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The Buhari They Supported – By Prof. Phil Alalibo

By Prof. PHIL ALALIBO | NNP | May 1, 2021 – Buhari’s administration has been tortuous, rife with death, misery, indescribable suffering and assorted criminalities. Today, the country is dealing with several hydra monsters like terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and the menace of Fulani herdsmen. Human life has become fleeting, well beneath that of a cow. I read a news article that put Nigeria in the category of most terrorized countries in 2020. And that list included some of the world’s most notorious and failed states such as Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, North Korea and Congo DR. The country has failed in almost all metrics of human performance and development. I have seen several travel advisories put out by Western governments warning their citizens to stay away from the country. Such warnings used to be selective, specifying the section of the country that was most volatile, usually the North East. But of late, the entire 36 states and Abuja have been thrust into that dubious category of “imminent attacks that could cause severe bodily harm or death.”

I was brought to tears when I saw a video on my secondary school “old boys’” WhatsApp platform about what Nigerians witnessed in just one week in April. That video brought me to an inflection point and spurred me to write this piece as an expression of my protestation of the seamless trivialization of human life and the bastardization of our collective morals and values regarding the sanctity of life.  The travails of that week were but a microscopic representation of the hellish treatment Nigerians are subjected to under Buhari.

In that infamous week of April 20, the video highlighted the kidnapping of 40 Greenfield University students in Kaduna and the heartless murder of three of them. It also highlighted the kidnapping of 18 in Oyo,  the murder of six in Ekiti, and the killing of 45 and 83 in Zamfara on two consecutive days. Nigerians have become immune to the constant destruction of lives that it has become business as usual. When I think of the wanton insecurity that pervades in the country, my mind runs riot about the many passionate and sometimes heated discussions I had in 2015 with friends and relatives about the qualification and suitability of Muhammadu Buhari for the presidency. His involvement in the 2015 presidential race was his fourth, the previous three had been woefully unsuccessful with a resounding rejection by the voters. President Goodluck Jonathan was in power and after five years of being the premier citizen, Nigerians had had enough of his perceived incompetence and palpable corruption. They appeared ready to jump ship even if that meant breaking a limb or at the risk of a shark attack. But in their limited wisdom, they weren’t aware of the lurking danger in the new ship they had embraced.

In some of those passionate discussions, I made the case that though Jonathan was by no means optimal and his dispensation corrupt, he was still the better of the two men.  Jonathan believed heartily in the unity of Nigeria and worked tirelessly towards this goal even at the expense of the south. This cannot be said of Buhari with his penchant for oligarchy. I will expand on this later. My position was well informed and unconnected with the fact that he (Jonathan) was and remains my kinsman being a fellow Ijaw; for I would have been the first to disown him and support Buhari if I thought he would make a better president. I had no crystal ball in 2015, and none was needed, what was needed was a discerning mind to see in Buhari a desperate effort to rule (not govern) to fulfill a chronic desire to prosecute a religious and ethnic war. The premise of my argument was hinged on his unpretentious and relentless religious dogmatism, profound ethnic disposition and the chasm in his treatment of the various sections of the country as a military ruler. It is unreasonable to expect Buhari to change his long-held views because of his ascension to the presidency.

Buhari’s own political antics and his well-known antecedence should have provided Nigerians sufficient reason to reject him in the 2015 polls. For any Nigerian who witnessed the elections of 2011 and the two before it, would not easily forget how he made the country ungovernable by fomenting trouble following his loss in the presidential polls. Many Nigerians died in the prolonged violence that ensued because of his refusal, like Trump many years later, to accept the will of the people. Nigerians had seen the same antics in the 2007 and 2003 presidential elections, where he also lost and claimed fraud and election irregularity, again like Trump, marching to court.  These words widely attributed to him are haunting –“Monkey and baboon will soaked in blood if Jonathan continues in 2015.”  In what universe would these words not be basis for indictment?

If this penchant for violence was not sufficient to reject his candidacy, his avouched religious fanaticism espoused so bluntly in his Sokoto speech should have persuaded Nigerians to distant themselves from his candidacy.  In that speech, he endeared his supporters to vote only for those who can protect their religion. The import of this speech was unmistaken, that only a Muslim should be voted for, suggesting invariably that a Christian was not worthy of their vote. Buhari drew a line in the sand with this statement, challenging his supporters to cast their votes based on religious sentiments and not on formidable, tested platform and policy pronouncements.

This reveals another truth about Buhari, his lack of democratic credentials. Buhari does not fully comprehend the ideals of democratic governance and the need to be nationalistic in posture. A man who overthrew democracy on December 31, 1983, should not be expected to be the sudden harbinger of democratic values because he is now in slim-fit flowing civilian apparel. His cabinet selection of overwhelmingly northern Muslims speaks to his ethnic and religious bias. An African leader said it well – “The Nigerian government is an ethnic government, not a nationalistic government. What I cannot understand is why Nigerians themselves are not angry enough to change the situation.” Nigerians had the opportunity to change the situation in 2019, but they were too preoccupied with ethnic and religious politics.

