“From the sublime to the ridiculous, there is only one step” – Thomas Paine, 1730-1809, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ.
I wake up each morning these days begging the Almighty for his forgiveness; for my contribution towards making Buhari’s presidency possible in 2015. With the exception of Chief Awolowo’s failed bid for office in 1979, it had been my personal policy not to campaign for any presidential candidate. I voted on Election Day and that was the end of the matter. Irrespective of the outcome, there was never any sense of ownership. They were mostly disasters; but, none resulted from my personal efforts.
Buhari had run in 2003 and 2007, and he lost on the two occasions without me. The 2011 election was different. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had entrenched corruption to such an extent, depressing our economic growth and development, that I was forced to write a book. The book, PDP CORRUPTION INCORPORATION, was published in 2008. It was partial documentation of how PDP members, in various positions, took Nigeria to the cleaner and impeded our growth and development. By the time Obasanjo was through with us, about N8 trillion was missing from national and state accounts. I decided not to sit and watch anymore; but not as a party member.
The late Prince Tony Momoh recruited me to work with the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, as an Economic Adviser for the party in 2010. Buhari was the presidential candidate for the 2011 election; which was lost to Jonathan. It was the second time I felt a personal sense of defeat in any election. Buhari announced he was retiring from politics.
Surprisingly, he was back again as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the 2015 elections.
To be candid, I had my doubts about the party – a collection of the worst political bedfellows Nigeria has ever seen. But, my faith in Buhari was stronger than ever. In 2015, Jonathan, a Southern, Christian and PhD holder, was going against Buhari, a Northern Muslim and School Certificate holder. My choice should have been obvious – especially as I was the arrowhead of the agitation for Christian governor in Lagos State. But I took up the challenge and, for the first time in my life, went out campaigning for a Christian governor in Lagos and a Muslim President for Nigeria. I was fanatical about Buhari. There was nobody too close or powerful to fight or argue with. It was very unusual for me.
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“Be careful about what you pray for. You might get it and not like it.” That was the advice given to us young people by a clergyman in Boston in 1972 at a political rally. The wisdom in that statement did not sink into my head until Buhari won in 2015 and became President of Nigeria. I broke the bank to entertain friends for the double victory. Ambode, a Christian, and Buhari, a Muslim, were elected in the first elections in which I fully participated. Nobody could be happier. I told friends and some former opponents to get ready for positive action in Lagos and Abuja. I soon re-learnt an old lesson taught by a Jewish Rabbi during Yom Kippur celebrations in a synagogue in New York City in 1969.
“Things [and people] are not always what they seem to be.”
My joy at Buhari’s victory was short-lived. In fact, it turned to sadness in less than a month. Like a sleep-walker suddenly woken up with a sound slap in the face, President-elect Buhari, in 2015, opened my eyes to the real Muhammadu Buhari. What I saw, now with my eyes wide open, was heart-breaking. I must admit it; I cried that day because the tragedy which had unfolded in the last six years of his government was too glaring to me.
Thousands of us worked our butts off; used our own resources in 2014-5 to elect one Muhammadu Buhari. We have elected the most sectional leader in Nigerian history; who cares very little for merit as long as the person comes from the right ethnic group; and who will create a mess that will need a generation to clean up. I feared for Nigeria. Today, my fears have been more than justified.
Buhari’s first forty top-level appointments announced before he took office, and subsequent appointments since then, left no doubt in my mind that this was not going to be a government for all Nigerians. It certainly would not place a premium on performance. There were only two Southerners in the first twenty appointments. Femi Adesina was one of the two.
The results are here for all to see.
THE WAY WE ARE IN 2021
For almost three weeks, I decided to gather front-page news in various newspapers; and to categorise them under various headings. Space constraints will not allow me to publish a complete digest of all the bad news. The selection below will adequately illustrate the way we are in 2021. There has been no other period like it in Nigerian history.
