The Nigerian political atmosphere has become enlivened once again, with the 2019 general elections a few weeks away and more important, the future of our country as to whether we grow or we remain in a state of arrested development in our hands. These are indeed interesting times in Nigeria as we meander our way through this harmattan of despair we brought upon ourselves when we elected President Muhammadu Buhari into office in 2015.
As many of us wonder in incredulity at the dark outcomes of the votes of majority of those who honourably sought ‘change’ vis-a-vis the extremely bad governance, unprecedented nepotism, sickening religious bias, ethnic triumphalism and plain cluelessness of President Muhammadu Buhari and his government, the campaigns of Atiku Abubakar, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu and Omoyele Sowore offer a spring of hope that this season of darkness could soon come to an end. Of these three, Atiku Abubakar is obviously the most electorally viable alternative to the incumbent.
At the end of the day, it is not really about Atiku Abubakar, who many regard as not being properly beatified himself. It is about the need to put to closure once and for all, perhaps one of the darkest chapters in our nations’ contemporary history. It is time for us to admit that we made an ungodly mistake in electing a provincially minded, cosmopolitan illiterate as President. A man who between 1985 when he was kicked out of office as Head of State and 2015 when he returned back to power, did not think it wise and appropriate to intellectually, academically and nationalistically improve himself. Sadly we are have all become victims of this foolish narcissism.
In his well-choreographed 2015 campaign, strung together by Bola Tinubu and the then dominant south-west wing of the party, Buhari promised to focus on three key priority areas when elected. He vowed to ensure the security of Nigerians by putting an end to Boko Haram and other forms of insecurity in the country. He threatened corruption and swore to kill it before it killed us and also covenanted with Nigerians, that the economy would change for the better.
In these three areas and more, President Buhari and his unimpressive team of political mandarins have failed and failed woefully!
He hasn’t been able to end the insurgency in the North-East. Despite the propaganda of the government and its social media evangelists, Boko Haram continues to inflict violence on soldiers and a trinity of sorrows, tears and pain on innocent citizens in Borno and Yobe states. Under Buhari’s watch, Boko Haram has murdered countless number of civilians, continue to kill soldiers and capture their equipment, behead their captives and launch frontal attacks against Maiduguri and other cities in the region. Under Buhari’s watch, swath of territories have since 2018 been captured by terrorists in the North-East and Zamfara. Yet this government and its congress of hailers continue to propagandize about winning a war that is becoming increasingly clear to the non-deluded mind that it has absolutely no capacity and no intension of winning.
Under Buhari, unprecedented massacre of peoples and destruction of communities have been openly, blatantly and systematically advertised by Fulani terrorists assured of their protection by the certainty that their kith and kin control the commanding heights of state power in the country. Under Buhari, Tiv, Idoma, Berom, Irrigwe, Ibo, Yoruba, Edo, Hausa and countless other communities have been subjected to the most extreme form of violence by herdsmen militia including rape of women and girls! The response of Buhari to these ethnic purveyors of sorrow, tears and pain has been a sickening threat to the victims of these violence not to dare retaliate or respond in any form! Rather than throw the instruments of state coercion and violence against this clear and present danger to our long sought for Pax Nigeriana, the President rather chose to throw the army and his secret police at the non-violent MASSOB.
Most of those who voted for Buhari in 2015 genuinely believed he was going to put an end to corruption or at least tackle it. I knew it was never going to happen. His antecedents at the Petroleum Trust Fund which he ran between 1995 and 1998 did not give me minimal confidence that he had the capacity to deal with corruption. And in this he has failed as expected. Four years after, Buhari has merely succeeded in replacing one class of “corruptocrats” with a new class that has succeeded in capturing the state for their personal benefits. It has become the usual to repetitively hear ‘Buharists’ and ‘Buharideens’ complain about a cabal that has held the President hostage and undertake the heist of state resources in his name. I am amazed that even rationally minded Nigerians expect a tone deaf, provincially minded President to come down hard on the “corruptocrats” in his inner circle. I am equally dazed by the fact that Nigerians allude all the odiferous weekly scandals that have plagued this President to a so called cabal without interrogating why the President feels at ease with this shadowy cult. The reality is, if there is a cabal, the President is the Capone of the cabal. That is why they, the ‘cabal’ can operate with disdainful impunity without a care for sanctions from the garrulous Ibrahim Magu and his inept EFCC. It is now not uncommon to hear not a few gullible Nigerians blame Citizen Abba Kyari and Citizen Mamman Daura for the totality of Buhari’s ineptitude. This trending cliché only ratifies the reality of the evident intellectual and physiological feebleness of the president. Neither Abba Kyari nor Mamman Daura were elected into office. Buhari was. His disciples must learn to blame him and him alone for the obvious lacuna in quality governance in the country.
