PMB: Between New Hopes And Old Tradition
FORMER President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida it was that experimented with the idea of diarchy and military presidency in Nigeria. To a large measure, as military president, Babangida created the fertile setting for prolonged military dominance in Nigeria politics. Ever since he was unceremoniously removed from office as military Head of State, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, continued to salivate for a fresh opportunity to hold sway, once again, as head of the political and by extension, military administration of Nigeria. Even when the former ‘militrician’, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, beat the national record of being the only citizen to rule the country as military Head of State and later, civilian president; Buhari continued to fight for that position through the ballotsphere! On March 28, 2015; the golden opportunity presented itself for the man popularly known as GMB. And he caught the luck by the forelock!
Evidence that things were falling apart for the civil population, especially the democratic president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, begun to emerge when the former military Head of State and President, Obasanjo; fired his literal ballistic missile exposing President Jonathan’s “cluelessness” about, and “lack of capacity to play the power game.” Hare-brained and lacking in discipline, intelligent planning or group cohesion, President Jonathan’s civilian contemporaries in politics, failed to rally round him. In fact, most of the raw civilian politicians banded together with the former brass hats to dethrone the real civilian President! And so, the retired and not tired militricians that retreated or stepped aside, to the background in 1999, waged a successful overthrow of the civilian regime.
It is to be understood that, if within the past sixteen years the retired military political activists were shepherded to the background; recent events show that they were not content with such shadow existence around political power. That could be why even when they or their members formed part of the past sixteen years of ‘waste and mess’, they are cleverly carving out a new empire with espirit de corps! Under the unfolding new political experiment, discounting the fact that there was an election, a democratic ritual that throws up leaders in modern governance, President Buhari has transformed himself from PMB to PM Buhari – a Premier or sole administrator. The military has always had its way in Nigeria politics. If IBB could make himself a military president, if virtually every state creation exercise was done through military fiat and if the constitution remains the one decreed into existence by the military; then there is nothing wrong if Buhari in his second coming carries out his surgical procedure on the nation!
A civil society group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, (Intersociety) recently observed that in the history of Nigeria’s political evolution, the military has always disrupted civilian rule by alleging “fight against corruption.” Intersociety recalled how military renegades overthrew the parliamentary government of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Belewa on allegation of “corruption, favouritism and nepotism” adding that same reasons featured in the bloody coup of July 12, 1966 and July 29, 1975 respectively. Turning to the incumbent Buhari administration, Intersociety noted: “Since assumption of office as the sixth electoral president of Nigeria on 29th May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari and his Presidency have saturated the minds and consciousness of Nigerians and members of the international community with ‘fight against corruption’ alarmist messages.”
But if corruption, which receives popular condemnation and rejection, is being fought by president Buhari in the way he deems fit, the idea of not appointing Nigerians into a federal cabinet to drive the democratic governance has been identified as blatant breach of the constitution. It is perhaps this mix of constitutional breach and license, that eminent constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze and his group of Igbo Leaders of Thought, came out forcefully to contradict.
Reading through the lengthy analysis of the goings on within the Buhari administration by the Igbo Leaders of Thought, one gets the impression that Nigerians elected a converted democrat, whose old robe of a dictator mirrors his performance in office as President. The Law Professor went ahead to describe the setting around President Buhari in place of a federal cabinet as an invisible government. He pointed out that those guiding the President’s hand from behind the scene include his class of retired military officers, especially those who had tasted the forbidden fruit of political leadership like Generals Obasanjo, Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
The dramatic comeback by these former military accentuates the leadership atrophy in Nigeria and the opportunistic tendencies that drive the nation’s civil political class. How did the antics and designs of the ‘militricians’, escape the instinctive perception of the political class? Prof. Nwabueze and his group have real cause to be worried that Nigeria is back in the practice of a quasi-democracy, where retired military officers are the ones formulating and implementing public policies. At least, being about the only major ethnic grouping with less than proportionate presence in the class of serving and military officers, Igbo leaders must have been forced by those realities to cry out. The threat, which the new realities pose for the prevailing so-called liberal democracy, as the Igbo leaders envisaged could only be appreciated when the politics of 2019 is factored into the analysis. With the background of the role such former military leaders played in the 1999 presidential election, how would their attempt to replicate such display affect Nigeria’s democracy in 2019?
