The die is cast. President Muhammadu Buhari has finally “thrown his hat into the ring”. After exhaustive thinking and consultations he has made up his mind to run for a second term. His reasons are quite interesting. Many people who appreciate his good works are begging him to come back in 2019. Again, he is sure of disappointing critics and cynics as he has conceived a master-plan that will redefine governance in Nigeria, from 2019. The plan will take care of his much-hyped inefficiencies and shortcomings.
Let us recall that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo thundered in a 13-paged vote-of-no confidence against President Buhari on January 23, 2018. After that letter, he has continued to roar again and again, asking Buhari to resign because his administration is an irredeemable failure. According to Obasanjo, Buhari was patently aware that Nigeria was facing serious challenges of nationhood and survival before 2015. And he promised to find solutions to them. Why is he now whinning and making excuses to the effect that the excesses of the immediate past administration have made it impossible for him to perform as expected. Unfortunately, it is not in the tradition of African leaders to resign after making a mistake(s) or after finding their jobs overwhelming. African leaders would rather die in redundant service, be overthrown or impeached than resign willingly.
True to character, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) derisively described OBJ’s letter as an advisory note. Meaning that the addressee could take it, leave it or retool his style of administration, based on the fault lines observed by the letter-writer. Also, in the course of his recent visit to USA, President Buhari granted an interview to BBC, Hausa service and described Obasanjo’s letter as very abusive, not really worthy of any reply.
Political analysts have also seen the letter as a disguised “coup” plot, intended to galvanise the indignation of the masses against the APC government, as was done against Goodluck Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Nothing in OBJ’s letter was new to Nigerians. But the timing and power of its presentation was designed to incite the people and stop President Buhari in 2019. This “coup”, if well-managed, is expected to play out fully next election year.
President Buhari’s declaration of intention has, no doubt, frightened some people who believe that he would muster his enormous power of incumbency, and the security apparatus at his disposal, to fight his way back to Aso Rock. However, others are so bitter about Buhari’s woeful performance that they wonder what again would be his 2019 campaign promises. They see his declaration as a golden opportunity to disgrace him out of office next year.
Looking at Buhari’s three-pronged agenda and score card, can we honestly say he deserves a second chance. The hunger, misery and hardship experienced and openly expressed by Nigerians reflect the rottenness of the economy in the hands of quacks. It shows the recession is still biting hard, but government is busy displaying unrealistic macroeconomic figures of growth. The most recent World Bank report shows that Nigerians suffered the most in 2017. And within three years of this present administration, over 7.2 million people lost their jobs. Whereas the country’s debt toll is sharply on the increase, the economy is still heavily dependent on oil revenue. Even at that, the oil price is still being subsidized by government, contrary to Buhari’s promise to end oil subsidy. Above all, nothing has been done to develop the sector. The United States of America has more than 120 standard refineries. Nigeria has only 4, which are antiquated and non-performing.
In another development, the security situation in Nigeria today has become absolutely hopeless. Armed Fulani herdsmen, suspected to be recycled Boko Haram insurgents, have literally taken over the country. They prowl about, killing, maiming and burning houses and churches, while the security agencies remain confused and docile. Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa, Plateau, Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa and even Rivers states have become notorious habitations of human cruelty. Observing a kind of incapacitation and/or complicity of the security agencies, a Taraba Chieftain and former Defence Minister, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma (rtd) has instructed his people to rise up and defend themselves against the blood-hungry herdsmen. Also, addressing the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Benue State who were sacked from their communities by the herdsmen, the embattled Governor, Samuel Orthom, asked the willing IDPs to go back home at their own peril, and defend themselves with stones. The situation is as bad as that, if not worse.
What is most worrisome now is that national insecurity has taken a religious dimension. Supposed herdsmen have resorted to burning churches and killing priests. In reaction, the Pope and the World Council of Churches have condemned the dastardly act. In particular, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has told Buhari to forget his 2019 re-election bid, if nothing is done to stop the slaughtering of Christians and bring the culprits to book. Does it mean that ordinarily the president would not consider provision of security as his paramount statutory mandate, unless it is tied to a selfish political interest. It’s a shame.
Interestingly, Buhari’s government has been credited with huge success in the fight against corruption. The truth is that government has obviously not done enough in this most sensitive area. The president himself had rightly observed in 2015, that “if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption would kill Nigeria”. But for APC government to spend four years in the fight against corruption with little to show for it is disappointing. Nobody has been jailed amongst the numerous accused persons. And none of the cases pending in courts has been concluded, in four years. Besides, the recovery of small fractions of the looted funds, does not stop corruption. Instead, it exacerbates it. People are emboldened to loot and regurgitate just a little, sometimes by plea bargain. Serious war against corruption involves strengthening prevention, tackling impunity and changing perceptions. These are the fundamentals of the fight.
How can you fight corruption without reforming the civil service – the implementers of the budget and government policies. How can you fight corruption without revamping the police, customs, immigration (passport office), drivers’ licensing office, the NNPC, DPR and Electricity Gencos and Discos. Also, the act of paying members of the National Assembly humongous salaries/allowances amounts to corruption of the highest scale. Corruption fight is not all about recovery of looted fund. It is much more about stopping the systemic corruption which thrives within the domain of business as usual and impunity.
Whistle blowing, as a strategy of the fight, is appreciated but it has its own limitations and dangers. A credible whistle blower can only reveal what he knows or hears. But most public treasury thieves do not put all their loots in one basket. They are shared and divided into many stashes and places, to obviate the danger of total loss. That explains the ease with which convicted looters return parts of what they stole, bearing in mind that greater stashes exist somewhere. Whistling therefore does not proffer solution to corruption.
In the light of the above analysis, and without prejudice to President Buhari’s constitutional right to seek a second term, this is actually where Obasanjo’s letter as a “coup” comes to play. The youths who constitute over 60% of the Nigerian population, must rise up to their responsibility. Rather than submit, as willing tools in the hands of the old brigade politicians, as has been the case, the youths must obtain their PVCs as a deliberate weapon to take their destiny in their own hands. The time is now.
The major fall-out of Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari was the coalition of the Third-Force Movement (TFM). As a non-ethnic and non-religious movement, it was formed as an alternative political platform, that is expected to produce a vibrant political and economic direction for Nigeria, following the perceived failure of the APC and the PDP. Some of its distinguished leaders include, Olisa Agbakoba SAN; Tafawa Balewa (Jnr); Donald Duke (former Governor, Cross River State); Professor Charles Soludo (former CBN Governor); Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili (former Minister of Education); Col. Abubakar Umar (former military governor of Kano State). Since after their inauguration, very little has been heard of this body. A lot of people are asking the same question “Are you he who is to come and shall we look for another”? All Nigerians are yearning for freedom, equal rights and justice. And the time for TFM to act is also now.
Unfortunately, however, bad as Buhari’s appraisal may be, he still remains the man to beat in 2019. He has vast powers of incumbency to exercise. The APC state governors, ministers and NEC members will also fight to deliver their zones, invariably retaining Buhari in office, for their own selfish interests. Why – an injury to him is an injury to all of them, all things being equal. Moreover, it would be in the best interest of the South Eastern states in particular to vote for Buhari’s second tenure, if their ambition to produce a president in 2023 is achievable. They can swallow their pride to achieve their aim. After all, in politics, there is no permanent enemy but only permanent interest. If the president loses to a fellow Northerner or chooses to resign before 2019, it would dislocate the balance of power, between the Northern and Southern parts. The South East will continue to “bemoan” their political marginalization, for not being able to produce an executive president of Nigeria since 1960.
John Daniel Obioma