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Buhari and the tragedy of Nigeria

*Disorder and lethargy typical of Buhari’s Govt

He couldn’t lift a limb to reverse the fuel scarcity that visited pain on Nigerians during the Yuletide but he needed, as customary, to say something on 1st January, so, he simply summoned up to blame the fuel scarcity on oil marketers.

His revealed at same breath that he hadn’t even check on the situation. He “will get to the root of the matter”, he promised after speaking on the matter.

It was on 2nd January that his government called a meeting of stakeholders in the sector to examine the problem.  Presided by his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, at the Villa, Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, countered after the meeting that there was no evidence of wrong doing by the marketers.

The National Assembly also opened a hearing, albeit with the Chief of Staff accusing the parliament of not approving request of fund to pay subsidy and the assembly denying it ever received such a request.

The explanation from the interactions revealed that after the Hurricane Katrina in the US, the price of crude and refined products shot up. It became difficult to import and sell at N145 per litre.  Independent marketers usually accounted for about 60% of the imports while the NNPC provided for about 40% but with the market situation they stopped importing at about October. It now fell on the NNPC which was not very prepared to cover for all the volumes required.

The issue is simple. If you peg petroleum price, then you must be ready to pay subsidy for the shortfall. If you won’t pay subsidy, then you must allow free market mechanism to determine price as the only way to sustain investors. Better still, fix your refineries, set up or support the set up of private modular refineries to restore domestic refining and free the nation from the vagaries of importation and the stress of high and scarce foreign exchange.

So, did the President Buhari have to make false accusations before getting his men to “get to the root of the matter?” How couldn’t Buhari, being the Minister of Petroleum, recognise the signals of imminent fuel scarcity and interact reasonably with the stakeholders to avert the situation? Is it that Mr President does not understand the economics of the matter or that he just felt so free to blackmail marketers before assumedly gullible citizenry?

Flashback on the disorder of Minister Rotimi Amaechi vs Ibe Kachikwu as the NNPC GMD, when they disagreed in public on the fate of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko. Flashback on the disorder of the appointment of dead men into the boards of parastatals for which the APC chairman, Odigie Oyegun, had to publicly make a disclaimer on behalf of the party?

Did it need telling that the list submitted drawn before the president went for medicals, needed simple crosschecking and revalidation, after so long, before release? So, you wonder if there is a central command, a meeting point for the harmonisation of ideas, policies and actions of this government.

Disorder and lethargy seems so typical of Buhari’s style and therein lies the tragedy of today’s Nigeria – a phenomenon of leadership loving power but lacking in intellect, technical and moral capacity to govern. The character and psychology of his government indicate that we are lost in time and mind.

History bears witness that Buhari had enjoyed power and privileges as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and state governor while the military ruled in the 70s and, like many officers of that generation, he had developed a sense of entitlement to power.

That led him to topple the government of Shehu Shagari and the Second Republic, feeling that after the regimes of Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo and their co-travellers had had their fill, return to civil run denied him and others their turn on the tilt. How that conceit set Nigeria back.

To sustain him, he used the usual anti-corruption propaganda which has been the instrument of the military against the civilian class. Nzeogwu and co used it against Tafawa Balewa and Ahmadu Bello. Murtala used it against the civil service.

President Muhammadu Buhari...many sides to the Buhari phenomena
President Muhammadu Buhari…many sides to the Buhari phenomena

Buhari dramatised his with outrageous accusations against the civilian governors of the 1979 to 1983 class and jammed them in jail to our unreasoned applause. We know better today that it was all a charade, that Jakande, Ambrose Ali, Adekunle Ajasin, Jim Nwobodo, Solomon Lar, Abubakar Rimi, Sam Mbakwe and many of that glorious age hid no wealth anywhere.

Obasanjo replicated the same blackmail on all the civilian governors in his Third Republic presidency, discrediting them all to scheme his third term agenda while securing the Generals that have inflicted the highest corruption on our nation.

Abacha’s loot will remain a testament only because he is late. We all know that the bulk of the nation’s fleeced treasure is in the bowels of the Generals who have our oil blocks, wells, allocations and concessions on other pies, besides outright thefts, yet they parade as saints. It is revealing that even in his latest anti-corruption war, Buhari avowed not to probe beyond immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan. Call it deception.

It is a testament to lack of capacity that even the verve of the Buhari regime of 1984 is ascribed more to his deputy, Tunde Idiagbon, but even most notable was that lack of understanding of economics and strategies for nation building led to the reversal and introduction of policies that did the nation in. He constrained free trade and private enterprise to occasion such scarcity and inflation that government had to take charge of providing food and had families queueing up at government offices for essential commodities – bread, cooking oil, milk, rice, sugar, salt, etc.

His disruption of the metro rail line project of Lagos by which the then capital city’s internal transportation system would have been so different from what is it today, attested to lack of vision and understanding of the direction of modern society.

