Buhari: The unravelling of a myth
Why his magic is not working
President Mohammed Buhari came into power chiefly because the people were tired of the misrule of the PDP administration under the leadership of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Buhari campaigned on what many people saw as his being ‘Mr Clean’ in terms of his status as an incorruptible leader. Over the years and even when he campaigned for the Presidency he was seen as a man that can be trusted not to steal from the public coffers and who would also not allow others steal. He was a military ruler in the eighties and inspite of the abuse of human rights which his regime was known for, the majority felt that it was precisely his Deputy General Tunde Idiagbon that was responsible for the said violations of human rights; but Nigerians now know better.
Not many will remember that when Gen Tunde Idiagbon went to participate in the lesser Hajj during which Gen Buhari was taken out in a bloodless coup d’etat he went with his very young son which was against the law passed by his government. What many people are now seeing for the first time as Buhari’s leadership penchant of saying one thing and doing the opposite is therefore not new.
Buhari is also a man that does what his mind tells him to do regardless of the legality or otherwise of such an action. When Buhari ordered the execution of some young Nigerians for drug trafficking during his earlier ‘military presidency,’ it was pointed out to him that the law upon which the men were to be killed then was nonexistent when they committed the said offences and that their lives should be spared. The pleas fell on deaf ears and the men were executed.
imilarly, his regime’s anti-media law, Decree 4, was also seen as wrong-headed and abusive. Buhari was a hater of the media and had to do something about it by a law that would sentence any journalist to jail for writing articles against a public officials even if the articles were truthful in every material sense, Two journalists went to prison because they refused to give up the names of their source for stories that they wrote against some allegedly corrupt public officials. Today, some are surprised that the same Buhari is now using the media to try alleged governments officials in the Jonathan government accused of corrupt enrichment as well as diversion of monies meant for the prosecution of the Boko Haram war in the north east of the county.
Babangida and co who took out General Buhari were of the view that he was running a one-man show and declared same loudly. With the benefit of hindsight, this is exactly what is at play now. Besides, if you carefully analyze Buhari’s policies you will see they are the product of an individual that is not very well informed. The President is behaving as someone in the digital age who insists that he would do things in the analogue way!. No digital age President will deprecate his country to the international community but whenever the President is out of the country that is when he talks about the many faults of the Nigerian people. He is wont to call Nigerians scammers and men and women who lack integrity in their businesses and when foreign investments are not coming you can understand where that is coming from.
The Nigerian government under Buhari is like a secret cult. What we see in practice is the President surrounding himself with largely Fulani men and women and has been seen to go hunting some people from retirement to give positions or jobs to, even where they are already competent men and women doing the same job. It is an open secret that the unofficial chief of staff is his nephew who though not a government employee sits in all meetings and even very crucial ones. The man Mamman Daura is said to be the son of Buhari’s elder brother. There are many other relations of the President who are occupying very powerful positions but cannot be said to be on government payroll. Among Aso Rock staffers the fear of Mamman Daura and other relatives of the President is reportedly the beginning of wisdom. Though Nigerians have raised issues on this illegality nothing is being done nor are the President’s spokespersons offering any viable explanations.
While campaigning, the President said the office of the first lady would be abolished but as soon as he was sworn in, his wife, Aisha, who had said he will not be a ‘first lady’ but shall be known simply as the wife of the President is now acting as the first lady that she is and has practically been playing the role. Her visibility has led to wrong perceptions about her person. An obviously exasperated Governor of Ekiti State, Peter Ayodele Fayose accused her of being implicated in the Haliburton affair saying that she wired about $170000. The Presidency vehemently denied this accusation and another woman stepped up to see she is not the one accused in the Haliburton trial adding that otherwise she won’t be living freely in the United states. Nigerians have thrown the challenge to the Presidency that Mrs Buhari should visit America and prove her critics wrong. The challenge has been taken on but in a tweet the first lady called Fayose a mad dog adding that she was unlike her husband but young enough to take on the Ekiti Governor. She later deleted the tweet following public outcry that her language in the tweet was unbecoming of someone in her position. For now its silence from the office of the First Lady but she is busy donating money and materials to Nigerians in Displaced Persons Camps in some states in the north.
