By Obi Nwakanma
I am stuck between the options this week of responding to two very poignant developments in the life of this Buhari administration. First, is about Mr. Garba Shehu, the President’s own “Goebel,” whose very ludicrous claims about Buhari’s achievements as president set Nigeria’s blogosphere wagging last week. Even right inside his marrows Mr. Shehu knows that he has told a great fib when he asserts that Buhari has spent four years in office “without a scandal.” Is this a joke? The entire Buhari era is a scandal! Oil revenue disappearing through the black holes.
Billions of dollars found hidden in flats occupied by Buhari officials. Contract scandals involving Buhari’s Secretary to government. Many more. The scandal of nepotism, which has taken the talk, “family affair” to new heights. Garba Shehu would not insult the sensibility of traumatized Nigerians with his statement released to the press last week that Buhari has fought corruption if something is not wrong somewhere.
Buhari has not fought corruption. Buhari has given corruption in Nigeria a new cap. It may now wear a cap from Daura but it is still corruption. Buhari has not moved Nigeria beyond the infrastructural projects started and completed in part by the Jonathan administration. Buhari has mired Nigeria in only four years, in debt beyond what the PDP administration committed it to in sixteen years. The National security situation has worsened in the last four years of Buhari, so much in fact that only this past week, the Emir of Kastina cried out in alarm and frustration to the governor, begging for security protection, from bandits, marauders, Boko Haram and the ISIS West Africa, all of whom have grown wings since Buhari became president. Nigerians know, and cannot be fooled by Garba Shehu’s contumacious claims about this president.
Nigeria conducted the worst election, the most brazen theft ever made of public mandate under the Buhari administration, and this president has not only failed to live up to the expectations of the ordinary voters who swarmed to him in the North in 2015; those ordinary voters, who bought the ruse about a “strong leader” who will “do justice to ordinary folk” have since found much to their chagrin that they were sold a carefully crafted dummy.
Those same “common people” of the North – the poor and woebegone will soon make the rain that will beat all those who hide in the sheltered Rocks of the presidential office to mock suffering Nigerians with insensitive, self-adulatory claims. A reckoning is coming. And dare I say, Mr. Garba Shehu knows exactly why he is putting out this kind of misrepresentations of the actual realities of the Nigerian situation under Buhari. I think he could feel it right inside his bones that Nigeria is unraveling under this president faster than they could anticipate. The Buhari presidency is struggling with a massive legitimacy problem given the very tepid reception to his so-called victory in the last presidential elections. Even Garba Shehu ought to know that Nigerians do not think Buhari has their mandate. Many think the mandate stolen in an election that saw the spill of too much blood. And given the electoral map as we even know it, Buhari did not receive a national mandate. He is not a national leader. He is the president with the least broad acceptability of any president of Nigeria. The Buhari era will pass, certainly, and he will disappear into history as Nigeria’s worst political leader.
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But he would have destroyed the fundamental balance installed in the founding ideas of the Nigerian state to make nation-building possible and tolerant. His precedents will haunt this country. And talking about precedents, I think Nigerians feel two powerful emotions this week between outrage, and the kind of frustration that drives people to utter silence and credulity. What, with the alleged announcement this week by the Minister of Defence, Mr. Danbanza, a former military General and Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria, that the Buhari administration has negotiated to pay N100 billion of tax payers money to the Killer Herdsmen to commit them to stop killing and kidnapping.
Again, for a moment, I thought this was a joke! First, does this decision to pay off killers have any legislative backing? Since all government security budgets must be cleared by the National Assembly, any payment from the national coffers made to the Fulani killer herdsmen will be unfunded mandate and illegal. But perhaps it will come from what we call the “Security Votes” of the president? Then in fact, time has come to really, finally eliminate and end this illegal, unconstitutional, corrupt use of public money. A sort of “commie” for the executive.
However, Nigeria is the only nation in the world with a “security vote” – a slush fund, unaccounted for at the disposal of the executive body – with no legal or financial oversight. This is not only dangerous use of national resources it is abetting corruption, and it creates a dark loophole in public finance and expenditure.
Security votes normally must be properly accounted, and such special, “dark money” must be placed by special budgeting procedure under the trust of the three branches: the Legislature (through the National Security oversight Committees of the House and the Senate), the Executive branch, through the office of the President’s National Security Adviser, and the Judiciary, through the Attorney General’s Office.
The use of the slush fund, or what we call “Security vote,” must be scrutinized specifically by a special branch of the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation. Such a security vote, deployed as “slush fund” or “special security operations fund” must be kept distant from the office of the president to effect what is often called “deniability,” because the president of Nigeria must never be associated, even if he authorizes under special circumstances, the elimination of a unique national security threat, after all strategic consultations, by means that might compromise the integrity of the office of the president, or any office of the executive branch of the federation.
Now, I do not consider the decision to pay Fulani killer herdsmen N100 billion by the Nigerian government through the Ministry of Internal Affairs a legitimate means of dealing with that threat. It amounts to handholding and appeasement of the worst kind. The president’s supporters have compared it with the amnesty program of the Yar Ardua/Jonathan administration of the Niger Delta. First, it is not. Secondly, the situation is markedly different. Thirdly, even many of us had disagreed with that move by that administration because we concluded that the long term effect will only encourage greater, more brazen criminality. It would put money in the hands of war lords, and the Niger delta would become mired in endless violence because there will be money to get more guns by criminal gangs.
Events in the Niger delta have since borne out this position. What the Buhari administration is doing is providing money to the Fulani to buy more arms, and conduct greater rampage, using methods of direct occupation with arms procured with the Nigerians people’s money paid as ransom. Nigerians must as a matter of urgency rise to resist this extremely dangerous development, even if it means all citizens arming themselves by all means necessary to defend the Nigerian space.
Nigerians must not accept for an elected government to pay war tax or ransom to the killers of Nigerian citizens. It would be damn right evil! It is enough time already for Nigerians to stop sitting on the sidelines wringing their hands, and watching this president mortgage the security of this nation on the altar of expediency, and on the conduct that is increasingly a strange, unaccountable strategy inconsistent with Nigeria’s National Defence policies. Here is the implication of this move to pay off the killers of Nigerian citizens: one, it marks the dead-end of Buhari’s National Security strategy, if ever there was one. It means Buhari has no other options. If this is so, he and his minister for the Interior ought to resign.
Once we start paying off people to stop the kidnap of Nigerians, it means that the Nigerian state is formally dead. We are now running a criminal enterprise. Two, it also opens the doors for the commerce of terrorism. So, we start paying off every armed militia from attacking and kidnaping or occupying areas of Nigeria, it means that the Federal government no longer has the capacity to defend Nigeria’s sovereign space. There is nothing that could stop the Biafran movement next week from activating an armed guerilla option that will occupy, not only the East of Nigeria, but anywhere where the Igbo live in Nigeria.
A guerilla operation mounted by the IPOB in Nigeria will most certainly make the Nigerian state ungovernable. They too can begin to push for reparation as the condition for ending their nationwide guerrilla operations. So too can OPC. They too know how to procure arms, train combatants, and launch “killing” operations. So do all the other ethnic agitators in Nigeria, who are now likely to see that violence begets, not terrible sanction, but handsome pay-offs. If you are Boko Haram, and you’re caught, you are paid off, and if you’re jailed, you make a deal, and are integrated under “special amnesty” into the Nigerian Security services. So, why not pick up arms? This is atrocious and dangerous policy. It pisses on the face of all peaceful people. It says, “Kill and thou shall be paid!”
On the flip side, the government has since come out to deny the story of the payoff; but do Nigerians believe?