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My Fears for Buhari
THEFRONTLINES BY JOSEPH USHIGIALE
President Muhammadu Buhari must thank his stars for the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo erstwhile Premier of the Western region. He practically rode on the late sage’s back to the Presidency. So what’s the nexus between Awolowo and the Buhari presidency? Awolowo was without any doubt one of the most impactful leaders Nigeria ever had. Apart from being at the forefront in the fight for Nigeria’s independence, he founded Egbe Omo Oduduwa (Descendants of Oduduwa Kingdom), Action Group(AG), and Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN).
While the Egbe Omo Oduduwa activities were localized and rooted as a rallying point for the Yoruba, the political parties became platforms for galvanizing national support for his ambition to lead Nigeria. In seeking to lead Nigeria in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Awolowo was running on his well-documented pedigree as a Premier of the Western region where he revolutionized agriculture, education, healthcare, human capital development, and created an economy in the west that was the envy of other regions.
Right from 1959 to 1983, Awolowo’s lifetime ambition, to borrow from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was to lead Nigeria. Regrettably, he failed to fulfill that lifetime ambition when he passed on in 1987. So he went down in history as the greatest President that Nigeria never had. It was the same sentiments that ruled supreme in the polity when General Muhammadu Buhari sought the presidency in 2015.
Although lacking in the sterling democratic, academic, and human development credentials and pedigree of Awolowo, Buhari had something in common: his failed but persistent quest for the presidency which began in 2003, 2007, 2011 when he announced his retirement from politics. This persistence essentially cast him in the mold of Awolowo as yet another president that Nigeria may never have.
However, providence smiled at him when he came out of retirement in 2015. Given the growing disenchantment with President Goodluck Jonathan over his uninspiring leadership style supported by the messianic posturing of Buhari, he rode to power on the back of people’s sentiments. This group of people went all out to ensure that he did not end up as another Awolowo by voting him to office.
When he took office, Buhari gave the impression that he succinctly understood what Nigeria’s problems were and promised to tackle them head-on in his inaugural speech. Hear him: “At home, we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel, and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head-on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.”
He went ahead to promise that even “With depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages, and debts the Nigerian economy is in deep trouble and will require careful management to bring it round and to tackle the immediate challenges confronting us, namely; Boko Haram, the Niger Delta situation, the power shortages, and unemployment, especially among young people. For the longer term, we have to improve the standards of our education.”
It has been seven years since Buhari came to power, how has he been able to turn around the fortune of the people and the country? Let us begin from security, an area where many had opined that given the President’s military background, insurgency days were numbered. In the early days of the administration, Nigerians were told that Boko Haram was ‘technically defeated.’ Whatever that meant, soon after, the group unleashed more deadly attacks and undertook daring kidnapping escapades forcing the administration to pay huge ransoms for the release of some of the children that were abducted.
The hopeless and continuously deteriorating security situation in the country in which over 350,000 people have reportedly been killed by state and non-state actors, has led to the proliferation of regional outfits like Amotekun, Yan Sakai, Onyabo, Ebube Agu, and the Civilian Joint Task Force.
All promises by Buhari that at the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the “government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connexions to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a recurrence of this evil”, have since evaporated.
The President and his cohorts have charted an entirely bizarre and dangerous trajectory choosing to house the so-called repentants in posh accommodations. The government has also been giving them preferential treatment and absorbing them into the arms forces even against advice from concerned citizens.
It is clear that the Buhari government is romancing the insurgents and demoralizing the Armed Forces that he promised “will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko haram.”
In Nigeria today, the sanctity of human life is no longer guaranteed.
If you are not felled by the bullets from Fulani and other criminal militias who are engaged in kidnapping, banditry, and armed robbery, you would be killed by yahoo boys and ritualists who are now engaged in rituals to make money, by all means, using human parts.
In the area of electricity supply, Buhari lamented that “It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20b expanded since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are underway during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.”
