By Ochereome Nnanna
SINCE President Muhammadu Buhari formally announced his intention to run for a second time on 9th April 2018, he has always maintained that he will win. Every politician says that, even when they know they do not stand a dog’s chance. Politics apart, Buhari’s performance in his first two years were rather ignominious, though things seem to have picked up lately. His economic agenda had been a grope in the dark, headlined mainly by inchoate borrowings from foreign creditors, especially China.
His anti-corruption war has not fared any better. He has concentrated his efforts on the recovery of funds allegedly stolen during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime, using one of his three musketeers, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Buhari’s anti-corruption war is hinged mainly on intimidation and sensation-mongering through media trials, but with massive failures to convict suspects in the courts. Another index of the failure of the anti-graft war is that it protects those close to the President. Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. David Babachir Lawal, whom Buhari was forced to sack for alleged corruption, is still being shielded from EFCC’s hounds almost a year after. They say they are still “investigating” him. Meanwhile, Lawal’s political protégé and kinsman, Mr. Boss Mustapha, was quickly brought to replace him.
This skewed pursuit of the anti-graft agenda has encouraged many elements of the former ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, who have skeletons in their cupboard to join Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, APC. Though some of them, like Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, are still being tried for corruption, they have joined the APC chorus of calling PDP a party of “looters,” knowing that the demonisation of their party’s main challenger to power is a major strategic handle for the Buhari political front. The Transparency International’s global corruption indicator that Nigeria slipped from 136th to 148th among 180 countries in 2017, was a major blow. Even US President, Donald Trump, told Buhari to his face: “Nigeria has a massive reputation for corruption.”
In spite of the failures of the anti-graft campaign, however, EFCC’s Magu is a big political gun in Buhari’s hand. He is still feared in the opposition camp because they know Magu will not hesitate to go after anyone deemed by Buhari’s political strategists as an impediment to the President’s re-election bid. Magu, a master of the media trial agenda of the regime, recently appeared on Channels Television boldly wearing the President’s campaign badge, forgetting that the EFCC is supposed to be a politically-neutral anti-graft body. Magu, who was saved several times by the Presidency from efforts by the Senate and some of Buhari’s cabal members to get him out, has also just recently completed an eye-popping N24 billion, ten-floor EFCC headquarters. The implication of this is obvious to any Nigerian. Magu is an eager canine ready to charge at the snap of the finger for the president who has protected him in his office.
The third leg of Buhari’s core agenda, security, has also seriously floundered. In fact, the security situation in the country is probably the greatest challenge to the President’s second term bid. After years of reports that Boko Haram had been defeated and that they no longer occupied any territory in Nigeria, their frequent upsurges symbolised by the manner in which the Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted on 19th February and returned on 21st March this year, knocked the bottom out of the regime’s victory claims. Besides, foreign media reports recently affirmed that Boko Haram, along with the Islamic State in West Africa, ISWA, has established a governorate within the Lake Chad area.
Security challenges posed by armed Fulani herdsmen and cattle rustlers have ballooned under Buhari. Though some efforts have been invested in tackling the rustlers in the upper North-West, very little has been done in tackling the herdsmen seeking to expand their Fulani cattle empire in the Middle Belt and Southern states of the country. In fact, President Buhari, as the Life Patron of the herder interest groups, is seen to be shadowboxing the issue instead of taking decisive steps to protect innocent indigenous people as the constitution mandates him. This is where one of Buhari’s musketeers, the Inspector- General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, comes into play.
The Police has been nowhere to be found in efforts to tackle Nigeria’s worsening security headaches. It is the army that is now doing police work in most parts of the country. In spite of the failures of his Force, IGP Idris still bestrides the Police like a colossus. He showed what a difference he can still make in the impending political battle through the systematic disarming of vigilante groups which have been helping the Police to contain violent criminals in communities throughout Nigeria. People have read this to be an attempt to tie the hands of Nigerians behind their backs and prevent them from protecting their communities in the face of Fulani herdsmen attacks.
In spite of the many withering scandals that Idris has endured, he sits pretty as IGP. A Senator, Isa Misau, last year accused him of making N120 billion per year from the posting of policemen to guard VIPs. Surprisingly, the Federal Government partnered with IGP Idris to sue Misau. This contrasts sharply with the drastic action that former President Olusegun Obasanjo took when his IGP, Tafa Balogun, was suspended from office, arrested, tried and jailed for corruption though he had fought like Trojan to help Obasanjo win the 2003 election.
Idris is still in the news for the alleged roles he played in the 2015 election whereby Buhari got one million extra votes in Kano State compared with the number of people who voted in the National Assembly elections. Up till today, tongues are still wagging over the mysterious fire that consumed the Kano State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Mikailu Abdullahi and his family, and the sudden promotion of Idris from Commissioner of Police to IGP when Buhari assumed power. This same Idris openly disobeyed the President when he was asked to go and supervise police operations in Benue State after the New Year Day massacres. Idris is a man to watch out for in 2019, given his exploits in Kano in 2015.
The final musketeer is the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu. The manner in which he was appointed in 2015 after Professor Attahiru Jega’s tenure expired marked him out probably as a man on a mission. Apart from Yakubu, who is personally very highly connected to the Buhari political machine, there is also Hajiya Amina Zakari, obviously the most powerful INEC National Commissioner whom Buhari briefly appointed as Acting Chairman when he came to power.
This INEC is unlike the Jega group which Jonathan appointed following public calls for total independence. Prof. Yakubu was reputed to have served with distinction as the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND. Admittedly, most of the elections conducted under Prof. Yakubu’s hand have been generally above board. But the factor of Buhari bringing people closely linked to him into the electoral umpire unsettles many Nigerians as to INEC’s impartiality when faced with the imminence of his loss of power. What will they do? Will family members stand up for Nigeria or Buhari?
These are some of the uncertainties that are holding back early challengers of Buhari for power. Nobody wants to be a guinea pig for Buhari’s musketeers. But when the dam breaks in a couple of months, it will be a different proposition. When it rains, it will pour.