Friday, January 14, 2022 12:02 am
By Chris Anyokwu
This prolegomenon (introduction), as most prolegomena go, promises to be typically introital and, as such, brief, panoramic and tentative. It is going to paint our man of the moment in broad strokes, deliberately leaving the minutaie, the fascinating nitty-gritty to other more competent, well-informed public-affair analysts, social commentators, historians of political sweepstakes and professional political scientists and philosophers. President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB for short) is a child of destiny, a rare beneficiary of the providential munificence of God, being, as he is, a two-time ruler of the most populous Black nation on planet Earth: in his First Coming, he was a military dictator (1984 – 85) and, in the present dispensation, a civilian president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2015 – 2023). His Second Coming is scheduled to terminate on 29th May, 2023, insha Allah.
Already, his dye-in-the-wool traducers and his equally diehard lickspittles and ponces are duelling to the death over what specifically should constitute his legacy as a civilian president. Whilst a school of thought argues that it is too early in the day to roll out the drums to celebrate his accomplishments, to trumpet his legacy, another school of thought holds that time is of the essence, that we ought to be documenting his achievements ahead of the 16-or-so months remaining of his presidency. Journalism, as it is generally assumed, is history in a hurry, and, therefore, media observers and commentators should, by virtue of their bounden duty, be curating PMB’s Giant Strides on a day-to-day basis. It is also believed that whatever journalists make of his legacy at the present time shall form a major plank of the more sustained academicist assessments of his stewardship.
But it should be conceded that, with over a year left in his administration, anything anyone says about PMB’s legacy will be pre-emptive, premature, and, hence off-the-mark and biased. Is this subjective historiography what we wish to bequeath our progeny? Is this prejudicial lattice-work of educated conjecture that will act as a guide to the past, knowing that the present itself is the unrelenting and ineluctable omnipresence of the past? Some people posit that the time historians and political commentators retire into their studies to pen PMB’s legacy is fundamentally of little moment and immaterial, given the widespread understanding that he himself is no great fan of the word, oral or written, especially of the historical slant. He cannot, therefore, care less about popular opinion or the considered views of historians and public analysts (see Sam Omatseye’s “When Silence Means Contempt”). However, as Fyodor Dostoevsky tells us in his masterpiece, Crime and Punishment, no mortal being is beyond the siren song of flattery.
Unsurprisingly, then, PMB is particularly enamoured of the burgeoning tribe of paid pipers, cheer leaders and hero-worshippers who, like Professor Batey, that pandering don in Wole Soyinka’s play, A Play of Giants, demonstrate unquestioning loyalty to power by promptly dissolving into tears in the presence of their idol. Indeed, the idolatry of power is one of the pastimes of political journeymen and jobbers. And who loves these privileged hangers-on more than Sai Baba?
It is against this complex state of affairs regarding PMB’s cavalier attitude to the verdict of history that I have elected to accommodate myself to contemplate simply an introit, a prolegomenon to his legacy as a civilian ruler. As noted above, the jury is still out on the proper, unbiased assessment of PMB’s scorecard. The playing-field is far from being level and the storytellers far from having a shared view of reality. Thus, depending on who you ask to vouchsafe an opinion on Buhari’s legacy, you are unlikely to get a uniformly unvarying and unanimous verdict on the matter. A welter of variables do intervene in the decision-making process among which include ethnicity, one’s closeness to the cookie-jar, party affiliation/loyalty, class consciousness, social status, and so forth. For instance, would you expect, say, government appointees, Fulani political elite (or even their commoners), APC lotharios and hierarchs, PMB’s e-soldiers and virtual warriors not to eulogise and laud him to high heavens? By the same token, do you expect a PDP member who has been completely side-lined in the parcelling-out of the spoils of office to sing Buhari’s praise? At all events, an average citizen from regions other than Buhari’s is most likely to carpet him. Thus, at the appropriate time, when the historians set about to write about PMB’s legacy, we may surmise that they may consider the following issues, among others as cogent aspects of PMB’s legacy.
The worst aspect of the legacy of PMB’s administration is probably the fact that he is bequeathing his successor a deeply polarised polity with mutual ethnic hate and suspicion running very deep in every citizen. People who used to live together peaceably now regard one another with resentment and animosity. In this regard, the Nigerian egg seems to have broken ungatherably.
