By Douglas Anele
In less than two months from today, it would be exactly three years since retired Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari achieved one of his strongest ambitions after he was kicked out of office through a military coup in 1985, namely, to rule Nigeria again as a democratically elected President. The feat was made possible with a financially well lubricated campaign machine allegedly funded by some of the most larcenous politicians in Nigerian history. One positive outcome of the 2015 presidential election was that it cut down to size the haughty arrogance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and demonstrated once and for all that in Nigeria it is possible to defeat an incumbent President.
I was one of those who thought (and still do) that all things considered, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was a better presidential material than Buhari. However, making allowances for electoral malpractices by the two leading parties, and that Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) might have outrigged the PDP, majority of Nigerians thought otherwise and chose Buhari instead. Now, judging by the mediocre performance of the current administration when juxtaposed with Buhari’s admittedly overblown reputation for discipline, integrity and zero tolerance for corruption coupled with APC’s highfalutin campaign promises, one can make a plausible case that it would have been better for ordinary Nigerians particularly if Buhari had kept his tearful pledge not to contest again for the presidency after losing to Dr. Jonathan in 2011.
There are some defining moments in Buhari’s journey to Aso Rock which began about three and half years ago. First, a coalition of political carpetbaggers and turncoats (some of whom had earlier excoriated and derided his relentless quest to rule again) joined forces and formed the APC with the sole purpose of capturing federal power from the PDP. Several well-known politicians from the south-west, a region that tendentiously prides itself as the bastion of progressivist politics in Nigeria, combined with reactionary caliphate colonialist elements from the north against Jonathan. Second, “The-anyone-but-Jonathan” slogan orchestrated by Lai Mohammed, Rotimi Amaechi, Bola Ahmed Tinubu among others resonated with a cross section of Nigerians, to the extent that prominent intellectuals and professionals that hitherto criticised Buhari for his dictatorial, clannish and medievalist approach to governance (including the world-renowned playwright, Prof. Wole Soyinka) engaged in acrobatic reinterpretations of facts to support the quixotic claim that Buhari had become “a converted democrat.”
Of course, APC would not have triumphed without help from foreign countries, notably Britain and the United States of America. It has been alleged in certain quarters that David Cameron and Barack Obama decided not to support Jonathan because of the anti-gay legislation he signed into law (as if Buhari, a devout muslim, would have decided otherwise were he the President at that time) and his failure to address the issue of corruption effectively. However, in his book entitled Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years, Chibok, 2015, and the Conspiracies, Bemigho Reno Omokri, a spokesman for Dr. Jonathan, detailed how both local and international conglomeration of forces conspired to remove his principal from office in 2015.
Probably, Omokri’s account is largely true: yet, it cannot be denied that the former President played into the hands of his political enemies by failing to come down really hard on corruption and on the Boko Haram terrorists. Accordingly, the APC capitalised on those failures, deliberately minimised Jonathan’s modest achievements and exaggerated his weaknesses. Again, stalwarts of the party projected Buhari as the messiah, a leader with the credentials and requisite experience to “clear up the mess created by the PDP,” as if all corrupt and incompetent politicians that have held public office since 1999 belonged to the former ruling party, whereas APC members and PDP kingpins who decamped to the APC were not part of the corruption and decay in political leadership.
When President Buhari assumed office in May 29, 2015, he probably did not realise to the fullest extent the gravity of responsibilities that awaited him and the effect his performance (especially if it is negative) would have on his reputation. During the presidential campaigns, he promised, among other things, to ensure adequate security nationwide and reclaim areas captured by Boko Haram, fight corruption to a standstill and revamp the economy.
Like every concerned Nigerian bearing the brunt of incompetent leadership especially since 1983, I have been asking myself the following questions: has my existential condition improved or degenerated since President Buhari’s “second coming”? What is the impact of the APC government on the generality of Nigerians? Given our experiences in the last three years, should the suffering masses be optimistic that their future under Buhari would be better than the present to justify re-electing him or is “changing the change” preferable in 2019? To objectively answer these interlocking questions, it is pertinent to concentrate on the three key areas highlighted earlier because they constitute the centre of gravity for assessing the President and for determining whether his reputation has been bolstered or tarnished after three years in office.
After he resumed work as President and commander-in-chief, Muhammadu Buhari overconfidently proclaimed that the days of Boko Haram and other organised perpetrators of violent crimes nationwide were numbered. Lai Mohammed and the sycophants around Mr. President boasted that Buhari would crush Islamic terrorists and other criminal groups because as a retired senior military officer and former head of state he knows precisely how to accomplish the task expeditiously. It is well-known that in 2001 Buhari, a cattle-rearer himself and patron of the association of cattle-rearers called Myetti Allah, led a delegation of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) that visited late Oyo State governor, Lam Adesina, to complain bitterly about the alleged killing of Fulani herdsmen in Shaki, Oke Ogun area of the state.
Aside from that, President Buhari’s shifting attitudes to Boko Haram terrorism reveal a subtle Machiavellian aspect of his character which most Nigerians tend to ignore. Boko Haram began its deadly nefarious activities around 2005 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the President, a fact traducers of Dr. Jonathan conveniently sweep under the rug. Both deceased President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr. Jonathan failed to decapitate the murderous sect. And with the kidnap of secondary school students from Chibok a few months to the 2015 presidential election, APC, the main opposition party at the time, made the unfortunate event a campaign issue to discredit the PDP government.
The strategy worked; but there were voices of dissent which claimed that the Chibok phenomenon was a ploy by a faction of caliphate colonialists in the north to actualise its earlier threat of making the country ungovernable for Jonathan and that the instrument for carrying it out, Boko Haram, had mutated into a Frankenstein monster. Keep in mind that when the Jonathan administration announced its intention to negotiate with the Islamic fundamentalists, some key members of the current government vehemently opposed it. Meanwhile, according to media reports, Muhammadu Buhari was chosen by Boko Haram to negotiate on its behalf.
As presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari faulted Jonathan’s government for clamping down on Boko Haram terrorists. Buhari who spoke in Hausa before the English version was aired in a Liberty Radio programme, Kaduna, accused the military under Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika of killing Boko Haram insurgents and destroying their houses while Niger Delta militants received special treatment from the federal government.
Additionally, while blaming Niger Delta militants for the deteriorating security situation in the country as at 2014, Buhari vehemently opposed the declaration of state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, hotbeds of Boko Haram’s deadly activities. In December 2011 the sect issued a bulletin in which it stated its mission as follows: “We want to re-emphasise that our main objective is the restoration of sharia legal system in line with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.
We want the Nigerian constitution to be abrogated and democracy suspended and a full-fledged Islamic state established.” It was widely reported that in 2001, at a seminar in Kaduna, Buhari pointedly declared that “I will continue to show openly and inside me total commitment to the sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of sharia in the country.” On his part Lai Mohammed, current minister of information, lambasted Jonathan for proscribing Boko Haram. As spokesperson of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he claimed that “the proscription order, as desirable as it might be in tackling the terrorist organisation, stifles the press and tampers with the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.”
From the foregoing, one can legitimately question the genuineness of the onslaught against Boko Haram by the present administration. To be continued.