*This article was first published on August 30, 2017
Overtly rated for honesty and transparency, given his antecedents as a military head of state between 1984 and 1985, President Muhammadu Buhari was literally given an open cheque in 2015 to lead the beleaguered country and instill some sanity in to the perverted psyche of most Nigerians after a sixteen –year misrule of the PDP -led federal administrations.
Tired of the lackluster style of administration of the Goodluck Jonathan government and monumental profligacy in the handling of the nation’s treasury, Nigerians were quick to fall for the hypothetical Spartan qualities of Buhari who had tried and failed on three occasions to become president. Not a few Nigerians had thought that the Daura-born General hitherto reputed for zero tolerance for corruption would help sanitize the system which had been exceedingly polluted by the PDP and its thieving gangs for 16 years. As a matter of fact, the war against corruption became the mantra of the APC-led campaign while CHANGE was the slogan of the party.
The expectations were high. Like a Messiah, Nigerians had thought that once Buhari was able to tackle corruption every other thing would fall into shape. Corruption, it was believed, had wrecked the country’s social-economic wellbeing. The roads across the length and breadth of the country were (and still remain) death traps. It had taken government about five years to fix the highly strategic Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The precarious East-West road had remained an orphan for years. To travel from the southern part of the country to the nation’s capital, Abuja has remained a nightmare. Many lives have been lost on these roads while successive administrations have remained unperturbed.
Electricity supply had remained epileptic. Many small and medium enterprises had collapsed due to power failure. Privatisation of the sector by Jonathan administration seemingly worsened the consumer’s travail. Consumers were paying more for inadequate power supply. Electricity problem in Nigeria has made cost of doing business in the country one of the highest in the world.
The federal universities were in a parlous state due to underfunding. Hospitals continued to be mere consulting rooms as inconsequential ailments constantly claim many innocent but vulnerable lives in spite of unbridled display of stupendous affluence by the political class. The choice of Buhari was however, hailed by many Nigerians given the exploits of his partnership with Tunde Idiagbon as a military leader, forgetting that Idiagbon was the de facto head of state while the regime lasted.
Unfortunately, history has a funny way of repeating itself in Nigeria. All the indices that made the previous administrations loathed by Nigerians, particularly the Jonathan’s are all well visible even for the blind to see in the present administration. The admonition came from an unusual quarter for former president Jonathan when on December 28, 2014, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteers Force, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, declared that President Goodluck Jonathan might not rule beyond 2015. He said it would be difficult for Jonathan to go beyond 2015 because of the ‘greedy’ people around him. He said the people were responsible for the rift between Jonathan and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Is the situation any better with Buhari as president? The cabal in and out of Aso rock has created a widening gulf between the president and party leaders like the APC National leader, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu and Former Vice president, Atiku Abubakar amongst others. Although, one might not be too comfortable with Atiku’s desperation for power in 2019 as evident in his intemperate anti-party maneuvers, it’s his inalienable right to challenge the incumbent in the next presidential election under any poitical platform. His activities further attest to the fact that APC is a party devoid of a potent leader that can instill discipline and fear in members to maintain some semblance of decorum. The party structure is as impotent as a toothless bull-dog that can only bark but not bite. It’s a party where each of its parts is bigger than the whole. And discipline had taken flight the moment the president adopted the exclusive approach to leadership. The president’s integrity through which the nascent party gained momentary acceptance appears to be in its abysmal ebb, and this can cause the party a repeat of the feat it achieved in 2015 in the next general election.
It’s disturbing to note that the president could enjoy sound sleep with all the people involved in the Mainagate still occupying their seats in this government while he maintains a taciturn disposition to the Head of Service’ report of the national embarrassment.
If Nigerians were in doubt when wife of the president, Aisha Buhari declared to the whole world that a cabal had hijacked the present government from her husband, unfolding events in the presidency accentuated by the ignominious Abdulrasheed Maina debacle are pointers to the fact that Aisha’s outcry was not a mere hallucination as her husband wanted us to believe. The president’s continued deafening silence over the Vice president’s report on former SGF, Babahir Lawal’s multimillion naira grass-cutting scandal and the Nigeria Intelligence Agency DG, Ayo Oke who warehoused heaps of US dollar notes in an Ikoyi apartment is not a good testament of a leader with the pre-requisite qualities to fight corruption the way it’s fought in China or any other sane clime.
The Budget padding scandal involving the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara was left uninvestigated by the EFCC while the whistle-blower, Jibrin became an instant orphan and was subsequently suspended from the house for saying something when he saw something. Prof Usman Yussuf, former Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance, Scheme, was alleged to have embezzled N919m. He was only asked to go home and sin no more by the Buhari government. He actually refused to leave office when the acting president, Yemi Osibajo directed that he be relieved of his duties. He sent words back to Osibajo that he would only heed the order if only it came from the office of president Buhari who appointed him. The decadence in governance has reached its crescendo as the president appears to have lost control. There’s impunity at all levels of government. The presidency and most of the state governors behave as if they would never come back to the electorate to beg for votes.
