Known for his modest lifestyle, President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have joined the mind-blowing class that delights in needlessly feasting on the nation’s common patrimony, writes Iyobosa Uwugiaren
President Muhammed Buhari’s swelling wastefulness is an alert that he has already joined the mind-expanding class by wasting the nation’s commonwealth on sumptuous, overly ostentatious journeys as well as grandiose airport ceremonies as witnessed recently on his arrival from the Middle East tour, while the nation’s economy is speedily moving to a standstill.
Take a second look at the picture illustrating this piece, it is the picture of Nigeria’s Brigade of Guards in Scottish kilt fully whistled up, who welcomed President Buhari at the Nnamadi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on his arrival from his Middle East expedition recently.
From the debatable issues throughout last week, the picture generated huge controversies in the social and traditional media with many sound minds gobbing fire. Some had said such “silliness” did not reveal the frame of mind of many Nigerians and the nation as a whole, at this time.
The near consensus amongst those, who reacted to the President’s new found frivolous lifestyle was that, what made President Buhari appealing to many Nigerians before now were his “straightforwardness, meekness and childlike virtuousness”.
Perhaps, the argument might be contentious, but many are already of the view that Buhari had been hijacked by some political hawks around him, and maybe finding it very difficult right now to resist the lure of being corrupted by some moot characters that surround him in the Villa.
Key government monitors said except those profiting from the current wet rot and wastefulness, most Nigerians are in near agreement that the president’s swelling profligacy is an alert that he had already joined the mind-expanding class by squandering the nation’s commonwealth on flights of sumptuous and overly glitzy and grandiose airport ceremonies.
President Buhari’s suspected gleeful entry into the mind-expanding class came at a time the nation’s economy is grinding to a halt; at a time the foundation of the country is being shaken by the increasing deadly activities of terrorists and Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the country, and at a time the power-that-be has unleashed the nation’s security agents on some aggrieved Nigerians and perceived political enemies, which had led to death of thousands of innocent people.
The recent cases in Rivers, Ekiti, Benue, Lagos and some eastern states are good examples. And yet, the government appears to be confused about the urgently needed solution to the lingering crisis in the affected areas.
What’s more? Day after day, experts are lamenting the lack of a clear cut economic direction from the federal government. They are worried that President Buhari doesn’t seem to have any economic team and policy direction yet, despite spending close to 10 months in the office.
Worried by Buhari’s snail move in governance, especially on economic policies and programmes, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka recently called on the federal government to convoke an “emergency economic conference” that will design economic blueprint for the federal government.
”I think we really need an emergency economic conference, a rescue operation bringing as many heads as possible together to plot the way forward”, Professor Soyinka stated.
On his part, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State said the implication of the President’s obvious lack of the required mental capacity to tackle the nation’s economic problems and the resultant effects are human right abuses, prices of goods and services skyrocketing, daily retrenchment of workers, folding up of businesses and states finding it difficult to pay workers’ salary, while the federal government not being able to prepare “common” national budget.
The governor described what is being experienced by Nigerians as the sum total of Buhari’s mental capacity, saying, “With President Buhari, Nigeria is definitely having a square peg in its round hole,” adding, “Dollar has gone double since Dr Goodluck Jonathan left office, with US Dollar exchanging for over N400; Foreign Reserve is declining on daily basis; Boko Haram insurgents have come back even stronger than they were when Buhari assumed office, and Nigerians are now being made to pay more for electricity that is not available for them to use.”
Even Buhari’s allies are not left out in lampooning him for poor economic initiative. For instance, the Emir of Kano and former Central Bank Governor (CBN), Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said recently that Buhari’s anti-corruption stance is totally inconsistent with the Forex regime he supported and that the federal government foreign exchange policy encourages corruption and rent-seeking.
Also, the federal government’s poor social management has become very pronounced in the last few months. An indistinct lack of conflict management by the Buhari administration has dovetailed into deadly consequences.
Just recently, Nigerian soldiers buried the bodies of thousands of victims of military massacre of Shiite Muslims in order to hide the death toll. The massacre cropped up as a result of clash between the Islamic group and the military over mere road blockage – an issue experts said could have easily been managed without taking to the killing of innocent civilians.
Shiite spokesman, Ibrahim Musa said soldiers took the bodies from the mortuary of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital and buried them in mass graves in Kano.
Amnesty International, a US-based human rights group has said as many as 1,000 people were killed during the incident. Under the watch of Buhari, massacre of innocent Nigerians has continued. In Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State, some bloodthirsty Fulani herdsmen recently killed over 500 citizens, with security agents looking helpless.
Apparently worried by the dastardly act, a coalition of civil society groups from the state, had stormed the National Assembly to protest against the wanton destruction of lives and properties.
Coordinator of the groups, Paul Ede, who led others to express their grievances, said the killings in Agatu by herdsmen had continued for weeks, saying over 400 persons had lost their lives to the invaders.
Security sources said there is a humanitarian crisis in the area, as over 5,000 persons had been rendered homeless.