The state or rather ‘non-state’ of the economy under Buhari should more than worry all Nigerians. The reports of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics amongst others show that since the third quarter of 2015 to date over ten million jobs have been lost under Buhari’s leadership with the economy wallowing in elephantine stagnation. In any sane society with pretentions to righteous anger, any government under whose watch such a monumental number of jobs were lost, would have been forced to either resign or be forcefully ejected out of office through people power. In Buhari’s Nigeria, the loss of tens of millions of jobs in less than two years went without a statement of regret from government or a whimper of protest from the usual crowd of rights activists many of whom are presently in an incestuous relationship with the Buhari government.
In this government’s hypocritical war against corruption, Ibrahim Magu has huffed and puffed at every public platform available to him, together with Buhari and the visibly loquacious Professor Itse Sagay, they have threatened and arrested their political opponents but have not yet secured any credible conviction in court. Perhaps if they sat back for once to do an introspective analysis of their colossal failures in this regard, they’d reach the conclusion that fighting corruption is never about breathing threats, throwing bombastic statements on Channels TV and slandering the reputation of Nigerians through press statements announcing their arrests for alleged felonies cum misdemeanors. Fighting corruption takes intellectual gravitas, hard work and good legal preparation which is increasingly clear are basic skills lacking in the drivers of this synthetic war against corruption. As long as Buhari, Sagay and Magu imperiously believe that Nigerian courts are obliged to pronounce guilt once they arrest and label an accused as corrupt, expected critical outcomes in their mock fight against corruption will remain inconsequential and corruption will continue to thrive.
Every sector of the economy under this government has come under unparalleled internal shocks. Whether aviation, banking, manufacturing or service, the ineptitude and failure of government and government’s policies have adversely affected growth and development. The Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan designed by the past administration to stimulate investments in domestic vehicle production and assembly and which had begun to bear fruits with the establishment of more than six private auto assembly and production plants has been thrown aside by this government, with its macroeconomic policies belying the capacity of these plants to survive.
The only faint hope to cling to in this government’s opulent mismanagement of the economy is agriculture. Thanks to Dr. Adewumi Adesina’s reforms in the sector between 2011 and 2015, the agriculture sector continues to grow in spite of and despite the saturnine economic policies of this government.
Truth stares us in the face. The truth is that as his term comes to an ignoble end, we do ourselves a whole lot of good as a people when we conclude albeit rationally that this President has not only failed to perform, but also that the government that he leads has shown itself not fit for purpose. Atiku Abubakar and others including those who decamped from the special purpose vehicle called the APC like other Nigerians must hold this government to account. It will be easy to defeat Buhari if we hold him to his abysmal records of failed promises, stagnating economy, unmanageable insecurity, ethnic and religious triumphalism, massive corruption and the cataclysmic record of significant non-achievements that paint the broad canvass of government and governance in Buhari’s Nigeria.
In a contest between Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, I would vote for Atiku Abubakar. I have since come to the conclusion that politics leadership is not necessarily an office for the canonized. Atiku Abubakar is certainly not a saint, just like Buhari isn’t one either. The former Vice-President unlike the current President, has proved himself to be cosmopolitan against the President’ ethnic and religious parochialism, he has proved himself to be a good recruiter and manager of talents and stakeholders unlike the President’s poor judgement and cluelessness in people and situation management. Above all, Atiku Abubakar understands that the fundamental reason for seeking power is to affect the lives of citizens through the upscaling and expansion of the economic opportunities available to them. He understands that only a concentrated focus on the political economy can achieve this. I was quite impressed some years ago when I read his fiscal management strategy during one of his campaigns for office. The strategy sought to ensure through legislative backing that all incomes from oil and gas should solely be invested in capital projects while funding for recurrent expenditure should exclusively be derived from non-oil and gas revenue. I urge him to expand on this strategy when he wins.
The inconvenient truth is that Nigeria cannot afford another four years of a Buhari presidency. The tragic-comedy of the present is enough. We can do better than this.
–––Nosa James-igbinadolor is a political economist. He can be reached on email@example.com