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Growing moral opposition to Buhari’s methods

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President Muhammadu Buhari / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS

It will be ignorant to assume that the ordinary people in Nigeria are oblivious or unaware of the larger fundamental issues that have given birth to their sense of frustration or angst; that their feeling of apprehension, anxiety or foreboding has been expressed in isolation of the deeper ethical issues that daily confront them or of the palpable abuses of their moral sensibilities. The burden of saving Nigeria from the spectre of double-standards, injustice, lie-telling, stratagem or deceitfulness, denial of civil liberties, crass impunity and grandstanding has been borne by moral agents who recognise that the essence of government is the provision of the maximum welfare of the people. The people have come to realise that the future remains in their re-discovering of their proverbial courage, their legacy of reasoned dissent and in unflagging opposition to abuse and dishonesty in public affairs, etc.

Nigeria is in a state where frustration caused by the various actions of government has triggered off a scandalous suicide rate unknown in the history of the country. The state of the nation is one of despair and despondency. After about 58 years as an independent nation, there is little credibility in conveniently attributing our shortcomings to our colonial heritage or to some forlorn foreign personages. We should have, with all the abundant blessings of nature in oil and other natural resources, entered the stage where the provision of essential amenities e.g. water, electricity, roads, healthcare, education, etc. for our teeming population would have assumed the status of an inflexible body of fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy. In the last four years or so, corruption which had hitherto kept pace with inflation has now learnt to escalate faster than its brother-monster. A number of regulations has given rise to the strangulation of the economy even as bare-faced corruption by officials has taken the centre stage.

There is general apprehension of a failure of the Buhari government to appreciate the depth of the bitter resentment in the country. This social resentment has been brought about largely by the pursuit of government of a deliberate policy or of inexplicable inaction that creates a socially and tribally divisive atmosphere, generates a dangerous kind of resentment in the country particularly in the minority middle belt region comprising states of Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Zamfara, Adamawa, Taraba, Kogi, etc. where rampaging Fulani herdsmen and similar murderous gangs have proved they are mightier than the state even as there is a popular apprehension of a veiled, methodical or brutally discreet state terrorism against the populace in these areas.

The sacerdotal admonition of the Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis and the stern rebuke of President Donald Trump of the U.S. regarding the unacceptable tendency towards the emergence of the Hobbesian state in Nigeria are instructive of the sense of anxiety and concern which has gripped the international community with respect to the goings-on in Nigeria. Official falsehood in preference to the admission of stark truth or reality has compounded an already confused situation even as gory stories of insecurity of life and property daily challenge the propriety or effectiveness of the nation’s security apparatus. Boko Haram which has reportedly been “technically defeated” routinely unleash mayhem in the towns and villages of the North-East geo-political zone. Murderous Fulani herdsmen have remained undeterred or have, in fact, been emboldened by official “threats” to curb them and their activities as they are clandestinely assured of collaboration or assistance by “dissident” officials or troops.

The reluctance of the Buhari regime to give heed to popular plaintive or mournful pleas for the political restructuring of the country and specifically for the devolution of power to the nation’s constituent units will appear to be the greatest dis-service to the will of the people particularly as it offends against the published manifesto of the ruling APC. In it, the party promised to put machinery in motion for effecting that popular ideal if voted to power. The government has however turned out to be the major opposition or obstacle to its own avowed policy position. For instance, in spite of the observable inadequacy of a centralised police force in a federation that is as varied, vast or diverse as Nigeria, President Buhari has refused to see the value in the argument for a de-centralised, localised or community-powered policing. He has vaingloriously voted for the retention of the present immobile, irresponsive and ill-motivated behemoth promising to infuse it with additional personnel as if that addresses the fundamental issues of efficiency, adequacy and product knowledge. Many would-be voters in the impending 2019 elections are wondering what they are going to vote for in the light of a medley of unfulfilled promises relating to extant problematic issues which have continued to dog the nation’s path. A large measure of normative consensus as to the nature of proper behaviour, of the mutual recognition of reciprocal obligations of a practical kind, and of the sanctity of promises exchanged has been repudiated or abused by the party on who rests the responsibility of securing for the people all that was promised in the “roadmap “ to el-Dorado.

There is no shortage of clearly moral questions or of the abuses of the moral sensibililties of the Nigerian people since the APC government came into being. The selective prosecution of the anti-corruption offensive, the regional or ethnic slant in public appointments, the prevarications over the requirement to declare the Fulani herdsmen militia or its alter ego, Miyetti Allah as terrorists or as a terrorist organisation respectively, the official reluctance or tardiness to act decisively to stem the tide of the regular mass murder of innocent citizens in farming communities, the quaint relationships of patronage, cronyism, paternalism and undue deference, and the insouciant disregard of court orders eminently exemplified in the notorious cases of Sambo Dasuki and the Muslim cleric, El-Zakkyzakky and his wife who have been held in detention since 2015 despite an order of court to the contrary, etc – all these are serious morale issues which the Buhari government has handled in a manner that has further subverted public confidence in its expressed commitment to democratic values and public accountability.

For an administration that came to power professedly imbued with the inspiration to save us from a “clueless” government and an apostolic sense of mission to re-draw the nation’s economic topography by retrieving its socio-economic panoply from the verge of collapse, the most important priority of the regime should have been the revamping of the “battered economy” even as the APC had, during the campaigns, boasted it would do in an unprecedented record time. After more than three years in office, there is yet (and in spite of the compelling requirement for one) no properly-articulated economic recovery programme (no thanks to the flawed ERGP) for tackling Nigeria’s serious economic problems on short, medium or long term basis.

What is required to pull us out of our present beleaguered or perilous circumstance is the deliberate cultivation of a leadership imbued with dignity, sincerity and a rare gift of concise, balanced and truthful eloquence – not gaffing, goofing, dilatory goons. The 2019 presidential elections, if they must hold, must identify the requirement of a balanced, clear-headed and even-handed leadership as the objective condition.

•Rotimi-John is a lawyer and public affairs commentator.


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