President Muhammadu Buhari

Criticisms of President Muhammadu Buhari by some of his predecessors in office set the tone for veiled electioneering for 2019 general elections, writes Olawale Olaleye

There has been no let-up in the criticisms of President Muhammadu Buhari by some prominent Nigerians, particularly some of his predecessors in office, who at the same time were his erstwhile allies in the military and politics. And as much as possible, the criticisms have been kept at the level of patriotism, a justification that has elevated the weight and essence of what has come to be known as the “intervention of the owners of Nigeria”.

Last January, Obasanjo, in a 13-page letter, vilified Buhari over his alleged poor handling of the affairs of the nation and went ahead to advise him not to seek re-election in 2019. Titled: “The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement,” Obasanjo said Buhari had performed far below expectations and should honourably join the league of the country’s former leaders.
Days later, former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd.), followed suit and in his own press statement, after condemning some of the happenings in the country today, wanted a different kind of leadership that sits well with the demand of the times, especially in the digital age.

It was not surprising, therefore, that weeks after this, a former Minister of Defence under the Obasanjo administration, Lt-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.), also joined the fray and encouraged self-defence against the ferocious attacks by herdsmen in most parts of the country, alleging the culpability of the security agencies. His intervention, of course, elicited reactions from all corners in the country.

But Obasanjo and Babangida have yet to relent in their resolve to ensure that their message isn’t just understood, but activated.
Addressing a joint delegation of Nigeria Young Professionals Forum (NYPF) and New Nigeria 2019, who paid him a courtesy call at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta last Monday, Obasanjo described Buhari’s government as a failure, saying by his military training, you do not reinforce failure.

He said: “What those I call power addicts would want to do is to divide you based on gender, age, tribe, religion and region. You have one commonality – interest of Nigeria. And it doesn’t matter where you come from. The truth is this: when you have an ineffective and incompetent government, we are all victims. And don’t let anybody deceive you. Those of you who are in business, your business could have been better today, if we have a competent and effective and performing government.

“As I said, stop giving excuses. We met challenges. If there were no challenges, then we wouldn’t need you to come. You came in because you know there are challenges and then giving us excuse that you have many challenges, that is why you haven’t achieved results, and then you still want to go back. The first lesson I learnt in my military training is never reinforce failure. What we have now is a failure – never you reinforce failure! Let failure be a failure.

“And if you do not see what you should see, you will then be a victim of what you don’t like, because it is only when you see what you should see and you do what you should do that you put away what you do not like. And if you don’t see what you should see and you don’t do what you should do, you will be a victim of what you don’t like.”
As if planned to always follow in each other’s footsteps, Babangida too, last week, declared that it was time for the old generation politicians to leave the stage and pave the way for the younger ones to steer the ship of state.

Babangida, who spoke in Minna, Niger State capital, insisted that the old generation has overstayed in the corridors of power for too long, and within the period have failed the country. He made the call when a new political movement: “The New Nigeria,” led by Moses Siloko Siasia, visited him at his Hilltop residence.

Although the interventions by these Nigerians have also been interpreted variously to mean personal aggrandisement by supporters of the president, the interesting thing, however, is that there is nothing they are saying or yet to say that an average Nigerian does not know.

This is why the expansion of the discussion on the performance of the Buhari administration is increasingly becoming instructive and unavoidable. For many Nigerians, it is the future of the country that is at stake and it should supersede loyalty to an individual. The choice for them, therefore, is to either come to terms with the perceived failure of the Buhari administration and make an informed choice in 2019 in the collective interest of Nigerians or stick to loyalty to one man at the collective’s detriment.
Whichever is embraced ultimately, 2019 beckons with its fury!