Before Tomorrow Comes

38
DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN

In the attempt to prepare the ground for the unraveling of the ulterior agenda of the present administration, the cat was appropriately let out of the bag by the Minister of information, Lai Mohammed about a month ago. He surpassed himself in a characteristic belaboured insincerity and infantile affectation. For readers to get a full measure of the mendacious capacity of this government to mislead and deceive the Nigerian public, I have taken the liberty to refresh our memory with excerpts from the minister’s press statement and for authentication. The question then arises, why would any government construct an elaborate make believe conspiracy of armed insurrection-made singularly deficient in logic by its attribution to a demonstrably militarily incapable opposition?

Where would the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), find the wherewithal and the logic to levy a massive guerilla warfare spread over 10 states? Given that the alleged comrade in arms, the Boko Haram terrorist group, is of active interest to the international community (and under its intense monitor and surveillance) why would a thinking opposition thereby foolishly risk becoming the target and enemy of such a powerful vested interest? For anyone whose imagination is not running criminally insane how realistic is the presumption that the opposition is maneuvering for interim government as the end point game? Yet all these imponderables constitute the stuff of the ‘credible intelligence report’ on the activities of the opposition. Here is Lai Mohammed:

“As you are aware, Nigeria goes to the polls just 27 days from now. However, the federal government is in possession of credible intelligence to the effect that widespread violence being orchestrated by the opposition is threatening the 2019 general election. Having realised that their fortunes have dwindled badly ahead of the polls, the desperate opposition is orchestrating widespread violence with a view to truncating the elections, thus triggering a constitutional crisis that could snowball into the establishment of an interim government. Before you accuse the government of crying wolf, let me tell you, gentlemen, that we have credible intelligence that armed bandits and Boko Haram insurgents have been mobilized to engage in massive attacks and other acts of violence in several states across the country, including Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, and Zamfara.

“The Benue-based armed criminal group, led by Terwase Akwaza, also known as Gana, has been commissioned to strike soft targets in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba States. In Kano State, a group of notorious miscreants has been mobilised by some prominent opposition leaders to provoke massive chaos before, during and after the elections. There is also an international dimension to the evil plan. Some armed mercenaries from Niger Republic have been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-west between now and the elections. He assured them that the federal government would take pre-emptive measures to ensure their safety before, during and after the elections”.

Apparently, the government has proven so exceptional in containing this uncovered subversive agenda-such that the allegation did not survive beyond the dusk of the day in which the earth shaking revelation was regurgitated. And like a confused drunken sailor, the megaphones of the government have been stumbling from one duplicitous allegation to another. Like a bolt from the blues, the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el Rufai, suddenly erupted, in contorted outrage, threatening the international community with murder and mayhem should they persist in ‘meddling’ in the internal affairs of Nigeria. Two days to the scheduled original date of the election, he materialised again in front of television cameras to report the killings of 66 Fulanis (a preferable identification choice for whatever agenda it was intended to serve). The figure has since been revised to 130.

And then finally, the big masquerade himself capped it all with the vintage Buharispeak to which we have tragically grown accustomed “I really gave the military and police order to be ruthless… Anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturbs the voting system will do so at the expense of his own life.” Responding to the institutional peace initiative of the Kukah committee earlier on in the campaign, I made the point that the only presidential candidate who needed to be persuaded of the imperative of peace and amity is no other than the APC presidential candidate. He has a record as long as his years in the public domain that speaks to violence in a way that no other Nigerian public figure compares. Yet this was a President who was the unique beneficiary of an unprecedented seamless transition from an incumbent Nigerian President to the opposition candidate.

According to the exegesis of dialectics, where every tendency generates its own contradiction-so has the lofty precedence set by President Goodluck Jonathan being contradicted by the political power obsession of his successor. Were Jonathan to be of similar disposition as the ill-deserved recipient of his statesmanship, Buhari would not have become president in the first place. As a poorly equipped ideologue of the Fulani entitlement philosophy (that was integral to the establishment of the Sokoto caliphate and as received and programmed into Nigeria by the British colonialists and Sir Ahmadu Bello) Buhari has done more harm than good to this cause.

