What is the Exit Strategy?


In a recent characteristic demonstration of miscue and confusion within the presidency, (which sounded more like a confession of helplessness in articulating a plausible exit strategy for the Muhammadu Buhari presidency), Vice President Yemi Osinbajo unloaded on the Nigerian elite for keeping mute and fiddling while Nigeria literally burns. He lamented: “If the political elite do not speak up, if we don’t see anything wrong in what is going on, if we allow it to continue to slide, we will endanger ourselves and endanger the future of our country. I know that every conflict is a result of elite failure, the elite failure to speak up and tell the truth to their communities, that’s the cause of every one of these civil conflicts. So, I would urge that we speak up. I would urge that we stand for something. Sometimes it’s dangerous to stand for something.

But the greater danger of course, is to keep quiet.” He was echoing the Yoruba admonition that ‘agba kii wa nilu, ki ori omo tuntun wo (It is incumbent upon elders to speak out when things are going wrong)
Osinbajo had hardly finished delivering his homily before his plea was rudely controverted by the presidency on whose behalf, he labours in vain. Aiming to cow into silence the leading lights of the same national elite the presidency took recourse to the Abacha playbook and roadmap. A phantom coup plot in the making was quickly invented as the sword of Damocles against an emergent national consensus on the way forward. According to the blustering spokesman, Femi Adesina “The Department of State Services (DSS), on Sunday alerted on sinister moves by misguided elements to wreak havoc on the government, sovereignty and corporate existence of the country.

Championed by some disgruntled religious and past political leaders, the intention is to eventually throw the country into a tailspin, which would compel a forceful and undemocratic change of leadership. Further unimpeachable evidence shows that these disruptive elements are now recruiting the leadership of some ethnic groups and politicians around the country, with the intention of convening some sort of conference, where a vote of no confidence would be passed on the President, thus throwing the land into further turmoil. Nigerians have opted for democratic rule, and the only acceptable way to change a democratically elected government is through elections, which hold at prescribed times in the country. Any other way is patently illegal and even treasonable. Of course, such would attract the necessary consequences”.

I don’t know for certain those the presidency had in mind when it bellowed this typically vacuous allegation but I’m privy to efforts being made by eminent Nigerians to hold a conference on the state of the nation with a view to generating and forwarding a constitutional review bill to the national assembly. Pray, how does following the stipulated democratic procedure for seeking constitutional amendment amount to plotting coup? Is it really plausible for the likes of General Yakubu Gowon, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Ibrahim Babangida, Cardinal Onaiyekan, Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Anya O Anya, Obi of Onitsha, Dr Edmund Dakoru, Chief Afe Babalola and prominent sociopolitical groups including Afenifere, Northern Elders’ Forum, PANDEF, Ohanaeze and the Middle Belt Forum to band together to foster a military take over of government and do their consultations over open telephone lines and conspicuous physical interactions? For that matter, the president was kept informed of this “coup” effort right from the get go to which he detailed a high ranking official of the presidency as liaison officer.

Tragically, Nigeria has trodden this path before and this development would have struck a sense of de javu for the convener. Under the military dictatorship of late General Sani Abacha, the contrivance and orchestration of phantom coups became the choice weapon for silencing opposition and terrorising the nation. This Abacha regime trademark bespeaks a primitive and callous mindset and signifies the absence of a legitimate and nationally plausible exit strategy. It is a syndrome of a loss of grip and initiative on legitimate governance by the incumbent power. It is not an excuse but at least Abacha neither seek nor obtain the consent of Nigerians to become president and owes no constitutional obligation to account for his deeds and misdeeds.

He bludgeoned and shot his way to power and held the rest of us to ransom. The critical albatross on his neck was that his intervention was a preemptive coup against a popularly elected president and the reintroduction of civil democratic rule. Being of little enlightened inhibition, groomed and grounded in the ideological school of the balance of terror power politics fostered by the 1966 counter coup, there was logic to his zero sum style of military dictatorship. I refer you to the role he played in the blood soaked counter coup of 1966; the July 1975, the 1983 and the 1985 coups detat. Under the institutional norm and tradition of the professional military rather than the political military Nigerian version, Abacha would never have attained to the officers corps. It took a few minutes in the company of his American and Russian chief of Army counterparts for them to arrive at this conclusion.

