2019 Race: Before President Buhari's Political 'Death' in London
Tori News correspondent, Osayimwen Osahon George evaluates the barely 20 months administration of President Muhammadu Buhari under the banner of the All Progressives Congress.
President Muhammadu Buhari
"My son, it’s time for us to take back our country from the locusts" My aging father said as he ironed his native dress as early as 6am on the 28th of March, 2015 in preparation to cast his vote at a polling unit around Jericho, Ibadan.
"Enough is enough! The days of President Goodluck Jonathan and his team of treasury-rapists are over'' he reiterated.
He brandished his Permanent Voter’s Card, PVC with the valour of a soldier raising his sword at the tension-soaked battlefield before charging at his enemies. I am not sure I have ever seen my gentle father in that enthusiastic mood in my almost three decades on earth.
On the streets of the debatable largest city in West Africa, "Sai Buhari! Sai Baba!!" was the slogan of hope and succour. The unemployed clung to it like their substantive appoint letters. It was like a cloth to the naked, strength to the weary, life to the dead, drugs to the sick, the sign of precipitation after a lengthy drought and to the farmers, a sign of bountiful harvest after a protracted period of famine. The stone that was rejected three good times was about to be the cornerstone.
The Nigerian electorate sacrificed all ethnic, religious, geographical, political sentiments, flawed history and other factors determining political behaviour to support the one who defeated a PhD holder with a mere 'NEPA Bill'. I am talking about the seeming poor man with a cherished mud house in his hometown, 150 cows, and the one not rich enough to purchase the presidential nomination form of his party.
The All Progress Congress hired a media 'make-up' artiste to paint his face skilfully and make the Fulani man resemble the poor masses. But it was all a script and a ruse; he was never really a member of our economic class.
One thing Nigerians have learned from the almost 2-year administration of Buhari is that one person's perceived integrity doesn't translate to competence. An honest farmer will fail woefully as an accountant no matter the degree of openness due to lack of professional touches, managerial skills, experience and organised training.
In May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari on the assumption of power tried to hit the ground running but with which strength literally? He was 72 for crying out loud and he is no magician. Baba decided go 'go slow' like our aged commercial bus drivers in Lagos State who believe in applying utmost caution on the road unlike their younger counterparts who are always in a hurry to manoeuvre time and make more money.
Buhari came with his 1983 ideology and tried to infuse it into the 2015 system of governance. After making three earlier attempts in 2003, 2007, 2011 respectively to win political power, Nigerians believed the former military ruler had a special antidote to administer to the debilitated country. But today, it appears his resilience seems to have been motivated by mere obsession about the cosy life at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
Buhari through a misguided and miscalculated perception screen viewed modern day governance from the perspective of hunting corrupt government officials and emasculating them to the delight of the envious and bitter masses. His dogma and philosophy was to fight corrupt public office holders and not the 'cancer of corruption' itself.
Buhari planned to achieve a legendary height as a Nigerian leader simply by ruling through the 'body language' of inactions but a seeming wrecked economy necessitating well calculated and conscious actions/policies awaited Buhari to end his political honeymoon.
It’s high time the ruling All Progressives Congress came out to admit there was no developmental plan for Nigeria. The party manifesto was randomly drawn without due reference to facts and figures corresponding with the Nigerian political reality. The slogan of 'change' now regarded as 'chain' was highly populist in nature. It took advantage of the fears, scathing agony, economic hardship, insecurity and vulnerability of the Nigerian masses successfully swindled by previous administrations.
Considering the present downtrodden state of the economy, one could safely say the game-plan was simply to unseat the People's Democratic Party, PDP and end the 60-year wild rulership fantasies.
In fact, APC planned to fail and make the PDP's eventual presidential election victory pyrrhic after a 16-year reign. If Jonathan hadn’t conceded defeat, it was crystal-clear that the APC would have left him with no country to govern. Even at almost two years after the party's victory at the polls, the garment of the opposition party hasn't been fully handed over to the PDP as they still whine and struggle over the 'spoils of war' because in Nigeria, politics is a viable investment too.