Also, many economists opine that if the policies being implemented now as per letting the rate of exchange of the naira to the dollar and other global currencies were to be determined by market forces had commenced much earlier, Nigeria probably would not be in the state of recession that it now is in. While campaigning, the President had reportedly boasted that he would bring down the price of fuel and make the dollar to exchange with the Naira on an almost equal footing. That claim was either naïve or ignorant because under his watch the Naira exchanged with one USD for nearly N500.00. It took the threat of business magnate, Ifeanyi Uba to bring down the exchange rate to N200 to a Dollar if the Federal government invites him to do so and other proddings to get the system managers to begin to address the issues. Uba had said that he had indepth knowledge of the system and people that were holding the nation to ransom in the critical area of exchange rate fluctuation. With this and the liberalization of the exchange rate regime, the naira came to exchange for N335.00 to the dollar.
The Federal government also increased the price of fuel to N145 for a litre up from N89 for one litre. The labour movement made feeble attempts to protest the increase but the attempts fizzled out as Nigerians believed that no amount of demonstrations would stop the price increase by the government. On his part, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Emmanuel Kachikwu did his best to explain the situation saying that the country was poor and would grind to a halt unless something urgent was done.
This assertion of a country being broke is one that is on the lips of all Nigerians to the extent that many Nigerians have joined the President in appealing to the Niger Delta Avengers to cease the bombing of oil facilities and platforms in the Niger Delta states of Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta. The national budget was predicated on two million barrel per day but now the production level is short of the mark. The ability of the country to be alive to her responsibilities has been degraded seriously and unless something urgent is done the fear within some circles is that the economy could grind to a halt.
In a sense, some argue that the government is somewhat responsible for this sorry state of affairs in the Niger Delta. As soon as President Buhari took office he reportedly abolished the amnesty programme which the Jonathan and Yaradua governments before him had instituted to allow for relatively unfettered exploration of oil. The government then hammered out an agreement that is widely referred to as an amnesty package in which some of the militants in the Niger Delta dropped their arms in exchange for training on skills acquisition abroad while those in the countey were to be paid a regular stipend. Jonathan moved on this score further by awarding contracts to them to police the waterways and deal with the issue of piracy especially with regards to the stealing of oil.
These arrangements worked to some extent and oil exploration went on relatively unhindered in that season but the Buhari government not only balked at these agreements but also went on to declare one of the leaders of the militants wanted even as the man, Government Ekpemupolo also known as Tompolo, had sued the government for breach of contract in the termination of his waterways surveillance contract. This was the state of affairs until the new nemesis of the Nigerian oil sector, the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA emerged and commenced the destruction of oil platforms belonging to oil companies and the nation. They have also warned expatriate oil workers to leave the country to avoid unpleasant consequences.
Since May 29, 2016 therefore, it has been one step forward and two steps backward for a government that came in with much promise to make a difference in the life of Nigerians. Initially when electricity supply improved it was said it was due to the body language of the President who has a reputation of not being corrupt and who would not spare corrupt people. Now it appears that the gains of the early days of his administration was indeed part of the vestiges of the Jonathan administration because right now, Babatunde Fashola, the former Governor of Lagos State who is now saddled with the Works, Housing and Power Ministries is now touted as ‘Mr Darkness’ as the power situation across the length and breadth of the nation is very bad. This is worsened by increased tariff on electricity which the National Electricity Regulatory Commission had pushed through. Thus, Nigerians are paying more for less power in a clime where the connection between power and economic development cannot be over-emphasized.
There is also the vexed issue of Boko Haram. The Jonathan administration had in its closing days dealt a mortal blow to the insurgent group and the military were carrying out mop up operations to root out the remaining elements. Buhari campaigned on the premise of resolving the Boko Haram conundrum within months of being sworn in but several months afterwards, with the group was still carrying out attacks the language changed. Now it became that the group have been technically defeated and their capacity to engage the army had been weakened considerably.
The only business of the administration that remains on the front burner then is that of fighting corruption especially from the stand point of finding and prosecuting the men who rather than buy arms for the military to engage Boko Haram decided to put the monies to private use. The erstwhile National Security Adviser that had been given this responsibility is in detention whilst many of those allegedly involved in the sleaze are being investigated and prosecuted. The opinion of many Nigerians is that the fight against corruption should not prosecuted while other serious national issues are being ignored, or inadequately tackled, as seems to be the case with the economy. Spiralling unemployment and the non-payment of workers salaries by various state governments even after the federal government provided bail outs to them remain issues of concern. Out of 36 states only five states are deemed viable today, viewed from the basic parameter of being able to pay workers salaries and meet other financial obligations like payments to contractors. To say the least there is hunger in the land today and this simply put is the crux of the matter in this ‘season of Change.’