High expectations as Buhari’s burden in 2019
As next year’s presidential poll draws nearer, especially with the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking reelection, Nigeria’s political atmosphere has begun to heat up with other gladiators trying to discredit Buhari’s candidature to sway and curry support for themselves.
When then Buhari threw his hat in the ring in the 2015 presidential election, he completely changed the political rhythm in the country, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria where many believed that with the retired general emerging as president, a Daniel would come to judgment.
Basking in confidence as his campaign train traversed the country, Buhari armed himself with his initial stint as Head of State from December 31,1983 to August 27, 1985 as a unique selling point.
Buhari’s eventual emergence initially changed the face of politics in Nigeria especially with those who did not take him seriously during his previous campaigns when he talked about tackling corruption head-on.
In fact, Buhari transfixed voters in 2015 with his promises to lift the nation’s troubled economy, end decades of corruption and win the war against Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has claimed thousands of lives and uprooted millions from their homes in the northeastern part of the country.
However, as days turn to weeks and weeks to months for three years after inauguration in May 29, 2015, the drum beat has changed with pressure from left, right and centre mounting on President Buhari to step down after his first term expires next year, at least to salvage his alleged diminishing incapacity in the handling of affairs, especially the herdsmen onslaught in the Middle Belt region of the country.
Although President Buhari has tried to work on the promises that helped him win the presidency, his efforts have been marred by the wave of herdsmen running amok in the Benue valley with people daily burying scores of their own.
Pundits have predicated the call for Buhari to step aside on account of his slow disposition which they argue, has led to the apparent failure to address the troubling menace of herdsmen related killings in the Middle Belt in the states of Benue, Kogi, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Kaduna, the worst hit. Critics complain that President Buhari has failed to reduce these tensions.
But as the avalanche of criticisms continued to trail his alleged low-level performance against the backdrop of high expectations by Nigerians, President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the President is just a victim of what he describes as the ‘tyranny of expectations’ from many Nigerians.
The Presidential spokesman argued that Nigerians expected President Buhari to undo the damage of several decades of misgovernance with many feeling frustrated that he hadn’t done that in three years.
Shehu believed that the weight of unrealistic expectations might have blinded many from noticing the revolutionary changes being facilitated by Buhari under the APC administration in the country.
According to him, the development stems from the handiwork of opposition elements who are unable to innovate a vision of their own on how they will make the nation better.
His words: “For President Buhari, who won with massive votes in 2015, his major challenge is to do as well as he did, or even better. He came to power with a lot of expectations and Nigerians had, justifiably placed very high hopes on him.
“As we said sometimes back, he as a consequence, has become a victim of the tyranny of expectations. The weight of unrealistic expectations has evidently blinded many of the people from seeing the revolutionary changes happening across the nation.”
In taking a swipe at the opposition, Shehu disclosed, “government has irrefutable evidence that much as most of these killings are arising from herdsmen-farmers attacks, some of it is driven by politicians.”
According to him, “the recent arrests by the army in Taraba State pointed to a clear political sponsorship and that the kingpins, some of whom have been arrested, have been handed over to the Department of State Services (DSS) for further investigation.
“Others who are being sought have either gone into hiding or they are pulling strings of blackmail to force the hands of government to abandon the search for them.”
An important motivation for President Buhari’s bid for second term in the view of his handlers, is the gains he made since 2015 cutting across, economy, diversification of the agricultural sector, sustained fight against insurgency and Nigeria’s rating at the global stage.
President Buhari is also seen as a near saint as far as corruption is concerned. Many perceive him as someone not too desperate to hold onto office. In fact, his media aides single him out among the few Nigerian leaders who are not obsessed with money, cars and homes but working passionately for the country’s economy, peace and safety. “If a corrupt politician wins, we will go back to where we were in 2015,” Shehu noted recently.
Those sympathetic to President Buhari and his government would always remind Nigerians where the country is coming from. To justify Buhari’s performance at least in the area of security, they recall the daily bomb blasts around the country between 2012 and 2015 including the deadly attack on the United Nations office in Abuja.
Notwithstanding, watchers of the unfolding insecurity scenario in parts of the country would argue that the acclaimed successes highlighted by the Presidency would not obviate the argument that Nigeria under the leadership of President Buhari has failed to perform its constitutional task of providing security for lives and properties.
A public commentator, Shaka Momodu, observed “Nigeria has literally become a huge killing field for the marauding AK-47 wielding herdsmen whose modus operandi is the butchery of people who refuse to allow them (herdsmen) to graze their cattle on their farmlands.
“Men, women and children are killed and whole communities virtually razed to the ground. It happened again and again with little or no response from those in authority. And arrests (if any) have not resulted in successful prosecution for such heinous crimes. It is simply unbelievable that this is happening and nothing serious is being done to put an end to it.”
While President Buhari, his team of supporters around the country and his array of handlers may continue to justify why he deserves another four years in office, they must be mindful of the fact that convincing the vast majority of electorate with such positions could be a herculean task.
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