It took President Buhari about 6 months to inaugurate his cabinet. He regarded the federal ministers as 'noisemakers' whose works are carried out by the civil servants.
The President abused the public faith by giving the impression that he was searching for angels amongst the over 180 million Nigerians. There were newspaper reports that the Department of State Security, DSS was screening the ministerial nominees. But the beauty of falsehood is that it only serves a short-term purpose with a precarious end awaiting the purveyors. Nigeria was governed under the charade of the body language of the new Sheriff who abhors corruption and other forms of abuse of public office.
When the ministerial nominees list was finally released, Nigerians were mortified to see the regular political actors, some of who designed a personal website for N78 million, 2 boreholes for N139 million; we got an appointee who was accused of dipping his hands into state coffers to organize a lavish dinner of N82 million for a renown professor, cornering an abandoned monorail project of over $400 million, another who heartlessly cornered the State Universal Basic Education Board funds in excess of N850 million as a good bye gesture to his State coupled with about N40 billion public funds mismanaged, the one who bought two beds costing N50 million that could ward off nightmares and also another 'high-performing minister who 'spended' above the budgetary allocation to his ministry and so on.
President Buhari tried hitting the ground running like the British Prime Minister, Theresa May who appointed her cabinet on her first day in office or even the contentious U.S President, Donald John Trump who made key appointments before his inauguration day, January 20, 2017 for ease of governance and planning.
Buhari wasn't sleeping too; he made an appointment in about 48 hours after his inauguration on the 29th of May, 2015. He appointed his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, and also his Assistant, Garba Shehu to prepare for the huge task of laundering his image alongside the 'prolific' Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed deemed the 'legend of propaganda' in Nigeria.
Public image seemed more important to Buhari than the abysmal state of the economy, so Tolu Ogunlesi was added to the media department on the 18th of February, 2016 out of compensation for the favourable Twitter trends during the presidential election campaign of 2015. 7 days earlier, Buhari appointed one Bashir Ahmad, 25 as his Personal Assistant on New Media.
As Nigerians clamoured for an economic team that will encompass seasoned personalities from the private and public sectors, Buhari appointed another media aide - a woman on the 3rd of October, 2016 to help boost the spate of the blame-game with the PDP and also feed the hungry masses with locally-refined excuses.
Lauretta Enochie who has been accused of trafficking young girls abroad for prostitution by one human rights lawyer - Emeka Ugwuonye joined the army of image launderers. In as much as information dissemination and communications with the people are necessary, Buhari apparently chose politics ahead of good governance. Empty praises will never feed the malnourished and low-spirited people or construct infrastructural facilities for the betterment of their lives.
What about Buhari's economic adviser? Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu has remained hidden like the faces of the core northern women of the Islamic faith wearing the Hijab.
The leadership of the APC nursed utopian feelings about turning around the Nigerian economy without a roadmap. Buhari must have fantasized about the possibility of providing jobs, stable and affordable electricity, developing the local economy and equating the naira with the U.S dollar through decrees associated with the military regime.
Concerned Nigerians raised an alarm about Buhari's failure to set up a cabinet to coordinate the affairs of this country. This delay affected the preparation of the 2016 appropriation bill which was later hurriedly presented 6 weeks after the ministers were appointed.
The delay and 11th hour approach to the national budget preparation facilitated the nefarious activities of some civil servants, legislative and executive 'rats' to pad the budget. Till date, the erring individuals are still in the system constituting a clog in the movement of the acclaimed 'wheel of change'.
We owe Buhari the truth regardless of our level of affiliation to him because there is no other place like home. Defending the Nigerian fort is our social responsibility as true citizens and in respect of the oath of allegiance. More Donald Trumps with obnoxious immigration policies will still emerge in the world and one day blacklist Nigeria and there will be no escape route for the rich and the poor.
