Buhari’s Path to Self-Annihilation

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Some of President Muhammadu Buhari’s actions and disposition are responsible for the hardship the country is currently undergoing, writes Roland Terkula

I wrote an opinion piece in the thick of the presidency’s needless war against the Senate leadership, wherein I cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari against becoming Nigeria’s Nero Claudius. I urged him to face the enormous task of governance, especially the economy, which was already beginning to go south. But voices of reason were drowned by politics.

The ascension of Nero Claudius Drasus Germaniscus to the throne in 54AD was received with a vortex of jubilation among the Roman plebeians and the patricians. But, shortly after, it was discovered that Nero had an ear problem, among other ailments, which led him into rampant paranoia and melancholy of suspicion of not only the Roman senators, but also his mother, brothers and subalterns. Nero thrived on cold revenge and was so self-indulgent that he was said to have fiddled while Rome burnt, hence Petronius refer to him as the “incendiary of the Roman expire”.

Nigerians gave their mandate to President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in March, 2015 on several irresistible campaign promises that included, but not limited to an unbiased fight against corruption, stable power supply, naira-dollar parity, reduction of pump price of petroleum products (they lampooned N86 reduction by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan), mass employment, economic diversification, food surpluses, N5,000 monthly stipend to the unemployed, school feeding, defeat of Boko Haram and general insecurity, etc.

Strangely, the very party everybody looked up to became self-destruct, tyrannical, laggard, and inept once in power. Bedeviled by power-jostling, the APC would not even allow members of the 8th National Assembly to freely choose their principal officers in accordance with Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution. Well-meaning Nigerians saw the onslaught against the National Assembly as the presidency and APC cabal’s way to bring down the Senate leadership for emerging against their dictates.

With the move to overthrow Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President vide the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) not coming as quickly as expected, Plan B was activated to oust Saraki and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, relying on trumped-up charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rule. Patriotic Nigerians warned that the government was derailing, but government kept fiddling.

Also, in a strongly-worded resolution entitled “Threat to our Democracy”, sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye (APC-Kogi West), the Senate cried out that the planned attempt to arraign the leadership of the Senate over an internal matter of the Upper Chamber and spurious forgery claims was a smoke screen for an impending attempt to overthrow the legislative arm of the government.

Also, the House of Representatives in its motion on the “Threat to Democracy” frowned at the rising executive impunity, noting that the planned arraignment of Saraki and Ekweremadu was “a deliberate and concerted attack on the National Assembly to render it useless”. The House recalled that a Federal High Court in Abuja had in July and August 2015, ruled that the allegation of forging Standing Rules was an internal affair of the National Assembly and not the business of the executive.

Senior lawyers, including Chief Mike Ozekhome, warned that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, who was until his appointment a counsel to the Senate Unity Forum (presidency’s foot soldiers in the Senate) in the suit by Senator Gilbert Nnaji challenging the constitutionality of the Police investigation of Senate Standing Rules, could not charge these men to court while the suit was still pending. But the fiddling continued.

Without fair hearing, without interrogation, without any mention of either Saraki or Ekweremadu by the petitioners, without any of the APC Senators or NASS bureaucrats interrogated by the Police accusing them of any wrongdoing, without the police report indicting them and without waiting for the exhaustion of the suit challenging the constitutionality of the Executive (police) investigation of Senate internal affairs, the AGF docked the Senate’s presiding officers.

Peeved by the impunity, Justice Gabriel Kolawole ruled on June 2, 2016, that the AGF’s action was “a gross abuse of legal process” and not in national interest, wondering “why the desperate haste?” He said he would have dismissed outright, the suit were it filed before his court.

Reacting to what he termed an “attempt by the executive arm of the federal government to muzzle the legislature and criminalise legislative processes in order to cause leadership change”, the Senate’s spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, warned: “Nigerian people have enough economic hardship at this time requiring the full attention and cooperation of the three arms of government, instead of these attempts to distract and politicise governance.
“We are in a state of economic emergency such that what the National Assembly needs at this time are executive bills and proposals aimed at resolving the crises of unemployment, currency depreciation, inflation, crime and insecurity”. Regrettably, Buhari and his Men Friday fiddled on.

Today, the chicken has come home to roost. The economy is in shambles. Foreign investors have fled due to lack of economic directions, incompetent policies, as well as reckless and contradictory pronouncements of the government. The costs of staple food items have hit the rooftop and, as the Catholic Bishops Conference rightly confessed, there is hunger in the land.

The same people that led Occupy Nigeria in 2012 have come back to their vomit by removing the fuel susbsidy, yet without palliatives for the masses. Unemployment and job losses in the country are unprecedented. Southern and North Central parts of Nigeria are at the mercy of rampaging herdsmen whom government has curiously refused to lift a finger against and people can’t farm.

A recent report by the Nigeria Police showed that Nigeria recorded 62 suicides in the last six months. Again, having divided the country into 97 per cent and 5 per cent, multiple militant groups have resurfaced in the Niger Delta, crippling oil output, to ensure that 5 per cent is not robbed to pay 97 per cent.

Secessionist feelings have never been this high in the South-east since the end of the civil war, despite crackdowns by security agencies. They feel sidelined and the only principal office (Deputy Senate President) they occupy is being persecuted.

The electoral system has declined from the globally acclaimed improvements that made the historic victories of the APC possible. There seems to be a new code: if APC cannot win, then don’t conduct or conclude elections. INEC appears reduced to an Inconclusive National Electoral Commission.

A disappointed international community has not been silent. Former Chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the U.S Congress, Pete Hoekstra, in a Wall Street Journal piece entitled “Buhari is Nigeria’s Problem, Not the Solution”, accused Buhari’s administration of outdated economic policies, selective anti-corruption war, and divisive policies exacerbating militancy in the Niger Delta.

Also, a serving member of the U.S Congress, Tom Marino, recently petitioned the Secretary of State, John Kerry, accusing President Buhari of the same tendencies, including extra-judicial killing of unarmed pro-Biafra protesters and disregard for the rule of law, etc. A recent UN report declared that Nigeria is now more divided now than at any other time in its political history.

But now that it is clear to all, including President Buhari that there is truly fire on the mountain, will he get his priorities right? Will he extend a hand of fellowship to the embattled Senate leadership and the National Assembly to ensure all hands are on deck to salvage the economy? Or will the fiddling or rat-chasing continue?
Some say it surely will, as it is primarily about 2019. But, who will vote Buhari or APC in 2019? Unless there is a drastic reduction in the hardship pervading the land, no reasonable voter will touch the APC or Buhari with a 100-metre pole in 2019.

The desperation with which the Edo governorship election was postponed unmasks APC’s nose-diving popularity. Worse, I do not see how an embattled National Assembly could concentrate and help him to succeed either. So, if Buhari fails, Nigerians must know that he created the ditches himself and fell in by himself, like Nero.

Terkula wrote from Makurdi, Benue State

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But now that it is clear to all, including President Buhari that there is truly fire on the mountain, will he get his priorities right? Will he extend a hand of fellowship to the embattled Senate leadership and the National Assembly to ensure all hands are on deck to salvage the economy? Or will the fiddling or rat-chasing continue?