Few weeks ago, he turned 80. At that, he is the oldest Nigerian to serve as the leader of this country. He is unarguably one of the luckiest Nigerians. Besides Olusegun Obasanjo who became Nigeria’s democratically-elected President, having served as military Head of State, no other person has been as lucky as President Muhammadu Buhari, not only for twice emerging as Nigeria’s leader, but more because on both occasions, he landed the presidency of the country on a platter of gold.
Even when he emerged as Military Head of State, on December 31 1983, the story was that he was only invited to head the military government. He was not part of those who planned the coup that ousted then President Shehu Shagari. And even in 2015, when he emerged as a democratically-elected President, he was literally uploaded into the office, as those who believed in his person, candidacy and political poise did everything under the sun to get him into the office, sometimes without him knowing the details and efforts being pumped into the process. Yet, it must be noted that before 2015, he had attempted to become Nigeria’s president three times (2003, 2007 and 2011) without success. The fourth attempt succeeded because some persons literally adopted him and his ambition and flew with it.
In 2015, President Buhari won convincingly, not only because many Nigerians were tired of the lacklustre administration of Goodluck Jonathan, but also because many Nigerians believed that the no-nonsense Buhari of the WAI-fame was the kind of firm and fearless leader Nigeria needed to redeem the country from the rapid and steady slide to the valley. After sixteen unbroken years of the PDP rule, Nigerians were literally thirsting for a change. And the change came in the name of Buhari.
The goodwill he had was so much that nearly everybody was prepared to cooperate with his administration, believing that he was working out a perfect redemption scheme for the country. This reporter was one of such people. But I had given up, just over a year ago. You cannot blame me. It is foolhardy to yet think or hope that some miracle will yet happen with the Buhari administration. As my people would say, if the rain fell all night and the bucket was not full, it would not be the dew that could fill the bucket.
I recall that the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protest that prepared the exit door for the Jonathan administration was because there was a plan in January 2012 to remove the so-called petroleum subsidy which will see petrol selling at N141 per litre instead of the N65 per litre at the time. Hell was almost broke loose. After much ado, the country settled for N87 per litre. That was the amount President Buhari inherited even as his allies and supporters regaled Nigerians with a pending “better deal” on the price of petrol. By his first anniversary in office, not only did we not see the said “better deal”, he, in fact, served Nigerians a bitter deal when he raised the cost of petrol from N87 per litre to N145 per litre because according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria was broke. So, an indirect tax of about N58.50 was imposed on every litre of petrol. That was the second sign that all things were not going to be bright and beautiful with the Buhari administration. The first sign was the inexplicable loss of the first six months in search of saintly ministers, but ended up appointing the same “devils you know are better than the angels you don’t know”. Nigeria literally moved from the express lane to the service lane from that point.
It is instructive that when Buhari raised the price of petrol from N87 to N145 per litre, there was no whiff of protest across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Such was the grace and goodwill he enjoyed from Nigerians. Today, not only does the price of petrol sell between N200 and N300 plus, per litre, in many parts of Nigeria, yet, we cannot even find it to buy. Many people spent the Christmas holiday in long queues at fuel stations, looking for petrol. But with just five months to go, it has become clear that many of us who invested so much hope and trust in the Buhari administration not only made a mistake, but were indeed gullible to believe that the same fire-spitting Buhari of 1983/84 was the same Buhari coming in 2015 with a long sceptre of corrective rod to straighten every crooked way in the Nigerian polity. How wrong!
The Nigerian election is just less than 43 days away, after which the countdown to Buhari’s final exit will begin. He has promised to stay very far from Abuja when he leaves office. Yes, it will be a well-deserved stay-away.
We are in a politically high-octave season. Those inclined to impress Buhari or who have been great beneficiaries of Buhari’s punitive years in Aso Rock do not and will not have to agree with me.
I was stunned to hear the tons of eulogies being poured on him at his recent 80th birthday ceremony. Not even the two monarchs who spoke dared to speak truth to power. The encomiums were garnished with verbal niceties suitable only for a knight with the shining armour, as if it is not the same Buhari squeezing comfort and ease away from the Nigerian populace.
A day or so earlier, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese had, in a Christmas message, dissected the Buhari administration point-marking the twin evil of corruption and nepotism. But it did not affect the speeches of praise and commendation that Mr President harvested. Interestingly, the duo (Kukah and Buhari) appeared chummy and convivial at the Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Aso Rock, early in the week
In 2014, Buhari had campaigned on the tripartite theme of fighting corruption, reviving the economy and curbing the insecurity in Nigeria. On all fronts, I do not think the Buhari administration has performed creditably.
And the evidence of these failures is everywhere we turn. Never mind that he has promised to fix the economy before he leaves.
Yes, the EFCC has boasted about arraigning and securing more convictions of those who breached the financial regulations in the country, but that has neither reduced instances of fraud nor has it deterred people from fraud. The EFCC has basically offered post-committal services, not pre-committal. The EFCC does not evidently do anything to stem the tide of fraud wave in the country.
There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that allows one man (former Accountant General of the Federation—Ahmed Idris) to steal as much as N109 billion over time, before he gets caught or the case of Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, former acting Managing Director of NDDC who was accused of mismanaging N81.5 billion, over two years ago. Till date, nothing was heard of that story again, after the fainting drama at a probe panel of the said professor. What a country! If we have ten Ahmed Idris or ten Prof Pondei, why won’t the country truly sink and quickly too? None of them is in jail. They were all under a Buhari that swore to battle corruption. Needless to say there are many more Ahmed Idris or Prof Pondei that may never be caught within the system.
