By Douglas Anele
Supporters and lackeys of President Muhammadu Buhari who repeat ad nauseam that he is an honest man, a man of integrity, either do not really know the meanings of ‘honest’ or ‘integrity’ or are genuflecting praise-singers benefitting one way or another from the fact that Buhari is the President. In the context of our analysis, ‘integrity’ connotes “uprightness, wholeness and purity,” whereas the word ‘honest’ is inextricably connected to positive attributes like being just, fair, candid, free from fraud, truthful, and so on. Now, from a dispassionate and objective point of view, can President Buhari be truthfully described as an honest leader, a man of integrity, especially given what is in the public domain about his activities and utterances from the time he was military head of state to the present?
A few preliminary remarks will serve as our navigator in answering that question. According to media reports, President Buhari’s claim in 2015 that his school certificate was with the Secretary, Military Board, had been debunked by the military authorities. So, despite what some cynics described as an “arrangee” school certificate presented to him at Aso Rock by a top official of West African Examination Council (WAEC), there are still good reasons to suspect that the President may not have the minimum academic qualification for the topmost political office in the country.
Again, in spite of denials by the President himself and APC stalwarts with odious antecedents, some Nigerians who do not believe in him consider him one of the most nepotic leaders in Nigerian history, and rightly so, particularly because of his decidedly pro-North and pro-Muslim pattern of appointments in critical areas of our national life and funnelling of funds from both local and foreign sources to address mostly man-made problems in the north while neglecting the south. In addition, by vying for the presidency in 2015 and 2019, Mr. President not only reneged on his much-publicised pledge not to contest again after he lost for the third time in 2011 but also on his promise to be in office for one term only.
And given the secrecy surrounding the nature of his sickness and extended medical trips to London, which contradict his tough remarks about working assiduously to eliminate medical tourism by top government officials, some Nigerians no longer trust the President. Buhari claimed that late Gen. Sani Abacha was not corrupt; yet, his government eagerly received the infamous “Abacha loot” repatriated by foreign governments. Sometimes President Buhari rashly defends his loyalists facing credible allegations of corruption, or carries on as if the matter is inconsequential, a mere storm in a teacup. Meanwhile, his startling claim that winning the last presidential election is a reward from Nigerians for his good performance and deliberate silence concerning rampant irregularities in that election portray him as a Machiavellian for whom “the end justifies the means.”
More examples can be cited, but the ones presented above are weighty enough to justify the conclusion that any description of President Buhari as a man of integrity and honesty is an exaggeration, a category mistake or an instantiation of what the Austrian analytic philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, described as “language on holiday.” Such description can only make sense if one lowers the standards or parameters for measuring honesty and integrity to a vanishing point, rendering both words superfluous as moral concepts.
With the anything-goes-as-long-as-I-am-in-power attitude of President Buhari and sanctimonious tiresome blame-game of Prof. Osinbajo, it is very likely that the next four years will not be remarkably different from the last four. In my view, the security situation would probably worsen as Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists take advantage of having people of the same Islamist mindset running the security apparatchik of the country. Our economic situation will remain in the doldrums because unquestioning loyalty to the President and the ruling party, ethnicity and cronyism will trump merit in the selection of those to manage critical sectors of the economy.
The fight against corruption has largely become a caricature, an empty slogan used either for harassing opposition members and their supporters or for compelling corrupt politicians to join the APC. There is nothing in the horizon to suggest that the APC government will sincerely revisit the issue of restructuring with a view to formulating a new constitution that would address the fiscal and geopolitical anomalies in the present document. Politicians and other prominent Nigerians who create the impression that it would be extraordinarily arduous to generate a better constitution are intellectually lazy and dishonest. For example, it is very possible to re-examine the 1963 constitution and Aburi Accord and distil provisions that will improve the practice of democracy in Nigeria.
The biggest obstacles to the project of reconstructing the country on the foundation of efficient federalism are members of the ruling power blocks. Their mindset is archaic, retrogressive, and clannish. All of them, from prominent politicians to powerful traditional rulers and those in charge of relevant institutions are hampered by poverty of imagination, myopic egoism, dishonesty and absence of genuine patriotic feeling and will to do what is appropriate for the good of the country as a whole.
Despite sycophantic avowals that President Buhari is a “converted democrat,” one should be sceptical about such claims given his age (which virtually rules out any fundamental attitudinal change), military background and, most crucially, his purist Islamic orientation. On the other hand, since Prof. Osinbajo hero-worships his boss and is unwilling to stop blaming previous PDP administrations and humbly acknowledge the egregious failures of the APC government, there will be very little genuine introspection and critical thinking in the corridors of power in the next four years. Those hoping that Buhari and his cohorts have learnt from their mistakes and would use the second term to correct them are living in cloud cuckoo land. There is nothing to show that the next four years will not be “more of the same.”
Consequently, from the arguments presented in this series, the coroner’s verdict is that democracy in Nigeria is not totally dead yet: it is in deep coma, hanging precariously onto life inside a ventilator. It was born in 1960 with genetic defects whose manifestations have grown worse with time largely because of the polluted political ecology dominated by carpetbaggers, that is, men (and few women) of very low “mental and moral magnitude.” But all hope is not lost. Just as contemporary medical advances have made it possible for well-trained medical personnel to revive patients almost at the point of death, Nigeria’s democracy can be resuscitated if certain urgent steps are taken by well-meaning members of the ruling elite and civil society groups. The most important step is radical reconstruction of the present geopolitical architectonic and the political economy to trigger massive social transformation.
What I am talking about has been adumbrated earlier, namely, restructuring. It is heart-wrenching that the dominant faction of the northern military cum civilian establishment and their southern collaborators have not realised that the 1999 constitution is the biggest stumbling block militating against the development of our country presently. By stipulating a grotesque admixture of federalism and unitary system, that constitution makes northern Nigeria to be so dependent on oil, gas and other sources of revenue from the south, to the extent that what is playing out now is a surreptitious form of internal colonisation.
Tony Nnadi of the Lower Niger Congress and others have articulated reasons why Nigeria must be reconstituted to allow the federating units (I suggest the six geopolitical zones) freedom to exploit their human and natural resources for development without being appendages of an overbearing central government. Unfortunately, myopic selfishness, bulimic greed, pernicious ethnic and religious loyalties and plain stupidity prevent supposedly intelligent and educated members of the ruling class from recognising that the country as currently constituted and governed can never progress in a sustainable manner, and doing what is required to correct the situation.
The history of the United States, to take just one example, demonstrates that the most suitable geopolitical structure for a multiply plural country like Nigeria is a form of political arrangement that permits economically viable units bonded together by historical and cultural ties a reasonable degree of independence in exploiting natural resources and human capital in their areas within the context of a central government whose powers are determined by the federating units through consensus or agreement. We are really wasting valuable time and resources tinkering with the gravely flawed 1999 constitution, in the futile hope that doing the same thing repeatedly will lead to new and better result. That cannot work, for, as Albert Einstein wisely remarked, you cannot solve a problem with the same level of consciousness that created it in the first place.