But aside from political considerations, it is in the area of implementation of President Buhari’s core policies especially the fight against corruption that the bourgeoning military gang up raises greater concerns. Prof Nwabueze and the Concerned Igbo Leaders of Thought have pinpointed the skewed nature of the battle against corruption, stressing that the entire plan and underlying probe of graft is being targeted at the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Some commentators actually noted during the last election that GMB, as he then was, was coming for vengeance, both at Nigerians for rejoicing over the ignominious removal of the junta he headed and some political groupings that denied him civilian access to leadership via the ballot. The incumbent President’s speech alluding to his mindset concerning the 97 percent of voters that supported his presidential ambition and the other five percent that remained averse to his second coming, could be said to be a pointer.
From the foregoing therefore, the unfolding PM Buhari’s collegiate military administration style could be assessed from two perspectives. In the first place, while the liberal democratic dispensation is being targeted at national level on one end, at the other end, a section of the country made up of the five percent voters and the Jonathan administration are being targeted. In the latter instance, while the five percent faces political asphyxiation, the Jonathan administration and its pillars constitute the target of the anti-corruption probe. The double standards in the anti-corruption fight comes to the surface against the backdrop that prior to the election, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) made it a campaign refrain that the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), wasted the nation’s economy in the past sixteen years. The attempt therefore to remove part of the sixteen years and focus on just the past five years of Jonathan presidency for the basis of the corruption probe not only raises the question of whether President Buhari is coming to equity with clean hands, but also whether he is prepared to do equity. Is a major onslaught being planned against democracy by the former military leader while a bold effort is being made to demonize civilian political leaders as nation wreckers? Of particular note is the fact that some of the military leaders are native to the celebrated international corruption scandals represented by the Halliburton and Siemens scams. The attempt to downplay those scams while digging into those that may revolve around officials of the immediate past administration suggests mischief.
It is good that Nwabueze and his group have taken up the national challenge of interrogating the impact and influence of retired military leaders on Nigeria’s socio-political evolution. For so long the citizens have fallen for the antics of the military apologists as the paragons of patriotism and good leadership. When it comes to democratic elections, military leaders take it upon themselves to impose civilian leaders and when one of them comes into public office, they band together to restrain the country on the ground. The pathetic situation is made worse by the fact that greater percent of Nigerians remain enamoured of military leaders, most of whom disdain civil life as well as the ideals of democratic conversation. Prior to the momentum brought into GMB’s presidential ambition from the Southwest politicians, the President was viewed as a lone ranger that does not hanker after team building. Truth is that PMB has been used to the idea of secrecy and command and obey leadership organogram.
There is every reason to believe that in Buhari, the trampling of democratic ethos in the country is being reinvigorated. That in part explains the culture of absence of internal democracy and competition of ideas in various political parties in the country. That may also have accounted for the attempt by APC rulers to dictate those to moderate the affairs of the National Assembly as floor functionaries of the two chambers.
Prof. Nwabueze and his group may be seeing what many Nigerians find very hard to comprehend. But there are indications that when PM Buhari finishes with Nigeria and Nigerians, the citizens would resolve that military leaders should have nothing to do with the architecture of our national socio-economic development. PM Buhari’s refusal to appoint ministers over 80 days after taking office may be truly a reflection of his military personality as Prof. Nwabueze declared. But in the long run it could be the main symptom of the obduracy that his administration would outline. What do you expect from a President that did not find time to even address countrymen and women on the methodologies and style of his administration, but was at ease to visit foreign countries? Who knows, PM Buhari and his fellow countrymen formerly in uniform may be engaged in a subtle campaign to showcase a benevolent military rule as being preferable to the oft-licentious civilian democratic administration.