Muhammadu Buhari: A President in the shadows, By Osmund Agbo




President Mohammadu Buhari road to power largely on the strength of two endearing public person, namely; an incorruptible no-nonsense former Army General and a Statesman. His predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan was accused of running an incompetent federal government with little or no regard for accountability to the extent that public funds were looted at will and Nigeria churned our billionaires in the dozens from men that robbed the country blind. Mr. Buhari with his squeaky clean image at the time seemed like a natural choice. 

With no personal fortune of his own however,  many didn’t think he stood a chance against a formidable incumbent with a limitless spending power. But Nigerians especially of the younger generation mounted an extensive and aggressive social media campaign and queued behind the man they believe would build a better future for them. The crave for change was palpable and the rest as they say is now history. His election was celebrated across Nigeria with pomp, cautious optimism and a renewed hope.

Today, if you are a staunch ally of the president of Nigeria, aside from the rather hackneyed refrain of ‘Sai Baba’, you only have the choice between two lines of arguments to make in his favor, none of which is edifying. It’s either you believe he is a good and honorable man who unfortunately is lacking in brain power to superintend the affairs of Africa‘s biggest democracy or that he is an extraordinarily deceptive man who had always known exactly what he wanted but was able to successfully pull a wool over our eyes. And that all these while, he was just lying patiently in wait for the right opportunity to take over the reins of power with the sole purpose to perpetuate a tribal hegemonic agenda. Now, if you belong in the fringes ,you might even stretch it a bit further and posit that our very patriotic and austere Buhari is long gone and was conveniently replaced by a conscienceless hermit drafted from far away Sudan to execute a well orchestrated plan to conquer Nigeria. But every right thinking man knows that the last scenario is quite untenable and that such only obtains in the world of conspiracy theories.

A few years ago, the government and people of my home state of ENUGU woke up to a horrible news about the mayhem that happened the night before. A small and relatively unknown agrarian community of Nimbo in Uzo Uwani local government area was overrun and turned into a theatre of bloodbath by criminals alleged to be Fulani Herdsmen that numbered over five hundred. By the time they were done, the entire community was littered with the bodies of about forty dead. Their throats were slit and bodies dismembered. In fact, the entire landscape was covered in a see of blood. Blood of pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers , children and old men that couldn’t run fast enough to escape the horror of that day.

Prior to the tragedy, a counter intelligence report obtained warned that herdsmen were seen grouping at neighbouring Odolu in Kogi State in preparation for the attack.The state governor in a panic mode emergently summoned a state security meeting with both the commissioner of police and the GOC 82 Division of the Nigerian Army in attendance. In fact, in that meeting, the governor was said to have pleaded passionately with the security chiefs to do all in their power to forestall the attack. He reportedly was very generous in providing financial assistance to both the police and military forces just to make sure they were in possession of whatever was needed to thwart the meticulously planned attack. His Excellency was assured that the situation was under control and that their was nothing more to worry about. But that was not what happened the day after. Tragedy struck. When the security chiefs were later asked to clarify what exactly happened and why there was such a monumental security breach, they made it clear to all that they were only answerable to the man in Abuja. As far as one could remember, we never got to see the president visit the scene of the carnage or in the very least get on TV to condemn the barbaric attack that led to loss of too many innocent lives. No practical measures were taken either, by his government to avoid future occurrence. Of course not surprising, the errant security chiefs kept their jobs and carried on as if nothing happened. Few months after, we were told that some of the ringleaders of the muderous gang were later identified but none to our knowledge was finally brought to justice. You could replace Nimbo with Agatu in Benue and other places in Kaduna and Taraba states and the story is no different. A deafening silence from he that swore to protect all. 

Much has been said about Nigeria’s chequered journey in search of nationhood. Nigeria is a country that has since independence struggled to stay together and exist as one indivisible entity. This nation had already paid the ultimate price with the sacrifice of the blood of more than two million of her men ,women and children in one of the world’s most brutal civil war. It seems more than ever before that we now live daily on the ugly reality that a repeat of that horrific performance is still within the realm of possibility. Many stakeholders and policy experts have suggested restructuring Nigeria to a true federalism as the only way out to ensure equity and justice and forestall future bloodshed. That informed the national confab of 2014 under President Jonathan. The current President against all reasonable expectations and in his infinite “wisdom” declared a duly constituted national conference an unnecessary waste of public fund. He completely ignored the recommendations of that committee though he is yet to provide any credible alternative except for the current practice of continuing to share the proceeds of oil rent that disproportionately benefits him and his people.

Very recently, the deputy chairman Senate committee on Customs and a retired deputy comptroller himself caused headlines over his allegation of fraud and incompetence in the Nigerian Customs Service. Speaking in an interview with the Punch newspaper ,Mr Fadahunsi, alleged that the agency’s sheer incompetence and poor border control had resulted in the proliferation of small arms that now threatens the nation’s existence.

Col.Hammed Ali(Rtd), the present  Comptroller-General is known to enjoy a close relationship with the president and reportedly belongs to his very powerful inner circle. It will be interesting to watch what happens next. What we have come to know is that the President’s men play by a different set of rules which doesn’t bode well for the health of the republic.

Whether it’s turning a blind eye on the brazen act of corruption displayed by Gov. Ganduje of Kano state or exhibiting overt nepotism in federal appointments, this president has proven times and times again that his trademark fight against corruption could be selectively undertaken. Whether it’s proscribing unarmed IPOB and listing her as a terror organization while brazenly supporting the AK-47 wielding Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, the President leaves you with little doubt on where his loyalty actually lies.

Despite all of president’s short-coming and contrary to what some people’s opinion are ,am quite reluctant to blame the economic woes of the country on this president or any single president for that matter. I use to joke with my friends that even the miracle of Jesus Christ couldn’t have saved Nigeria from the current financial trouble. It’s a culmination of years of irresponsible fiscal policies from successive military and civilian administrations and a culture of pervasive/unbridled corruption. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. 

As disturbing as these issues are, there are still few areas that this government seems to have faired better than his predecessors. Take the issue of Boko Haram. Though the terror group remains a constant and ongoing threat, President Buhari upon taking office did approach the threat with a better organized strategy and a lot more vigour. The money set aside to tackle the insurgency didn’t end up in the pockets of politicians as was the case before him and morale of soldiers with boots on the ground appears to be better . 

President Buhari’s  administration has also been credited with improved efficiency in collection of federal revenues that mitigates theft. This was one area that the Jonathan administration had issues that led to the widely publicized complaints lodged by the then CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Other than few of those , It’s almost impossible to report on the Buhari administration without sounding very critical of his person. This is because the further you look, the more you unearth the disturbing reality of this APC govenment and the harder it gets to spoting a silver lining.

One continues to remain hopeful for our country,Nigeria. We believe that our president will one day come out of the shadows, rise up  and lead a troubled nation. That by his words and through his actions he would be seen to take on the noble role as the father of every Nigerian irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation. That time when he will rid himself off the cabals that cloak him in shackles of sectional allegiance. Anything short of that will continue to make our dear country teeter on the brinks. Like we say in Naija,” That’s not our portion”.

Agbo MD, FCCP writes from Houston, Texas USA