By Douglas Anele
For some time now, I have been discussing the demystification of President Muhammadu Buhari in the form of a critique of his reputation as a man of integrity and incorruptibility. The conclusion I reached is that Buhari and Buharimaniacs have overestimated his leadership capabilities because an objective assessment of his utterances, conduct, and responses to issues of national concern in various public offices he had held from the time he was a military governor to now that he is President would score him somewhat below average.
Of course, Lai Mohammed and others benefitting from the current ghoulish system would not agree with that conclusion. Yet, from certain indications nationwide, it is becoming increasingly clear particularly to majority of those who supported Buhari in the 2015 presidential election and chanted “Sai Baba” like a new national anthem that they probably miscalculated: the retired soldier in whom they reposed so much hope and expectation as the messiah that would crush corruption and kick-start the process of making Nigeria great again has turned out to be a huge disappointment.
Some people may argue, correctly, that I am concentrating too much on the President, and that my essays are too critical. But given his position as head of state and commander-in-chief, the number one citizen of Nigeria occupying the most powerful political office in the land, his pronouncements and activities must be constantly subjected to ratiocinative scrutiny because of their consequential impact on Nigerians. As for being too critical, it must be remembered that President Buhari has a battalion of sycophants and alleluia chorus boys and girls singing his praises all the time, telling everyone that he is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria since the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities.
Besides, criticism is the lubricant of democracy without which democratic governance would mutate into autocracy. The President is making unnecessary mistakes which should be pointed out in the hope that he would avoid repeating them in future. To be candid, considering his age and intellectual limitations, If I were Buhari’s daughter or son, I would have advised him not to go into politics at all, not to talk of contesting for the presidency in 2015 especially after three failed attempts and his recent declaration of interest in re-election. In my opinion, what a man of his age and experience needs right now is peaceful retirement away from the push-me-I-push-you stresses of political office and relentless criticism.
Unfortunately, probably because of messianic delusions or the quest to actualise the utopia of caliphate colonialism articulated as far back as October 1960 by late Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Buhari doggedly stuck to his ambition to lead the country once again to the extent of seeking re-election next year: but in doing so he has seriously compromised his reputation by cavorting with some of the most larcenous politicians in Nigerian history.
A handful of prominent Nigerians who claim to know President Buhari personally aver that since he assumed office in 2015, he has changed into someone else, that he is no longer the forthright patriot they used to know. They also maintain that he has good intentions for the country – as if Nigerians should be grateful and leap for joy because of that – but could not just understand what was happening. Such disclosures reveal poor judgment of character and fixation with the short-lived War Against Indiscipline (WAI) programme Buhari implemented when he was military head of state ably assisted by his ascetic deputy, Brig. Tunde Idiagbon.
In my opinion, the core personality traits of Buhari have not really changed since that time. What has happened is that since he was overthrown, those traits had blended with significant experiences in his life to produce who we have now as President. Therefore, only someone befuddled by irrational attachment to the Buhari myth would fail to notice that, in spite of being the President in a democratic government, Buhari has not, and cannot, wean himself completely from deep-seated habits and messianic complex which constitute part of the fundamental architecture of his personality.
One of the reasons why the President sometimes comes across as aloof and somewhat arrogant is his reluctance to acknowledge mistakes and accept responsibility for them as a sign of inner strength and willingness to learn lessons appropriate for a leader particularly in a democratic system where accountability from public office holders is of primary importance. For example, Buhari since he became President has been making several uncomplimentary remarks in foreign countries about Nigerians and their purported proclivity for corruption which would likely have negative impact on the country.
Shortly after his inauguration, he claimed that he met an empty treasury, that the immediate past administration was incomparably corrupt and, lately, in London in the presence of leaders from other member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, that a lot of Nigerian youths are indolent and undereducated, with unrealistic expectations of entitlement because Nigeria is an oil-producing country. These remarks by the President are, to put it charitably, dubious and totally uncalled for. One does not need to be an economist to know that the claim of meeting an empty treasury, if taken literally, is completely false.
Even if there was no single kobo in all the places where monies belonging to the federal government are domiciled by the time Dr. Goodluck Jonathan handed over, does it mean that all the revenue-generating ministries, agencies, departments, and parastatals of the federal government stopped operating after the 2015 elections? The way I see it, the fake news that Jonathan left nothing for the incoming administration is a disingenuous excuse by the Buhari government to explain away failure to fulfil its highfalutin campaign promises to Nigerians. No wonder, then, that the President and his lieutenants seem fixated with what one might describe as the Jonathan Complex, that is, the easy resort to blaming Dr. Jonathan for all the problems the country is facing right now.
On the issue of corruption, everyone knows that it is a worldwide phenomenon; the main difference is its scope and methods of combating it. Moreover, corruption is not restricted to wicked bulimic stealing of public funds and assets by government officials and politicians; it also includes deliberate deception of the public with fake news, nepotism, scapegoatism, refusal to obey court orders, discriminatory treatment of individuals and groups based on ethnicity and religion, disrespect of the constitutional, lack of transparency and other abuses of power and public trust by leaders.
The present government is probably guilty of all this, but has chosen to concentrate almost exclusively on the financial aspect of it committed during the presidency of Dr. Jonathan while creating the misleading impression that everyone, including the President himself, his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and those they appointed to various positions are completely above board. Now, going by the single-minded determination of this government to discredit the last administration, it is not surprising that horrifying allegations of financial impropriety have been made by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against some of Dr. Jonathan’s key appointees. Certainly, most Nigerians would want looters of the treasury to face justice.
However, the discriminatory manner in which President Buhari appears to be fighting corruption by ignoring elephantine corruption committed between 1970 to 2009 is detrimental to his efforts because it weakens the credibility of, and public trust in, the programme. Again, unknown to Buhari’s propagandists, the so-called looters lists from the minister of information confirm the allegation that the President is misusing the apparatus of power to hound and intimidate members of the opposition, while overlooking whale-sized corruption allegedly committed by political turncoats who funded his expensive presidential campaign with looted funds. The lists contain names of prominent members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whereas the names of others with stinking reputation for corruption who founded the APC or decamped to the ruling party from other parties were conspicuously missing.
To be continued…