Thursday, 30 June 2016

#MustRead: The Many Wars of Muhmamadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari
by: Niran Adedokun


One of my contentions with the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is the penchant to situate virtually every and all the challenges Nigeria currently faces in the pecuniary.

I agree that money is important to driving the policies of government but Nigeria grapples with a myriad of problems that have nothing to do with the sum of revenue accruing or not accruing to the government such that even if we had all the money in the world, the country would still be as troubled as today.

Earlier this week, the President was again quoted as flogging the failure of past administrations to save for the rainy day as the culprit for our current vulnerability, but I think that begs the issue.

Since this administration came into office, Nigerians have been exposed to torrents of avoidable raindrop and for as long as the President and his government refuse to look inwards, take responsibility and come up with creative ideas to deal with our challenges, the country’s future will continue to hang in the balance.

Let us attempt some reality check: In the past one year, close to two million people have been thrown into the unemployment market, so many others live under daily threat of job losses. Businesses are closing down and insecurity in the land has escalated with criminal activities taking on a new dare. Inflation reached a six-year high of 15.6 per cent in April just as Nigeria recorded its first negative growth of -0.36 per cent in, wait for it, 25 years! And we attribute all of these to the failure to save in the time of prosperity?

This is where I think we get it all wrong. While there, truly, would have been some buffer for this administration were the Goodluck Jonathan administration less profligate, the real wealth of a nation is, to my mind, its people and the ability of those people to work, transact business and earn a living. But not much attention is being paid to putting Nigerians to work and stemming the waves of job losses across the country.

For me however, there is even a far more disturbing issue! This is the gradual frittering of the feeble strand of cohesion that this country had before the President took office. For even if we had the wealth of Solomon and peace eludes us, we would still be as poor as a rat which chooses the worship place as residence.

Before the 2015 general elections, Nigerians were literally spilt along southern and northern geographical lines. Leaders of the South-South zone where former President Jonathan hails from, bitter from what seemed to be the lack of support of their kinsman by most political leaders of northern extraction, made capital of the expediency of the return of Jonathan to power.

Leaders of the north also flexed muscles. They threatened that Nigeria’s survival depended on a Buhari win and that the north would have nothing but a return of the Presidency, which it lost to the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010, to its kitty. Tensions were high; fear was palpable before the election. Not a few of our compatriots fled the country especially as there had been speculations that the country might not survive the year.

But, God had Nigeria in mind and contrary to all expectations, Jonathan conceded defeat without any prompting and before our eyes, the cloud of fear which permeated the land dissipated like smoke from dead fire. Peace descended on Nigeria like a dove and confidence in the survival of the country rose to an all-time high.

Expectations were that Buhari, being a retired General and one-time head of state, who was in the middle of the bitter civil war that the country fought over 40 years ago, would build on this moment and encourage national cohesion and integration.

But what do we see? Nigeria has not been more sectionalised than now. The country haemorrhages from the action and inaction of government and there is a need to tackle these issues head-on in the interest of the nation.

It started with that verbal indiscretion by the President during one of his trips to the United States where he indicated that those who voted for him five per cent should not expect to get the same treatment with those who voted for him 95 per cent. This presidential gaffe received widespread condemnation from the southern part of Nigeria although his supporters drew all sorts of alibis for the President.

However, appointments made by the President over the past few months have gone on to show that this was no faux pas. And although some still justify appointments made by him through comparisons with the situation under the previous administration, Buhari’s politics of exclusion does not foretell any good for the country.

The most recent complaint following last week’s announcement of Ibrahim Kpotum Idris as the Acting Inspector General of Police is that the security architecture of the country now totally rests in the hands of people from the north. This creates distrust which could threaten the legitimacy of government. Even from the north, Buhari is being accused of sectionalism. Two days ago, the northern zone of the Christian Association of Nigeria alleged that the President considers only Muslims from the north for appointment.

To put it more plainly, there is regional suspicion bordering on eroding trust, a function of chains of group exploitation and arrogant over-lordship of one group against the other since flag independence that continuously weakens, fractionalises and once drove Nigeria to war in its 56 years of existence. If Buhari wants to hear the truth, his Presidency is beginning to appear as a mere extension of the geopolitical exploitation and an expression of Hausa/Fulani domination of the polity to a lot of Nigerians.

One of the fallout of this is the increase in violent agitations in the southern part of the country. It is heartwarming to hear that Buhari is now making efforts to reach out to the militants in the Niger Delta region, a total departure from his hitherto combative stance, but the President should also consider a political settlement to the activities of the agitators for Biafra.

He should now see the need to put an end to protestations by the Niger Delta Avengers, the Indigenous People of Biafra and other centrifugal forces that can cripple the nation through the adoption of economic overtures, smart political rapprochement and a tactical balancing of perceived discriminations before they get out of hand.

He could even seek the intervention of intelligent, honest, dedicated and respected Nigerians like to advise government on finding lasting solutions to the many ethnic discontents littering the country. He cannot assume that meeting violence with violence solves all problems.

Another war that I do not think the President needs is the confrontation between him and the National Assembly. Although discerning Nigerians could foretell this frostiness from the outset, the needless misunderstanding has the potential of crippling the policy thrust and ultimately affecting the performance of government. While the executive and legislative face-offs are essential ingredients of representative democracy, the level of antagonism between these two arms of government, both formed by the All Progressive Congress, can be of no good to the country. We saw an example in the avoidable confusion of the 2016 budget.

There is also the battle against corruption. Although this is gathering momentum by the day, allegations of bias and victimisation of opponents through state agencies are also beginning to blight the initiative. Recent speculations about the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, and the dismissive attitude of government among others raise questions about how much the shaming and naming of the past few months deter current office holders.

The charge of the President is to deliberately demonstrate pan-Nigeria sentiments and show in action and deed that he is for Nigeria and Nigerians. His Presidency has, so far, not demonstrated ethnic and regional fairness that can douse biases.

The President also needs to choose his wars and not dissipate energy unnecessarily. With the post he has attained in life and the advancement of his age, one expects that Buhari realises the importance of peace to national development and that when he is called to account, not the number of militias that he defeated but progress made in national integration and improving the lives of the people, will count more than anything else.

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