If the cavalier in-fighting within the PDP has hindered the party from serving as a watchdog to the ruling party, the onus then lays on us citizens to raise a loud alarm about the Buhari vehicle skidding off the road under the President's nose. If care is not taken, Buhari might only earn sympathy votes in the north-east during the 2019 presidential election over the decimation of the Boko Haram terrorists under him.
In fact, with the Presidential Initiative for the North-East, PINE riddled with corruption coupled with other agencies managing the Internally Displaced People's camps, Buhari's supporters might be swayed by an opponent who could capitalize on the despondency of the people. This is very similar to the fate of Jonathan in the north-east during the 2015 presidential election campaign.
The height of the failure of President Buhari was when Nigerians chanted the slogan "Bring Back Our Corruption". It would be recalled that it was the same 'corruption' controversy that dented the popularity of former President Goodluck Jonathan who carelessly gave legitimacy and endorsement to the abuse of public office by claiming "stealing is not corruption" in public space on the 21st of October, 2013.
The poor masses were jaded; they wondered how food disappeared from their tables as Buhari fought corruption selectively. The news of the prosecution of politicians with questionable sources of opulence was no longer entertaining to the readers as there was no food in their tummies to empower their vision to read and brains to think and assimilate press reports.
The monster of inflation currently at 18.5% has hit Nigeria. Trial and error economics has become the order of the day as the people become lab rats in the hands of the so-called economic team, there is no synergy between the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance, the economic team led by the eloquent and lawyering Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is as ineffectual as an expensive but expired drug, and the naira endures great falls like Humpty Dumpty at regular intervals.
As I write this piece, the naira has hit N500 in exchange for a dollar at the parallel market. Considering the import-based structure of our economy, that's doom!
The United States-based lender JP Morgan delisted Nigeria from the Emerging Market Government Bond Index (GBI-EM) in September, 2015 as the worst fears of a capital flight of $2.5 billion stared at our pale faces. Unpromising government policies unsettled investors as they opted for exit plans. This is not unconnected with the recalcitrance of the Federal Government on its detrimental economic policies.
According to a Bloomberg report in March 2016, portfolio investors including Aberdeen Asset Management Plc and Ashmore Group Plc, which together oversee about $450 billion of assets have retreated from Nigerian markets.
Due to the fall in oil prices in the international market coupled with the spate of Niger Delta militancy which affected the daily production of crude oil, foreign exchange started becoming scarce. Crude oil accounts for over 90% of our source of forex. Pressure was mounted on the apex bank as manufacturing companies and other private individuals couldn’t source for foreign currencies to import raw materials and secure other services abroad.
Overwhelming demands wee mounted on the scarce dollars that were being rationed and the naira took a nosedive due to the forces of demand and supply. The import-based structure of the economy aggravated the inflationary trend without a functional local economy to cushion the economic shock.
Companies that couldn’t access forex started closing like it was 5pm while Buhari kept offering us empty words of hope. He swiftly became a cleric preaching patience and faith to his congregants while government officials basked in wealth and changed car models with very limited state resources.
The most popular staple food in Nigeria - rice was put beyond the reach of the poor with exorbitant prices. Every policy introduced starting from the Treasury Single Account - TSA, banning of 41 items from import list by the CBN, ban on importation of fairly used cars through the land border, rice etc. were disasters despite the positive intentions thereby giving us the impression that they were not only rushed but only deliberated on after implementation.
Even Buhari mocked his advocacy for the patronage of locally-made goods and services to boost the economy when he took his ear abroad for treatment. He couldn't even entrust the status of his common ear in the hands of Nigerian doctors despite having an ultra-modern State House Medical Centre that is well-funded with billions of naira every year. Buhari's third medical trip to the United Kingdom officially under the guise of vacations has worsened the spate of medical tourism amongst Nigerians.