One of the things that will be remembered about his rulership long after he will have walked quietly into the night is his trademark lethargic, cavalier attitude to burning matters of public concern. It had taken him six months, for instance, to assemble his cabinet in his first term in 2015. This languid, unhurried predisposition has earned him the unenviable sobriquet “Baba Go-Slow”. Furthermore, the nepotic appointments of his loyalists from the Muslim north will probably rank as one of the lowest points in his score card. Everybody knows or should know that appointments to sensitive Critical National Assets such as the NNPC, NPA, the Army, Navy, Airforce and MDAs should be handled with utmost wisdom and sensitivity in order to preserve the peace and stability of the nation. No, not PMB! On several occasions when he had the opportunity to rectify his previous errors of judgment and lapse of rigour, he would just go ahead and repeat the same grave mistakes, saying that he only appoints those he could “trust” or those “loyal” to him, namely, Northern Muslims, notably his Fulani kith and kin and members of his minuscule CPC.
Again, the Ruse of Change and the Gambit of the Next Level will never be forgotten in living memory. In hindsight, the impression the president seems to have created is that he’s pulled a fast one on his compatriots. When as Candidate Buhari, he had reassured them of having renounced and foresworn his dictatorial predilections and religious fundamentalism. Today, in the light of overwhelming evidence, PMB had ridden to power on the crest of populist propaganda and political demagoguery mounted against President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan; he had thus ridden roughshod over the delicate sensibilities of Nigerians, leaving them holding the short end of the stick. He had counted on his compatriots’ legendary amnesia and myopia, their forbearance and stoicism in the face of unending daunting odds. After having captured power, PMB has left no one in doubt as to his main mission, to wit: to cement a primordial hegemonic agenda. There is no doubt also that PMB sees himself in the mould of Uthman Dan Fodio and Sir Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the late Saudauna of Sokoto. It is this sense of historic mission on his part that has magnetised and charmed the collective imagination of the Fulani across the West African sub-region to look to him as the latter-day Fulani messiah (cf: Nosa Igiebor, “Chronicles of a Failed ‘Messiah’”).
The reluctance to call out bandits as terrorists and the handling of them with kid gloves has left Nigerians scratching their heads in perplexity. It’s cold comfort that only recently the Federal Government declared bandits terrorists, sequel to a High Court ruling. In the same connection, the purported fight against the Boko Haram terrorists has been mired in controversy. Such are the financial malfeasances involving the military High Command that have given rise to mutinous squealings from the rank-and-file as well as the questionable redeployments of ranking officers who had refused to play ball (cf: Wale Okediran’s new novel, Madagali, a scathing exposé on the cloak-and-dagger business known as the war on terror).
Perhaps another major aspect of the legacy of the Buhari years is the scourge of insecurity ravaging Nigeria. To be certain, Candidate Buhari during the electioneering campaigns had promised Nigerians that he would tackle corruption, fight insecurity and improve the economy. But after over six years in the saddle, insecurity has worsened as sundry criminals now run rampant in the country, killing, raping and maiming at will. Vanguard newspaper on January 6, 2022 reported that “Uproar as Buhari kicks against state police”. This is coming on the heels of the general agitation for state police – given the spectacular failure of the present arrangement whereby a state police commissioner cannot act decisively without getting the all-clear from Abuja. In his Channels TV interview, PMB was rattled when the correspondents reminded him that Nigeria’s debt stock which was 12 trillion naira during the previous administration has now risen to 32 trillion naira; inflation rate has risen from 9% pre-2015 to 15% today; unemployment rate that used to be 8.19%, now stands at 33.38%.
Under President Jonathan, the exchange rate was N197 to a dollar; today it’s N400+ to a dollar. Moreover, Federal Government’s deficit spending has risen from 33% to over N7 trillion in eleven months, according to a Channels TV report. Also in an online report captioned “Nigeria stumbles off starting life in 2022”, Dele Sobowale asks: “Are you better off today than in January 2021; or for that matter in January 2015?” He posits, among other things, that Nigeria has been governed by Buharinomics since 2016 and consequently delivers a dismal verdict on Buhari’s policies and programmes. Sobowale strongly argues that Nigeria’s oil revenue can never increase because “Nigerian oil rig count is down”. He thus wonders why it has never occurred to PMB to increase the number of our oil rigs, knowing that without increasing them, it is practically impossible to increase revenue. He notes that “Buharinomics is premised on “borrow-and-spend” policy as the bedrock of economic management. He also bemoans a situation in which MDAs are not remitting money in their kitty to the Federation Account as stipulated by law. He claims that the NNDC and the NPA are particularly remiss in this regard. Thereafter, Dele Sobowale addresses what he refers to as “The Subsidy Bomb”. He says that the so-called “Fuel Subsidy” is a Big Lie! He sees big trouble brewing or seething beneath the surface of things as PMB seeks to frontally tackle the problem in the coming days or weeks with catastrophic consequences.