After seven years on the saddle, as I write, the country is in perpetual darkness. The system collapsed twice in a week throwing the entire country in darkness. Industries are parking up and throwing people out of jobs. Manufacturers are groaning under the weight of having to provide power using generating sets. With the cost of production spiraling out of control, the prices of goods are also not affordable to the common man. Everywhere you go is misery accentuated by the Buhari administration.
The worst part is that even the 4000 MW that he inherited from the previous administration can not be sustained. Today, the total generating capacity is less than 2000 MW. Even with its much-vaunted campaign that it has generated 11,000MW of electricity, this is figure is only on paper. Most power plants are either not functioning as a result of low water levels like Kainji and Shiroro dams, those using gas turbines have no gas to power them in a country that exports liquefy natural gas. With less than a year and a half to go, Buhari who recently apologized to Nigerians to bear with him is clueless and has no single idea of how to salvage Nigeria from the brink.
Let us take a look at the petroleum sector where the President himself is the Minister. It is here that you can see monumental failure and fraud. It has been reported by the Auditor General that about 1.7m barrels of crude oil were accounted for by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Before the President took power, he lampooned the Goodluck Jonathan administration of hoodwinking Nigerians and corruptly enriching themselves by claiming there is subsidy when there was none.
It has since been discovered that the present administration has been paying subsidies from its first day in office. Not only that, its promise to rehabilitate old and build new refineries never materialized, yet the government has been squandering billions in salaries, training, and other overhead costs and laughably declared profit.
In the last few weeks, with no refinery working and the country perpetually dependent on petroleum product importation, the country was shocked by the news of the importation of toxic fuel from Europe. What has followed since then has been a crippling fuel scarcity never seen in the country in recent times. Yet, the government has no single answer to these problems that touch on the very survival of the citizenry.
A summary of all this is that Nigerians have no electricity supply, facing severe fuel scarcity, insecurity occasioned by banditry, kidnapping, ritual killings, armed robbery, high cost of living, no job opportunities and are frustrated and disillusioned.
Now has a messianic Buhari who boasted that he was denying himself a life of comfort to serve Nigeria “After being head of state, I am sure I could easily have retired into a life of comfort and ease as an elder statesman, as a contractor, or as a beneficiary of any one of the nation’s many generous prebendal offerings” fulfilled his dream, are Nigerians better off under him now than they were under Jonathan?
What sort of President who after declaring that “I need nothing and I have nothing more to prove. I am in this solely for the love of my country and concern for its destiny and the fate of its people … I have decided to dedicate the remainder of my life to fighting for the people of this country until their right is restored to them,” would plunge his country into this magnitude of misery and despondency?
How would Nigerians remember Buhari when he shall exit in 2023 after promising them that “My primary mission in the service of Nigeria as president is to provide the requisite leadership for the actualization of our collective vision – by example, by action, and by sacrifice. To actualize this vision and achieve the mission, I will be guided by the following three principles: creating opportunity for all Nigerians, demanding responsibility from all Nigerians, and forging a strong and virile communal spirit among all Nigerians.”?
This is where I have my fears. Buhari came to power with a certain mysticism and aura of a puritan and anti-corruption crusader. After just seven years, Buhari has been demystified and all that he stood for have been exposed as elements of make-believe no substance. He has failed to show leadership, exhibited weakness, and is sometimes confused clueless.
Whenever you notice a spark in the President’s motion, it is only in things that interest mostly his kiths and kins and geopolitical zone. He has created lots of opportunities for northerners in line with the late Ahmadu Bello creed. Northerners dominate and have had under advantage in all major ministries and parastatals under his watch. Rather than uniting the country, Buhari has driven a huge wedge between the north and the south which would take a long time to correct.
With no electricity, fuel scarcity, insecurity, the economy in turmoil and near collapse, and businesses shutting down for lack of diesel and mounting operational costs and general hardship in the polity, Nigerians can not wait for Buhari to go. He will go down in history as one President who came, saw, and failed woefully. No amount of apology can change that, Nigerians know better now.