THIS REPUBLIC By Shaka Momodu, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, SMS Only: 0811 266 1654
Last month, precisely on the 29th, President Muhammadu Buhari marked five years in the saddle as Nigeria’s president. In what has become its trademark tactic, the government rolled out a list of achievements, amid a fanfare of chest-thumping that but for Buhari, the country would literally have ceased to exist. It is this messianic complex and personal importance that inflates the president’s own sense of knowledge of everything; from economic management to politics, from human capital development to security, etc., made more so apparent by court jesters/Buharists who discount the skills and abilities of others and daily broadcast their loyalty to the president on rooftops from Cape Verde to Cairo.
Since he assumed power, this tactic of self-praise and condemnation of previous leadership to distract attention from his poor leadership has been very much the same. But it’s been clear for a long time now that this is a deliberate strategy to perforate the land, infiltrate the public consciousness and create excuses for his poor scorecard. It worked for a long time but has since run out of energy.
Very early on, the government and its supporters wove a corruption narrative to incentivize a mob baying for blood. It successfully used this as a high-altitude veil to blot and obscure genuine alarms of the dangers Buhari posed to this country’s diversity and remains a threat to its existence. Occasional concerns that were raised about his divisive policies and actions were met with profound disdain and brushed aside by his government and its supporters who seem to have sworn to an oath of complete insanity and desperate denial of reality.
Perhaps a more charitable explanation would be that a desperate government currently with little to show in an 8-year tenure, might think a little retelling will do. Accordingly, its fifth year anniversary makes it expedient to invoke the memory of what it claims were the failings it inherited from other administrations, to win back some ignorant and gullible supporters whose support and admiration heralded it to power in 2015.
The truth is that those who thought Buhari was a better alternative to former President Goodluck Jonathan threw away caution for credulity to dance on the knife’s edge, marketing perceived attributes instead of substance which a casual glance at his record would have cautioned against; that the man they were enthusiastically rooting for was incapable and would not deliver on his promises and expectations.
The last five years have been truly brutish, nasty, long and harrowing, an endless nightmare of bloodbath, pain and anguish. The country is drained of minimal modest indices of progress on all fronts, from security, the economy to fighting corruption; broken and reeling under the most clannish leader in our living memory.
Looking back, it’s as if time stopped moving five years ago and the little gains recorded by other administrations simply eroded on the crest of Change. It is pathetic that even great minds discarded their own words of great wisdom and caution of yesteryear for a warm embrace of incompetence. Now, see where the wild hysteria and lynch mob of 2015 has led us to.
Nigeria is now a gangster’s paradise – killing and maiming are now a daily companion of the living, normalised in the most hideous manner. It is now such that one is more likely to die in the hands of terrorists Boko Haram, or well organized kidnapping gangs aided by soldiers and police, or marauding terrorists rechristened as bandits mounting sustained attacks on communities across the country, or in the hands of Fulani herdsmen killing, raping, maiming and burning down swathes of communities in one fell swoop, than illness or natural causes. The nation’s security situation has grown more precarious in the last five years. Interstate travel by road has become a death wish. Criminal terror bandits have seized total control of our highways and made towns, villages and cities a living hell, while the government either looks the other way with unsympathetic indifference, or if it wakes up on the right side of the bed, it swings into symbolic razzmatazz with the deployment of more security agents in affected communities followed by routine condolences to victims’ families. The daily carnage continues with unabating fury.
But despite the glaring failure of leadership – with the country racing to join the league of failed states under Buhari – it is surprising that some still hail him for his unquestionable success in the last five years. Ahead of the pack in the renewed and desperate attempt at revisionism and spreading falsehoods was a former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the late Abubakar Tsav who didn’t live to read my thoughts about his disgusting sycophancy. The old man horse had the last laugh. Tsav died before the article I was foot-dragging on was ready. However, I am consoled that, that despicable interview full of barefaced lies to mark Buhari’s five years in the saddle published barely two weeks before his death will be his legacy. It is what many will remember him for.
In it, he tried to beat Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s chief propagandist, in the art of spinning tall yarns. Unfortunately, his skills in public oratory weren’t half as good. Either by design or coincidence, he gushed out praises of the president, saying Buhari’s leadership of the country in the last five years was phenomenal and a “rare feat that would make other world leaders green with envy”. Really? Oh my God! I was scandalised by his claim that flies in the face of sanity. I was furious at this barefaced effort to rewrite the story of Nigeria in the last five years. Who cursed this country with people like Tsav?
Here are excerpts from that infamous interview: “For those who know me, know that I am very objective when it comes to issues of national interest. What was happening in Nigeria before Buhari came on board was not a joke. We were on the verge. But he was able to stabilize the polity and Nigeria is better off today. This is indeed phenomenal, and I must extend my utmost commendation to him.”
He stated further that what assisted the Buhari administration was his commitment to the war against Boko Haram terrorism and other acts of economic sabotage that according to him became the order of the day in previous administrations. “President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of unquestionable integrity, and this has been the hallmark of his administration. I think it is common sense for all those in his team to understand the body language of their principal and this is what we need in this country as we march forward.
“This administration has carried out a near-impossible task in just five years, which is a rare feat that would make other world leaders green with envy. Virtually all sectors of the economy have been affected positively, and this is what you get when you have a leader that is upright and committed to the Nigerian cause. The Nigerian Army has been excellent since the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari. One of the first pointers that he meant well was the composition of the service chiefs. Mind you, I am of that constituency, and when I saw the calibre of those appointed, I was convinced that it was just a matter of time before we turned the tide against those insurgents.” I stopped reading for a while thinking I was the one hallucinating. But hell no! I wasn’t. It was painful to continue reading but I had to.
