By Olu Fasan
IT was said that Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Similar charges can be laid against President Muhammadu Buhari. His contemptuous and defiantly arrogant response to crippling insecurity and instability in Nigeria leaves no other conclusion: he’s fiddling while Nigeria burns!
Let’s face it: Nigeria is in turmoil. Buhari himself told the new service chiefs: “We are in a state of emergency.” The Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd) said: “Make no mistake, our nation is bleeding.” The Senate declared: “Nigeria is under siege.” The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, added his voice: Nigeria faces a “very difficult situation”.
Of course, concerned Nigerians have long been saying all these, warning that Nigeria is drifting into the abyss. Writing recently, in response to the killing of university students in Kaduna State, Professor Wole Soyinka said: “This nation is at war”, adding: “To this government we repeat the public cry: Seek Help”!
But President Buhari is characteristically defiant. When a country faces an existential threat as Nigeria does, a wise president would engage his fellow citizens and build a national consensus on the way forward. But Buhari is utterly arrogant and self-important. He believes he won an election; thus, when it comes to how Nigeria is governed, it’s his way or the highway!
Let’s digress a bit: What mandate does Buhari have that makes him so unresponsive and unaccountable? In 2015, he won 15.4m votes; in 2019, he won 15.1m votes. Has anyone in the presidency checked how many votes Joe Biden won in last year’s presidential election? Well, he won 81.2m votes. Yet, President Biden goes around America, engages and listens to Americans and makes their concerns his priorities. But Buhari behaves like a monarchical president, holed up in his gilded Abuja palace, unwilling, perhaps unable, to engage in any dialogue with Nigerians.
To be sure, Buhari’s mandate is not only miniscule, but also unrepresentative. Of the 15.3m votes he won in 2015, 12.3m came from the North; and of the 15.1m votes he won in 2019, 11.7m came from the North.
So, he won just three million in the entire South in each of the two elections. Where is the national mandate, when nearly 90 per cent of his entire votes came from his ethnic group?
You might say: But President Buhari met the constitutional requirements. Yet, he did! But the Constitution is deeply flawed. The Americans introduced the Electoral College to prevent any candidate from becoming president by simply amassing huge votes from populous electoral bases. With Nigeria’s winner-takes-all system and given how President Buhari has governed almost exclusively in the interests of his ethnic group, no president should emerge by simply amassing overwhelming and decisive votes from his ethnic group. Think of it again: Buhari won 12m in the North and only three million in the entire South; yet he’s president of Nigeria, and believes he has a mandate to ride roughshod over the South!
Which brings us to the root-cause of insecurity and instability in Nigeria: Buhari’s refusal to countenance national dialogue and political restructuring. He says those who want restructuring should make their case to the National Assembly. That’s utterly ignorant and arrogant, a total abdication of leadership.
Let’s refer to America again, as Buhari’s aides always cite, albeit inaccurately, examples from the US. Can any American president say to Americans seeking constitutional changes on issues such as gun control, racial justice and civil rights: “It’s nothing to do with me, if you want changes, go to Congress; they are your elected representatives?
No. Rather, as President Biden is doing, American presidents build a national consensus around change, send a bill to Congress and work hard to secure its passage.
For example, the famous Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a collaborative effort by President Lyndon Johnson, Congress and the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King.
Major constitutional settlements often start as a political process before morphing into a legislative process. The president must lead the political process, building a national consensus for change. Sadly, President Buhari is shirking that responsibility!
Some say Nigeria is at war with itself, but, in truth, President Buhari is at war with Nigeria. His actions and inactions fuel the climate of insecurity and instability in this country. Leave aside Buhari’s self-serving rejection of national conference and restructuring, what about his apparent duplicity and injustice in dealing with insecurity in Nigeria?
I mean, what credibility does President Buhari have about tackling organised non-state violence when he is, apparently, more sympathetic to killer-herdsmen than the farmers and communities they kill and destroy daily; more tolerant of Boko Haram terrorists than separatist agitators; and more tolerant of an espouser of terrorism than a certificate forger!
Last week, the army gleefully displayed bodies of some members of the separatist groups Eastern Security Network, ESN, and Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, killed in a military operation.
But the same week, Boko Haram terrorists stormed and raided military bases, while the Niger State governor, Abubakar Bello, cried out: “Boko Haram has taken over Niger State.” Why are bodies of Boko Haram terrorists killed in military operations not being displayed? Perhaps that would offend the sensitivity of the terrorist sympathisers in the Buhari government.
Which brings us to the case of Isa Pantami, the Communications Minister. He once espoused terrorist views, including the killing of Christians, and openly supported Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram. Yet, President Buhari has rejected calls to sack him, saying he has changed his views.
Asked why Kemi Adeosun was sacked as Finance Minister for forging a certificate, the presidency said certificate forgery is worse than supporting terrorism and jihadism! Beyond belief!
Truth be told: Buhari is not part of the solution; he’s part of the problem. The ship of state is not safe in his hands. Thank God, there are presidential term limits! Yet, it’s sad that, like Nero, Buhari is fiddling while Nigeria burns!