By Douglas Anele
Considering the case being built about President Buhari and Boko Haram and the former castigation of former President Jonathan’s attacks on the terrorist latter, let us consider the Chibok and Dapchi abductions, in which hundreds of secondary school girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, the release of majority whom had attracted praises for the President mostly from his lackeys and APC stalwarts. A lot has been said and written on this intriguing subject, and some interesting conjectures have gained ground due to what some say is the stage-managed character of the events in question.
In my opinion, the staggered release of the kidnapped Chibok girls, most of whom looked better fed and clothed than ordinary suffering Nigerians, indicate that throughout the period they were in captivity the girls could not have been in Sambisa forest where Boko Haram elements were reported to be under constant bombardment by the Nigerian army and air force. Instead, it is very likely that they were kept in a safe house by those who abducted them pending when it would be auspicious for the victims to be released batch by batch for maximum leverage in negotiations with government and also convince critics of Mr. President that the APC administration has achieved what the immediate past administration could not accomplish.
Concerning the Dapchi girls, the arangee character of that kidnap was blown wide open after Amnesty International announced that the military was forewarned about Boko Haram’s plan to strike again, but the army withdrew from Dapchi less than a week or so before the kidnap actually happened. When the abducted girls were released a month later, they were carrying bags, as if the kidnappers went shopping with them! In my view, the logistics of moving hundreds of girls across many kilometers in a volatile area supposedly under heavy security without any intervention by law enforcement agencies, including the army, reinforces the belief that the abductions were stage-managed to achieve certain objectives depending on who was involved.
Thus, for Boko Haram kidnapping school girls in the educationally backward northern Nigeria has become a lucrative business which also furthers its primitive agenda of abolishing western education amongst muslims. For President Buhari and the APC, it provides another opportunity to lampoon the immediate past administration. Interestingly, my position is corroborated by Shehu Sani, the maverick senator from Kaduna state, who claimed that members of the northern ruling elite cannot openly criticise President Buhari’s handling of Boko Haram because they do not want to be seen by fellow northerners as being against one of their own.
That said, in spite of the self-indulgent triumphalist pro-government rhetoric on this issue by sycophants such as Festus Keyamo, Orji Uzor Kalu, Lai Mohammed, Garba Shehu and others, there is no doubt in my mind that the kidnap of girls receiving western education in the north has become an instrument of power politics for those Chinweizu called caliphate colonialists – the Chibok kidnap to push Dr. Jonathan out of office while its Dapchi version was meant to bolster Buhari’s sagging messianic reputation and enhance his electability in 2019. Even the increasing wave of audacious attacks by so-called Fulani herdsmen in different parts of the country may not be unconnected with their conviction that they would be protected because a President who has over the years shown himself to be a defender of Fulani interests is now in charge. Meanwhile, other manifestations of insecurity such as armed robbery, ritual killings and ethno-religious conflicts have actually gained traction since Buhari became President.
It is really disturbing that prominent members of the APC from the south-east have not challenged President Buhari’s northernisation of the governing security architecture of the country, a situation made worse by his total neglect of the geopolitical zone in the process. In a multiply plural country such as ours, occluding any zone or ethnic group from the highest decision-making levels of governance, particularly on matters concerning security, is inimical to national security and unity.
Clearly, because of the President’s lopsided appointments, anytime a meeting is called to discuss national security at the highest level, the south-east would not be represented: no wonder, then, that the army carried out Operation Python Dance with ruthless efficiency and brutality without due regard for the feelings of Igbo people. In this connection, it would be mission impossible for anyone to convince Ndigbo that Buhari is sensitive to their concerns as a people the way he is to the interests of his Fulani kinsmen, notwithstanding the Buhari-is-a-friend-of-the-Igbo shibboleths from Rochas Okorocha, Loretta Onochie and Osita Okechukwu.
Let us be clear about one thing: despite my misgivings regarding the ambivalent attitude of President Buhari and key members of the northern establishment towards Boko Haram, the fact that the group has lost areas it controlled before the present administration came to power is commendable. But the sect has not been “technically defeated,” “routed,” or “completely degraded.” So, the purported advantage of having a retired military head of state as President to take charge of national security is yet to be noticed by most Nigerians. Boko Haram is alive and kicking, armed robbers, kidnappers and ritual murderers are still terrorising our people with impunity. Considering all this, one must admit that the mystique of Buhari as a terror to “the bad guys” has almost completely evaporated.
The next issue is the economy. Buharimaniacs hypnotised or befuddled by the cult-like following of the President tend to portray him as a disciplined and frugal man bereft of the destructive primitive bulimic tendencies characteristic of our leaders since independence. But the question is: based on a dispassionate assessment of President Buhari’s track record as military head of state and former chairman of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), is that portraiture justified? Is there any good reason for hope that the country’s economy will improve under the leadership of this President?
For millions of Nigerians (including this columnist) whose economic fortunes have been going down since May 29, 2015, the answer to both questions is a resounding “No”! Remember, in 1984, Maj. Gen. Buhari implemented a centralised command-and-control economic paradigm which stifled growth in the real sector, discouraged capital inflow from both local and foreign investors, and created turbulent disequilibrium in the macroeconomic variables that serve as engine room for the economy.
His attempt to restructure the economy by placing strict limits on government expenditure, scrapping of external borrowing, counter-trade, pegging of the exchange rate at one naira to a dollar and fifty cents, and changing the colours of different denominations of the naira among others did not achieve the desired results for the simple reason that they were the wrong medicine for Nigeria’s ailing economy at the time. Buhari rejected the economic measures proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and, instead, implemented a radioactive cocktail of austerity measures that led to massive retrenchment of workers and spiraling inflation.
Many industries closed down because they could not access foreign exchange to import essential raw materials and equipment, while price controls imposed on essential commodities led to severe scarcity of those products in the market. According to experts in economic management, what Nigeria needed was an expansionist economic blueprint that would reflate the economy, boost investors’ confidence, create jobs for the teeming population of unemployed youths and enhance the purchasing power of Nigerians.
Overall, Buhari’s economic team, if there was anything like that at the time, lacked creativity and technical knowledge needed to pull Nigeria out of economic black hole because it seemed not to understand that the complex mechanisms which determine the economic fortunes of countries are not subject to the ad hoc jackboot methods of military regimentation.
What about Buhari’s performance in PTF? Now, if Buhari’s management of PTF from 1994 to 1999 when it was disbanded is anything to go by, then Nigerians are in serious trouble. Perhaps, the main reason late Gen. Sani Abacha dredged up Buhari from retirement and asked him to manage the fund was his reputation as a strict disciplinarian who would ensure prudent and efficient management of funds that accrue to the body. Unfortunately, the high expectations on Buhari were sorely disappointed: not only was there lopsided execution of PTF’s projects in favour of the north, elephantine corruption unearthed by the interim committee mandated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to probe the trust fund puts a big question mark on the capacity to manage efficiently and productively a complex non-military project or institution.
To be continued…