A colleague helped to coin this headline. It stemmed from our conversation on the state of the nation; the anger on the streets; the dismay and distraught that drape the faces of the people, the frustrations that barb the souls of men, the bitterness that attends otherwise cordial relationships, the Hobbesian vitriolic angst that separates neighbours these days.
Our talk centred on the economy, the erosion and degradation of the purchasing power of Nigerians; the stripping of men of their manliness, the corrosion of the pride of women; the savagery of employers against their employees to the point of sacking them in hordes and driving them into the streets of stress, into the paths of pain. It was then my dear colleague, an economist and Chevening scholar, averted my mind to a trending disease on social media. It is called Buharia, some dubbed it Buhariasis. And someone even added that it is worse than diarrhea.
The disease is reportedly fatal, more dangerous than HIV/AIDS, heart attack, malaria or any of the mortal ailments that have continued to assail the nation. Buharia is the latest malady in town and its hatchery is the President Muhammadu Buhari government. It should be expected. Every government in Nigeria comes with its peculiar manifestations. The Umaru Yar’Adua government was notorious for its self-inflicted inertia, a government that did not move, could not move and did not even attempt to make any motion. It was simply inert. The circumstantial Goodluck Jonathan government was itself bogged down by circumstances of its birth. The man from Otuoke all too soon lost his streak of good luck and moulted into a socio-economic gridlock. Both Yar’Adua and Jonathan were weak leaders and the locusts capitalized on their weakness to feast on the national patrimony. But even in their weakness, life was still tolerable under both leaders.
Unlike Yar’Adua and Jonathan, Buhari comes as a strong man of steely fibre. He comes with a perception of being squeaky clean, reticent, ascetic and someone who would not condone the feast of lucre or drink from the broth of corruption. This is the profile that brought him to power. And he knew it, and made good use of it when he hinged his campaign on the ramparts of anti-corruption.
But Buhari has a dark side which many of his admirers never factored into the mix. He is a poor manager, lacking in peoples skill and void of the cerebral aptitude required of his office. He has yet another weakness. He is an unrepentant nepotist, parochial in his worldview of the concept of federalism and nationalism.
It is the clash of the dual personalities in one man that has created the social discontent that attends his administration. Yes, Buhari the upright man is fighting corruption, but it is a clearly lopsided fight that tends to hypocrisy. Buhari is vigorously probing how the Jonathan government pillaged the national treasury to execute their agenda in the 2015 general elections but he has failed to disclose the sponsors of his own election and how such sponsors made the billions of naira splashed in the electioneering that brought him to office. I commend Buhari’s courage to tame corruption but it would just be fine, even better and justiceable, if he starts from his closets.
Buhari’s proclivity to nepotism beggars belief. Nigeria is yet to witness any leader that has acted in a manner that shows scant or no regard for federal character. Not even the late General Sani Abacha at the height of his tyranny was this nepotistic in his appointments. Indeed, President Buhari deserves an Oscar in this regard.
A more darkling and troubling part of the President is that he is horrendously a poor manager, an unwilling even unprepared administrator. Buhari is a slow actor. And even when he acts, his actions do not justify his slowness because in most cases, so far, they lack thoroughness.
Theresa May became the British Prime Minister, the second female to hold such position after Margaret Thatcher, on Wednesday, July 13. Same day, she named six key cabinet members with a promise to unveil her full ministerial team in a matter of days. Now compare with Buhari’s style of leadership. He was sworn-in as President on May 29, 2015. He named no aide with immediacy, had no ministers and trudged on without a cabinet for six months. Such lethargy from a leader; such inclination to walk and work alone does no good to productivity. In fact, it is anathema to productiveness.
But that is the character and nature of Mr. Buhari, the lone ranger. As you read this most parastatals are without the full complement of their boards. Till this day, about 38 parastatals do not have budgets; their budgets are yet to be passed and we are in the second half of the year. It is a carry-over from the Buhari style. Remember the national budget suffered the same delay. First, it was submitted to the National Assembly very late, then it got missing, underwent mutilation and later resurfaced before it was passed.
Newton’s law says “action and reaction are equal and opposite”. This means that for every action, there is a commensurate consequence. In the case of Buhari, Nigerians are already paying for his slowness and inertia. The delay in passage of the budget, the non-composition of boards of parastatals resulted in the delay in the execution and payment for jobs requiring the ratification of a tenders’ board. Up till this day, President Buhari is still grumbling over the recent devaluation of the naira by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Yet, conventional economics and wisdom suggest otherwise. He would rather no action is taken at all to save the naira.
This type of logic is what has kept the national economy down. It is the root cause of Buharia, the trending disease in Nigeria. Its symptoms are manifold. High cost of goods and services, massive job cuts to the extent that the Minister of Labour and Productivity tried to use fiat to halt the job loss, avoidable social discontent typified by the actions of the pro-Biafra agitators, the Niger Delta Avengers and other upheavals across the nation.
The Nigerian economy is in stasis but it is not solely down to the dip in crude oil receipts. It is even much more a function of lack of creativity and inventiveness in the management of the little drops that still accrue from the oil and gas sector. President Buhari has demonstrated enough evidence to show his poor understanding of how to manage scarce resources. To use the words of President Olusegun Obasanjo: “Buhari is not a very hot person on the economy and foreign affairs. But he will do well in matters of military and he will do well in fighting Boko Haram”.
Yes, Buhari may have done well in fighting insurgency, but he has done a terrible damage to the nation’s economy, first by his inertia and now by his lack of understanding of the dictates of modern economics.
Way out: Mr. Buhari should reform his ways, be more inclusive in his appointments; learn to trust people including those he appointed. He would do well to arrest the drift to anarchy especially by assuaging the anger of the various agitators. The consequences of Buharia are damaging enough; he must not add to the distress that hounds the people.