The Maximum Leader and the Rising Wave of Banditry

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Segun James looks at the political and economic implications of President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to address federal lawmakers on the grim security situation in the country

Barely 24 hours after the President began a one week holiday to his country home in Daura, Katsina state, daredevil gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram bandits invaded Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina State and abducted an unknown number of students.

The gunmen invaded the school about 10.15 pm and shot dead one of the policemen on guard at the school. Another policeman was said to have been wounded on the leg. It was learnt that the bandits then proceeded to the staff quarters where they abducted the wife of a school officer before they stormed the students’ hostel and abducted an unspecified number of students.

Military sources disclosed that troops of the Nigerian Army later arrived at the school but the bandits were long gone with the captured students.

If it was a move calculated to embarrass the president and the country, it was a most effective and devastating move. It took the bottom out of the effectiveness and ability of the Nigerian military to defend the nation. Ordinarily, the believe in the country is that wherever the President is, is considered the safest place in the country. Not anymore. The President is today as vulnerable to the activities of bandits as anyone else in the country. The situation is that bad.

Truth be told, there is an element of terror in the country and it must be combatted. But the question now is, by who, how and when? The people, except the president, have lost confidence in the leaders of the military, they are calling for a change of leadership with new ideas to battle the rising banditry in the country, yet the President has refused to make the change.

When the leadership of the House of Representatives asked the President to come and address them, they were told they have no such powers to invite the President. But then, who has the power? That is the question as the nation continues to slide into anarchy.

At a time of unprecedented concern about the security of life and property in the country, the President chose to provoke the system with his refusal to speak to the people after he had initially accepted the invitation from the House of Representatives.

A president’s most important power is not the right to veto or override resolutions of the National Assembly as it is done by President Muhammadu Buhari at will and without repercussion; nor is it as a bully who must always have his way every time. It is the ability to feel the pulse of the people and the mood of the nation. The ability to gauge their feeling and to know their thinking at the most critical time is very critical. It is this that determines if he will be judged as a true leader who knows his onions or a weak, manipulative leader who is lost to the reality in his country and his people.

Not all leaders know this, and this is understandable under the Nigerian constitution. The Nigerian constitution gives the president an almost absolute power, making him a maximum leader and accountable to no one. And as the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. No other democratic constitution gives such powers to any one individual as it will put him beyond the control of the people who voted him to power. That’s the situation in Nigeria right now.

Today, Nigeria does not look like a country on the verge of imploding. The country has not suffered any upheaval that has threatened its corporate existence since 1967, but the country is overheating politically and economically. Everybody seems to be pretending that all is well, but when the eruption does come, the reverberation will be devastating.

Five years after the optimism that heralded the coming of Buhari as president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the political situation in the country is frighteningly chaotic and confusing. The country is edging close and sliding towards a Banana Republic. The situation is that bad.

If the future of the country is considered from this frightening perspective, the reality being expressed by the members’ House of Representatives when they called on the President to come and address the people on the security situation in the country is apparent.

Of the bloodiest conflicts in Africa in the last few years, one, in particular, has been smouldering for at least 10 years- the Boko Haram insurgence, and it is happening in Nigeria. The scale of slaughter within a single country and the frequency with which the country has been bathed in blood is hard for the world to comprehend, given that the country is not at war with any other country.

Who is to blame? To a wondering world, recriminations missed the point. When you are brawling on the edge of a hill, the question is not “who is right?” but “what the hell is going on here?”

Considering how far Buhari is estranged from the reality of the political, economic and social issues in the country, it can be safely said that he inhabits a fantastical realm based on his past position as a former army general. The reality is now different.

The President and the People

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy is today in recession. Gone are the glory days of the oil boom and unrestricted spending. Under the President’s watch, the country has gone through three recession, the worst record in the history of the nation. In the midst of these is a government that is not attuned with reality in the country.

In the past five years, Nigeria has lost face and influence in the comity of nations, both in Africa and the world over. The President is not in tune with the political reality in the country, putting ethnicity and religion sentiment above competence and knowledge, without care.

Following these, the nation has witnessed a drift. The Boko Haram insurgence has witnessed a daring rise and the agitation for a breakaway Biafran Republic is gaining momentum. The nation has been on edge, tensed and agitated.

The nation has never been so politically charged. The most terrifying period that has happened to Nigeria in the last 20 years was not the moment when President Goodluck Jonathan conceded, instead, it was the moment when Buhari took religion and ethnicity to a new political height. The greatest ingredients for political crisis.

In periods of political stress, all sorts of theories are entertained about the nature of the problem, but when better times return, some theories will fade from memory while others will linger. This is the little thinking that the President refuses to imbibe as he went about threatening the people as he did in the case of the Endsars protesters.

The past year has brought a steady inflow of grim news in the polity; much of it caused by the President’s disposition and government’s action and inaction on prevailing national issues.

The Economy

Diversify or die is the current mantra among Nigeria’s political class to the President on the debilitating state of the nation’s economy. Today, Nigeria remains highly dependent on oil as many of its non-oil related businesses are dying in droves.

In a world where there are no guarantees, you can bet on this, if the Niger Delta begins an insurgence, it may signal the end of the economy.

The politics of winner take all being espoused by the President is heating the polity. It is this kind of spectacle that makes the world to despair about Nigeria’s dizzyingly volatile politics, shaking investors confidence at a country still pitched as enmeshed in a long-lasting recession.

To the Nigerian political world, President Buhari has been an unmitigated disaster. The country has been fumbling and stumbling from one crisis to the other without any intellectual response to solving them. In fact, the country has become a laughing stock among the comity of nations, even in Africa where it claims to be the giant.

Since he came, the nation has been enmeshed in avoidable problems, both in the economic and political realm. The President is believed to be too big, too unschooled and too old to continue to be the leader of the most populous black nation in the world. Yet, he has continued to defy the odds, albeit negatively. But the expectations of the people is high and urgent.

As the nation moves fast towards the 2023 general election, Nigeria is still struggling 60 years after independence to take the first step towards nationhood

QUOTE

Of the bloodiest conflicts in Africa in the last few years, one, in particular, has been smouldering for at least 10 years- the Boko Haram insurgence, and it is happening in Nigeria. The scale of slaughter within a single country and the frequency with which the country has been bathed in blood is hard for the world to comprehend, given that the country is not at war with any other country. Who is to blame? To a wondering world, recriminations missed the point. When you are brawling on the edge of a hill, the question is not “who is right?” but “what the hell is going on here?”