THE consensus among Nigerians across different parts of our country today is that President Muhammadu Buhari has failed both as a leader and a two-term president. His inability to deliver on his electoral promises to secure Nigeria, making it a safe polity for life and property aside food and job security in the wake of what Nigerians then thought was the demolition job of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP-led government of Goodluck Jonathan; fight corruption and relate with the people of Nigeria without fear or favour, in regard to religion, ethnic and gender identity- all of these have conspired to undermine his claim to a favourable place in history.
For a man who at a point enjoyed the unalloyed support and admiration of the vast majority of Nigerians from his part of the country, was accorded grudging respect from other parts on account of his apparent spartan lifestyle (which was seen as the appropriate antidote to the corrupt profligacy of the Jonathan years) and spent the latter part of his adult life aspiring to lead the country he once ruled as a military dictator for almost two years before he was ousted from power in a military putsch, this turn of events is without any doubt tragic. The more so it does not appear there is much the administration can achieve in the few months left before a new government comes into office.
President Buhari, indeed, has just about five active months, between August and February, left to ameliorate the harsh verdict of history. Not enough time to do much to say nothing of achieving a fundamental shift in opinion, expectations of Nigerians or his own capacity for any miraculous transformation in the state of the nation.
Any time after February, time during which the 2023 elections would have come and gone and a new president elected, would be only for the few house-keeping tasks left before Buhari enjoys his last presidential ride into Daura as a sitting president.
It is a journey, or more appropriately, a time he says he eagerly looks forward to. But whether that final journey home or life thereafter would be happy is beyond any one of us to say. The signs are, however, ominous and leave little to hope for.
Things need not have come to this point. The loss of credibility was gradual but steady and started with the erosion of trust from the outlining areas where the president had a very tiny, if any, support base in the South-East. At this stage, Nigerians from other parts of the country still harboured some hope that the president could achieve some good in the framework of democratic governance despite his reputation as a brutal, narrow-minded dictator. The anti-corruption image of the regime he led was sufficient to override these misgivings in some parts of the country barring the South-East.
But the disillusionment soon filtered to more liberal-minded people in other regions who could not make head or tail of the president’s ways, particularly his increasingly narrow take of national events that are regarded from the point of view of his region of the country and crass disregard of other parts. This went hand-in-hand with his habit of outsourcing presidential authority and responsibility to surrogates and hangers-on who know too well his weakness in this regard and thus proceed with their self-aggrandising agenda that are sold to the rest of the country in the name of national interest.
Soon communities of the North-Central region, that were being decimated by the predatory activities of common criminals masquerading as Fulani nationalists under the accommodating policies of the Buhari administration, would join the widening circle of malcontents and things would worsen as these criminals export their version of terror to parts of the South-West, leaving room for pockets of brigandage by local outlaws operating under the guise of Fulani invaders.
By the time the terrorists of the North-East closed rank with those of the North-West, leaving vast wastelands of destruction of property and life, the disenchantment has come full circle. It was no longer a matter of the North against the North-Central or the North against the South. It was clear that government has failed roundly and the strategy of divide-and-conquer would no longer work.
There is no hiding place for Abuja under Buhari any more. The attempt at globalising the failures of the government persuades only those who have chosen to be blind to the seven years of Buhari’s ineptitude. The world may be experiencing inflation at an unprecedented scale, the global economy under the strains of the Russia-Ukraine war may be heading for recession but none of these explains Buhari’s lack of connection with the Nigerian people, his neglect or outsourcing of his responsibilities to others while he enjoys the perks of his office like a patriarch in retirement.
In the last few months of his administration, Jonathan was able to downgrade the ability of Boko-Haram to inflict further damage on Nigeria. Rather than working along similar lines (as it is too late for Buhari to perform any miracle now that Nigerians look forward to his successor), Abuja under Buhari appears still to be looking for a scapegoat in the media, both local (that it accuses of lack of patriotism) and the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, that it is threatening to sanction for its expose on the ongoing brigandage in Zamfara. When the BBC did an expose on Nigerian universities, the government saw it as an opportunity to draw up laws tailor-made to the universities; when pastors were the target of a similar investigation, Abuja saw nothing amiss. But now the focus is on its own rotten underbelly, the intractable banditry in the North, it suddenly sees bad faith.
The historical fight between the Fulani and the Hausa over land and everything else under and above it, the BBC investigation shows, has been mismanaged and worsened by corruption in high places. The mystery that the Buhari administration has so far thrown around bandit terror has been shredded by the investigation that puts faces to known names and narratives behind their murderous activities. These are human beings, if deformed, inhabiting known places in a Savannah, not a wilderness of rain forests.
From where comes the mystification of their activities and identity by Abuja? Rather than finding a lasting solution to the problem(appeasement, annihilation or a bit of both), government and its supporters view the BBC investigation as promoting banditry and lionising bandits.
Far from it, the investigation points at the misery of the victims of banditry, the corruption that has sustained it and the bandits’ own attempts at profiting from it in the light of government’s unwillingness to end it. The investigation is a critique of the nested scale of the corruption wrought by power.