For him, power is the final thing and when General Babangida overthrew him on same charge of corruption and deceit, he never forgave Nigeria. The experience was so painful to him that for several years he remained angry and switched off from the world, almost becoming a recluse. Recall Miss Havisham in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations. There lies the incubus that has grips today’s Nigeria.

With the same sense of entitlement to power, General Abacha disrupted the conclusion of the June 12, 1993, elections which would have seen the return of power to the civil class through MKO Abiola.

Generals Abdulsalam, Babangida and Obasanjo...played their roles too
Generals Abdulsalam, Babangida and Obasanjo…played their roles too

It is instructive that while the likes of General Obasanjo and Shehu Yar’adua criticised the move by Abacha, he sent them to jail which led to the death of Shehu Musa Yar’adua while Buhari jumped at the putsch which resonated with his ouster of Shagari and went on to serve under Abacha as Chairman of the Petroleum Task Fund, a contraption through which Abacha is suspected to have fleeced most of his legendary loot. Interestingly, even with the huge evidences of the loot and declarations by the government of Switzerland, Buhari repeatedly insisted that Abacha was not corrupt.

Forward to 1999, the military stranglehold of our national politics saw the return of Obasanjo as civilian president, 20 years after he had been head of state. This development jolted and incensed Buhari’s envy to also want to return to power.

The failure of his first attempts ended swelled dark biles of bitterness in his spirit such that, in subsequent campaigns, his language and conduct became so unstatesmanlike. He began to spit fire and blood. He aroused sectional and religious hate. He campaigned with a spear in his hand. He talked about the dog and the baboon in bloodbath. At a point, he bursted in tears.

His supporters responded, visiting mayhem on ordinary citizens. They butchered Youth Corpers drawn from their homes and parents to foster national unity. We paid the price for refusing him power.

As fate would have it, President Jonathan Goodluck whom Obasanjo supported to succeed Umaru Yar’adua to checkmate the emergence of Abubakar Atiku his former VP with whom there was no love lost, burnt his goodwill by reneging on his one-term pledge calculated to return power to the North. This elicited a groundswell of intra-party rebellion in marriage with a sophistication of both local and international gang-up, albeit with high-wired propaganda that paved way for Buhari as the available Northern candidate to emerge as president.

It has been suggested that following the persistent demand that the presidency should go to the North and human loss at Buhari’s loss in the 2011 polls, the gang felt it was in the best interest of national peace, in the absence of the PDP presenting a Northern candidate, to pull behind Buhari, to forestall another possible mayhem tailing the 2015 election.

Buhari and Tinubu...in political chess game
Buhari and Tinubu…in political chess game

Senator Ahmed Tinubu saw his chance in this setting and teamed up. The Americans ensured that there would be no easy supply of arms from them and Europe to Nigeria to give Jonathan a breather on Boko Haram. Chibok came into the plot with Michelle Obama being among the first to sign up to BBOG. Within, accusations of corruption by top personalities against Jonathan became thick. Many turned out true.

The gang dusted up Buhari as a sure appeal to the North and to faithfuls of his religion. Tinubu contributed Pastor Osinbajo to douse fears of Buhari’s bigotry among Christians and Southerners.

The campaign powdered and masked him against public scrutiny. He had only one line to chant in the script. “I will fight corruption.” He clad the robe of spartan integrity, even though, we know now that behind his front gate is a bubble of affluence where diamond wrist watches, hot pants and multi-million Naira power bikes are play things for kids in wanton experimentation of fantasies.

Issues about his qualification, certification and ability to manage the Nigerian economy in an increasingly challenging global competition were shot down. His utility bill will do for a certificate, Oshiomole declared.

There would be no debate for him. Others will do the talking, a situation which has enabled him to disclaim many of the campaign promises, leaving us confused as to who takes responsibility for the promises. Where to draw the line between APC and Buhari?

Working from the answer, the Generals set up an electoral peace committee headed by former President Abdulsalam Abubakar with retired Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as vice, ostensibly to ensure fair conduct of the candidates and the process of the elections but in reality to keep Jonathan under check from taking any advantage of state apparatus on the election as all incumbents do. Jonathan was effectively blocked.

As Cardinal John Onaiyekan, member of the peace committee described it, “for the first time in the history of elections in Nigeria we had a group that sat there ready, a group that was not just that of monitors and observers but one that was there and somehow acquired an amount of authority.” The game was up for Jonathan as he was effectively blocked.

Buhari’s election became a fait accompli. Even with clear cases of breach both by the organisers and sections of the electorate, the election had to be adjudged good for peace to reign.

But Buhari’s little goofs into the campaign election flashed indications of danger ahead as we saw the underbelly of a grossly absent state of mind, one not awake to sights and sounds around him, except to the drum beat of power. He didn’t know the full meaning of INEC, the umpire of the elections in which he was participating for the fourth time. He couldn’t quite remember the name of his running mate as “Osinbajo” became “Osinbade.”. Even his party became All Progressive “Confidence” instead of Congress. In government and after attending an invitation of the G7 in Germany, he would refer to the country as West Germany, unaware that a reunification had taken place between the East and West in 1990, five years into his years of bitterness from the pains of his ouster in 1985.

