Contextual understanding of Buhari’s indocility
The sloppy performance of the Goodluck Jonathan years had led us into a sickly sentimental decision to massively vote Candidate Muhammadu Buhari into power. His party’s cult following and the somnambulant rhetoric of “Change!” succeeded in making us abandon our experiential resolve to shun a jackboot resurgence of the dark days of military rule.
A disingenuously framed campaign of change and the bogey of Buhari’s “born again democrat” status forced a nation yet in search of herself into a new wrestle with her conscience. Very few constituencies had the courage to decry the shenanigans in the “Sai Baba!” blitzkrieg or question the surplusage in the marketing mix of its advocacy or rebuke the silly talk or trivial lies of its zealous foot soldiers. In the absence also of a fitting fight-back by the party in power, appeal to logic, conscience, or history could not break or interrogate the lip service of “Change!”
The progressive movement though in need of frontline leadership did not conceive of Buhari as its alter ego. Further, the interest groups composing the APC regrettably had their central thrust away from the proverbial ideals of the progressive creed viz: the creation of a more equitable, enlightened, and productive society. They did violence to a liberal thought process or to its fundamental assumptions even as they laughably claimed to be progressives. Their thinly disguised purpose was to capture power for its own sake. Buhari’s amateur performance as president has, unacknowledged by the APC, further imperilled the party’s claim to the possession of the key for resolving the socio-economic and political difficulties of Nigeria. Pundits have dug into history and recall that today’s lack-luster performance on the part of President Buhari has been inspired by a period in office in which he was a lame-duck head of affairs. His deputy had stood in the gap even as every achievement of that administration was unfairly attributed to Buhari.
Amidst loud pomp and unrestrained hope, Buhari was ushered into office. But he is inexorably dogged by his antecedents as military head of state. In a quixotic departure from an evolving tradition established by earlier administrations before him, i.e. of paying due regard to the ethnic and religious plurality of the Nigerian society, Buhari has appointed into key offices of state more than 75% of persons who are from his section of the country and who are also of the same religion. The response to the questions raised by this scandalous imbalance is the facile “I can only work with people who are loyal and trustworthy to work closely with me” answer offered by the President. He has smugly ignored the solemn directive contained in s.14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which prescribes “the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty…” Buhari’s position, it must be correctly noted, is reflective of his attitude way back in 1983. Buhari had announced a 19-man Supreme Military Council in which 12 were Northerners and 11 of them were Muslims. Buhari may have presumed that nothing will happen as a result of this obvious invidiousness. Of course, nothing may happen to grant the people’s penchant for long-suffering or stoical perseverance.
The absence of even-handedness in the actions taken by Buhari’s military government regarding its treatment of political offenders is notable. President Shehu Shagari who captained the ship of state and presided over the NPN bazaar was given preferential treatment by the military government. General Buhari, in fact, acquitted Shagari before trial. He informed bewildered editors of the defunct National Concord newspaper in an interview of February 12, 1984 “But materially up till now, I haven’t seen anything against the former president” concluding magisterially, “… you cannot say the same thing of the former vice president” even as a Special Investigation Panel had drawn up a 6-count charge against Shagari. He was charged with enriching his party to the tune of N32 million being 10% kickback from an N320 million contract for the civil works of the Jos Steel Plant. No formal charges were preferred against Shagari. He was never tried. Parallels for this can be found in the attitude of the APC government to a number of allegations of corruption levelled against certain well-projected members of Buhari’s party and of his cabinet for which no formal charges have been preferred.
Buhari’s government is in no mood to process any of the study group reports that bear on the fundamental restructuring of the polity and of the economy. The 2014 National Conference report, the el-Rufai Committee report on restructuring Nigeria into a true federal state and numerous other reports on how to revamp the battered economy have been pooh-poohed or laughed out of court by Buhari. The requirement to inject fresh blood into key areas of governance outside of Buhari’s coterie of persons he can “trust” is disturbed by the president’s preference for cronyism, nepotism, and hegemony. For a government that came to power to retrieve the nation’s economy from the profligacy of the PDP era, it is unforgivable that there is no identifiable sustainable economic policy of the government. The industrial ills plaguing the country have, for instance, not received direct policy enunciation. Non-diversification of the manufacturing sector, absence of an enduring programme of local research and development in the industrial sector, inappropriate location or siting of publicly owned institutions, etc. are the high watermark of Buhari’s economic/industrial “policy”.
The nation’s debt servicing allocation has quadrupled under Buhari as the nation is on a foreign loans binge. Even as the total loans are disclosed from time to time, the atmosphere is befuddled as the actual purpose(s) of the loans are in the realm of conjecture. This government’s poor economic performance is a direct result of a clear lack of consultation between the government and the relevant stakeholders including egg-heads for the maximisation of the various ideas and opinions available particularly in the private sector. Government has not demonstrated any profound understanding of Nigeria’s economic problems from which could emerge a properly-articulated program of action. The question is often ominously asked, “Who is in charge of the Buhari government’s economic policy?” The answer is blowing so fiercely in the wind everyone could hazard a guess.
We close by inviting one and all to heed the admonition of avant-garde Professor Wole Soyinka that we do not permit ourselves to crack up on account of our disillusionment regarding Buhari’s inept or awkward handling of our public affairs.
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, wrote vide firstname.lastname@example.org
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