Or how do we explain the case of the NNPC which for nearly two years has not produced a litre of petroleum product, nor remitted a dime into the national treasury, yet they receive the fatest pay in the land and run a huge budget like spending N20 billion on telephone calls in a year? Yes, telephone calls! What kind of country is that?
Perhaps it was the comment of Senator Ibikunle Amosun, former governor of Ogun State and close ally of President Buhari, who made the frankest statement about President Buhari, at the 80th birthday ceremony, when he said Buhari does not follow up on those he gives assignment because he (Buhari) believes they will do it and do it well. He however lamented that many people have taken advantage of that Buhari’s nature to abuse their offices through dereliction of duty. And that is what Nigerians have been suffering with Buhari. Everywhere you turn, you notice that nobody is in charge. Everybody does what he or she pleases. Buhari fails to realise that people will not do what a leader expects, but what a leader inspects. That explains why there are huge cases of indiscipline among government officials like an Agric minister spending huge government money to build a mosque in his village. There is monumental corruption. That height of presumptive gullibility is one cardinal weakness of the Buhari administration and persona. His response speed to urgent issues is ultra-slow.
If Government is claiming to spend N6.7 trillion on fuel subsidy this year, how come petrol is not only scarce, it can hardly be bought at the official price? Has the subsidy been removed already albeit unofficially? Why is the government quiet and indifferent to the wailing of Nigerians on this matter, after nearly two months of agonizing experiences?
If Buhari is really in charge, somebody should be made to explain to Nigerians why after spending N15.9 billion, Air Nigeria is yet a mirage, save the jamboree that followed the launch of the logo in London. With less than five months to go, the dream of a Nigerian carrier is obviously a lost one. How can that kind of amount be used in launching just a logo in a decent country?
I have heard many Buharists defend Mr President as a man of impeccable integrity with unrivalled sense of patriotism and all that. Two days ago, Buhari himself boasted about his integrity when he said he does not own one square inch of any property outside Nigeria. I may not contest all such virtues.
But what shall we say of a security guard hired in a company to secure and protect company property because he is trusted to be an honest man, but ends up idling away at his duty post so much that company workers, one after the other, step out of the company premises, unchallenged, with one prized company item or the other, while the honest security guard is picking his teeth, after a sumptuous meal, in one corner of the gate. Shall the gateman be awarded a laurel because he himself did not steal any company property, yet the warehouse is now empty?
Mr President promised to revive the economy. There is no point recalling all that Buhari’s APC promised Nigerians. But it is correct to say that nearly eight years after, rather than revive the economy, the Buhari administration actually plundered the economy. Our local and foreign debt profile has risen to new heights, with foreign and local debt now standing at N77 trillion just as the foreign reserve has been badly depleted. Last year alone, the CBN had unlawfully printed money to the tune of N22 trillion in the name of “ways and means”. But pray, what did we do with all such money?
Life is simply far tougher and more tasking than ever before. Every Nigerian homestead is wailing about the rooftop inflation which is at over 21.4 per cent. Nigerians have been groaning. The Christmas festival was terrible for many homes. The 50 Kg Bag of rice which was somewhere between N7,000 and N8,000 in 2015, is now over N43,000. The so-called Nigerian rice is not even affordable. The United States Dollar which was at N187/$ in 2015, is now very close to N800/$, on the parallel market.
The size of our FDIs has shrunk terribly. Companies and factories have been shutting down. Jobs have been lost. Morale has been lost. Hopes have been lost. Self-worth and self-esteem have been lost. If you doubt me, please ask members of ASUU and students of federal universities. And the buzz word in town today is the Japa phenomenon. With the frustration in town, Nigerians are nearly being returned to Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature which he described as “short, nasty, brutish and solitary”.
How can we forget the issue of security? Buhari, as a retired army General, had sold the impression that the Boko Haram menace was waxing strong because of poor military attack tactics. The belief that he was coming with a superior and unassailable crushing formulae, made many people to believe in his candidacy at the polls. Before he came on board in 2015, we had had only the mega case of Chibok girls’ abduction, and pockets of attacks here and there. But after Buhari came into power, we have had a litany of students’ kidnap cases from schools in Dapchi (Yobe State), Kankara (Katsina State), Kaya (Zamfara), Birnin Yauri (Kebbi State) Tegina (Niger State), Greenfield University (Kaduna State), etc. etc. Many of those abducted girls like Leah Shaibu and co. have remained as captors till date, while fate and fortune have helped to rescue some of the victims. Many others have died. Then apart from the attacks on schools, is the attack on public facilities like the Kaduna-bound train, the Catholic church in Owo, the Kuje prison attack etc. etc. That does not include the avalanche of abductions on the highways, in communities, in private estates, etc. Even 22 train passengers in Igueben, Edo State, were abducted a few days ago. Nigeria, at a point returned to the status of a jungle, despite the running government’s claim of having “technically defeated” or “degraded” Boko Haram and other terrorist gangs in the country. In recent months however, the combined military forces have decimated many of the terrorist gangs and the highways and forests are a lot safer.
Those who are wont to disagree with me are likely to say that it is my decision to see the bottle as half empty instead of being half full. I agree. Both assessments are basically the same.
But let it not be said that I am not aware of the huge investments in the train services in Nigeria, or the much-talked about second Niger bridge or the many kilometers of roads and bridges the administration has built, or even the Lekki Deep Sea port. Not forgetting the salient contribution Buhari has made towards the development of democracy in the country. His non-interference in political processes has helped to deepen the democratic culture in the country. This is unlike the desperation of a former President who saw election as “a do-or-die affair”.
But if the balance sheet of the Buhari administration is to be perused, the deficits will clearly show that electing him was indeed a big mistake, as his name has become a metaphor for poverty and hardship.