THE story of the Buhari presidency, especially in the last few years, has taken on a lot of stormy elements of drama and broken hearts in both the economic and security fronts not seen in many decades in our nation. On Thursday, Nov 26, speaking at the 4th Quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Ministerial Religious Council, in Abuja, his voice hollow with emotion and the echo of the horrific killings in the North, His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar IV, could not betray the feeling of emptiness that often accompanies a thick pall of grief. Literally speaking , with legs and head in the air, you can feel and touch his pain.
For him, it was no longer time to sit on the fence. It was time to speak truth to power. And the Sultan did. “People think the North is safe”, he began, “but that assumption is not true. In fact, it’s the worst place to be in this country because bandits go around in the villages, households and markets with their AK-47, and nobody is challenging them. They stop at the market, buy things, pay and collect change, their weapons openly displayed”. As a former soldier himself who served in the elite Armoured Corps, and headed a presidential security unit, the Sultan can foretell a present security danger.
What the reverred religious spiritual leader said could be summed up in one sentence : Life and hope are fast losing meaning in Nigeria. Indeed, the Sultan was prescient in his lamentation. Few days after he spoke, insurgents struck in yet another horrific manner, with brutal force, killing scores of rice farmers in Zabarmari, 20km to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital. For years, Borno state has been safe havens for Boko Haram terrorists, but the massacre of the farmers on that black Saturday, Nov 28, was perhaps the most gory, heart-wrenching, bloodletting ever seen in years in that crisis-torn state of North East part of Nigeria
Where was the military when this mindless killing was going on? Did they go AWOL? It will be difficult to absolve the military of complicity in what happened in Zabarmari. Do the top military officers read books, especially books on terrorism? Anyone who has read the revelatory book “IN ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror”, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, what violent extremists are seeking and why they have become such a threat to the world, should know without prompting that our military has plenty questions to answer. No one, no place, it seems, is safe anymore.
Everyone’s patience is growing thin. Reacting to the dastardly act in Borno and the worsening insecurity across the country, the Northern Elders, the Senate and House of Representatives, in an unusual bipartisan resolution called President Muhammadu Buhari to order. Short of saying that the country is collapsing under his watch, the Northern Elders in a statement by its Director, Publicity Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, asked the president to resign. He lamented that life has lost its value under the present administration. He alleged an absence of “political will” to fight the Boko Haram insurgency and other threats in the country.
In the National Assembly, the anger was evident. A majority of the lawmakers was in agreement that the federal government has breached Section 14(1) of the Constitution which made security and welfare of the citizens the sole purpose of existence. The statistics bears this out: In 10 years, no fewer than 40,000 people had been killed by insurgents, 657 civilians, 592 officials killed in eleven months this year, and more than 2.5 million people rendered homeless in the North East alone. These figures are conservative estimates. Sen. Kashim Shettima, a former governor of Borno state said pointedly: “the primary responsibility of government is to protect lives and property of the people. Any government that has failed in doing this, has lost the legitimacy of the people”. “The time of truth has come, says Sen. Ahmed Baba Keita, representing the senatorial district of President Buhari of Katsina state. In the House of Representatives, lawmakers expressed utter indignation over the killings and demanded that the president should appear before it to brief them on national security. The presidency agreed, but no date has been fixed when the president will show up.
When you ask Nigerians today: Are you better off than you were five years ago? They will tell you their experiences today are like a pin on the lips. Very painful . How come a political party that promised so much has delivered too little? How come a President who looked so ready, very prepared and capable on the campaign trail, now appears to have lost focus and the rhythm and cadence that made many Nigerians to vote for him in 2015 and reelected him last year?
How did Buhari sleepwalk into other things, taking his eyes off the ball? Or is Nigeria getting harder than he had prepared on assumption of office? These are compelling questions that trouble the mind. It’s now clear that there’s a huge difference between campaigning and governing. When a governing political party fails to understand that the people are central in politics, and that politics is a human enterprise, the result is a grim, despairing situation that sticks at the heart and soul. That’s when the citizens begin to feel disillusioned, divided and cynical about the performance of their political leaders and institutions. That’s is where we are today.
The anger in the country is a reflection of the economic hardship in the land. As former President Goodluck Jonathan admonished in his memoir, ‘MY TRANSITION HOURS’, “If you embark on digging a hole for your enemy, you better make it shallow, because you might end up in the hole yourself”. If yesterday is a guide for tomorrow, that has come to haunt APC now. Hypocrites lose their footing the very moment they begin to hold others to the standards they cannot keep. The former president may be having a good time now reflecting on what would have happened had he been reelected. Recall all the gibberish the APC said about him, “clueless”, “visionless”, “naive”. His wife, Dame Patience was not spared. Vindication may have come their way. Who says our politics is not a fun to follow? Alhaji Lai Mohammed, where are you? Oh, we thought Boko Haram has been “badly degraded and technically defeated” If you ask me how the Buhari Presidency has faired in over five years, I will say plainly that the President’s knowledge of the way government works is superficial at best. Let’s get this fact straightaway : Nobody is saying that Buhari has the magic wand to make Nigeria great overnight or end insecurity with the speed of light. But, isn’t five years in the saddle long enough to contain insecurity and not exacerbate it as we have it now? Clearly, a new generation of violent extremists has dawned in our country, and to stop it, we need a new set of hands and strategies and understand how they operate and why the old methods have failed to stop them.