In spite of the infuriatingly long period of time PMB had taken to inaugurate his cabinet, it is disappointing that his ministers are, for all intents and purposes, a washed-up and lacklustre bunch completely unknown and underperforming save for two or three such as Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rotimi Amaechi and Lai Mohammed who have achieved either popularity or notoriety for a variety of violently divergent reasons ranging from the tolerably noble to the downright ignoble and shameful. From time to time, rumours of coup plotting had swirled, aggravating an already febrile polity. All told, Buhari’s Second Coming will go down as, apart from the Nigeria – Biafra Civil War (1967 – 70), the darkest period in Nigeria’s history so far, a period in which impunity thrived, dissent was brutally muzzled (i.e. The Twitter Ban Saga, EndSars protests, Lekki Shootings etc). Insecurity and serial killings and kidnappings reduced the country to silos of ethnic revanchism and militia warlordism. And happiness fled. To top it all, corruption was finally unshackled as official graft and booty-sharing, carried out deviously under various guises, festered (cf: Yusuf Buhari’s wedding dubbed the “Wedding of the Millennium” was said to have gulped billions of naira, an unfortunate development under the supposed anti-corruption Czar, PMB himself!) Thus, rather than defanging rampaging corruption as he’d promised Nigerians, he’s wittingly or otherwise encouraged corruption! Further, the myth of electoralism has been equally debunked as the electorate has been comprehensively disenfranchised and the sanctity of the Ballot desecrated on the altar of post-election judicial arbitration right in the temple of the law of the land, the Supreme Court. Their Lordships have now usurped the exclusive franchise of the electorate as they now indulged in electoral wheeling-and-dealing. Under these circumstances, their Lordships foisted upon the people the most ineligible and undeserving leaders, for example Hope Uzodinma of Imo State! (cf: Niyi Osundare, “My Lord, Tell Me Where To Keep Your Bribe”)
The erstwhile Giant of Africa, Nigeria, is now a ninny on the continent and a dot in the global circle (apologies to PMB!). His are the painfully protracted years of the locusts and what remains of the polity now is at best a cross between a necropolis and a wilderness. But the living-dead for whom living has become death-in-life must soldier on, hoping for green shoots of renewal and rebirth to sprout from the ashes of the holocaust.
As if to salve his conscience, PMB can point, at least, to few “twinkle twinkle little stars” in the darkening Nigeria skies. Accordingly, he can riposte to his well-intentioned, fact-backed critics that he has completed some of the physical projects, begun under the Jonathan administration; he has also built road-and-rail infrastructure; the Second Niger Bridge is nearing completion; and the poor are being fed and empowered through the NPower, TraderMoni and suchlike. But what do we say of our country lurching frightfully towards a Banana Republic? What do we say about the utter and complete dehumanisation of human life under PMB’s watch? Isn’t loss of life a mere statistic today? What shall it profit a wo/man if s/he gains the whole country and loses his/her life?
The worst aspect of the legacy of PMB’s administration is probably the fact that he is bequeathing his successor a deeply polarised polity with mutual ethnic hate and suspicion running very deep in every citizen. People who used to live together peaceably now regard one another with resentment and animosity. In this regard, the Nigerian egg seems to have broken ungatherably. What’s worse, we now stare at the death of hope, the burial in instalments of patriotism as Nigeria has gradually turned into a nation of hobos, vagrants and flaneurs who now vote with their feet, just drifting, drifting…
For whatever it is worth, PMB has got to undergo an attitudinal change vis-à-vis the verdict of history. History matters a great deal. He needs to properly appreciate the preciousness of time left; the need for urgency in trying to right the wrongs of the past. He has to mobilise his team to redouble their efforts to complete outstanding, on-going projects scattered across the land. He also needs to organise free and fair elections in 2023 and bequeath a peaceful and united nation to his successor. In this regard, he must handle the Sunday Ighoho and Nnamdi Kanu cases with the compassionate wisdom of a statesman. He must promote the rule of law and thus banish impunity. He must strengthen all institutions of state and lay the groundwork for a restructured Nigeria, for a confederation possibly. He must also establish a merit-based social system and endeavour to reintegrate the Igbo into the larger Nigerian polity. As earlier stressed, this article is merely a prolegomenon to the proper, detailed and rigorous assessments of PMB’s stewardship, his legacy. As history in a hurry, this piece serves, it is hoped, as tentative and introital cogitations on PMB’s tenancy at Aso Rock, so far.
Chris Anyokwu writes from University of Lagos