Buhari belongs to the class of the 1966 counter coup inheritors of this entitlement mentality- with the significant caveat that he is bereft of the requisite sophistication and exposure to handle power with enlightened self-interest. Where Ahmadu Bello was sophisticated enough to assimilate Northern Christians and other regional cohabitants of different sub national groups, Buhari would be remembered as the crude Fulani irredentist who went the extra mile to foster and accentuate intra-regional schism. He has a similar legacy of aggravating inter regional cleavages on the larger Nigerian landscape. The story of his Presidency is the perfect illustration of the logic that you cannot give what you do not have. In terms of the capacity to govern, he is arguably the most limited occupant of the high office of Nigerian President.

His violence-bound political personae took firm root at the beginning of the fourth republic. For reasons that had to do with the nationalistic level playing ground politics of President Olusegun Obasanjo and relative decline in hegemonic influence, the far North became fertile ground for angst ridden divisive politics. The latent irredentist rebellion eventually found a lightning rod in the Sharia predicated pseudo religious populist revolt. Buhari seized the moment and rose to fill the leadership vacuum-holding the teeming Northern underclass captive with his simplistic rabble rousing demagoguery. In the interminable propensity of Nigerian politics for chaos and confusion, his simple and single-minded disposition has served him rather well. It has endowed him with the instinct of easily connecting with the mob especially those whose encounter with civilisation is limited to the back and forth nomadic wandering from North to South in a vicious cycle of poverty. The transition from this demagogic pedestal to the more demanding political and bureaucratic leadership of Nigeria was always going to expose his limited capacity for governance.

There was the supposition that this incapacity could be managed with the cession of governance to a capable subordinate in the mode of his short lived military dictatorship. The context (of an inherent demand for public accountability) of civil democratic rule rendered the model nugatory and exposed the lack of Buhari’s preparedness for the office he so much coveted. Nigeria had since being paying the exorbitant cost of the resulting interminable crisis of governance. The failure was further deepened by the prioritisation of hegemonic personality cult agenda as the overriding objective of his presidency. This has resulted in the breach of almost all the political norms that had kept Nigeria going. In sync with the phenomenon of personality cult agenda, the more physically indisposed he gets, the more paranoid and personalised the agenda becomes.

Caught totally unprepared for the examination of re-election, the Buhari camp has logically took recourse in the fabrication of phantom achievements; applauding itself the nemesis of PDP corruption while the whole world saw the exact opposite; commissioning and laying claim to infrastructural projects that were paid down by the preceding government. For a president at odds with the tedium of contemporary governance, encumbered by short attention span and the cognitive failure specter of rambling incoherence -there is the distinct possibility that he may truly believe all the fictive accomplishments attributed to him.

As age and debilitating health condition take their toll, the crisis of governance plaguing his presidency has trended towards the political psychosis of parsing fiction as fact; of pretending that INEC took the decision to postpone the election (with consequential security implications) without his prior knowledge and consent; of loading the INEC hierarchy with his kith and kin and then turn around to claim the opposition is using the same INEC against him; of the self-indictment implied in the sudden awakening to the escalating and catastrophic import of ballot snatching for Nigerian elections-when in the past three and half years, all elections have been conducted under his watch. Rare is the president whose failure is self-explanatory as that of President Buhari. And in the face of glaring demerit, he has a bloated sense of self-importance that borders on the delusion of grandeur.

In framing the menace that Nigeria presently confronts (in the Buhari Presidency) as a contest between APC and PDP or as Atiku versus Buhari, Nigerians are living in self-denial. If it ever existed, that limitation had since evaporated. Beyond the publicly stated proposal to draft and direct the military to take no prisoners in enforcing his will, you have to wonder what else he is up to in private-if he can let this much out in the open. ‘There seems to be a Buhari bug that makes intelligent people to sound unintelligent, people of conscience to sound conscienceless, people of justice to sound unjust, honest people to embrace falsehood, people who are not bloodthirsty to become bloodthirsty, the moment they start supporting Buhari’. The earlier the Nigerian public comes to terms with the definition of tomorrow as Buhari versus Nigeria, the better the prospects of overcoming the ordeal and danger lurking around the corner.