By Ochereome Nnanna
ONE year after General Muhammadu Buhari assumed office as an elected President of Nigeria, majority of Nigerians (especially those who voted for him in hopes of better life than what obtained during the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan presidency) are bitterly disappointed because of the worsening condition of things on almost all fronts.
But there are also many Nigerians who still sympathise with the regime because it came at a time of worsening economic fortunes coupled with sixteen years of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rule, with the usual “rot” that results from a long and unchallenged stay of one political party in power. Such people believe in Buhari, if not in his party or those running the government with him. They are ready to assure you that, given more time, Buhari will eventually pull Nigeria out of the doldrums.
But for me and those who see things the way I see them, I had my reservations about the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the man who emerged president of Nigeria through it. I knew, way back in the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, that Nigeria was suffering under a PDP that stood as the only viable political outfit for the contest for power at all levels. We needed a second party that would rival the PDP and seize power from it when Nigerians wanted change.
The APC, however, came with some regrettable negatives, right from its conceptual roots to its actual formation as a political party. Those who put it together openly calculated that if the Old North’s nineteen states could come together with the old West’s six/eight states, they would have 25/27 states, dethrone Jonathan and his PDP and form the Federal Government.
I reasoned that a political party built as a gang-up of some regions against the others was not the best for Nigeria. Secondly, such a configuration would put the Muslims in such commanding dominance that the delicate balances necessary for peaceful coexistence among Nigerians would stand the risk of being upturned in favour of the Muslims. In that case, people like me who come from a non-Muslim section of Nigeria could be marginalised. Nigerians who are not from the old North and West could be considered irrelevant around the core of governance.
When APC was formed with this unwholesome ideological configuration, it was a great reason to worry. It might not carry everyone along. An ideal political party should cut evenly across the ethnic, regional and religious divides, which will enable it to carry everyone along and give them a sense of belonging. Marginalisation, or fear of marginalisation is at the root of crises and conflicts which have made Nigeria an unstable entity since independence. A political party that stood very good chances of imposing the marginalisation of any section(s) of Nigeria is a bad omen. In terms of the balancing of the federal character of Nigeria, APC was not even as good as the PDP which many were already getting tired of.
However, I held out hope that if the APC was able to find a matured, patriotic and seasoned statesman as its presidential flag bearer, he would not allow the fact that some sections of the country were not well represented at the formative outset of the party to result in their marginalisation. He would be guided by the Federal Character principles in our constitution,and within a little time, win over people from all sections of Nigeria.
But when General Buhari emerged as the presidential candidate of the APC, it was a further reason to worry in case he emerged as the President of Nigeria. A former head of state who accepted to act as the National Patron of a tribal Fulani trade organisation, Minyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) was an ideal person for president of a Nigeria looking for a detribalised leader. A man who, as head of state, nominated a fellow Fulani Muslim (the late Major General Tunde Idiagbon) as his Deputy and filled his 1984 cabinet with overwhelming number of Northerners was not reassuring for those of us who were neither Fulani nor Muslims. And a leader who had openly committed himself to spread of Sharia to all parts of the country was certainly not a welcoming prospect as the President of Nigeria.
But to his credit, a lot of Nigerians believed in Buhari and dismissed those who entertained the aforementioned fears. They insisted he was a man of integrity who would not sideline any part of the country. They said he was the only person who would give Nigeria the desired change. This was the fad that led to the victory of Buhari and the APC in all the elections of 2015. APC replaced PDP as the dominant party, while Buhari replaced Jonathan as the nation’s alpha leader.
Unfortunately, a few weeks after Buhari took over, he confirmed the fears of many Nigerians. When he visited the United States and told an interviewer from a foreign media that he would reward people based on his queer 97%/5% formula (meaning he would give much more to those who voted for him while marginalising those who did not) it was a candid confirmation that he would not run an inclusive government. And in composing the inner circles of his government, he did exactly what he had said. He justified it by saying that those who suffered with him in his years of futile contest for presidency must first be rewarded. One of Buhari’s enduring virtues is his frankness, which sharply contrasts with the doublespeak and deception of a typical General Ibrahim Babangida or Olusegun Obasanjo.
Up till today, Buhari continues to overload the parapets of the Federal Government with Northerners, especially Muslims; and the South-East, where he did not get 25 per cent of his presidential vote, is virtually left out. The same pattern of patronage is reflected in the quantum of infrastructural facilities marked for implementation in the recently signed 2016/17 budget. In doing this, Buhari defied the Federal Character provisions of the constitution. His proverbial “body language” appears to say he can do without those who did not vote him in 2015.
Going into the second year of the Buhari regime, there is still ample opportunity for our President to return to the principles of equity for all irrespective of who voted for him. He should be reminded that the elections of 2015 took place a year ago. He is now the President of Nigeria, not the president of APC, Fulanis, Muslims or Northerners. He is administering the nation with public resources which come from the oil wealth of the Niger Delta, of which South East is a sizeable part. More importantly, a large chunk of the public revenue he is applying to solve the nation’s problems also come from tax-paying Nigerians; and these are not just Northerners, Fulanis, Muslims and APC members.
All Nigerians have a right to benefit from the proceeds of “change” which Buhari promised.