update’ from the genuine Facebook page of Jumoke Alawode James, a well-known television personality, who prides herself as ‘a trained journalist’.

The text from her wall – though flying on social media since 2015 – was updated on Monday by the critic ‘to drive home her point’ on an article she published on a popular news app.

The statement Jumoke brought up again, quoted Buhari as making the promise while speaking as a presidential candidate at Chatham House, London, in 2015.

Claim: Buhari said at Chatham House that he won’t fly private jet

Buhari was alleged to have rhetorically asked: “What is the difference between me and those who elected us to represent them, absolutely nothing. Why should the Nigerian president not fly with other Nigerian public? Why do I need to embark on a foreign trip as a president with a huge crowd with public funds? Why do I need to go for a medical trip abroad if we cannot make our hospital  functional?”

The origin of the attribution can be traced to Facebook

Indeed, the quote attributed to Buhari was taken from the wall of a Facebook user, named Lanre Babatunde.

According to Babatunde, Buhari was speaking with members of the Nigerian community at a townhall meeting in London, on 22 February, 2015, when he made the promise.

Significantly, no media house reported it then — either foreign or Nigerian. It went viral on social media at the time, too.

Babatunde’s profile describes him as a 2012 graduate of the Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH), Oyo state.

He did not indicate he was at the townhall meeting, neither did he attribute the extensive quote to any source.

See his full post below:

#GMB speech while addressing Nigeria community in the United Kingdom.

I Will Maintain a modest lifestyle as President – Muhammadu Buhari.

“One of the major killers of our economy apart from corruption is waste. Our scarce resources are being plundered away very carelessly and unnecessarily wasted. Let me give an instance, presently, there are more than 6 aircraft in the presidential fleet. What do you call that? Billions of naira is budgeted every year for the maintenance of these aircraft not to talk of operational cost and other expenses.

“You may want to ask what a Nigerian President is doing with so many aircraft when a Prime Minister of Britain fly around using the same public aircraft like an ordinary Briton. Go and check and compare with that of any developed country in the world, the office of the Nigerian President is a very expensive one inspite our high level of poverty, lack and joblessness. Despite all these, you still find a Nigerian Minister spending about N10billion to charter an aircraft for just one year. Now, for me, when we come into office, all these waste will be blocked and properly channelled into our economy. We intend for instance, to bring back our National carrier, the Nigerian airways. We shall do this by bringing all the aircraft in the presidential fleet into the Nigerian airways and within a year increase the fleet into about 20. What is the difference between me and those who elected us to represnt them, absolutely nothing.

“Why should Nigerian President not fly with other Nigerian public! Why do I need to embark on a foreign trip as a president with a huge crowd with public fund? Why do I need to go for foreign medical trip if we cannot make our hospital functional? Why do we need to send our children to school abroad if we cannot developed our university to compete with the foreign ones? Why, and why must our people be servants to the foreigners in the midst of plenty? I can go on and on. I came here to the UK and I chose to trek just to make sure I send a message back home to some people who wish us dead. This is not my struggle, it is our collective efforts to save Nigeria from those who have failed us for 16 years.”

Our verdict

The full video of Buhari at the Chatham House in that year is available on the cyber space. He did not utter the words Jumoke attributed to him.

Below is the full video of Buhari at the Chatham House:

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Ridwan is a pragmatic, diligent, adventurous, hardworking and success-oriented Mass Communication graduate. He has a strong drive to see things through to completion.

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