By Ochereome Nnana
WHEN President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn a year ago, he went to America to thank President Barack Obama for backing him and solicit his support for his administration.
Before he arrived there, an article under his byline appeared on the OP-ED of Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on 13th June 2016 entitled: “The Three Changes Nigeria Needs”. He pledged to fight corruption adhering strictly to the rule of law, which is a trite component of democratic rule. He also promised to “rebalance” the economy through diversification and by so doing reduce to the barest the root causes of insecurity.
When he travelled there in July, he also made a flurry of media outings and sufficiently gave the American leadership, the American people and media reasons (and the arsenal) to hold his unfolding new regime to account.
Four months later, Bruce Fein, wrote an angry article in The Washington Times on 18th November entitled: “Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari Dupes the US” (his own very words). It was an irreverent tongue-lash: “With the glitter of a fool’s gold, Nigeria’s recently elected President Muhammadu Buhari arrived in the United States in July uttering time-worn democracy vows to President Barack Obama and his administration. Among other things, he pledged at the United States Institute for Peace to combat graft with procedures that would be fair, just, and scrupulously follow due process and the rule of law as enshrined in our constitution”.
Fein reviewed the brutally revanchist persecution of Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser (NSA) who had effected Buhari’s arrest after he was dethroned in 1985. Dasuki was charged with gun-running and held for allegedly misappropriating $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of military equipment. Fein’s beef was like that of most of us: he was not opposed to Dasuki being brought to account for his alleged misdeeds. He was livid with the President over the systematic and serial abuses of due process and the rule of law which portrayed Dasuki’s trial as anything but fair and just.
The same President who disapproved Dasuki’s request to travel abroad under guard for cancer treatment just came back from London for a ten-day medical tourism over an ear infection! When he returned penultimate Sunday, he was given a lavish reception (much like Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem), complete with the Nigeria Army’s new bag-piper squad (I call them the Black Scotts of Nigeria). Talk about empty treasury!
Fein was not to know that Dasuki was only an experimental model of what was to become a regime staple imported from 1984/85. More people have since joined the league of senior officials of Buhari’s predecessor regime who are being treated like Dasuki: Olisa Metuh and Femi Fani-Kayode, with Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose’s personal account illegally frozen without the requisite court warrant. Also, the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Daniel Kanu, is being held in spite of court orders to release him on bail. The leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (the Shiites), Ibrahim el Zakzaky, has been put away in an unknown location without access to his lawyers, doctors and family members after about 500 of his disciples were killed/buried by the Army last year. Also, non-violent IPOB and other unarmed Biafra agitators have been massacred in Aba, Onitsha and other cities in the South East and South-South during peaceful protests asking the Buhari regime to obey court orders in the trial of Kanu. Hoekstra did not mention these.
Now, let me bring him on. Pete Hoekstra is a former member of the United States Congress who headed its Intelligence Committee. He has also been a Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan and the Senate of the United States. So, Hoekstra is no mean personality and cannot be labelled by pro-regime e-rats as a paid critic. Unlike Bruce Fein, Hoekstra apparently waited for the Buhari regime to clock a full year in power before entering a withering verdict against it. And he chose the same Wall Street Journal (WSJ) OP-ED. He wrote in the newspaper’s 16th June 2016 edition an article he judgementally headlined: “Buhari Is Nigeria’s Problem, Not Its Solution”.
Hoekstra responded to Buhari’s earlier 13th June 2015 article against the background of his performance in the past year, writing him off without a single redemptive word in his favour. He accused Buhari’s regime of inflexibility. He said it “lacked vision” (what All Progressives Congress, APC, megaphones used to call “clueless” when former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power). Hoekstra added that it was “reactive” in approach, which is what regime that have no ideas or plans do all the time. Like Fein, Hoekstra referred to the selective anti-graft fight which only targets high officials of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while many members of the ruling party (including some of them in Buhari’s cabinet members who have been indicted for corruption) are allowed to walk free. In fact, the Chairman of Buhari’s anti-graft Advisory Committee, Professor Itse Sagay, had recently declared that there was no evidence that anybody in the ruling party was corrupt!
So, for Hoekstra, Buhari’s promise to build trust has proved a fallacy, not just because of the selective anti-graft war that is obviously meant to weaken the PDP and pave the way for an easy second term ride for him in 2019 whether he performs or not. It is also a big flop in another area that Hoekstra only mentioned in passing: the spread of insecurity to the South. While the war on the Boko Haram terrorists appears to have settled to a stalemate in Sambisa Forest after an initial surge, new fronts of security threats have opened. The one that claims the prime attention of the regime and world at large because it is bleeding the economy is the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta, where a new group, the Avengers, has been dynamiting our oil industry infrastructure with little response from our security forces.
But the insecurity that Buhari prefers to pretend as if it does not exist is the marauding raids of armed Fulani militias all over communities in the Central and Southern zones of Nigeria, which made a Category 5 upsurge in the past one year. They are called “herdsmen” only because they lead cows, but they are killing, raping, robbing, kidnapping, invading, occupying communities and creating new camps of displaced persons just like Boko Haram.
These are Buhari’s kinsmen, and he is the Grand Patron of the umbrella body of cattle herders/owners, the Minyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN. They operate much the Sudan Janjaweed, who were also herdsmen armed by Omar Al Bashir’s government to raid farming indigenous Negroid communities, especially in the Darfur. Even though Buhari might not have armed these bandits, he says they are foreigners, as if that is an excuse for his failure to crack down on them and protect Nigerians as the constitution binds him to do.
Since the President was forced to order these hoodlums apprehended, there is little evidence to show that concrete action is actually being taken as we see in the crackdown against the Shiites, IPOB and defencelss civilians in the oil-producing communities where soldiers invaded in search of The Niger Delta Avengers.
It is not just the economy which, Hoekstra rightly noted, that is being run aground with archaic statist policies that are driving away investors in droves and exacerbating the unemployment situation; it is also the national fabric that is giving way at the seams as a result of extreme nepotism and marginalisation.
Thank God, it is not just Nigerians that are telling Buhari’s story to his face. The world that he sought to bring on board is indeed on board. We will mark Buhari’s exam papers together.