Buhari’s naked self-interest
By Paul Onomuakpokpo
It was not really unexpected that President Muhammadu Buhari would hinge his bid to return to office on patriotism. It is the way of all politicians. They are not tired of striving to mislead us into considering their personal ambitions as goals that are inextricably tied to our collective good. Thus, Buhari wants us to see him as a good patriot who is only responding to the call of his people to serve again.
But it is clear to those of us who are far from the madding Buhari chorus that he is propelled by naked self-interest. Before the leaders of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Buhari rhapsodised about how much the people who are appreciative of his service to them want him back. But he should have gone further to provide the specific areas in which the citizens have benefited from his government.
To be sure, the Buhari government would in the coming days roll out a list of its achievements. Among these would be the billions the president’s anti-corruption has brought to the treasury; and how he has rescued the economy from the ravages of the waywardness of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. But the fact that we must not ignore is that even if these achievements were tenable, they pale into insignificance in the light of the harm the Buhari government has done to the nation and its people.
Thus, when the president says he is only responding to the clamour for him to re-contest, he leaves unresolved whether he truly appreciates that he is thrown onto the path of ultimate demystification or deification. The part that the president and his supporters find inescapably seductive is that the citizens are appreciative of the good lot that this government has fostered. But they are blind to the robust possibility of being set up to fail at the poll by the citizens who are racked by a sense of betrayal at the hands of the president.
No one rules out the fact that there are those who want Buhari to come back. These are the politicians who think that without Buhari they would not be able to win an election. And other unelected persons who cannot contemplate the prospect of losing their perks of office if Buhari is not returned to office. But Buhari is being misled when he equates these few people to the generality of the citizens to whom he has been an ogre they are eager to shake off their back. But if the citizens had genuinely called for Buhari to re-contest, then we need not blame him. The blame should go to the citizens who want to be plunged deeper into their misery by Buhari. Thus, when they queue up to vote in 2019, they are only endorsing their immolation at the hands of the president.
Beyond the so-called clamour, Buhari’s eligibility for a second term could easily be decided against the background of his promise to leave indelible marks in major three areas of the nation- security, corruption and economy. There was the expectation that as a former head of state and as a retired general, Buhari’s presence in Aso Rock would immediately scare off all real and potential troublemakers. It was thought that the Boko Haram challenge that the Goodluck Jonathan government could not handle would be resolved by Buhari. But now, the almost three years that Buhari has been in office have only revealed the illusions about Buhari’s magic wand to engender security in the nation. He has not only been unable to tackle Boko Haram, he has worsened the security situation in the country. Buhari’s coming has added Fulani herdsmen to the security crisis of the nation. And months after serenading the citizens with the technical defeat of Boko Haram, the Buhari government is now asking for $1 billion to buy weapons to destroy the terrorists.
Instead of the economic eldorado that Buhari promised, he has inflicted so much economic hardship on the citizens. The citizens are now confronted with the stark reality that Buhari has rather become the bane of the economic prosperity that they wished for. Thousands of companies have collapsed and millions of jobs have been lost. In less than three years of Buhari’s presence in Aso Rock, Nigeria ceased to be a country with the happiest people on earth. Suicide which was considered as the benighted lot of some far-fetched people has become the last resort of citizens who are frustrated by their economic misfortunes. Those who do not have the courage to take their own lives resort to selling their own children in order to survive.
Even the so-called personal integrity of Buhari has not stood the test of time. In less than six months after Buhari assumed office, it became clear that Buhari did not set much store by integrity as we thought. Or why would Buhari who is averse to corruption name corrupt former governors and other besmirched political leaders to be his key officials? Thus, neither Buhari nor those working with him showed that Buhari would be able to defeat corruption even though he rightly acknowledged that the nation has to obliterate corruption or else this monster would remain its eternal albatross. In fact, under the Buhari government, corruption has taken a more ferocious character. It is in this government that those who have been declared corrupt have been rehabilitated by the same government that claims to fight corruption. It was the same government that brought from overseas Abdulrasheed Maina who was accused of stealing billions of pension funds. When he returned, he was forgiven his sins, reinstated in the civil service and paid arrears of salaries. Worse still, every attempt by Buhari to show that he is fighting corruption rather indicates that he has been encouraging corruption. Consider the case of the lists of looters that the Buhari government has released. Those who should normally be on the lists because of the glaring cases of corruption against them were not there. Rather, the Buhari government just filled the lists with members of the opposition. Even those who were in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the Buhari government considers as the bastion of corruption were not on the list even though they are facing corruption charges in courts.
Having lost the control of his government, Buhari’s aides are free to do whatever they like. It is these aides who must corral Buhari into re-contesting even if he is not personally disposed to doing this. The Director General of the Department of State Service, Lawal Daura, the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice , Abubakar Malami, among other aides need Buhari as the president so that they can have the freedom to operate their own presidencies. Although Buhari’s serial failures have provoked his demystification, he still had an opportunity to redeem himself until recently. Knowing his ill health and his lack of understanding of modern governance, Buhari should simply have declared before now that he would never re-contest. This would have launched him into the pantheon of legendary democratic leaders presided over by Nelson Mandela on the black continent. But having lost this opportunity, he does not know how to quit when it is already too late. His dilemma is that if he quits now, it would appear as if he has succumbed to the pressure of the Obasanjos, Babangidas and Danjumas who have written off his presidency.
Ultimately, if the citizens allow the return of Buhari to office in 2019, what would await them after the celebration of their victory is the searing memory of a country that once existed but that has been obliterated by religious bigotry, nepotism and the clannish protection of terrorist Fulani herdsmen.