The president has continued to display crass ineptitude or an unapologetic favourism in his handling of the affairs of the country when it comes to appointments into federal agencies and bringing members of his party, APC or people from a particular part of the country to book on account of fraud-related infractions. The president has made it clear to all to see that there are some people in his government that cannot be touched in his anti-corruption war. This has made members of the opposition, particularly, PDP to accuse the president of attitudinal corruption in his war against corruption. If the same level of seriousness attached to prosecuting members of the last administration accused of corruption is also replicated in trailing down those in this government, the war against graft would have been exceedingly successful and meaningful. But sooner or later, there is going to be another Pharaoh who will not know Joseph.
There is so much confusion everywhere. Four cabinet members would give four different views in the media on one strategic government policy as if they only discuss mundane things at the weekly FEC meetings. There was a day minister of Finance; Kemi Adeosun made embarrassingly conflicting policy statements on foreign loans in less than six hours. The finance minister and CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, have never been on the same page when it comes to the effective strategy to adopt for managing the monetary policy. The other day, it was Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachukwu and NNPC Group Managing Director, Baru with the president conspicuously enmeshed in the complicity as Petroleum resources minister. From the onset, it was obvious that Baru was not walking alone. He had the ears and eyes of the president and was only tacitly told to ignore the chairman of the NNPC board who doubles as Minister of state for petroleum in taking sensitive decisions in the corporation.
No one runs a government of divide and rule and expects any tangible success. The president has not been able to convince anyone that he’s in charge. He has given the cabal in his government a new coloration through his now unpopular body language. He has made the cabal so powerful that they could bring into the country someone already sacked by government and declared wanted by EFCC and Interpol for embezzling N2billion of pensioners’ money. They did not stop at that. He was rewarded with double promotion and payment of N22m entitlements for the period he was a fugitive.
Paradoxically, many pensioners who had served their motherland for 35 years and whose money Maina allegedly stole are dying on a daily basis waiting to collect the peanuts that is due to them. It’s difficult to believe that president Buhari was in oblivion of Maina’s return to the country. If truly Buahri was not in the know of the clandestine ‘deodorization’ of Maina’s sins and return to the country however, then he’s definitely not in charge. Maina for Borno governor in 2019 posters already flooded Abuja. There can never be worse impunity than what we are witnessing in this government. We thought it was at its peak during the Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations.
Annoyingly, the cabal keeps insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians when it explores diversionary tactics to sway away people’s attention from the substance each time it’s enmeshed in one scandal or the other. Still embroiled in his ignominious role in the inglorious return of Mania into the country, Malami suddenly remembered that some $85m of Abacha loot had been returned to Nigeria by the UK government. One wonders when the money was released to Nigeria and did not make any headline in the British media.
Money that may have been released to Nigeria months ago and the government had decided to keep mute, waiting for the appropriate time to use it to score political point. It’s increasingly becoming credible the allegation by PDP that APC is a party of liars and propagandists, even though the former laid a solid foundation for the economic rot that the present government is trying to clean up albeit, like a kindergarten pupil of political-economy. In sane climes, many of the PDP leaders that have suddenly regained their voices in the political arena would have been somewhere in Maiduguri or Kirikiri prison serving a life sentence for monumental injustices done to Nigerians in 16 years.
Now the Buhari’s second term a task that must be accomplished groups are sprouting up. Buhari has the constitutional right to go for another term in office. He’s honest, even though many no longer trust him as a nationalist. But if those in his government continue to behave like a law onto themselves, it might be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for APC to win the next presidential election in a clean and fair contest. Like it happened to Jonathan, the same people that Buhari is surrounded with today may be his nemesis at the polls in 2019. Most of them were his allies in CPC. They enjoyed more patronage in this government than any other segment of the party. Interestingly, majority of them lack the political clouts that can win any election for the president. And these are the people the president trusts so much to do what people like Tinubu did for him in 2015.
With PDP gradually rediscovering itself and desperate to regain power, the president’s approach to fighting corruption must change as a matter of urgency with a paradigm shift from adoring thieving Buhari boys in the government with deodorants while chemical solutions are poured on those not in the good books of the cabal under the guise of fighting corruption.
81 of the 100 appointments made by Buhari were from the North while the other regions shared the remaining 19 appointments. The president would do a lot of work to convince the entire country that he is not president for the Northern Nigeria but for the six zones that constitute Nigeria. It may not be enough to be known for honesty. Trust will count more in 2019 rather than mere rhetoric.
At 76 in 2019, coupled with his fragile heath condition, it becomes a personal decision for the president to make if it’s really desirable that he runs again in the next general elections.