Tsav hailed the composition of Buhari’s service chiefs? The facts on the ground show that there is nothing extraordinary that the president’s lopsided composition of the security structure has achieved on the battlefield. Now, I believe truly, those whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad.
Abubakar Tsav also commended the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, for repositioning and leading the Nigerian Army in the battle against the Boko Haram insurgents: “I salute the doggedness of the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai. He is such a brilliant officer who understands what it means to be a leader. He has indeed led by worthy examples, and I am sure that posterity would be kind to him for his numerous sacrifices in the war against terrorism in Nigeria.”
After reading this gushing praise, I literally pinched myself to be cocksure I wasn’t delirious. Indeed, I wasn’t. It is hard not to think that the man that made those statements wasn’t himself. Only a man high on something would be so quixotic about the state of affairs in the country today. The pressing question to ask is, of what use is this falsehood? Whose interest is served here? Abubakar Tsav knew full well that the security situation in Nigeria was worse than ever. He knew full well that the economy was in worse shape than it was in 2015 when Buhari assumed power. He knew that corruption under this government has reached a crescendo but he ignored the evidence to dance on the tip of a needle. What pushes men to do things like this, I have no idea.
In Benue State, where Tsav hailed from, people sleep with one eye open. Bandits, mostly of Fulani extraction, cause mayhem daily, wreaking carnage in communities, committing mass murder, burning down swathes of communities, slaying, ripping the stomachs of pregnant women open, abducting and gang-raping women. The state has become a killing field for terrorists and blood-thirsty mass murderers. I cannot remember reading anywhere that he condemned these heinous crimes against humanity. Tsav never called on Buhari to come to the aid of his people.
Two years ago when Fulani herdsmen killed 73 people in one fell swoop, it took several weeks for Buhari who he recently praised to high heaven to cave in to pressure from the public to visit Benue. Even on that visit, his advice to the Benue people to learn to live with their neigbhours was utterly bereft of all empathy. Professor Wole Soyinka, one of his early enablers who has somewhat retraced his steps, declared recently that Buhari lost him as a supporter after that statement during his (Buhari’s visit) to Benue. I am sure Tsav missed it, or if he didn’t, didn’t read much into it because the man who uttered those words has “unquestionable integrity”.
Since Tsav granted that infamous interview about four weeks ago to deodorise Buhari’s five years in office, the security situation has gone from bad to worse. Boko Haram/ISWAP has been on the offensive, killing scores of people and abducting several others in Borno State. The terror group attacked Gubio, Nganzai and Monguno local government councils barely a day after the president claimed the terrorist group had been massively degraded and killed over 80 people.
In Buhari’s home state of Katsina, insecurity has reached unprecedented levels, such that protesting youths recently vented their anger on the streets and burnt down a billboard of the president and the state governor. The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) last week stated that the North had become poorer under Buhari owing to the heightened level of insecurity in the region. NEF pointedly called Buhari’s administration a failure and expressed regret he won a second term. And with all facets of our national life limping, the first family is enjoying the goodies of life and even fighting publicly for more spoils of power.
Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, is disintegrating, producing five national chairmen in one week.
Professor Usman Yusuf, a Professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation captured the situation succinctly in a recent article on state of insecurity in the country titled: Silence in the Face of Evil is Evil Itself. Here are excerpts: “Our country Nigeria and Arewa in particular where mass burials of our people massacred by bandits and insurgents is a common occurrence and where the land is soaked wet with the blood of the innocent, unarmed, undefended folks living largely in rural areas that have never had any government presence. Yet, we the elites have become so immunized to this carnage and injustice in our midst that all we do is share the video clips on WhatsApp, then recoil back into our shell of fear, docility, and nonchalance instead of raising our voices.
“The All Progressives Congress (APC) under his leadership campaigned on the tripod of fighting corruption, insecurity, and fixing the economy. Five years hence, corruption is flourishing more than ever before, the economy is in a free fall, with the nation drowning in debt with nothing tangible to show for it. People are much less secure today than they were five years ago.
“Arewa today is under siege and terrorised by rampaging bandits and insurgents. They roll into our towns and villages in convoys of motorcycles riding three on each, brandishing AK47 rifles with impunity. They spend hours killing, burning, raping, carting away livestock, and abducting women as sex slaves. In many of these villages, they put taxes on the people and keep coming back, again and again, to attack because there is no law enforcement presence to protect them. The police or military oftentimes show up after the carnage to count the bodies.
“How these bunch of ragtag bandits on motorcycles wielding nothing more than rusty AK47 rifles can roam the land with impunity causing these deaths and destruction in a nation with a standing military and police force should be a reason for serious national reflection on our entire security apparatus. Nigerians must ask the tough questions of whether the current security leadership has run out of ideas to get the job done. Nigerians are sick and tired of this bloodletting and mayhem and want it stopped now, nothing more, nothing less.” And I couldn’t agree more.
True, there is something wrong with a man who sees evil and calls it good and who sees good but calls it evil. Thankfully, the Bible in Isaiah 5:20 has already judged Abubakar Tsav and his fellow revisionists of history thus: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Some people are sure condemned to eternal damnation. Need I say more?