In the last few days, good Samaritans have continued to send relief materials to the internally-displaced persons in the town.
In the South-East, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) recently alerted the general public about secret killings of innocent people of Ndi-Igbo by security agents, saying over 1,000 of its members have been “publicly and secretly” killed since their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was arrested and detained.
“We wonder what these soldiers and policemen, who are killing our innocent members because they embarked on peaceful demonstration to demand the unconditional release of our leader and Director of Radio Biafra Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, are doing in the South East when their marksmanship is needed in the North East to check the activities of the Boko haram insurgents, who are killing people on daily basis,” the IPOB stated in a statement.
The group said the case of Kanu, who is facing criminal charges in the Federal High Court, had exposed the “emptiness” of the APC government in Nigeria that is allegedly supporting the extra judicial killing of harmless IPOB members, who have not carried guns or any dangerous weapons for a day.
“If the present government of the APC in Nigeria is responsible, law abiding, respectful to Nigerian constitution and the orders of court of competent jurisdiction, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu has no business still being incarcerated,” the Biafra agitators said.
“No IPOB member or anybody should be shot while engaging in peaceful protest but because this is a government of frustrated, confused and power hungry people, who never thought that they will ever lead Nigeria for one day. They use intimidation to shoot people as if they are still in the military era.”
Records by the Amnesty International and the local human rights group, the Civil Liberties Organisation, show that Boko Haram has killed over 3, 000 innocent Nigerian civilians since Buhari took over power on May 29, 2015.
According to the reports, the figure does not include at least 800 killings carried out by the Fulani Herdsmen across some states in the country. Buhari and his party had promised during the 2015 presidential campaign election to stamp out the deadly activities of the terrorist group and fix the other lingering issue of insecurity within three months of their administration.
Expectedly, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), have continued to attribute the seeming frustration/inactiveness of the federal government to the many years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) misrule.
The minister, who has consistently defended Buhari’s policies and programmes, said the federal government had successfully tackled Boko Haram, adding that this did not happen by accident but due to the efforts of the President in rallying the country’s neighbours as well as the international community to support the country’s war on terror.
“Today, the President’s efforts have paid off. Boko Haram has been massively degraded and it is gradually moving away from the front pages of newspapers,” the minister stated, adding also that “The insurgents have lost their capacity to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks for which they became infamous.”
But how can a terrorist group that has been degraded still have the capacity to hold thousands of people captive? In the last few days, the military had consistently told Nigerians that over 1,000 people held captive by Boko Haram had been liberated by its troop in the North-East part of the country. So, who is misleading the public here between the military and the minister of information?
The opposition party, Governor Fayose and some critical minds have continued to sing it to the ears of those who care to listen that President Buhari lacks the “vision and leadership traits” to govern a complex multi-ethnic country like Nigeria with over 170 million population and they appear to be re-establishing the obvious, noticeable fact that “leaders who can’t see it, probably won’t find it: leaders without vision will fail. Leaders who lack vision cannot inspire teams, motivate performance, or create sustainable value.”
Accusing Buhari and his team of poor vision, a political economics expert, Professor Pat Utomi, recently in an interview with Channels Television, expressed disappointment over the President’s erratic leadership style, saying a leader’s job is to align the nation around a clear and attainable vision. He said this will never happen when the president’s vision is not well-defined and communicated to the people clearly.
True, those who know Buhari very well said the President’s know-it-all attitude is his shame. “A good leader is deeply aware of how much he doesn’t know; a good leader should have the solid desire to learn from others. But President Buhari believes he knows it all. That is the problem of our nation right now,” a founding member of the APC told THISDAY recently in Abuja.
“A leader, who refuses or fails to grow cannot lead a complex nation like Nigeria. We were told that if leaders don’t understand the concept of service above self, they will not engender the trust, confidence, and loyalty of those they lead.”
The reasoning of some insiders is that apparently in an attempt to punish those who may have wronged him in the past, President Buhari has failed to pay attention to the common Nigerians, who trusted him and elected him President in the 2015 general election. And there is a consequence for that. “A leader who fails to focus on the citizens’ experience will not get the loyalty of the people.”
Apart from the disconnection between his office and the citizens, the President appears to have kept his party’s leadership away from his administration, and regularly refused to engage them and incorporate them into his planning initiatives.
Another insider at the APC National Secretariat said all efforts by the Odigie Oyegun–led National Working Committee members to make Buhari see reasons to urgently correct the heaping complains of many Nigerians against the APC-led federal government had failed.
“So far, we (APC) have failed to learn from the huge past mistakes of the PDP. If you disregard, abuse, or otherwise don’t value those who brought you into office, your days as a leader are most certainly numbered,” the APC chieftain added.
To be sure, the mood of the nation right now shows clearly that President Buhari no longer enjoys the huge popularity from many Nigerians, including many of his cult-like fans and followers.
Going forward, it might be in the interest of the President and the nation as a whole for the federal government to move very fast and re-trace its steps.