Living in Hunger and Loathing under Buhari

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The Monday Discourse
That President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has turned out a sudden nightmare to the generality of the people is disturbing and justifiably so. Olawale Olaleye writes
The influential media is arguably a market place of various activities. The hitherto latent ingenuity of people is regularly put to task with the way and manner individuals engage one another – trading ideas, suggesting solutions and even finding solace in some weird jokes that often depict their predicament. Thanks to a majority of these jokes; they serve their purpose by providing temporary relief from the scorching economy
Today, the feeling in the country is one of disturbia. Perhaps, the hard-biting effect of the Muhammadu Buhari administration is a manifestation of the prophecy between those who saw this inauspicious tomorrow and those who craved the change they stood no chance of picturing in vivid graphics.
It is eerie that some actually saw what is presently happening today and warned sternly about electing a man, whose idea of governance they reckoned was questionable or at the very least, debatable, mostly against. But former President Goodluck Jonathan’s inability to make hard choices in national and collective interest passed on the baton.
Although Jonathan was amongst those who more or less saw this day coming, when he described his badly damaged government and the one that eventually took over from him as a difference between good and evil, he was however believed not to have the moral standing to give such a prophecy as he was said to have validly lost the grounds to return to office even when the alternative was clearly not the best amongst the Nigerian people.
With the ravaging hunger and loathing, encapsulated by confounding despondency under the present administration, the general feeling now is one of huge disappointment and shock, arising from the realisation that what many thought was a symbol of change is in fact not how they reckoned it would turn out. That is disturbia! The All Progressives Congress (APC’s) idea of change already appears a failed option and a choice that may have been embraced in error by the people.
Two of some of the recently trending posts on the social media seem to capture the heartrending state of the nation, albeit with a tinge of comic relief, typically. The first is a quote from the Bible in the book of Proverbs chapter 24, verses 21 and 22. They go thus: “My son, fear thou the Lord and the king and meddle not with them that are given to CHANGE; for their calamity shall rise suddenly and who knoweth the ruin of them both.
The man, who posted this on-line added as the introductory part: “Even the Bible warned us about APC, but we obviously don’t read our Bible.”
The second post, which is more recent, is one of the campaign billboards bearing the pictures of President Buhari and his deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo with one of their campaign promises: ‘one meal a day’. Again, the person, who uploaded the image added: “It is now that this picture is beginning to make sense to me”, with two smiling emoticons to brush aside his pains.
In other words, he was saying an average Nigerian can hardly afford two, let alone three square meals a day. What is mostly possible within an average Nigerian family now is the “one meal a day”, promised by the change government. No thanks to Buhari, the APC and their impossible change.
 
State of the Economy
One of Buhari’s key campaign focuses was that he would fix the economy. Indeed, the economy was bad at the time but not what it is presently. Buhari inherited an ailing economy, supposedly so from Jonathan, with the hope of a quick recovery given the right medications and care administered. Today, 19 months after assuming office, the economy is on life support with insufficient oxygen to even sustain it in coma.
All known business – small, medium and the big ones have gone under. The forex is an embarrassment as all Nigerian credit or debit cards (except the dollar-denominated ones) are useless the moment you step foot outside the shores. Major Airliners have closed down and relocated to neighbouring countries. This isn’t the economy handed over to Buhari.  
The naira is completely distressed and yet, government still blames the past, when it is clear now that the problem is not because of what Jonathan did but what Buhari has failed to do since he came onboard. The more you breakdown the problems of the Nigerian economy, the more they seem impossible to fix because of government’s obvious lack of vision and capacity. What better definition for clueless!
 
A Descent into the Arena
Unfortunately, while government is yet to fulfill its first term mandate, the battle for 2019 has begun in earnest with all manners of scheming going on at different levels. Even more unfortunate is that the president may have descended into the area of real politics, all in the bid to consolidate his foothold on the polity but at the expense of development challenges. This is a dangerous trend, sadly.
The president’s resolve to step into the arena is likely to further rubbish his depleting popularity than helping to shore up any image or rating. Often, the second term ambition of those in power usually condemns all that they initially stood for, as they are likely to throw caution in the wind and go for broke. For Buhari, however, it is better imagined than see it happen. It could signify a totally poor denouement.
 
The Growing Impunity
The immediate past government of Jonathan was accused of many things, including its penchant for impunity. This propaganda, more or less, sold like wild fire and worked in favour of the change movement, which promised to redress the imperfections of that inglorious era. Alas, Buhari’s government is worse off!
From the habitual disregard for court orders to the supremacist approach of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the over-zealousness of the various security agencies, this government is calculatingly notorious for impunity.
While the immediate past put up some democratic face and feigned to respect the rule of law, this government careless about what anyone thinks. Its dictatorial disposition is akin only to the late Sani Abacha era and this impunity is growing worse every day. With the crackdown on the Muslim Shiites, the Biafran agitators and continuous detention of some Politically Exposed Persons (PEP), mostly of the opposition party, against court orders – the impunity is such that has not been experienced in recent history.
At least, one thing is clear to all now in the fight against corruption: Buhari’s effort is not geared towards cleansing the system and ridding it of entrenched corruption as it were; it is clearly targeted at certain individuals with whom he’s had scores to settle.
The ongoing fight against corruption is evidently one of vendetta, victimisation and clear witch-hunting because it is clearly selective. What this means, therefore, is that the efforts so far put into this is in futility because by the time another governments takes stocks of the Buhari administration, it might turn out one of the most corrupt in the nation’s democratic experiments.
 
