Buhari’s presidency amidst changing narratives
When then Gen. Buhari (rtd) threw his hat in the ring to contest the 2015 presidential election, the move completely changed the political rhythm in the country. Campaigns heightened with many positing that with candidate Buhari in the contest, a Daniel had come to judgment.
Gen Buhari basked with swagger as his campaign train traversed the length and breathe of the country armed with his initial stint as a ‘no-nonsense’ leader as a unique selling point. This was while at the helm of affairs as Head of State from December 31, 1983, to August 27, 1985.
However, of the three main priorities for which Buhari obtained Nigerian’s mandate in 2015, fighting corruption, assuring security and growing the economy, the promise to fight corruption was the unique selling point, which many have argued helped to garner votes in his favour during the 2015 presidential polls. So, when he promised to fight corruption during his acceptance speech on March 31, 2015, many applauded, saying it was a step in the right direction.
“We shall strongly battle another form of evil that is even worse than terrorism – the evil of corruption,” he had intoned. “Corruption will not be tolerated by this administration, and it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in the nation.”
But the rest is now history.
However, Nigerians have laid the blame for some of the administration’s sundry misdemeanors and other glaring minuses in the avowed fight against corruption on the doorstep of Buhari’s seeming lukewarm disposition to governance. For instance, it almost took ages for the president to ease off Babachir Lawal, his first Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who was embroiled in a corruption scandal barely a year after he assumed office. It took a National Assembly probe and a parallel probe at the level of the executive, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo before the SGF was removed from office in October 2017 after a six-month suspension.
Then there is the unresolved riddle of the disappearance, reappearance, double promotion, and disappearance of former chairman, Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina. He had been dismissed from the civil service in 2013 and declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for corruption before Buhari assumed office. Although the president reportedly ordered Maina’s sack in October 2017, he remained at large until operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) apprehended him.
These two widely reported corruption cases directly within the presidency, many argue, are incongruous to Buhari’s trumpeted claim of zero tolerance for corruption when many place side by side his assertion: “I’ll be merciless in pursuing looters”.
The story of Mrs. Kemi Adeosun’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scandal is another clog that threw up questions on President Buhari sincerity in his avowed fight against corruption in the country. It is one saga where hundreds of Nigerians took to the various platforms and channels of media communication to express outrage, demanding President Buhari’s sincerity in the corruption crusade since taking over the baton of leadership in 2015.
Recall that Adeosun herself had refused to utter a word concerning the issue since the story broke in June, until September 2018 when she tendered her resignation from the cabinet. She thanked the president for his patience and support while the saga lasted. She was never brought to book for that infraction. She simply left the shores of Nigeria.
Another of Buhari’s miscalculations in the thinking of many was the appointment of the now sacked Director-General of Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Lawal Musa Daura, who was appointed the sixth head of the secret police on July 2, 2015. Specifically, Daura, who is from President Buhari’s hometown, Daura, Katsina State, had served as state director of the service in Edo, Imo, Kano, Lagos, Osun, and the Sokoto States.
He retired in 2013 upon attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60 years. However, Daura was recalled from retirement by Buhari after winning the 2015 election, a development which defied outrage with many kicking against the propriety of Buhari’s choice in appointing someone to such a position from his hometown given the colouration of the Nigerian society in terms of religion and ethnicity. The presidency later sacked Daura in August.
Then Acting President, Osinbajo who directed the termination of the appointment of the DSS. However, beyond these developments among others in the last five years, it has become apparent that things may have fallen apart in the second term and the centre can no longer hold, to borrow from Chinua Achebe’s bestseller.
Specifically, the first term was characterised by infighting that even threatened to tear the First Family apart, with Mrs. Aisha Buhari raising the alarm over an alleged existing political “cabal” in the presidency. That allegation has continued to weigh down heavily on the country, as it has hampered the government’s business, with frictions that have created bad blood.
Aisha had earlier in the administration suggested that a cabal had hijacked the Buhari presidency and prevented her husband from following through with the ‘change’ agenda of the All Progressives Congress (APC). President Buhari, however, tried to deflect the bombshell by joking in an interview (with German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting by his side), that his wife should be discountenanced for venturing outside her place in “the other room.”
But if Aisha’s intervention was a joke, many Nigerians believed otherwise, arguing that it was a genuine expression of concern for her husband and a personal cry to extricate him from powerful people for whom her husband had allegedly become ‘women-wrapper’, to borrow the popular Nigerian lingo of a hen-pecked man.
However, those who have been observing events in the Presidential Villa since the inception of the Buhari administration in 2015 will admit that the First Lady is not afraid to speak up when the need arises and whenever she has an opportunity to do so. Recall that the First Lady on Thursday, December 5, 2019, reportedly cried out that “bad people” (in an interview with a TV programme) had taken over Nigeria from people who are “supposed to be in charge. I think that we should not allow people that are nothing to override the innocent.
“I don’t know why people that are supposed to be in charge should remain mute while bad people take over the country from us. It is impossible and totally unacceptable.”
Recall also that the First Lady had publicly upbraided the then Chief Medical Director of the State House Medical Centre, Dr. Husain Munir, for the poor state of the facility established to take care of the president, vice president, their families as well as members of staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Aisha, who spoke at the opening of a two-day stakeholders’ meeting on ‘Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition’ admitted that Nigeria was unstable owing largely to the president’s ill-health that forced him to remain outside the country for months in the early part of the administration.
While maintaining that the budget allocated to the clinic must be accounted for, she said: “I am sure Dr. Munir will not like me saying this, but I have to say it out. As the chief medical director, there are a lot of constructions going on in this hospital but there is no single syringe there.”
However, with three years to go, a cross-section of Nigerians still hold the view that the administration in the last five years made average performance in delivering meaningfully in various sectors of the economy. But since President Buhari retains a reputation for personal integrity and commitment to national development, his government in this last lap must wake up from its seeming slumber so that his administration would bequeath to Nigerians a memorable and lasting legacy.
Indeed, Buhari had, through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, said, “This is my last lap; I will try and work even harder than I have done. I assure you that I will not let you (Nigerians) down. I pray that my best will be good enough.”
President Buhari must, therefore, wriggle himself free, remove the garb and the cloak of a weak leader who came, saw but left the nation worse than when he took it over from former President Goodluck Jonathan. As a former military general that spearheaded an aberrant military government in the past, Buhari must frontally take result-oriented actions that would rescue Nigeria from descending downhill on account of the unfolding political intrigues associated with the appointment of a new Chief of Staff.
This is a distraction in Aso Rock and Buhari must be decisive in order to shore up his sagging profile in the remaining three years of his administration.