Buhari, Saint or Villain?


By Joseph Ushigiale

Last week, I watched in utter disbelief a trending video showing some students allegedly of Ramat Polytechnic, in Maiduguri, who thronged both sides of the road booing and howling invectives like Ba na so and Bamaiyi (I don’t want and we are fed up) at the president’s convoy.

The president who was in Borno state on a thank you visit reportedly met with stakeholders including paying a courtesy call on the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-Amin El-Kanemi.

According to an account, some stakeholders voiced their discomfort with the lack of progress in the fight against insurgency in the state and urged the president to rejig his aides, majority of who are indigenes, and replace them with those with capacity to add value to his administration.

But others, mostly youths, who could not access the palace, decided to line both sides of the road from which point they resorted to hauling invectives at the president as his convoy hustle past them.

The Presidency through Garba Shehu reacted, describing those who booed the president as miscreants. Whoever they are, it is very ironic how a president who was a darling to all suddenly became an object of scorn and hate. Beyond the politics, the Borno people are speaking the minds of other silent Nigerians telling the president who received so much goodwill at the polls that he has failed them especially in the area of securing their lives and property.

In the build up to the 2015 general elections, then president Goodluck Jonathan and his camp were upbeat about retaining the presidency. His challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired general and former military dictator and his handlers creatively came up with an unbeatable theme – Change to capture the mood and imagination of the nation.

At that time, the Jonathan’s administration was perceived as weak or rather clueless, corrupt, called so many unprintable names and all that ailed the country were heaped on his government.
Buhari’s handlers did a good job first by repackaging and presenting him as a Democrat. He was also portrayed as a puritan solely out to carry out a messianic role of bringing succour and solutions to the many problems besetting the country.

From scarcity of petroleum products, lack of electricity, bad roads, corruption, insecurity and all that was militating against Nigeria’s progress, Buhari was portrayed as possessing the magic wand and the capacity to provide all the answers.

His campaign messages sounded like music and resonated clearly with Nigerians who in turn voted overwhelmingly for him. For the first time, the South-west ,which had been his greatest challenge and remained impregnable in his three failed attempts backed him fully to victory.

Why did Nigerians finally back Buhari? It was perhaps because, despite his poor record and abysmal performance in his first coming as a military dictator in 1983 when he overthrew president Shehu Shagari, Nigerians decided to give him a second chance. Out of compassion, it was believed that his passion to serve the country was what led him to keep running and failing in his previous three failed attempts and therefore, he should be given a chance to steer Nigeria aright.

Many including myself believed then that denying Buhari a chance to lead Nigeria was a great disservice to Nigeria and not Buhari as a person because of his zeal and posturing as a democrat and his perceived passion for the country. Regrettably, all these calculations were wrong.

Buhari is on his second term and fifth year on the saddle, what has changed in Nigeria? Nothing has changed in the true sense of the word. The greatest challenge facing the country today is undeniably the issue of insecurity. The situation is so precarious that many fear that Nigeria is heading into another civil war.

The security situation has deteriorated to the point that the president had on two occasions admitted that he was not aware the security situation was that worse and during a recent visit to Borno, he also wondered aloud why the Boko Haram menace is escalating instead of abetting with the humongous budget set aside yearly to fight insurgency.

According to BudgIT, under the Buhari administration, defence funding grew exponentially from N969b in 2015 to N1.063trn, N1.142trn and N1.3334trn in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. In 2019, it budgeted N1,031.31 trillions and this year, defence is to spend N878,458,607,427bn these figures exclude the $1bn earlier withdrawn from the Excess Crude account to prosecute the insurgency war.

Why then is the security situation deteriorating in the face of increased funding? We have just seen that huge defence budgets on their own do not solve insecurity problems. The truth is that the current administration has not demonstrated enough political will and appears, confused, overwhelmed and has no clue on how to solve the escalating insurgency threatening the unity of the country. It is also clear that the current defence leadership structure is incapable of bringing lasting solutions to the insecurity pervading the polity. Yet, the president has against all entreaties remained adamant and insistent on retaining all service chiefs in their respective positions.

The Borno incident should serve as a wake up call and reminder particularly to the president and to other politicians that nothing is permanent in life and politics. It shows clearly that people’s power takes precedence over minority power and that you are in power today at the behest of the people.

Another point to note is that the presidency should refrain from dubbing every protest as an action provoked by miscreants. Some of these miscreants accounted for the votes the president garnered in Borno. They have a right to protest if they are dissatisfied with the administration.

Rather then adopting such a antagonistic position, the presidency should rather look at their grievances and see how they can be resolved. After all, a miscreant today was a voter yesterday.

Lastly, the president should learn as a democrat, to listen to the voice of the people on whose back he rode to power. Since he is very concerned about how Nigerians and the world and history would judge him when he leaves office, he should listen to the people and do the right things.