INEC’s Gradual Decimation
Another worrisome development is the growing feeling or the assumption amongst the Nigerian people that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) operates at the whims of the federal government. As a result, the belief that it is independent is a fluke. With an otherwise timid leadership of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, INEC has displayed apparent lack of capacity to take the nation’s electoral process to another level.
So far, its handling of all elections in the country has been less than noble. Even more worrisome was its handling of the Edo and Ondo States’ recent governorship elections. Whilst it was believed to have hidden under the guise of security report of what never was to postpone the Edo election, allegedly to suit certain interests, pretending to be unaware of the meeting, where the advice was offered by the DSS and Police, its resolve to not postpone the Ondo election even for a week speaks a lot about a contaminated umpire.
There is no doubting the fact that INEC shares greatly in these blames. Whilst the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Edo, Osagie Ize-Iyamu had hinted weeks earlier of plans to postpone the election on security grounds, INEC still lacked the decency to dispute his claims and played into their hands because it was true that the plan had been in the offing with no alternative because they did not envisage it would leak. The latter claims about security acting without informing it might have been part of the script.
And then, in Ondo, the role played by INEC was disappointingly ignoble. The fact that the commission could not even defend its own provisions says a lot about its susceptibility to manipulation as well as the willingness to protect its job as the current leadership at whatever cost. The provision is clear that for any party to present a candidate for an election, INEC must witness the primary and approve of it.
In Ondo, it witnessed one and approved of it. But it did not witness the other. Yet, when a disoriented court affirmed a compromise candidate, it was quick to accept it because a court said so but could not defend the fact that its own provision does not allow it to accept a candidate produced at a primary it knew nothing about. It is double standards and this is because it is being tinkered with, no doubt. Therefore, the fear that this INEC as presently constituted could lead Nigeria to crisis in 2019 if care is not taken is founded after all.
 
Messy 2019 Extrapolations
Clearly, the road to 2019 is crooked and paved with high wire treachery. With two elections gone the way of the ruling party, whilst Ekiti and Osun are now being considered the next targets, the battle for what shape the 2019 elections would assume might have begun.
For instance, the Ondo election provided an opportunity for gladiators within the APC to show strength and a clear demarcation of the existing camps. However, survival for 2019, moving forward, will be dependent on Osun and Ekiti, whose elections will come up in 2018. Apart from the plot to take over the structure of the party by decimating certain persons believed to be working against the mainstream interest in the party, there is also the resolve to start positioning the president for a second term in office.
To achieve this, one of the things likely to happen is the alleged plan to drop Osinbajo for yet another South-west candidate as VP, most likely a former governor and one of active foot-soldiers of the president for the 2019 project. The idea of dropping the VP may not be unconnected with the way and manner he emerged in the first place. And since there is a consensus in the main APC camp to decimate and cut off all links with their perceived enemies within, then, the VP might have to go as a collateral damage.
In fact, it would not be surprising to start seeing soon that his engagements in the activities of government will start to shrink with a view to gradually rendering him ineffective in the scheme of things and ultimately edging him out. It is no wonder therefore that when Buhari recently praised a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu by describing him as a priceless asset, many people scoffed at what was no more than a joke. The battle line has been drawn and any joke to the contrary is rather ridiculous.
Also of importance to the 2019 scheme by the president’s camp is the possibility of courting some of the known opposition members, both within and outside the party formation that could help swell the APC ranks. The move has begun already but would come to manifestation soon by the time events start to assume shape.
The Ondo election, for instance, was said to have been executed with clinically designed strategy by a prominent member of the National Assembly with whom the president’s camp of the APC leadership had refused to work with initially. But the dynamics are changing and more of such moves would be made soon.
It is the belief that a majority of the faint-hearted opposition members would embrace the offer especially that the government is said to be determined to use intimidation, coercion and harassment against whoever declines the overture to play ball. They would try to ruffle the opposition to have their way. The EFCC, the DSS, the judiciary and other critical institutions of state would come handy but the will of the people.
 
Before Buhari Finally Steps in…
For the politically savvy, it will be naïve to assume that it is early to start extrapolating ahead of 2019 especially pondering the options before the president. Truth is, the battle has been declared already and whoever cringes amongst the contending gladiators does so to his detriment. But the options before the president are not so many.
Although people who stand to benefit immensely from his second term project would do everything possible to ensure he comes back in 2019 and try to convince him to go for it, what is very obvious now is that his re-election would be more difficult than the three failed attempts he had at the presidency before his eventual victory in 2015. Nothing appears to be in his favour presently except the plight of the Nigerian people changes so drastically between now and the time of the election, which is not impossible. It is only then that his re-election could be considered a fait accompli.
As it is, the Mandela option has never been more appropriate for any candidate than Buhari. The smart thing to do now is to start planning his succession/exit and see who is best amongst his lieutenants to drive his vision and take the country to the next level. But to further test the will of the people, more so if the situation remains the same, could be politically suicidal for his already vanishing mystique. After all, memories are still fresh on how he emerged in 2015, riding on the irrepressible will of the people.
The France President, Francois Hollande has just announced that he would not be seeking re-election. That’s a much younger person, who understands global trending and political dynamics. He has seen the writing and could tell where it would end. Had Jonathan seen his humiliation ahead, he probably would have not thrown his hat in the ring. Even if he did, those goading Buhari on now goaded him on too. But it was their world against the people. Buhari can avoid this pitfall.  
In the final analysis, a better opportunity seems to avail Buhari in the countdown to 2019. He certainly may not want to end up like France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, who despite his rich grassroots network and a grip of the structures lost woefully in the primary. Hollande saw that and could relate with its implications, hence his announcement that he would not seek a re-election.
The recent defeat of the Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh in a national election is yet another instructive lesson on how transient power could be. He was shipped out of the Government House cheaply by Adama Barrow, an estate developer, after 22 years of Jammey’s hold onto power. Things are changing around the world, politically and only the smart leaders see through them.