It is in this brain, back to power 30 years after he had been head of state, that the destiny of Nigeria is now entrusted.

Interestingly, Obasanjo would later admit at the Third International Conference On African Development Issues that he knows Buhari not to have the requisite capacity to manage a modern economy.

“I know General Muhammadu Buhari. He is not a hot person when it comes to economy. He is not a very hot person when it comes to foreign affairs. But he will do well in matters of military and he will do well in fighting Boko Haram,” Obasanjo said.

True to the description, to form government after his inauguration became a huge difficulty for him. It took three months to appoint Secretary to the Government of the Federation and a Chief of Staff in August. It took six months to appoint ministers to form a cabinet in November.

The nation simply did not have any real government for six months. It was especially worrisome at a time when there was glut in oil price and downturn in the volume of production, suggesting economic recession.

The world waited on the government to give direction on fiscal policy. Suggestions came from highly informed quarters including the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido who was Governor of the Central Bank, but Buhari remained dumb to all. When he spoke, he insisted that the foreign exchange should remain pegged even when the nation was not earning enough to be able to keep control. The consequence was capital flight, a free fall for the Naira to as low as N500 to the dollar, a bad toll on businesses and a spiral of general hardship. Nigeria was returned to 1984.

When he eventually formed a cabinet, the quality, antecedents, character and integrity of many of the ministers left yawns in the mouth. Matters were made worse by his policy statement that he would dish 97% favour to areas which voted for him and 5% to those who didn’t support him. Don’t mind that 97 and 5 to make 100 was wrong arithmetic, the bigger issue was, as a statesman, and having won election and now president of the whole country, without exception of any region or political persuasion, such pronouncement eroded the confidence of various segments and inflicted negatively on the psychology of our unity.

With the threat of exclusion, restiveness in the oil bearing Niger Delta area returned to further constrain the processes of crude oil production and further aggravate the already precarious low earnings on export of crude oil. Ditto for IPOB as the agitators for a separate Biafra knew that they belonged to the 5%.

In sharp contradiction with his charge that fuel subsidy was a lie and that fuel should not sell more than N50 per litre, we were to find he had no economics about what he said. Shamelessly, he mustered muscle to raise the price from N87 to N145. Today, there are indications that it would go further up.

The same disorganisation showed itself in the matter of padding that trailed the government’s 2016 budget. It had never happened but thank God for little mercies in a case demonstration of government without control.

It was the same discordance that trailed the party’s management of the establishment of the 8th National Assembly and the election of its leaders. The President was said to have given date for the conveyance while on the same set date, he was said to have convened another meeting of the party without properly shifting the date for the convening of the assembly. The rest is history.

In same manner, two of the government’s critical security outfits, the DSS and the EFCC came to the public in discord, leaving us to wonder if there was a command, for all matters, security.

Still so, a former director of the ministry of interiors, Abdurasheed Maina, earlier accused and relieved of his job for alleged self-appropriation of pension funds to the tune of hundreds of billions of Naira, was brought back to service through the back door. Then the drama of the Head of Service, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, the Attorney General of the Federation and the office of the SGF also dragging themselves in public in discord over who did remains good entertainment.

While these happened, the former SGF Babachir Lawal was allegedly busy helping himself with funds meant for the IDPs in the name of bush clearing. Such insensitivity right from the presidency to embezzle monies meant for displaced persons. Has the prosecution of Lawal began?

For a man that said he would ban medical tourism for top government officials, he would spend an initial 50 days and another 106 days in a London hospital, practicing not what he preached. Then his wife bursted out that even the Villa clinic for which much was budgeted lacked in basic supplies. Right under his nose.

Today, and for several years now, we have been harassed with images of herdsmen slaughtering fellow citizens across the country. The minister of agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, seems to be speaking the grudge of the president when he says the herdsmen have not enjoyed agric subsidy as other farmers enjoy through the subsidy on fertilizer, seedlings and irrigation. True indeed, but could that be a justification of the butchers?

But who is surprised at the lethargy to rein in the herdsmen? The government signposted its entrance early with the massacre of over 300 Nigerians of the El-ZakZaky muslim sect by the military for constituting social nuisance, obstructing the way of the Army Chief and pelting stones at his convoy. They were raided and killed, as, presently, life means nothing.

It’s been a litany of contradictions, insensitivities, insincerities and goofs with all sorts in a free for all. It continues. Worst is that the president locks in, reclined in power. He speaks not by the door but through the window, in gothic voice.

Like a construct, those who carved and framed us a flattered image are unable to breath reality into the idol. He hears us not. We are serving an “unliving” god.

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