The ban on the importation of fairly used cars was dead on arrival when we only have a single car production company in Nigeria called Innoson Motors while others assemble imported vehicle parts.
Till date, every Nigerian lives with the threat of the further increment in fuel price as well as the already inflated power tariffs without any significant improvement in supply.
Breathing in Nigeria has become a luxury. The value of salaries has been depleted by inflation while the salaries remain the same with unprecedented delays over an average of 5 months by state governments.
One of the major causes of corruption is poverty. A hungry man will seize any opportunity to break the law and eat to firstly stay alive and face the consequences later. How can Buhari enforce his anti-corruption campaign in a system where a Police Constable with a family of at least 4 earns a salary of N43, 000 per month and lives in a high standard city like Abuja or Lagos?
With the current inflationary trend, he could even lobby for collaboration with armed robbers, kidnappers or terrorists just to fend for himself and his family.
Apart from this, the anti-corruption war although very necessary and applaudable has only ended up as a viable tool in muzzling dissenting voices. The Buhari's idea of a corrupt Nigerian is the one who opposes his administration and confronts him with the gospel truth. The war has been a mere distraction from reality as the recovered funds have not in any visible way improved the lives of the poor masses.
The major achievement of the anti-corruption charade is the change of players as well as formation. The opposing PDP members have been frozen out to a large extent except for the political harlots decamping and re-aligning to have access to the national cake.
The new kids on the bloc are desperate about matching the legendary looting records of the PDP in just 4 years.
Isn't it questionable that the Secretary General of the Federation, Babachir Lawal after been accused of fleecing the vulnerable Internally Displaced People in the north-east of over N200 million is still in office in the face of concrete evidences against him as tendered by the senate? The Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari has been embroiled in a phony deal with MTN, South African telecommunication company to facilitate the reduction of fine slammed by the Nigeria Communications Commission, the top army official with inexplicable sources of income to acquire landed properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and other massive local businesses are still in office.
Till date, the alleged 'padders' of 2016 national budget of 'change' in the House of Representatives are also still in office to surgically operate on the 2016 Appropriation Bill simply because the purported arrowhead of the squad is from the ruling APC. It’s pathetic that the whistle-blower Abdulmunin Jibrin who should have been protected to set a good legacy has become the ‘whipping boy’ of the Green Chamber.
Two federal ministers namely; the Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu have been fingered in the bribery of judges but the issue has been handled with a pinch of salt due to the APC emblem on their heads.
One wonders why the DSS shouldn't storm their houses at the wee hours of the night to whisk them away in Hollywood style maybe there could be corruption leads in their houses.
The 4 years of Buhari which Nigerians would have loved to extend to 8 years for the purpose of the total sanitization of the country is now being termed as the locust years we need to put behind us.
Was there ever a sanitization process or a means of silencing dissenting voices? If the war were to be transparent and fair, maybe the SGF, Babachir Lawal's alleged theft from the IDPs would have been investigated by our anti-grant agencies with the needed professionalism and expertise and not a hush-hush approach by the President with a faltering letter forwarded to the senate from his 'sick bed' in London, United Kingdom.
Nothing has changed; Buhari has visited over 30 countries in over a year with limited positive results. It’s only good news in the media while in reality the poor masses feed on thin air. Yes, its futuristic they say but the future is now they forget. This administration has witnessed the height of human right abuses which was feared about the Buhari presidency from inception.
The leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El Zakzaky remains incarcerated unduly over a year despite court orders, incessant public protests and international condemnations aimed at releasing him. His followers are still being brutalized, maimed and some killed for peacefully protesting publicly.
It is still on record that the Shiites-Nigerian army showdown in Zaria, Kaduna in 2015 claimed over 347 lives with the government sweeping the holocaust under the carpet.
Nnamdi Kanu, Biafra separatist leader has also been cooling his heels behind bars where we read he has fast become a kingpin according to the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani Kayode after his regular 'brief holidays' with inmates.