This is what I mean; all critical national agencies are headed by northern Muslims – the police, the army, the various branches of the armed forces except the Air Force, state security, the National Security Office, appointed federal judges, Chief of Staff in Aso Rock, the EFCC, INEC (electoral body) and many more. Grade A ministries are all headed by northern Muslims or Muslims – defense, internal affairs, justice ministry, petroleum (Buhari is the senior minister), finance, Ministry of Power and others. This jaundice arrangement undermines meritocracy and does not bode well with national development, neither does it inspire confidence in leadership, especially, in a country where skills and talents are in abundance. Buhari is instituting a policy of nepotism and sectionalism that has driven the country to the precipice of ruination.

I was speaking with a close family member two weeks ago and he summed it up well; that Nigerians put their faith in Buhari based on his reputation as a military ruler. However, a crucial piece in this hurried reposition of faith was ignored; that in a military dispensation, fiat and decrees are the modus operandi with no room for dissent. Perhaps, we can get a clue from the name of the decision-making body – Supreme Military Council, which abrogated itself maximum power. But in a democratic rule, the antes are much higher and expectations stringent, requiring a firm understanding of politics, policies, negotiation tactics, multi-partisan approach, finesse, diplomacy and most of all, a penchant for the reign of rule of law. This is what is lacking and has become the Trojan horse of Nigerian politics.

Today, Nigeria is dealing with insurgency that has overwhelmed the government, causing colossal loss of lives and properties. Something is fundamentally wrong with this picture; that a government with a well-funded military, with highly trained officers with access to several modern warplanes and weaponry, could not defeat an insurgency that started as a tattered army. Global Fire Power ranks Nigerian military as fourth in Africa and another source ranked it 42nd in the world. So why is this power not able to defeat untrained and unskilled masquerading terrorists with no aerial advantage? Nigerians must begin to ask the tough questions and hold their leaders fully accountable for the sorry state of affairs.

They should ask; Is it corruption in the military ranks, is it lack of political will or is it sabotage within the political elites?  Why is it that Boko Haram couldn’t be defeated to the point where it has festered? Who are the benefactors of this on-going insurgency?  The Niger State governor was decrying his lot as Boko Haram fighters recently displaced several communities and planted their flag. They drove their trucks openly on the streets and shot their guns in the air. In case we have forgotten our geography, let us review the map of Nigeria and find the location of Niger State. We would realize the enormity of this development with its close proximity to the seat of power, Abuja. It is in the middle of the country bordering Abuja and this means Boko Haram has been emboldened to venture deep into the country with impunity.

Compounding the insurgency that has expanded its field of operation to the middle and southern parts is the menace of Fulani herdsmen who carry AK-47 riffles on their shoulders. These are civilians who have been given cover to terrorize Nigerians, raping, maiming and killing at will.  Most of them were imported from Chad, Niger Republic, Mali and elsewhere to kill Nigerians. Which responsible government would allow such extra judicial killings and lawlessness on its watch and not react forcefully? Scores are killed daily; women, children and the elderly are all targets. Terrorists kidnap hundreds of school girls and hoard them into endless convoys without molestation from the security forces. Ijaw elders say an elephant cannot move in secret given its massive nature. Every step of the elephant attracts attention. How then do terrorists move hundreds of kidnapped girls in scores of noisy and ramshackle trucks without attracting the attention of security forces? This puzzle leads one to believe that there must be official accomplices. Perhaps, this is why Boris Johnson, the British PM, stated that Nigeria’s insecurity is beyond “partnership” – in other words, no partnership can address the level of insecurity currently pervading in the country. Tony Blinken, the U.S. Security of State, paid a virtual visit to Nigeria this week, and insecurity was top on the agenda.

In his keynote address at 2021 law week of the Owerri Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia) did not equivocate in laying the blame squarely at the feet of Buhari. He said that the

“President’s “enthronement of sectionalism and nepotism has led to the country to be on free fall. Ethnic triumphalism of President Buhari’s tribesmen, Fulani, has equally helped in fueling disintegration of the country.”

“Under the watch of the present government, Fulani militia are on a mission of conquest all over Nigeria. By infiltrating and trying to take over every region of this country, we have had to witness killings of natives, women raped, farmlands destroyed, kidnappings of citizens all over the country and forests forcefully occupied.”

“The security forces that should offer protection seem to rather act as if they are in collusion with the criminals and this invading army being treated with seeming indifference. Nigerians, who bear the brunt of these attacks daily, lose hope in the idea of unity of the nation” (ThisDay).

Nigerians who supported Buhari can now see the serious flaw in their decision. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi who pitched Buhari’s candidacy from the rooftop and made astonishing presentations as to why Nigerians must trust a war-tested general to lead them in turbulent times, do not have to live with the consequences of their decisions.  Tinubu, Amaechi and their families have security details around the clock. Their children most likely are not in Nigeria, their wives spend time overseas and they have get-away homes in foreign cities. They invariably don’t have to live with the consequences of their decisions, they are only interested in protecting and advancing their self-interests. Ultimately, it’s the innocent and defenseless Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of Fulani herdsmen attacks, banditry, kidnapping and terrorism. So, those Nigerians, including religious leaders and politicians, who disparaged President Jonathan and called him “kindergarten president,” can now see the Buhari they supported.

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Posted by on May 2 2021. Filed under Articles, Columnists, Headlines, Muhammadu Buhari (1983-85), NNP Columnists, Presidency. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “The Buhari They Supported – By Prof. Phil Alalibo”

  1. Godwin Airuoyuwa

    Unfortunately, I am one of those who supported Buhari. I guess I never knew him well enough. I now regret my decision.

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