Diehard critics may claim credit for President Muhammadu Buhari finally coming out in the past weeks to “address” the nation.
To these Nigerians, it’s victory for their consistent and persistent criticisms, peppered with scattered protests. Still, many are disappointed that Buhari didn’t address the issues they’ve canvassed for months and years, or those he addressed didn’t meet their expectations.
So, the lampooning of the president and his government continues. But keen watchers of the polity can infer that nothing Buhari said or did in a fortnight would change the opposition’s stance regarding his alleged failure to meet the three cardinal programmes of his administration: security, economy and anti-corruption.
Critics have scored Buhari and his government ‘F9′, as insecurity seems to have overwhelmed all agencies, the economy in a free-fall notwithstanding official “rosy picture” of same, and corruption perceptively outpaces the deceptions of past governments.
Outside of or ancillary to the three cardinal programmes of his administration, the public had expected Buhari to tackle many topical issues, not only to ease the haywire tension in the land, but also to pull the nation back from the brink it appears headed.
Some of the matters are: Restructuring of the polity; agitation for secession from Nigeria; lopsided appointments in government; inequitable distribution of government projects; herders/ farmers clashes; and alleged failure in anti-graft war.
What comes out of Buhari’s “surprise” address to the nation, via media interviews and a national broadcast on Democracy Day on June 12, is that in six years in the saddle, his positions on issues remain unchanged, despite his posturing to the contrary.
Buhari, on the campaign trail or in governance since 2015, didn’t support restructuring of Nigeria, such as the advocates want either by an executive fiat, re-amendment of the 1999 Constitution or convocation of a national conference for that purpose.
So, it’s not hard for the president to pass the bulk to the National Assembly, whose members most Nigerians know only mouth restructuring, but have no liver to deliver for survival of Nigeria.
Did Nigerians expect Buhari to hug agitators of secession, and give them a free rein to dismember the country he’s sworn to uphold its indivisibility? He said he wouldn’t give them a pass, but lay down his life to protect the territorial integrity of the nation. No wonder he had recourse to employing the force of arms, which he’s promised to visit on the “break-up Nigeria” agitators, like the government did to the Biafra secessionists from 1967 to 1970!
Buhari’s reference to the Civil War is like invoking the Holocaust, the genocide of European Jews during World War II (1941 and 1945), when “Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews across Germanoccupied Europe.” Reminiscing the Civil War, as he did, was insensitive, and even inciting, considering that an estimated three million Igbo lost their lives in the war, and threats of a repeat performance may indicate Buhari’s animus for the Igbo or any tribe, whose even few “deviant members” may agitate for secession from Nigeria. For equity, which he preaches, won’t Buhari also extend similar threats of “annihilation” to the roaming killer-herdsmen, who’ve identified themselves as belonging to a particular ethnic group? What’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander! Rather than debunk lopsided appointments, with high-profile and lucrative positions in the security, parastatals and MDAs held by people from a section of the country, Buhari showcased Permanent Secretaries’ positions filled by promotion of career civil servants. On siting of projects, Buhari talked about extending amenities to, and building infrastructure in Niger Republic, a sovereign State, because he’s “relations” there. Is Niger part of Nigeria? What about extending projects to neighbouring countries where Nigerians of different ethnic stocks have their kith and kin in millions? Buhari’s reason for deploying Nigeria’s resources to developing Niger Republic is extreme nepotism and parochialism, in the face of his reported failure to equitably service all zones of Nigeria, and, in particular, the Niger Delta, “the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
On the vexed issue of herders/farmers clashes, Buhari doubled down on re-opening of the “national grazing routes” through populated communities that weren’t there when the tracks were reportedly gazetted for herders to herd their cattle. But as reported by the Vanguard on June 17, 2021, Nigeria has only “grazing reserves” created by the National Grazing Reserve Law of 1965.
There’re 415 of such reserves, with 141 gazetted, and only two in the South, in Ogun and Oyo states. Indeed, the Senate spokesman, Dr. Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun Central), has declared in a statement that:
“As a patriot… and someone sworn to uphold the Nigerian Constitution… it is pertinent to say neither in the North nor in the South is there a law creating grazing routes either as state law or federal law.”
So, why is Buhari re-litigating “open grazing,” which morphed into “cattle colonies” and “RUGA settlements,” and yet rejected majorly nationwide? Is there a “Buhari hidden agenda” in the fresh push, as conspiracy theorists have advanced?
The countering of Southern Governors’ ban on open grazing in the South-East, South-South and South-West may infringe the 1999 Constitution that vests land in State Governors.
Will Buhari force them to give up lands they hold in trust for their people? Buhari reiterated his promise to fight corruption to the last, to ensure that treasury looters do not take over from his regime. How will he achieve in two years what he couldn’t in six years?
But critics fear the president plans to stop his real or imagined enemies from gaining power in 2023, to favour his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that the opposition wants out.
As the foregoing has shown, there appears nothing that can change Buhari’s character traits: not criticisms, not protests, not declaring him a failure or a dictator, and not even threats of forced resignation or impeachment “for gross misconduct.”
Only Buhari can change his persona. But the leopard cannot change its spots, and Buhari cannot change his character shaped in decades by belief, culture, ethnicity, religion and military service.
If you ask me, I would urge Nigerians to thank Buhari for his steadfastness in showing where he stands on burning issues, his advocacies lacking national consensus or not. Because Buhari isn’t a “Maradona”, that dribbles the citizens, Nigerians are better-placed, now or the run-up to 2023, to tackle and navigate the issues they have against the president.
Buhari has pointed the way from his echochamber; it’s left for the majority to follow that route or chart a different path that shouldn’t aggravate but ameliorate the country’s current situation.