It is a dawn of new reality in Nigeria. Nigerians, as a people, and Nigeria, as a country, are now better informed about “the state of things as they actually exist,” as distinct from “idealistic or notional idea of them.” At present, nobody can be hoodwinked. As they say, he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. Nigerians of all classes know the bad state of things in the country. They wear the shoe. They know where it pinches. And they are expressing themselves in various ways.
Within the week, former President Olusegun Obasanjo left nobody in doubt about his realisation that Muhammadu Buhari’s government is a disaster. The Owu man who, directly and indirectly, supported the election of Buhari in 2015, could no longer pretend. Looking at the state of things, he made a conclusion to the effect that things are going from bad to worse. He did not mince words in saying that Buhari should “consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age.”
Yes, Obasanjo, disappointed and bemused, listed Buhari’s sins. He underlined the President’s nepotism. He outlined his inability or failure to instill discipline in his government. He declared: “There are three other areas where President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him. One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court.” He highlighted Buhari’s incompetence in the management of economy. He said: “I knew President Buhari before he became President and said that he is weak in the knowledge and understanding of the economy.” He listed the president’s ineptitude in foreign affairs, saying: “I know his weakness in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector.” He pointed out Mr. President’s poor knowledge of politics. He said: “The second is his poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics.” And he gave a damning verdict: “I know that you cannot give what you don’t have and that economy does not obey military order.”
From whichever angle Obasanjo’s letter to President Buhari is looked at, it was a vote of no confidence. He highlighted Mr. President’s shortcomings. He listed his inability to successfully manage the affairs of the cxountry. He wrote off the Buhari government. The pertinent question, however, is: If Obasanjo knew that Buhari knows nothing about the economy, foreign affairs, politics and others, why did he contribute in making him President? If Obasanjo were ignorant of these inadequacies, it would be a different ball game. But he confessed knowing that Buhari’s ability and capability were suspect, only hoping that he would assemble a good cabinet to help him run the government. Now that the government is not achieving the desired result, it means that the team Buhari assembled, in Obasanjo’s reckoning, is not also competent to help him overcome his inadequacies.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that Obasanjo, wittingly and knowing, set Nigeria up, with the support of a man he had not much confidence in. He was so obsessed in his determination to get ex-President Goodluck Jonathan out of office, at all costs, that he preferred a candidate who is deficient in governance. Well, while we are hoping that Obasanjo, having admitted his error in judgment, would be humble enough to apologise to Nigerians for supporting and working for a man whose abilities were questionable, I guess we have to forget about the messenger and take the message. Obasanjo may not be the right person to advice someone not to seek re-election, having desired and worked for the elongation of his tenure in office beyond two terms, but nobody would fault the issues he raised.
To be sure, in close to three years that the Buhari government has been in the saddle, things could not be said to be looking up, in the welfare of Nigerians. Nigerians have been more impoverished under the Buhari government than before. At the time Buhari took over government, the exchange rate, for instance, was not up to N180 to $1. Today, it is N360 to $1. At a time, $1 exchanged for as high as N450 plus. Again, when Buhari took over government, the cost of petrol was N87 a litre. Today, one litre of petrol officially sells for N145, but is going for between N180 and N250, owing to scarcity. This is despite the fact that when the price of crude oil falls in the international market, the price of petrol is supposed to head south: Decrease. In the Buhari economics the reverse is the case.
Before Obasanjo’s comments about the lopsided nature of Buhari’s appointment in favour of the North, many Nigerians had complained about it. Despite the defence of the government that this was not true, the reality stares everybody in the face. How would anybody explain that in Buhari’s appointment in the security sector, for example, only one person is from the southern part of the country? In a country with legions of tribes, fully represented in the armed forces, the Buhari government appointed the Chiefs of Army Staff, Defence Staff, Air Staff, Military Intelligence; Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS); National Security Adviser (NSA); head of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NCSDC); the Inspector-General of Police (IGP); and nominee for Director-General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) from one section of the country, the North. And they say President Buhari is not practicing nepotism!
Under Buhari, Nigeria is now more divided than ever before. Buhari ignored the need for reconcillation. Nigerians now see themselves more from the prism of their ethnic origins than nationalism. A government that has consciously promoted the Hausa-Fulani hegemony could not, no matter what they say, engender national cohesion. The tribalistic and parochial disposition of the Buhari government has fanned the embers of hatred among Nigerians such that peace and unity are difficult to achieve. It was owing to this that agitations by ethnic groups increased. It was as a result of this that the call for the restructuring of the country reached a crescendo. At present, Igbo youths believe they are better off in their own republic (Biafra). The Niger Delta feels alienated and underdeveloped. The Middle Belt is under threat of subjugation. The South West is pressing for restructuring. That is the state of Buhari’s Nigeria.
The country is on the edge, with the fear of anarchy looming, as communities are gearing up and arming themselves for self-defence, in the face of brutal attacks by herdsmen. Herdsmen/farmers’ clashes have escalated because of the Federal Government’s lackluster attitude. This puts Nigeria’s security at great risk. We have a former soldier president, who should ordinarily know the implication of violent clashes and widespread intolerance, but who is carrying on as if nothing is amiss. And he is proud to tell the world that he is not in a hurry to do anything. Certainly, we should sympathise with ourselves.
President Buhari’s wife, Aisha, has consistently raised the alarm that her husband is more or less a hostage of some people in government. She spoke about a cabal, which has hijacked the affairs of government. She once said, if the activities of the cabal continued, she would not support her husband for a second term. When a Mrs. Buhari has misgivings about her husband’s government, what are ordinary Nigerians supposed to do? Nigerians can’t be deceived. Buhari, the former military officer, whose first outing as Head of State gave him the posture of a tough and no-nonsense man, is now a toy in the hands of some people, who are running the affairs of government for their selfish interest.
President Buhari’s occupation of the presidency has laid him bare for Nigerians to see that behind the facade of the messianic pretension, we have a man who is not in charge of his government, a man whose policies and actions have further impoverished the people and the nation, a man who has displayed ineptitude and carelessness in government. Buhari could heed Obasanjo’s advice not to seek re-election. He can contest in 2019 if he chooses, as it is his democratic right. But he should give Nigerians the privilege of deciding his fate by ensuring credible elections in 2019.