Buhari and the heavy price of (alleged) sectionalism, By Majeed Dahiru

#TrackNigeria -President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly ascribed his recent victory at the February 23rd presidential poll to his good performance in his first term. This declaration was made while receiving in audience, eminently distinguished senior citizens from his home state of Katsina, who constitute the Board of Trustees and Advisory Council of Gidauniyar Jihun Katsina [Katsina State Development Fund]. In making this claim, the President didn’t list a few of his tangible and intangible achievements in his four years in government in the lives of Nigerian citizens, beginning with his home state of Katsina but he rather cited the mass of people besieging his campaign rallies venue as a credence to his good performance thus far.

If ever there could be a possibility of improved performance from an unprecedented low in the history of the 4th republic, in his first term to a modestly appreciable level in his second term, then President Buhari should not be allowed to get away with the impression that he was re-elected on the strength of his good performance. Having failed on his three pronged agenda of revitalizing the economy, combating insecurity and tackling corruption, Buhari’s performance thus far is anything else but good. Rather than gloat under the euphoria of ecstatic triumphalism; it is imperative for President Buhari to be soberly circumspect on the outcome of the just concluded presidential election with an open mind to appreciate grim reality of his pyric victory.

Riding to victory on the crest of ethno-geographic and religious populism that swept across the Muslim North of Nigeria, President Buhari’s undisguised misuse of state power to the full advantage of incumbency as well as massive financial support from a large column of Nigeria’s corrupt political elite but not good performance in whatever form, secured him a second term. A highly divisive figure, President Buhari’s elevation of sectionalism to a near state policy, sharply polarised the nation along regional fault lines, nevertheless instilled a sense of false triumphalism thereby setting off a wave of ethno-geographic and religious populism in the Muslim North. This wave of populism reinforced President Buhari’s cult of personality as he attained a god-like status who was regarded as infallible, above board and whose inactions can neither be questioned nor his actions subjected to the constitutional democratic principles of checks and balances.

 Hiding behind the façade of integrity, President Buhari was the hero of the conservative North in an imaginary war with the rest of Nigeria over the land and resources of the Nigerian state. The loud lamentations of marginalisation from the rest of Nigeria only help to reinforce President Buhari’s popular acceptance in his traditional conservative northern base. In the unfortunate situation of ‘’we versus them’’ mentality, which has left Nigeria most divided in its post-civil war implies one man’s bitterness is another man’s sweetness. The truth about the fact of the mammoth crowds that besieged his campaign rallies is actually an expression of frenzied triumphalism by mostly uneducated poor people under the strong influence of a sweeping ethno-religious and geographic populism, which is firmly hinged on Buhari’s sectionalism. Otherwise, President Buhari’s poor performance at the presidential polls among educated, urban working class Nigerians in major centres of integrations such as Abuja, Lagos, Jos and Port Harcourt is a clear indication of a vote of no confidence on his poor performance in his four years resulting into a substantial diminishing of the socio-economic conditions of the majority of citizens. Most importantly, the President should be worried about his inability to make appreciable in roads into the South East and South South geo-political zones, which is a clear rejection of his sectionalist exclusivity.

Ironically, Northern Nigeria, the traditional political base of President Buhari is at the extreme receiving end of his inept leadership of Nigeria despite their massive support for him. Under Buhari’s watch, northern Nigeria is falling apart under the yoke of a most corrupt political leadership resulting into an increased socio-economic misery and heightened insecurity. Northern Nigeria is one of the poorest regions in the contemporary world with the added disadvantage as the most insecure part of the African continent. That Nigeria is rated the poverty capital of the world, is courtesy of the extreme mass poverty in Northern Nigeria. Without a programme of action on how to pull the north of Nigeria from educational backwardness, out of school children has increased under President Buhari’s watch from about 10million to 14 million with Bauchi and his home state of Katsina topping the list of worse of states. With Boko Haram insurgency raging uncontrollably in the north east, cross border banditry ravaging the North West and the menace of killer herdsmen pillaging the north central, Nigeria easily gained the notoriety as the world’s third most terrorised country after war torn Afghanistan and Iraq.

As a matter of fact, the leader of the visiting delegation to whom the President was reported to have made the startling claim of electoral victory as a result of good performance in his first term, retired eminent Jurist, Justice Mamman Nasir, was a recent victim of the cross border banditry, which has spread into Katsina, the home state of President Buhari unchecked. While Justice Nasir, who is now the district Head of Malumfashi narrowly escaped, being kidnapped by armed bandits a few kilometres from the state capital, his orderly and driver were not as lucky as they were abducted for a ransom.

If the North took the rest of Nigeria for granted by insisting on foisting its worst in place of its best on the Nigerian federation in the last presidential election, then President Buhari is set to take the North’s consistent support for granted by insisting on his worse performance in his first four years as the best thing to ever happen to Nigeria. Without a clear cut vision and a matching policy articulation on how to turn around the socio-economic hopelessness of Northern Nigeria within an integrated framework of National development, the north will have to pay a heavy price for Buhari’s sectionalism with an extension of the current degenerating state of affairs in the region for another four years.