“Good things happen when you set your priorities straight”- Scott Caan.
Every reasonable political contemplation in 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari emerged as Nigeria’s President was that the greatest beneficiaries of his reign would be the common citizens of Northern Nigeria otherwise called the talakawas. In them Buhari had cult followership to the point of fanaticism. Even when he was down there virtually alone in the trenches these people glued themselves to him believing in his perceived honesty and sincerity of purpose then.
To them he was the Aminu Kano of their generation.
For 12 years of Buhari’s struggles, they remained committed and faithful to his course in the hope that one-day power will come their way and that will mark the end of the reign of their oppressors and their exploits. It was these critical segment of the polity that made sure that the Northern elites who had never been fans of Buhari were intimidated and chased away to open the way for their hero to win election. It would therefore be safe to say that President Buhari’s electoral victory in the Northern region in 2015 came as a result of coercion from the obsessive youths who saw him as demigod and the leader with the magic wand.
The muddling up of the zoning policy by the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, after the death of President Umaru Yar Adua and the no liver-like attitude of President Goodluck Jonathan provided ample opportunity for Buhari and his hitherto discredited group to vehemently enter the stage.
In their naivety, these cult followers of Buhari thought that his coming to power meant total overthrow of the entrenched oppressors. Even Buhari at some points thought so and could have been praying secretly for God to just let him grab the throne and see what follows.
Five years after the reign of this ‘idol’, the plight of these talakawas is not just worsening but last week the President dispatched troops to arrest and bring to Abuja for prosecution some of them who were protesting the unending killing of their people by bandits even in the President’s home state of Katsina. Under Buhari their hero it has been stories of woes, unprecedented in the history of the region. Although the deplorable state of these Northern youths preceded Buhari era, the situation under his tenure remain clearly unrivalled in terms of neglect and incapacity to deliver the minimal requirement in governance which is the protection of lives and property of the citizenry.
If this was happening in the South-East or Niger Delta region it would have been easy to attribute it to political enemies given the no love lost between President Buhari and the youth of the area, but here we are in the North-West and North-East the political base of the President.
If anybody had told these youths in 2014 and 2015 that five years of Buhari will see them under this dismal situation, they will curse the person and burn his house.
A number of pundits are still wondering what really is happening? Could it be that Buhari was pretending and was never part of these common citizens as he epitomized and made the World to believe or that his government was hijacked along the line by the same elites he fought with these talakawas or that he lacks the needed political sagacity to navigate the turbulent Nigeria political turf to push through his heart desires.
A critical appraisal of Buhari’s five-year reign in this conversation will lead us to a reasonable conclusion on which of the divide he really belongs in this class dissection.
Just on Monday some leaders of the Southern Nigeria approached the court seeking damages in the tune of N50 billion from President Buhari for running a nepotistic government that resulted in the lopsided appointments. The leaders said the President’s action is in breach of the federal character principles as enshrined in the operating 1999 Constitution.
The argument which appears empirical is that Buhari has run his administration coarsely in favour of one ethnic and religious group.
The narrative today really is not to look at the lopsidedness of Buhari’s administration which is real but to examine why after such credible accusations of bias in appointments and distribution of resources his people are still feeling deprived. Could it be a case of misplacement of priority, investing on individuals instead of on the people?
No President in our history has directed federal projects to his state of origin like Buhari. These are just samples of top 10 projects located in Katsina State in the last five years, Transportation University, Daura; Refinery; Innovation Hub of Katsina Institute of Information Management; Continuation of 10MW Wind Power project in Lambar Rimi; Kano-Daura Rail Line Extension; Project MINE-Special Economic zone; Completion of the National Library branch in Katsina; Completion of Sabke Water Project; Zobe regional Water project and the dualization of Kano-Katsina. We also recall the construction of the helipad in Daura for the President’s aircraft landing. Just this week the Army took another project to Katsina State.
One can say in fairness to Buhari that with all these and more including lavish and strategic appointments to warrant being dragged to court by Southern leaders or cause the irrepressible unbiased retired Col. Abubakar Umar to write open letter to warn of the danger of skewed administration, that he did not abandon the North but only got entangled in the elite selfishness.
What may have happened to the President is misplacement of priorities. Given his political background and the extremist support he enjoyed, he should have concentrated in human capital development targeted at lifting his core support groups out of illiteracy and poverty. But instead he invested wrongly on the few Northern elites with most of his projects targeted at satisfying them and their family interests.
When you build University of Transportation or Refinery how does that impact on the large illiterate population who have no basic education or health facilities. Most of the North-West youths literarily abandoned by the elites have seen their challenges migrate from minor vices to drug addiction with a lot of them almost irredeemable.
Rather than have a deliberate policy to develop them through people-oriented policies and programmes, President Buhari’s administration like his predecessors concentrated in satisfying the few elites and their families.
As a result of the prolonged neglect and abandonment, most of these youths indulge in terrorism, banditry and other vices. And when the very few ones who are still sensible among them decides to explore their democratic rights to attract the President’s attention to the delicate situation through protests, troops who cannot save them from being killed even though they are paid to do so are deployed to arrest and persecute them.
It’s a factual statement that if these Northern youths cannot get rehabilitation through Buhari, perceived rightly or wrongly to be one of them, I wonder who and when their messiah will arrive.
Nobody captured the frustration in the Northern Nigeria today better than a great ally of the President and immediate past Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung when he said: “I’m not a prophet but I can predict (that) if no action is taken on these traitors within your government, you’ll bitterly regret it by 2021. More Nigerians residing in the North were being killed under your watch than at any other time in history.
“From Borno to Kwara and from Plateau to Sokoto, human life has become cheaper than that of a chicken, innocent souls are perishing, and needlessly so, even in your own home state of Katsina,” he said.
In conclusion therefore, if this is the picture being portrayed in the North today after five years of Buhari as captured by somebody who served him as a minister for four years, and a section of the country is still genuinely bitter and in court against him for running a slanted government in favour of the same North, then everything is wrong with his priority. The other day Northern elders virtually wrote off Buhari’s five years’ reign as a total failure and the youth are protesting, so whose interest has Buhari been serving?
The President must have fallen into the trap of a few lackeys taking advantage of his narrow understanding of the polity.
My parting words to Buhari as I conclude this conversation therefore is for him to absorb the counsel of the famous Buddhist Dalai Lama, “let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that.”