AS we wrote last week, in 2014, a few power-mongers, among whom were hitherto Never Buharis, banded and cobbled together a special purpose vehicle, read APC or All Progressives Congress, and railroaded Gen. Muhammadu Buhari into the presidency. Western powers, particularly the United States of America under President Barack Obama, and the United Kingdom of Prime Minister David Cameron played their own dubious roles in foisting on Nigeria what has turned out to be an affliction of a presidency, the worst ruler the country has witnessed in 61 years since independence. It will retain the trophy as the worst, the most incompetent, the most insular, the most parochial, the most divisive, the most insensitive, the most nepotistic, the most intolerant and the most nonchalant regime in the annals of Nigeria by the time it vacates office in the next 16 months. Or whenever.
Many Nigerians, most Nigerians and probably the majority of Nigerians are waiting for a collective and loud sigh of relief. Indeed, waiting to exhale. And to say NEVER AGAIN. The anxiety is that I cannot say with certainty that another Buhari will not happen on, and to, Nigeria again because democracy has a way of throwing up the worst among us. The greater tragedy is that Buhari’s was a failed presidency foreseen and foretold. His failure as a President was hiding in plain sight. How? We will explain.
After serving as a military governor of the defunct North Eastern State and then Petroleum Resources Minister under the cloud of an allegedly missing N2.8bn, Major-General Buhari emerged as the Head of State in the wake of the toppling by the military of President Shehu Shagari’s democratic administration in December of 1983. In 1985, he was himself removed in a palace coup. The only thing of significance, if this does not represent an abuse of the word ‘significance,’ that Buhari did in the 32 odd years between his stint as an usurper head of state and election to the presidency in 2015 was to lead a team of his kinsmen Fulani irredentists in October 2000 to march on the late Lam Adesina, then governor of Oyo State, to protest the alleged killing of herdsmen in Oke Ogun area of the governor’s domain and to warn of dire consequences. He left in a rage when he was confronted with the irrevocable evidence that the Bororo strand of the Fulani were the aggressors and the killers of the indigenes. You could add to Buhari’s resume within the same period his appointment by Gen. Sani Abacha, who hitherto held the record as the most wicked and murderous ruler, as the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). Buhari was supposed to be the executive chairman. He managed not to be.
The man who wielded power in Buhari’s PTF was one Alhaji Salihijo Mohammed Ahmad, the managing director of Afri-Project Consortium, who were supposed to be consultants to the PTF. Ahmad reportedly died of a heart attack just about the period in July 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo launched a probe of the fund. Obasanjo was barely two months old in office. Some unkind persons alleged that Ahmad indeed committed suicide. Either way, it did not really matter. The man died, suddenly. By the way, PTF was set up as an intervention agency in the wake of the removal of the so-called subsidy in petroleum products by the Abacha regime. That sudden death of the managing director of the major or sole consultants to Buhari’s PTF has remained unresolved. And that death put an end to the attempt to probe the defunct PTF. But no matter. Esprit de corps trumped the interests of Nigerians. Obasanjo was a General in the Nigerian Army. Buhari was a General in the Nigerian Army. The rest of the country could go to hell. Over the years Buhari had cultivated a reputation of a squeaky clean personage, but somehow his name gets mired in controversies, N2.8bn alleged missing oil money, which was a carry over from an earlier dispensation in the petroleum ministry, and the 53 suitcases of the Emir of Gwandu in the midst of the change of the colour of Nigerian currency under Buhari. The son of the Emir was the ADC to Buhari.
But the issue is that the jury has since been out on the activities and the performance of the PTF under Buhari. It did not look good then. And it does not look good now. If, for instance, the PTF of Buhari spent N100 on its interventions nationwide, N80 was spent in the North of the country, N10 in the South West, N5 in the South South and N5 in the South East. Is it difficult to relate what happened in the PTF to the 97 per cent versus 5 per cent publicly stated state policy of the extant regime? This mindset, which Buhari expressed in the United States very early in his regime, has underpinned his allocation of state resources and appointments into critical offices. The South East and the South South, which refused to vote for Buhari in the 2015 and 2019 elections, and indeed in previous elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011, have had to endure the vindictiveness of Buhari. We are faced with the case of vindictiveness against vindication.
The peoples of the South East and the South South and other Nigerians who saw through Buhari, and then consistently refused to vote for him at every election cycle, have a right to claim vindication in the face of his disastrous presidency. It does not matter that the vindication comes at a huge price. It means, for instance, that a standard gauge rail line that should crisscross states in the South East and South South and lubricate their economies would rather go to Buhari’s cousins in Maradi, a desert in Niger Republic. You are free to shame me by reminding me that the man who superintends the provision of rail infrastructure is called Rotimi Amaechi. He bears an authentic Igbo surname of the South East and he is a bonafide indigene of the South South. In fact, he was a governor of Rivers State, a state that could lay a legitimate claim as the capital of the South South region. If I am not mistaken, his other names are Rotimi (Yoruba of the South West) and Chibuike (South East), both regions in the south of Nigeria.
‘We’ elected Buhari because we did not want President Goodluck Jonathan anymore. ‘We’ elected Buhari because Jonathan reneged on alleged verbal agreement not to contest for the presidency after serving out the remainder of Yar’Adua’s first term. ‘We’ elected Buhari because the North insisted it was their turn at the presidency, given the short-lived tenure of Yar’Adua. ‘We’ elected Buhari because he was sold to us as a reformed or born-again democrat. ‘We’ elected Buhari because he was passed on as a man of integrity. And ‘we’ elected Buhari because he was said to hold the key that would unlock the solutions to Nigeria’s myriad problems.
In 2014, you stood the risk of being mobbed and killed if you spoke a word against Buhari’s impending presidency and the danger in his win. You lost family and friends and colleagues, if you dared to question Buhari’s fitness and capacity and competence for the job. It was a madding crowd so much so that some Nigerians said they would be satisfied with Buhari presenting NEPA (National Electric Power Authority) bill in lieu of his West African School Certificate. We lost our heads because of hate. We were consumed by the search for a messiah that did not exist. We refused to ask questions that were obvious. And…and…and…