June 1, 2023

Buhari, the man who loathes Nigeria

Buhari, the man who loathes Nigeria

Ex-President Muhammadu Buhari

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have bothered commenting on former President Muhammadu Buhari, the man who, rather than build, spent eight years in power dismantling Nigeria, brick by brick because for me, his voyage into oblivion is good riddance. After Buhari’s eight ruinous years, Nigeria really needed a breath of fresh air.

Whether the new order enthroned last Monday constitutes a refreshing change which Nigerians clamoured for remains to be seen. But no one can possibly be worse than Buhari. But I am intrigued by Buhari’s adversarial disposition to the country that gave it all for him. In his last days in office, he spoke condescendingly about Nigeria, in a manner quite unbecoming of a president.

Speaking last month during the final Sallah homage to him by residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Buhari said he “can’t wait to go home to Daura”. That wouldn’t have been a problem had he not added: “if they make any noise to disturb me in Daura, I will leave for the Niger Republic.”

Of course, the noisemakers are Nigerians. Then on May 23, he doubled down when he, once again, flaunted his filial relationship with his kith and kin in Niger Republic as a safeguard against any act of retribution from Nigerians after leaving office. Boasting that he had built a personal cordial relationship with neighbouring countries, Buhari said: “I try to plan to be as far away from Abuja as possible. I come from an area which is far away from Abuja. I said if anybody with force moves, I have good relationship with my neighbours. Niger people will defend me.”

Then on the eve of the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu, his successor, Buhari compared fellow citizens to cows and sheep and indicated his preference for dealing with the latter. “I am looking forward to tomorrow, May 29, to fly to my base and go back to my cows and sheep which are much easier to control than fellow Nigerians.”

As I reflect on the tragedy that befell Nigeria in the name of a Muhammdu Buhari presidency, the question that concentrates my mind is this: why does the man despise Nigeria so much? Why is he so contemptuous of Nigerians? In my estimation, Buhari is the luckiest Nigerian that ever lived. Here is a man, who, with only smattering education and no outstanding skills was propelled to position of national leadership twice in a lifetime.

He became military Head of State in 1984 and even when he was booted out 20 months later by his colleagues who believed, and rightly so, that his tenure was a parody of leadership, like a sphinx, Nigerians pulled him out of Daura 30 years after and transported him to the presidential villa in Abuja as a democratically elected president. He is the second Nigerian to be so honoured, the first being Olusegun Obasanjo, who had the same leadership trajectory.

Both men will go down in history as the only Nigerians to be so privileged as none of the three living former military heads of state – Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar – can achieve that feat. Before he led the coup that sacked the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983, Buhari was appointed military governor of the defunct North-Eastern State on August 1, 1975 and on February 3, 1976 when the State was split into three – Bauchi, Borno and Gongola – he became the first governor of Borno State.

In 1976, he was appointed the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources and when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was set up in 1977, he was appointed the chairman, a position he held until 1978. All these were unmerited privileges. His stint as military head of state was so disastrous that his mortified colleagues, in an attempt to save the junta from further embarrassment, conspired and sacked him. Marshalling the reason why they moved against Buhari on August 27, 1985, Brigadier Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro, in his coup speech accused Buhari of betraying the trust of Nigerians.

“Fellow countrymen, the intervention of the military at the end of 1983 was welcomed by the nation with unprecedented enthusiasm. Nigerians were unified in accepting the intervention and looked forward hopefully to progressive changes for the better. Almost two years later, it has become clear that the fulfilment of expectations is not forthcoming.” It was not forthcoming because the man at the helm had other plans than developing Nigeria. Dogonyaro accused him of misusing power “to the detriment of our national aspirations and interest”.

Explaining further, the former commander of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, said: “It is evident that the nation would be endangered with the risk of continuous misdirection. We are presently confronted with that danger. In such a situation, if action can be taken to arrest further damage, it should and must be taken. This is precisely what we have done.” In 20 months, Buhari reduced Nigeria to a hell, literally, and made Nigerians to plumb the depths of misery. Yet, 30 years after, Nigerians forgave him his iniquities and elected him president even when he did nothing in the three decades to improve himself unlike most of his colleagues who went back to School. For instance, after his overthrow in 1975, Gowon, while in the United Kingdom on exile decided to study political science at Warwick University.

Buhari never bothered to develop himself. He boycotted the National Council of State meetings and became insular. He was busy making incendiary comments, driving ethno-religious wedge between the peoples of Nigeria. He would either be defending the rights of Fulani, who are non-Nigerians, to forcefully take over the ancestral homes of Nigerians or defend the violent dispositions of terrorist groups like Boko Haram to cause maximum carnage in Nigeria in the name of religion. As Prof Chidi Odinkalu noted in his column last Sunday: “Thirty years after being forced out of the military, he had not run a business, nor returned to school, nor authored a book, nor run a foundation, nor embraced statesmanship.”

Yet, Nigerians handed him the highest political office in the land on a platter of nothing. But rather than attenuate whatever grudges he nursed, his animosity increased towards the indigenous peoples of Nigeria. As Odinkalu aptly noted, on winning the presidency in 2015, Buhari arrived Aso Rock “accompanied by a long memory bearing grudges from a lifetime of slight”. The result is that he did not come to govern and improve the lot of long-suffering Nigerians. He came to take his pound of flesh from Nigeria and Nigerians. It was a revenge mission.

The result is that eight years down the road, Buhari left Nigerians in harsh, intolerable conditions. Outlining the reason for upstaging Shagari on December 31, 1983, Buhari claimed: “We have become a debtor and beggar nation. There is inadequacy of food at reasonable prices for our people …, health services are in shambles as our hospitals are reduced to mere consulting clinics without drugs, water and equipment.” With malice to all, he left Nigeria in a worse state four decades later. He must be beside himself with joy in Daura that he got his pound of flesh and Nigeria is worse for his presidency. May Buhari’s type never come our way again!