The Federal Government has flagrantly refused to obey a court order on his release. The blood of protesting members of the Independent People of Biafra has been constantly tasted by the sands of the South-east without any concrete investigation into the absurdity which can be attributed to the leadership posture of Buhari. Former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki remains in DSS cell in the face of an order for his release by the Economic Community of West African States Court.
One would wonder how Buhari disregarded the court order easily only to invest rare state funds in the Gambian crisis under the auspices of ECOWAS. A chronicle of Buhari's activities as a former opposition leader might have convinced former President Yahya Jammeh not to relinquish power for his safety and dignity.
What about the Fulani herdsmen? The quagmire of Fulani herdsmen has been with us from time immemorial, history traces the incessant conflicts to the 1980s as agriculture started to gather momentum in Nigeria. Successive administrations have only managed to endure the problem. This has escalated under Buhari presumably due to his seeming body language of inaction and ethnic background. Significantly, over 1,333 people have been killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen, others have been maimed and properties worth billions of naira destroyed in constant conflicts under the Buhari administration with no record of offender brought to book. Even official statements from the Presidency in condemnation of the fatal attacks are purposely ignored or delayed for inexplicable reasons.
The Federal Government's handling of the Agatu, Benue massacre where over 300 people were slain by irate herdsmen in a reprisal attack alone invigorated other budding attacks around the geopolitical zones. One might be forced to think the scourge of the Fulani herders can't be curtailed but the proactive steps taken by Governor Ayodele Fayose in Ekiti State was highly correctional. Setting up a militia named the ‘Ekiti Grazing Enforcement Marshalls’ to monitor the excesses of the herders and promulgating laws to jail erring herders seemed contentious initially but it was very instrumental in instilling peace with the herdsmen sticking to cattle rearing and not trouble fomenting.
The fears of the Islamization of Nigeria have been growing since the release of the suspected killers of the Kano Christian woman, Bridget Agbahime accused of blasphemy and also the Redeemed Christian Church of God Abuja preacher – Mrs Eunice Elisha simply because they had 'no case to answer' but a man, Joachim Iroko Chinakwe who named his dog after Buhari in Ogun is still facing trial at the Igbosere Magistrate court in the South-western State.
Apparently, all the security operatives in Nigeria were literally napping on duty when the crimes were committed and have returned to bed after the crime to enjoy a longer and concentrated rest.
The same DSS that has failed to provide any lead concerning the arrest of the perpetrators of the Southern Kaduna pogrom that reportedly claimed over 800 lives of Christian folks according to the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN was quick to attempt the arrest of the Omega Ministries and Fire founder, Apostle Johnson Suleiman for making an 'inciting statement' while addressing his congregants. Such double standards have further polarized Nigerians. It should never be encouraged. It spells upheaval especially for a country where the unity of the various ethnic groups is by fiat.
Buhari has contributed immensely to the further polarization of Nigeria through his skew political appointments lacking regional balance thereby serving as a catalyst to secessionist agitations by the Biafra and Niger Delta militant groups.
As at August, 2015, 25% of Buhari’s political appointees came from the south while 75% went to the northern part of the country. Buhari maintained his act of nepotism with the South-east recording no single appointee.
Aside the 'technical victory' against Boko Haram and the recovery of phantom funds from members of the previous administration, what will Buhari use to sway voters in 2019 after reneging on virtually all the campaign promises of the APC. With Buhari's recent vacation in London which has been trailed by constant death rumours, one wonders if the President will have the physical strength to campaign across the 36 states in Nigeria with regards to Buhari's abhorrence towards local trips especially areas of crisis.
The prominence and massive acceptance of the nationwide protest convened by legendary singer, Innocent Idibia popularly known as 2Face against the current administration is a wake-up call to Buhari whose waning popularity is about to be laid to eternal rest.
Osayimwen Osahon George writes from FESTAC Town, Lagos State.
Credit: Tori News
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