By Ochereome Nnanna
DURING the presidential campaigns towards the 2015 elections, many people believed that the Cambridge West African School Certificate released by the Katsina College to prove candidate Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s qualification was a “forgery”. Even I wasn’t so sure of its authenticity, many things about it taken into account.
But when you examined the figures recorded as his scores which showed he was a less than average student in academic work, your doubt was a bit doused. An outright forgery would put out Buhari, who had a cult following in Arewa North (and no less in his alma mater) in flying colours.
But we saw a student who failed in Mathematics and Woodwork but managed a Pass in English Literature. He barely scraped through college.
Happily, in most cases, academic scores do not say everything about the prospects of a young person. Many “first class” graduates often find themselves as misfits when it comes to deploying that brain power to solve problems. Some of them are not even effective teachers.
But Buhari, you must admit, went on to be a great success in life. What more is success than when a person rises to the top of his chosen career? How many people have ruled their countries twice, first as military officers and then as elected civilian presidents 30 years later?
As successful as Buhari has been, his childhood academic disabilities appear to have continued to haunt him even as an elected president. You will recall that moment of great national embarrassment when he visited US President, Barack Obama. Buhari was a guest at the US Institute of Peace on July 24, 2015, nearly two months after he assumed power. His performance at that fateful forum essentially confirmed that his Cambridge WAEC “feat” 53 years ago was not a fluke.
A lady journalist asked our new president how he would handle the issue of “inclusive governance”. Buhari was visibly confused. He turned to the moderator of the event, who took about 30 seconds to explain the meaning of this to him before he faced the cameras once again to address it! At that moment, the school certificate saga flashed through minds of millions of Nigerians.
When the President finished telling us how he intended to handle “inclusive governance” he left us aghast. In summary, he told the world that he was not going to run inclusive governance, though he would ensure that whatever the Constitution says he must do he would do it.
He propounded a queer mathematical formula – the now infamous Formula “97%/5%”. In mathematical terms, it should be either “97%/3%” or “95%/5%”. But most Nigerians did not bother to go picking nits on Buhari’s math: they understood what he meant.
He actually went ahead to explain it for avoidance of doubt. He said he would give the lion’s share of the goodies of his government to those who laboured, “made sacrifices” and mobilised voters to install him in power. He described this as “political reality”.
When he started gathering people to form the base of his government who did we see? We saw the President’s kinsmen and women, people of his ethnic or cultural stock, people of the North, mostly Muslims dominating the critical centres of the Presidency, the Federal Bureaucracy (ministries, departments and agencies, especially where a lot of power and money pass through), the electoral umpire, the security apparatus and state agencies of coercion. By the time the constitutionallydecreed sharing of ministerial positions came, Buhari’s “people” had grabbed the pole positions of the Federal Government.
When Nigerians complained, his presidential spin artists said Buhari had “carefully chosen people he knew and trusted” for these strategic posts.
This did not help matters because it simply painted a picture of the President as a man who did not know many people outside his native cultural Muslim North, even after his successful career as a senior military officer, former head of state, former Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund and four-time presidential candidate. It was an indictment that portrayed Buhari as a man not fit to be president of Nigeria.
If Buhari gave strategic kitchen cabinet positions to people he knew and not just his kinsmen and regional acolytes, how come that core All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, purists like Chief George Moghalu were not remembered? Moghalu has been with the political movement that has now become the APC even before Buhari joined politics in 2003.
I remember a former ANPP governorship candidate from the South East who sat in the same car and campaigned with Buhari when the former presidential candidate of the defunct party toured the zone in 2007. He related his experiences to me: “Do you know that three days after the South East tour when we went for a rally in Abuja and I went to greet this man, he did not know me again!” In anger, he left the ANPP for the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
The truth of the matter is that if Buhari cared to know and cultivate people outside Arewa North he had ample opportunities to do so. Olusegun Obasanjo, his co-traveller, cultivated people from across the divides and had no problem at any time forming a broad-based government both at kitchen cabinet and ministerial levels.
Buhari’s apologists were fond of saying that he was right to give powerful positions to those who helped make him president. They were correct, but within reason. He could be justified to return favours, but there is no justification for the exclusion or marginalisation of any part of the country.
There is no doubt that Buhari followed his formula “97%/5%” and gave the North more than its fair share of governmental positions while shutting out the South East. He displayed barefaced favouritism. He even gave more to the South-South which, like their South East neighbours, did not vote for him, while relegating the South West, the region that put him in power, to the background. Even if he can justify sidelining the Igbos for preferring former President Goodluck Jonathan, what about the Yorubas who gave him the alliance and votes that put him in power?
In a civilised, democratic society you do not sideline a section of the country because they did not vote for you. The majority vote you get is to enable you serve the whole country through the implementation of your campaign promises. That a section of the country did not vote for you only means they preferred the programmes or candidate of the party of their choice. The only thing they can lose when you come to power is that you implement your party’s programmes and not those of their preferred party. You do not exclude even your party members because they come from a section where you did not win.
Buhari must be reminded that the presidential office he is occupying belongs to all Nigerians. The public resources he is disbursing belong to all Nigerians and should be used to cater equitably for all, not just his kinsmen and “those he knows”. The Constitution that empowers him to be our president commands that he must give all Nigerians their due and not run the country in a manner that will favour one section more than the others.
Buhari’s “Formula 97%/5%” is unconstitutional, unpatriotic and partly responsible for the agitations for self-determination in the South East and parts of the South-South. The President must put away this evil formula and toe the path of nationalism, patriotism and constitutionalism.
*ON THIS NOTE, I CLOSE SHOP FOR THE YEAR FOR MY ANNUAL VACATION. SEE YOU IN JANUARY 2016. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A FABULOUS, HAPPY NEW YEAR IN ADVANCE!