On the horns of dilemma
One of the faults that the critics of President Muhammadu Buhari are fond of pointing to most frequently is his alleged clannishness, nepotism and cronyism.If it is true, it is a serious blemish not only because it is part and parcel of corruption which he had sworn to fight, but also because it denies him the opportunity of running an inclusive administration and tapping from all the abundant talents that are available in all the nooks and crannies of the country.
Even if belatedly, this accusation needs to be interrogated more vigorously by those who have sworn to defend President Buhari and who believe that the president is almost as infallible as the pope. This accusation will not go away, especially now that political actors are back on the hustings. More than ever before, the numerous opponents of the president will hang on to this as a god-sent silver bullet.
Just last week, former President Olusegun Obasanjo angrily reacted to the insinuation in the media that by asking voters to vote for credible candidates, he had chosen to be neutral – meaning he had abandoned Candidate Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party. In denouncing those who slanted his remarks to mean he was mercurial, changing his stand at the drop of the pin, the Owu chief used the occasion to get back at the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a remark dripping with vitriol, he said, as reported sensationally by The Punch, “only a fool will sit on the fence or be neutral when his or her country is being destroyed with incompetence, corruption, lack of focus, insecurity, nepotism, brazen impunity and denial of the obvious.”
While no attempt is made here to deny that the president had demonstrated too obvious a preference for provincialism in some of his appointments, the argument to be made in mitigation of the so-called cronyism is to look at the overall impact of the appointments as they affect the fortunes of the communities that were favoured most. How much, one may ask, have these appointees improved the lot of their people in terms of taking them out of poverty, creating more jobs by taking the urchins and their begging bowls off the street and integrating the Almajiri system into the normal educational scheme?
The North, to put it mildly, has remained largely underdeveloped, still wracked by abject poverty. And the case is made spectacularly worse by the bloodbath that has become second nature to the region. These favoured appointees, apart from taking care of themselves and their immediate families, what have they done to put the North on the path of visibly progressive social and economic development almost in tandem with what is going on in majority of the southern states?
If President Buhari’s narrow choice of key appointees is to faithfully promote the rapid development of the North, the scheme is a woeful failure – not only has the North remained largely undeveloped with the pangs of poverty ravaging everywhere and everybody, it has slowed down, to a large extent, the tempo of development nation-wide. That the leading lights in the North are unimpressed by this underwhelming performance is reflected in the occasional outbursts of groups like the Northern Elders Forum.
A recent statement by the forum signed by Professor Ango Abdullahi, is, in my view, far from flattering. It said “two of the conditions we gave Buhari upon his assumption of office were that he should take concrete steps to address the abject poverty and underdevelopment in the North and he has woefully failed to marginally address any of them.”
Nobody seriously expected the president to stick to his ill-advised template for project distribution or even appointments of capable Nigerians into his administration. Early in the administration, specifically on July 22, 2015, Nigerians, including his die-hard supporters, were visibly perturbed when the president went off the handle to answer a question on security in the Niger Delta region.
At the US Institute of Peace, Dr Pauline Baker, the President Emeritus of the Fund for Peace, had inquired about security in Niger Delta. The president, apparently not quite sure of what to make of the question, posed a counter question that went thus: “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents for example that gave me 97 per cent of the votes can’t in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5 per cent. I think these are political reality.”
It was assumed from this statement that those who did not vote massively for him in the 2015 election would be treated unfairly in appointments and the distribution of projects as well as in the drive for economic development. And on the positive side, those who unreservedly voted to put him in office would have a disproportionately favourable treatment in terms of dividends of loyalty and support. But as I wrote on this page on September 5 this year, the Buhari administration, through remarkable brinkmanship, has reversed itself and taken the country as one constituency for equal treatment.
For instance, Buhari’s unprecedented attention to the South East and South-South zones in appointments and infrastructural development is a commendable gesture in nation-building. One Fred Asuqo, writing from Cross River State where APC had an appalling outing compared to PDP in 2015 presidential election (APC scored 28,368 to PDP’s 414,863), eulogised President Buhari for the unprecedented high-level appointments given to indigenes of Cross Rivers State. He recalled that on a campaign trail to the state in 2014, Buhari and his entourage were denied the use of the stadium for rally. Today this PDP state enjoys more than 12 key appointments including Chief Justice of the Federation, Head of Service, Auditor-General of the Federation and Chief of Naval Staff. Concluding, Citizen Asuqo has sworn that the “God that I worship and posterity won’t forgive me if I don’t reciprocate this gesture.”
Ironically, Citizen Asuqo’s sentiments run sharply in contradistinction to the one expressed by one Hussain Obaro from Kogi State and other like minds. Unlike Cross Rivers State, Obaro’s Kogi State gave Buhari’s APC 264,851 votes to defeat PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan’s 149,987 votes. But today, Citizen Obaro says that Buhari does not deserve a vote from his native Ebiraland where the APC governor, Yahaya Bello, comes from. And what is his grouse? He has accused President Buhari of contemptuous attitude and a “display of hatred and lack of respect for the people of Ebiraland,” in terms of appointments and general development among other things.
While Citizen Asuqo has something to wave in projecting Buhari’s image as a man on rescue mission to Cross Rivers State, it will be well- nigh impossible for the Buharists in Kogi State in particular and the North Central Zone in general, to do the same. The truth is that the zone may have nothing tangible to show as Buhari’s reciprocal gestures for the votes he got in 2015. To worsen his case, some of the governors in the zone, (one of them has, in fact, proudly confessed to be his protégé) have not done much to improve his image.
Blatant maladministration, refusal to pay salaries, as and when due, despite generous bail-outs and other interventions from the centre, have combined with juvenile delinquency in governance to impoverish the people, many of whom, in fear of slow and painful death, have elected to embrace suicide.
But sitting precariously on the horns of dilemma, all that President Buhari has reduced himself to doing is simply to wonder how any governor can sleep well when his people are suffering.
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