In hindsight, one of the prior significant red alerts given by candidate Muhammadu Buhari as to the kind of president he would be was his legitimisation of Abacha – that “Abacha did not steal any money” and kept on repeating this insult even as his government was lapping up the reparation of hundreds of million of dollars Abacha loot stashed away in the secretive vaults of European banks. This mindset explains the president’s impervious disposition to the humongous corruption being perpetrated right under his nose. If he could will himself to believe that Abacha did not steal any money why would he care and act against the furious and nation wrecking theft to which the Nigerian public till has been subjected since 2015? Where is the logic in appointing the Director of Finance to the probity-challenged Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority as acting managing director upon the latter’s suspension? How would this chief executive have stolen any money without the complicity of her exchequer? Given the unprecedented nepotism and tribalism in appointments to the so-called lucrative MDAs, what is the body language being remitted to these appointees other than taking a cue from the see no evil, hear no evil disposition of the president towards the Abacha precedent. What a self-fulfilling prophet President Buhari has become in his dire premonition that corruption will kill Nigeria if Nigeria does not kill corruption.

Other significant companion warnings which Nigerians ignored to their utmost peril bears repetition “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement all over Nigeria”. “The declaration of state of emergency in the three Northern states to fight Boko Haram is an injustice against the North”. In the light of these brazen pseudo religious parochial outbursts, it is clear that Buhari was coming to office with a monumental grouse and sense of injustice against the North. And as president, he wasted no time and spared no concern in making the point that he had come to govern in the near exclusive interest of a constituency he deemed has been denied its privileged entitlement. The point to note is that the president is more the demagogue and less the genuine Islamic missioner. There is the element of the instrumentalist view of religion to his politics which panders to ethno religious sentiments only as an instrument of political mobilisation. And in this ploy, he has succeeded beyond measure but inevitably, the anticlimax has set in and he now has to contend with the raging fire of the smoke he ceaselessly stoked; the pent up mindless revolt of the famished society underclass politicised with religious politics. They have become the falcon that no longer heeds the falconer.

There is also the complementary instance of what started as a social media creation but soon attained to probable cause- given unfolding corroborating evidence. A weird utility of social media dysfunction in Nigeria is how it has become predictive of the Nigerian penchant of reality imitating fiction. This instance – of reality imitating fiction was the account credited to a Nuhu Ribadu (DSP)- not the Nuhu Ribadu we know as retired AIG. The claim was made that in anticipation of President Goodluck Jonathan steamrolling his way to spurious victory in the 2015 presidential election “2,000 Fulani fighters were brought in from Mali, Senegal, Niger Republic, Chad, Libya to name but a few. Further 4,000 fighters were stationed in Niger and Chad on standby.” to unleash terror and render Nigeria ungovernable. It then transpired that Jonathan refrained from acting to this expectation and conceded victory to his opponent- thus creating the headache of what to do with the recruited Fulani insurgents. In the circumstance, the employers chose to look the other way and abandoned the mercenaries to their fate-who then morphed into a Fulani army of occupation in sundry Nigerian locations. The rest, as they say, is history.

Without a consensual and corrective response to all these nation demolition challenges, it is in hope rather than expectation that there will be a presidential election come 2023. At the moment, I’m unable to see the conducive atmosphere that will guarantee the realisation of this objective. Reinforcing the political quagmire is the independent variable of economic determinism. The prevailing regime of dire economic straits is negatively universalising and will exacerbate rather than mitigate the political crisis-thus creating a perfect storm scenario. I was therefore taken aback at the level of political incompetence that precluded this government from seeing the utility in collaborating rather than demonising the coming together of status quo stalwarts to help fashion a plausible exit strategy. To be sure there is really no viable alternative to the option of restoration of federalism aka constitutional restructuring. And I can put it no better than the grieving General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the highly respected Pastor Enoch Adeboye (please accept my condolences sir) when he posed the equation as restructuring or break up. It will take the affliction of a virulent variant of political obtuseness for anyone to believe otherwise- the kind that purports to reduce the Nigerian crisis to the depredations of climate change!

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