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Buhari and Nigerias leadership deficit

By Dele Sobowale

“Leadership is the ability to define issues without aggravating the problems.” Warren Bennis. 1980.

For the last four weeks, President Buhari has exposed more of his leadership deficit than ever before. Hitherto, a relatively silent Head of State, compared to the likes of Donald Trump, Nigerians had assumed that “silence is golden”. Increasingly, with Buhari, it is becoming more obvious that “it is better to remain silent and be considered a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

His explanations about killer herdsmen which have ranged from blaming the victims for not accommodating the murderers, to blaming Gaddafi and political opponents, point to a President who has no clue regarding the solution to the most urgent problem of recent times.

Politicians are their own grave diggers”. Will Rogers, 1879-1935.

When great American humorist Will Rogers made that remark, he never had a fellow called Muhammadu Buhari in mind. But, any observer of the national political scene cannot help thinking that the Nigerian President is doing a good job of digging his own political tomb. God knows there are enough political foes eager to carve out a vault for him in the politicians’ graveyard of yesterday’s men. But, he appears to want to do it himself – with help from his advisers and “yes-men” who applaud even his most disturbing utterances and conduct.

In 2015, herdsmen did not feature in the political debate because they did not exist then as a terrorist group. Boko Haram was the menace and President Jonathan paid dearly for not addressing it adequately. Today, herdsmen have overtaken Boko Haram as the nation’s top security problem and the President, as well as the Police and Army, are all but suggesting that they are protecting them instead of declaring them a terrorist organization.

In the process, because most of them are Fulani Muslims, Buhari has, one way or the other, plunged into a self-dug hole. Today, it is almost impossible to find a Christian outside Aso Rock and top APC officials, who would vote for Buhari on account of his perceived religious discrimination as evidenced by the benign neglect with which his government has treated attacks on Christians by Boko Haram and now herdsmen.

I was in two South South states last week in a bid to get the elected officials there to attend the ATTAH ON RESOURCE CONTROL book launch. Unfortunately, the launch date coincided with the day all Nigerian governors were gathered in Abuja with their “begging bowls” for revenue allocation. Nothing on earth should convince all of them of the need for restructuring more than that. American governors don’t assemble in Washington DC every month to share money because each state controls its own revenue. But, my trip to the two states revealed no single person I met who would be willing to vote for Buhari for second term.

Their main reason is Fulani herdsmen, who, they believe, rightly or wrongly, are being encouraged to commit atrocities. Christians constitute close to half the voters in Nigeria. How a presidential candidate can hope to win when he starts out by giving away almost half the votes to his opponents is a mystery.

The youths who, according to him, represent sixty per cent of Nigerians, and the eighteen to thirty years old group which may also account for close to half of the number, were the subject of uncharitable remarks by the President in London. As usual, Buhari’s less than brilliant spokesmen have totally missed the point. Close to fifty-four million Nigerians are in that age bracket. Granted, not all of them will register to vote and not all of them will vote against Buhari, but the more politically aware are now dead set against a President who is now blaming them for the sins of the elite which Buhari represents. More votes have been thrown away carelessly on account of careless talk by a leader of the people.

“Hypocrisy is the homage paid by vice to virtue.” Rochefoucauld.

When Obasanjo resumed office in May 1999, one of his first acts was to commit an impeachable offence by authorizing the release of N10 billion for what turned out to be a fraudulent Poverty Alleviation Programme, PAP, without the approval of the National Assembly, NASS. Till today, there is no report anywhere accounting for the N10 billion and Nigerians became poorer under Obasanjo. Anticipatory approval as the measure was called was unconstitutional and no President of the USA or France could have got away with it.

The only Senator who made an issue out of it was Senator Arthur Nzeribe of the opposition party ANPP. Nzeribe’s attempt to move a motion for impeachment of Obasanjo was turned down by the Senate in which the PDP had more than two thirds majority. But, Obasanjo was warned never to repeat it. But, he did many times without penalty. The PDP thus condoned deliberate illegality and established a precedent which Buhari has recently made use of.

Last week, in a brazen act of lawlessness, Buhari wrote to the NASS stating that “I granted anticipatory approval for the release of $496,374,470 (about N151bn). This was paid directly to the Treasury of the United States Government.  I am therefore writing seeking approval of the Senate for the sum…to be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill, which the Senate is now finalizing.”

It is either Buhari cannot understand the simple words in the constitution of Nigeria which he swore to uphold or he was being deliberately mischievous. Nothing in the Nigerian constitution gives the President the power to spend a kobo without prior approval from the NASS – not even his alibi which stated that “Recently, approval was granted by the United States of America Government, but with a deadline, within which down payment must be made otherwise the contract lapses.”

In other words, the US as seller, is asking Buhari as buyer to violate Nigeria’s constitution and risk impeachment or there is no deal. No American president or even the president of any country with a modicum of national pride would accept such conditions and act on them. So, the President got himself into this mess because he was not clever enough to act presidential.

As Senator Uroghide (PDP, Edo South) said when the President’s letter was read by Saraki: “What you have just read to us violates these [Sections 80 (1) (2) (3) and (4) of the constitution] provisions. Mr President couldn’t have ever, and no Nigerian citizen that is up and active under the provisions of constitution is allowed to make any disbursement or any approval coming from any quarter, whether it is by the Council of State of the Federation or the committee of governors or anybody in the presidency, without approval or appropriation from this Assembly.” Senator Uroghide fell short of calling for impeachment of Buhari.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives were in a darker mood about the letter. Some are already calling for the impeachment of the President for deliberate violation of the constitution. Whether they succeed or nor, the NASS is again likely to experience another round of hostile, if not violent sessions on account of Buhari’s misconduct. The sad part of it is the fact that this confrontation is totally unnecessary. The least thing a President whose popularity is nose-diving needs is a fight with his adversaries in the NASS.

At the very least, the error of judgment it entails might result in further delay for the passage of the 2018 budget which is already heading for May. In the end, what Nigerians are seeing is a President with deeply flawed judgments – like a tennis player committing un-forced errors and escalating problems everywhere in the land.

Has age got anything to do with it? Osinbajo made a general statement that age is not important. But, science is not on the Vice President’s side. Even the most intelligent people demonstrate decreasing capacity for everything as they age. Thinking is one of them. Learning is another. Those who were not top grade students to begin with get worse…


“The military is strategizing on how to go after the herdsmen and their sponsors. We will get both the herdsmen and their sponsors.”

Brig. Gen John Agim, Director Defence Information, April 26, 2018.

If you believe the military spokesan then you will believe anything. The Minister of Defence and the Inspector General of Police are on record for blaming the genocide committed by herdsmen on the states which passed anti-grazing laws. The stupidity of that statement was soon exposed when the murderers invaded Plateau State whose less than astute governor joined in castigating his colleagues in Taraba and Benue. Since then, the invaders have visited death on people in at least six states – none of which passed any anti-grazing law.

When your security forces are headed by incompetent people it will be foolish to rely on them for your safety. Only accomplices of murderers will oppose Danjuma…



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