1. Doctor killed in Kaduna; 8 communities in Niger sacked (VANGUARD, April 26, 2021)
2. Insecurity: Our nation is bleeding now – Defence Minister (VANGUARD, April 23, 2021)
3. Geidam attack: My people at the mercy of Boko Haram – Rep Lawan Shettima (NATION, April 25, 2021)
4. Imo attacks: Seven IPoB members, three security agents killed, gov’s house burnt (PUNCH April 25, 2021)
5. $1bn funds: How the defence ministry purchased N37.9bn military vehicles, arms (PUNCH April 25, 2021)
6. Embattled Niger communities negotiate with B’Haram, N20m levy agreed (April 30, 2021)
7. Pay N100m, give us 10 bikes or we’ll kill 17 students – ABDUCTORS (VANGUARD, May 4, 2021)
8. 90 DAYS OF SERVICE CHIEFS: 741 killed by suspected terrorists, bandits, herdsmen, others, over 1, 000 kidnapped (VANGUARD, May 2, 2021)
One of Buhari’s Special Assistants recently went before an audience and waved a copy of NEW NIGERIAN of November 7, 1966. On the front page was a report of 20 people kidnapped in the old Mid-West. That one-off occurrence, at a time Nigeria was on the brink of the 1967-70 Civil War, was used to “prove” that kidnapping is not new in Nigeria and should not receive front-page treatment. The presidential aide should have looked at the entire paper for that day in 1966 and for the whole of November 1966. He will not find reports of herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers killing people or policemen and army officers being killed. In 2021, there is no single day reports of blood-letting that are not received from at least twenty different places. That any person, not to talk of an aide to President, can compare the two illustrates why we are here today.
FAKE NEWS OR CONFESSION OF IMPOTENCE?
Some things just don’t make sense. And, it is surprising that top Federal Government officials are associated with them. Here is part of what Femi Adesina announced on behalf of the Buhari government recently: “Championed by some disgruntled religious and past political leaders, the intention is to eventually throw the country into a tailspin, which would compel a forceful and undemocratic change of leadership. Further unimpeachable evidence shows that the disruptive elements are now recruiting the leadership of some ethnic groups and politicians around the country, with the intention of convening some sort of conference, where a vote of no confidence would be passed on the President; thus throwing the land into further turmoil.”
One highly respected columnist remarked: “Femi is too accomplished to be caught at this level of pepper soup joint punditry and beer parlour blathers.” But, the columnist refers to pre-Buhari administration Femi – the one Editors made their leader. There is a new Femi in Aso Rock who writes, says and publishes this sort of drivel.
Summarised, what he released amounted to accusing some disgruntled elements of plotting to commit treason – based on “unimpeachable evidence”. It is not for me to second-guess what the FG and Femi had intended to achieve with that release. But, I am certain that the overwhelming response was unintended. It was scornful. Reading print media, online publications and social media, I felt very sorry for FG and Femi – for a simple reason. Any government, worthy of being called one, does not cry out to the citizenry that it has “unimpeachable evidence” that some unnamed people want to create a blood-bath. It goes out and arrests them; name them and prosecutes them.
A government that allows criminals to be going about recruiting people to instigate “further turmoil” has become their accomplice. Buhari should order the arrest of the elements and present the evidence in open court for all to see. This nonsense must stop.
That said; we still have a problem on our hands. What are we to do with Buhari – who is obviously tired and drowning in problems? My senior brothers at Afenifere, as well as others, ask that Buhari should resign. I totally disagree.
WHY IT IS UNWISE TO REMOVE BUHARI
“Time is a distilled opportunity” – Selwyn Hughes, VBQ, p 247
We should not blame Buhari; we have ourselves to blame. Most of the leaders of Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Middle Belt Forum, National Assembly, and state governors now crying for help, gathered the votes for Buhari in 2019 – despite his woeful performance from 2015 to 2019. Were they expecting a different Buhari? Old men over 70 seldom change. At any rate, our forefathers had taught us a lesson that should have guided us. The old saying had taught us a lesson, but we forgot. If a man fools you once, shame on him. If twice, shame on you. Buhari fooled millions of us the first time. We fooled ourselves in 2019.
When US President Abraham Lincoln said: “You can fool some of the people all the time; you can fool all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”, Nigeria did not exist. Here you can fool virtually all the people all the time and with their assistance too!
In 2015, the slogan was “change”; nobody asked for details. By 2018, we were the poorest nation on earth. We had a chance in 2019 to make a change. We were swept up by the new slogan – Next Level – again undefined. We have the definition now. It is synonymous with anarchy. We voted for Buhari; we should let him finish the job. Who in his right senses wants to inherit the mess?