IT is important to admit from the onset that the claim I will make presently may not be entirely accurate. But rest assured that I have not set out to deliberately mislead or misinform. It will only be an indication of my limited knowledge on that subject and my unwillingness to do a Google search on the veracity of the claim. What is the claim for which I am making a prior excuse. It is that to the best of my knowledge only the late Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga who was reported to have said that before him there was no country known as, and called Zaire, and that after him there would not be any country called Zaire. Indeed there was a country in Central Africa with vast land mass called the Democratic Republic of the Congo when Mobutu seized power in 1965. He promptly renamed the country Zaire in 1971. It was in the course of his dictatorship and brutal rule that he was reported to have said that before he came to power there was no Zaire and that whenever he was done, Zaire would cease to be the name of that country. And it came to pass. Mobutu was in an uncanny way prophetic. There was a Republic of Congo before the advent of Mobutu’s Zaire and now after Mobutu we have a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). That country didn’t know peace before Mobutu, it didn’t know peace during Mobutu, and it has not known peace long after Mobutu.
For the avoidance of doubt, there probably will never be another Mobutu. The only Mobutu we knew made jarring statements including the one above while he lived, reigned, ruled and ruined the country he christened Zaire. In Nigeria we have a democratically elected President Muhammadu Buhari. By any stretch he cannot be compared with Mobutu. The only thing they shared in common was that both men were beneficiaries of corrupt seizure and takeover of governments. In the former Congo, Mobutu was an active participant in the overthrow of an elected government and executed another coup during which he assumed power personally, while in Nigeria, some ‘rascally’ Army officers sacked the democratically elected administration of President Shehu Shagari in December 1983 and invited the then Major-General Buhari to take charge. If we are to believe the report, it means that Buhari did no wrong then, except being the key beneficiary of the outcome of an illegal, unconstitutional and corrupt process of the takeover of government.
It’s about 14 months since Buhari has been in power and in office as a civilian president. It has been a trying period for the president and Nigerians. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong: Inflation, Naira value, unemployment, insecurity, inconclusive elections, lopsided appointments into government posts, detention without trial, disregard for court orders, intolerance, alienation, marginalisation, fear, uncertainty, poverty, hopelessness, insensitivity, denied promises, revisionism, mistrust and distrust, darkness (aka electricity), brokenness, despondency, cynicism, budget padding, unending National Assembly crises, Chibok Girls, unfulfilled N40/litre of petrol, abandoned N1-1$ promise, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Niger Delta Avengers (NDA-imagine taking the acronym of our revered Nigeria Defence Academy-NDA), crashed crude oil price, drastically reduced national revenue, economy recession, president’s chiding of Nigerians for electing him to the high office he coveted for years at the wrong time … To be sure, some things are working or they appear to be working. With all its imperfections and criticisms the war on corruption is well and alive while the Islamist Boko Haram insurgents have since been technically defeated. The recent suicide bombing in Borno State was a manifestation of the pangs of death for the sect.
As if these are not enough problems for Nigerians, our president goes about making statements that appear to add to further unsettle citizens, at least sections of the population. In December 2015 while on a media chat our president spoke on why his administration would be hard put to obey court rulings then on bail for former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and IPOB’s, Nnamdi Kanu, saying, “ The one you called Kanu, do you know he has two passports? (A crime not known to our laws). One Nigerian, one British and he came to this country without using any passport? Do you know he brought sophisticated equipment into this country and started broadcasting for Radio Biafra? “(Assumes the role of the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge). On Dasuki he said: “Technically, if you see the kind of atrocities those people committed, if they jump bail? I am sorry to say this publicly, the former president just wrote to the governor of the CBN and said give N40billion to someone while you have two million internally displaced persons. What kind of a country do you want to run. On the same platform Buhari said of the Igbo: “They say they are marginalised but they have not defined the extent of marginalisation. Who is marginalising them? Where?… Who is the minister of state for petroleum? Is he not an Igbo? Who is the governor of the CBN? Is he not an Igbo?… What do they want? I stood elections and I won…” All the responses were un-presidential and pathetic, to say the least.
On lopsided appointments, the president started out by claiming that he had to appoint those he knew and those he could trust. “If I select people whom I know quite well in my political party, whom we all came right from the APP, CPC, and APC, and have remained together in good or bad situation, the people I have confidence in and I can trust them with any post, will that amount to anything wrong”. No! Certainly not until you throw in this clincher from the same man who is our president. Also on lopsided appointments, Buhari said in the United States: “(Going by election results), the constituencies that gave me 97per cent cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5 per cent. I think these are political realities. While, certainly there will be justice for everybody but the people who voted, and made their votes count, they must feel the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place. I think this is really fair”. Of all the defence of the insensitive, take it or leave it, lopsided appointments and continuing lopsided appointments made by Buhari and his spin doctors, the most damning was the above defence which was made in the US. The truth, however, even if sad, is that our president spoke from his heart. And that utterance had underpinned his conduct on the issue of appointments ever since.
With a glaringly divisive president like Buhari, worse than any other and every other Nigerian leader in recent memory including the much maligned Goodluck Jonathan, and a dubious political party called the All Progressives Congress (APC), it is no surprise that the demand for a new federal system is gaining traction. The call will not go away in spite of the best efforts of this unapologetically sectional administration. The myth of inflexible Buhari is unraveling, indeed exploding. In our final post on this issue we will explain why it will be better that Buhari is broken on the subject of restructuring and renegotiating the basis of our unity than allowing the country go down the slippery slope.