By Ikechukwu Amaechi
IT was obvious to all discerning minds from the get-go that the 2023 elections would be like no other. However, even the most perceptible of political observers could never have imagined the breadth of the incongruities, if not outright illogicalities, that are underpinning the contest. The ironies are as breathtaking as the absurdities are unimaginable.
Imagine a situation where, 23 days before the presidential and National Assembly elections, the candidate of the ruling party is skewering the president of the country, calling him, literally, an unthinking, good-for-nothing president at every campaign stop; a leading light of the ruling party, a state governor, is accusing the “cabal in the presidency” of sabotaging their own candidate; and the opposition party and their presidential candidate are vigorously defending a president that his own people have thrown under the bus. And wait for it – the presidency is telling the chieftains of the opposition party to weep for themselves.
This is as bizarre as it can get. On face value, nothing seems to make sense anymore. But a deeper reflection will reveal that as incredulously absurd as these happenings may seem, when the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, says President Muhammadu Buhari neither thinks nor knows how to run government for the common good, he is being brutally honest.
And that was exactly what he did on Tuesday in Calabar, Cross River State, when he said Buhari and his government met the naira at the rate of N200 per $1 when they took office on May 29, 2015, and took it to N800 per $1. Slamming the Buhari-led APC Federal Government over the depreciation of the naira, the Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom said at the UJ Esuene Stadium: “Today, they moved the exchange rate from N200 to N800. If they had repaired it, if they had arrested this, we wouldn’t be where we are today, we would be greater. They don’t know the way, they don’t know how to think, and they don’t know how to do.”
Tinubu was frontal in his attack. But as has become the tradition, his spin doctors are spinning this straightforward, unambiguous bombshell. In a statement on Wednesday, Bayo Onanuga, the media director for the Tinubu/Shettima Campaign Organisation, said the PDP created the current exchange rate debacle. “The reference to the exchange rate was not in any way an attack on the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress administration but an attempt to capture how the economic mismanagement of the PDP created a forex crisis in the country since 2015,” he said.
That is not only a lie, it is puerile to continue blaming others for today’s state of anomie after almost eight years of the Buhari presidency. Besides, as of May 29, 2015, when Buhari took charge of the country’s affairs, the naira-dollar exchange rate was at an average price of N198 to $1 and N220 to $1 in the black market. The spin doctors deployed the same subterfuge when Tinubu recently, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, attacked the Federal Government for the lingering fuel scarcity and CBN’s naira redesign project, which he claimed were efforts by the powers-that-be to sabotage the elections and torpedo his presidential quest.
Speaking at the MKO Abiola International Stadium, Abeokuta, Tinubu said: “We will take over the government from them, the traitors who wanted to contest with us, they had no experience… This election is a revolution. They are plotting, but they will fail.” So, when the campaign organisation turns around to claim that the outburst wasn’t targeted at the president, but at Atiku Abubakar, it cannot but be a lie. How can Atiku be responsible for the lingering fuel crisis when the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, Limited is the sole importer of refined petroleum products and Buhari has been the de facto Minister of Petroleum Resources since 2015?
How can the APC claim that anyone else other than Buhari and the CBN governor are responsible for the naira redesign fiasco even when the president has claimed ownership of the project? This is why the intervention of Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, is invaluable. Speaking on Channels TV on Wednesday, the same day Onanuga was putting a spin on Tinubu’s Calabar disavowal of the Buhari stewardship, el-Rufai alleged that the notorious, albeit faceless, members of the Aso Rock cabal were up in arms against Tinubu.
‘’I believe there are elements in the villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way. They had their candidate, but their candidate didn’t win the primary election. I think they are still trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is the right thing,” the Kaduna helmsman said.
On the twin issues of the fuel and naira redesign crises, el-Rufai, shooting from the hip, indicted President Buhari. “I had a discussion with the president and showed him why it (petroleum subsidy) had to go. Because how can you have a capital budget of N200 billion for federal roads and then spend N2 trillion on petroleum subsidies? This was a conversation I had with the president in 2021, when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed,” the governor said.
Continuing, el-Rufai elucidated why Buhari and nobody else should be blamed. “The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the president. People are blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for the currency redesign, but no. You have to go back and look at Buhari’s first outing as president. He did it; the Buhari/Idiagbon regime changed our currency in secret in order to catch those who are stashing illicit funds. It is a very good intention. The president has his rights. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”
So, Tinubu knows what he is talking about, and there is obviously a method to what some people might consider political madness or even suicide. That also explains why he has tried strenuously to distance his campaign from the Buhari presidency. Instead, he is busy campaigning on his record as governor of Lagos State. When Tinubu talks about those who don’t know the way, people who don’t understand inflation, and who drove the economy into a ditch, he is referring to Buhari.
Simplicita! and he is right. Eight years of Buhari in Aso Rock were eaten by locusts. Tinubu, the city boy, knows that for a fact. He is politically smart. But the question is, can he successfully distance himself from the Buhari presidency? Will Nigerians believe him when he claims he is also a victim of Buhari’s political myopia, hence the alleged gang up against him in Aso Rock? The answer is ensconced in the womb of time. The results of the elections will show whether Nigerians accepted his veiled apology for the Buhari debacle.
Suffice it to say that there is nothing that Tinubu is saying today about Buhari that he didn’t know when he helped him to power in 2015. He knew that he didn’t have the capacity to supervise the affairs of the country. And, I dare say, it smacks of hypocrisy and a lack of patriotism to know that someone would be a disaster for the socio-economic and political well-being of your country and still help him to power as a quid pro quo for your own anticipated political coronation.
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