The media has been awash with the incredible story of Suleiman Hashimu who journeyed by foot from Lagos to Abuja in 18 days. An astonishing feat by all standards, it has whipped up widely contrasting sentiments.
Fulfilling a promise made to God two years ago is the reason Hashimu has put forward to explain why he embarked on the long trek from Lagos. A promise to cover the long distance between Lagos and Abuja on foot so he can attend Buhari’s inauguration as president if the latter wins the 2015 presidential elections. Suleiman Hashim is now in Abuja, basking in sudden fame amidst great fanfare and an invidious retinue of admirers and protectors.
But the billion naira question many Nigerians are asking remains: Did Suleiman Hashimu really cover his entire journey from Lagos to Abuja on foot?
The wayfarer, while briefing the media on his expedition, claimed that he passed through Kwara and Niger states on his long walk to the capital city. It is interesting how he conveniently left out the other states which he must pass through to get to Kwara from Lagos. Looking closely at the map of Nigeria, it can be roughly determined that Hashimu should cross through Ogun and Oyo to get to Kwara. There are reports that he was sighted in Ekiti. If this is so then he must have passed through Ogun and Osun before getting to Ekiti and into Kwara.
How possible is it that Suleiman Hashimu would travel by foot for many days through these states without leaving with vivid memories that should prompt his mentioning each state? He said he always trekked for twelve hours a day (from 6am to 6pm). The question is, how is it possible that at 6pm each day he found a safe and comfortable spot to spend the night? With a map or tracking device at hand, it is still impossible to undertake such a journey and find comfortable places to stay at such precise intervals. Then the related question props up: what navigation aids did he use? Maps? A GPS enabled phone? How did he get to charge the latter on the trip if he used such? Where are the pieces of evidence supporting his use of these or any other kinds of navigation aids?
A feat like this claimed journey, cannot be accepted without proof of performance. What has giving science its pride of place as the most respected method of inquiry into phenomena is the fact that it allows for independent verification of its methods of inquiry. We are in the scientific age and so any claimed feat that seems extraordinary should, well in advance, be planned to be documented along the way. Documentation can come as videos, pictures, contacts of guides and heads of communities passed along the way.
But we have not seen any of such. Hashimu has told us not to bother.
No one should get up and tell Nigerians to their faces that the truth to a daring feat as this should be left to God alone to determine. This matter is of national importance as it involves the persona of Buhari, Nigeria’s president-in-waiting whose reputation for integrity, and strong commitment to change, stands out like a mound of salt on a spreading of charcoal.
We must fault Buhari’s swift commendation of Suleiman Hashimu’s claimed feat. Our president-in-waiting has said repeatedly that the malaise of corruption will be decisively dealt with in his government. He has promised to probe the missing billions in NNPC. Probing Suleiman Hashimu’s claimed feat presents an important opportunity to validate, even before the incoming administration hits the ground running, these crucial promises Buhari made and keeps reiterating. Yes, because Hashim has gotten praise, fame, money, goodwill and material blessings from the masses and elites alike on account of a questionable journey by foot from Lagos to Abuja. Corruption begins from an impairment of integrity before it progresses to the more debilitating stages of mindless looting of public funds. So the war against corruption promised by Buhari can begin from any member of society, even if from the downtrodden, that seeks to unscrupulously capitalize on the great desire for change that pushed millions of Nigerians to vote for Buhari.
Maybe the media should take a swipe for not taking Suleiman Hashimu’s undertaking seriously. As a formidable bastion of truth, the media should have anticipated a time as this when the credibility of Hashim’s daring journey would come under the microscopic eye of the public. The media should have independently tracked Hashim’s progress through the telescope of robust investigative journalism.
Suleiman Hashimu’s claimed feat should be probed by the incoming government. Media houses should send their journalists to work. Nigerians can’t be taken for a ride. Nigerians can’t be told, in the words of Hashimu, that he (Hashimu) “ … made this promise between me and my God; I don’t want people to believe me. Believe me or not that is why I did not leave any evidence on ground.”
This is utter rubbish, and can only be taken as the words of a con-artist trying hard to cover his deceptive tracks. Unless proven otherwise.
Let Buhari’s government show that it can take tough but beneficial decisions which might be unpopular with its die-hard supporters. Let the APC, instead of quickly jumping to celebrate a man whose claimed feat hasn’t been independently verified, take the noble path of investigating the truth to Hashimu’s claim. That way, the party will show Nigerians that indeed theirs is a government that has come on board to do things differently.