By Ochereome Nnanna
MY people say: “whenever a person wakes up is his morning”. Let me say “Happy New Year” to you on the first outing of this column in 2017. May it be well with all of us throughout this year and beyond. Whether we are friends or foes, we are all Nigerians. Even those agitating for Biafra are still Nigerians until their dream or aspiration comes true.

I am directing a special well-wishing to President Muhammadu Buhari. As you all know, I am not one of his fans; never was, even when he was contesting because I did not see him as the man we needed to move forward after sixteen years of our renascent democracy. Buhari has exceeded the worst of my expectations in at least two directions.

The first is the discriminatory manner he has deployed the armed forces and security personnel to maintain law and order. He has tackled Boko Haram with decisive approach, with visible results, but he unleashed the same army on unarmed and peaceful Biafra agitators, fraudulently branding them “terrorists”. His wrong-headed approach to the Niger Delta conundrum reawakened militancy there, and his deployment of the armed forces to harass innocent villagers in the creeks has not fetched any dividend in calming the treasure base of Nigeria for easy exploitation.

His kinsmen, the heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen (or militia), have unleashed terror on innocent, defenceless indigenous peoples in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria, and he pretended not to hear, see, read or know about it. Instead, when security personnel were deployed they appeared to go to supervise the carnage and provide cover for the murderers against those who might resort to self-defence. I never expected that a Nigerian leader could sink so low at this juncture of our national development.

The second direction was in the war against corruption. Most well-meaning Nigerians support Buhari’s resolve to fight corruption. Almost two years into his tenure, Buhari’s anti-corruption antics have increasingly turned shambolic. It is now obvious that all he wants to do are as follows: (a) grind the opposition into the dust to give himself and his political platform dominant ascendancy, (b) recover as much of the alleged stolen public funds by officials of the immediate past People’s Democratic Party (PDP) regime to fund his governmental activities (c) protect his political acolytes and those former PDP flotsam who have decamped to his political party into order to reinforce objective “A” above.

I had expected Buhari to exhibit zero tolerance to corruption and deal decisively with it even if his children were found culpable. As it is now, if the prayer of the gathering vultures comes true and we lose President Buhari, history will not be kind to him as an anti-corruption fighter.

I don’t think Buhari has done well as an elected president or leader. But I concede that there Nigerians who think differently. As a Christian, I prefer that our President should return to his office as scheduled on Monday, 6th of February 2017, exactly one week from today. I want him to have rested and be strong in spirit, body and mind to continue the work he applied for and was given by Nigerians at the polls in March 2015. A Christian is commanded to pray for his enemies; even wicked rulers, and not to wish them dead. God is saddened when a sinner dies in his sin, but there is great rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents.

I would rather that Buhari returns to work, physically and spiritually fortified to realise the great mistakes he has wallowed in in the past twenty months and mend his ways. I would like him to stop being a president for his “97%” but to also integrate the other “5%” in an inclusive government, obeying the Federal Character demands of the Constitution. I would like him to stop being a mere Fulani President or Arewa President, or Muslim President; to stop protecting the interest of foreign and local Fulani cattle owners while allowing them freedom to continue their armed ethnic cleansing and occupation of indigenous communities. I would like him to be a genuine Nigerian President.

Even if Buhari chooses to continue as before, let him go ahead and live to see how Nigerians sort him out in due time. If he dies now, he will manage to become a hero to some people; the select Nigerians who he had represented as President.

I do not see much justification for the President’s death rumour. The announcement of his vacation contained very precise information: he would be in the UK. While there, he would undergo routine medicals. He would resume on 6th February, 2017. He has handed over to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to act as President, and he has notified the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives of his absence as the constitution requires. Late President Umaru Yar’ Adua’s final medical holiday to Saudi Arabia on 23rd November 2009 was not as neat as this: no dates were attached to anything.

I’d rather wait till 6th February. If Buhari does not return and there is no information as to when he would, then I too will become worried for him.

For now, I see Buhari’s vacation for what his officials call it: a luxury vacation. The President is living an opulent lifestyle in the midst of recession, hunger and suffering among the ordinary people. He is enjoying his old age and the fruits of his four presidential runs. This is evident in the things he and his family members wear, their junkets overseas where they splurge on our scarce foreign exchange. He is running what he calls a government of “Change” but change does not begin with him or those within his immediate orbit.

Last year, Buhari submitted a budget of N3.9 billion for the State House Medical Clinic, which was almost N800 million more than all the Federal-owned Specialist and Teaching Hospitals put together. This was apart from the personal entitlements of officials of the Presidency and their family members. Here is a President whose party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, promised Nigerians that on assuming of power they would abolish “medical tourism” for government officials and channel funds for the massive rehabilitation of our public hospitals. It is up to Nigerians to check if the allocation to the State House Clinic (compared to those given to govern hospitals for the use of ordinary Nigerians) reflected that promise.

It is up to Nigerians to decide whether, after such a huge allocation to the Aso Villa Clinic a “routine” medical check-up abroad is justifiable. Let’s bear in mind that two such “vacations” have taken place within the past six months. Buhari, who was fond of travelling to his hometown, Daura, every other weekend to speak with his cows in those early days when he came to power, now prefers to frequent Europe and America, even in spite of the record cold weather there which is not suitable for elders, especially those needing medical attention.

Buhari and his people are not sharing in the sacrifices of the ordinary Nigerian, going by their sumptuous lifestyle and budgetary allocations to service same. There is little of the “buy Nigeria” mantra around our Presidential Villa tenants. Otherwise, there is nothing that Buhari and his folks go to enjoy in the UK, Germany or America that he cannot find a local substitute for if they believed in patronising local goods and services. This is the area that should be of primary concern to Nigerians.

I have a feeling that those who are expecting Buhari to drop dead soon have a very long, frustrating wait to do. When vultures gather and their objects of interests refuses to die, they will fly away, one after the other.

 

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