DAILY TRUST SUNDAY COLUMN By. Sonala Olumhense, Sun, 9 Apr 2023
Speaking to Catriona Laing, the outgoing…President Muhammadu Buhari has again disclosed how much he looks forward to retiring to Daura, his hometown, next month.
Speaking to Catriona Laing, the outgoing British High Commissioner to Nigeria who visited him at the presidential palace, he said, “I will be as far away from Abuja as possible.”
That is plain wishful dreaming. He may conveniently wish to be ‘far away from Abuja’—a euphemism for bliss and peace—but his poor tenure in the power he craved so much and its aftermath guarantee that it will be difficult for him to disinfect the stench of Abuja from his skin.
The following, then, are the top six reasons why Buhari may leave Abuja but Abuja does not leave him:
Number 6 but perhaps the most obvious is the 2023 presidential election he has just superintended. Preceded by the sudden and stunningly mismanaged currency change that Buhari authored weeks just before the event—a contest the electoral commission itself had advertised as well-organised and well-funded—to be concluded with transparent, electronic, real-time transmission and collation of results, it was delivered with inexplicable irregularities, ending in an opaque and questionable count.
On the contrary, the 2015 election, which brought Buhari to power was a symbol of credibility and popularity. That election ended with a congratulatory phone call from Mr Goodluck Jonathan, the unpopular leader Buhari defeated. That is what granted Buhari, as President-Elect, the respect of the world that would be reflected in dozens of world leaders attending his inauguration.
Buhari’s election, sadly, has produced a situation where the alleged ‘winner’ is begging to be recognised as he is being ridiculed around the world as much for his “victory” as for his character. Eerily absent is the public euphoria that characterized Buhari’s 2015 election.
The Number 5 reason is that Buhari’s has become the symbol of government mistrust. Three weeks after he took office in 2015, remember, he reiterated in the United States that he would restore trust in Nigeria governance, a subject he had hammered on during his campaign.
In June 2016, he penned in the Wall Street Journal, “The Three Changes Nigeria Needs,” an article I am sure he has since forgotten. The first of those “changes,” Buhari declared, was to “restore trust” in government by combating endemic corruption and mismanagement, as well as instituting accountable government and an efficient public sector.
Everyone outside the corridors of Buhari’s government in the past eight years would testify that he never delivered on that pledge, his government preferring to invent fictitious success, invest in lies, and deploy propaganda.
Think about it: one of his Ministers last week announced that he purchased a handful of fire trucks for N12 billion: yet another of what I have called signs that Abuja is winding up. Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika’s announcement has been met with popular outrage and incredulity. It is regarded as part of the “cleaning-up” by government officials on their way out of power.
Think about it: another of his Ministers told the media in Washington DC also last week that in the scandalous presidential election of February 25, INEC deliberately withheld real-time upload of results “in order to preserve the integrity of the data,” claiming that the commission suspected a cyberattack.
That was Lai Mohammed, who does not appear to understand the limits of his portfolio. The spokesman of INEC is Festus Okoye. In a statement on February 26, Mr Okoye clearly affirmed that the election challenges were “not due to any intrusion or sabotage of our systems…”
Now, if Nigerians trust governance less at Buhari’s departure after eight years than they did under the PDP he had vilified for a decade and a half, how does Daura protect his image or grant him peace?
Reason Number 4: multi-dimensional poverty in Nigeria. No, Buhari did not create it. However, his government consolidated and nourished it by means of its insincerity and lack of purpose.
It is widely recognized that while Buhari pampered Nigeria’s most corrupt and demonstrated nepotism regularly, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world, its population of the multi-dimensionally poor rising from 86 million to 98 million between 2007 and 2017.
The Buhari government responded not with urgency and commitment, but with propaganda, the Nigeria leader announcing in June 2019 that his government would lift 100 Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
But at a time that the World Poverty Clock was warning that poverty in Nigeria was growing at the rate of six persons per minute, Buhari characteristically overreached, claiming that between 2017 and 2019, “we lifted 10.5 million people out of poverty.” One newspaper immediately proved that that was false.
And how unserious was the administration? It took another two years before he set up a committee allegedly to implement his 2019 announcement. Two years later, they changed the colours of the Nigerian currency, a dubious policy that left the poor poorer and people needing money to buy their own money.
Reason Number 3: The nationwide insecurity.
Since winning the APC presidential ticket in 2014, Buhari bragged persistently that he would end the menace of insecurity. Eight years later, in October 2022, Rauf Aregbesola, the Minister of Interior, attached a date for delivering on the promise: December 2022.
“We will eliminate all insecurity issues by December,” the Minister lied. That date has now expired, but government bigwigs and their families are traveling in thicker security blankets and convoys. When power leaves Buhari next month, not only would he have failed to “eliminate” insecurity, he would also have failed even to restore security to the levels of May 2015. Even he will be needing federal help to ensure that he is not kidnapped for ransom.
Reason Number 2: APC rule: In 2015, APC positioned itself as “The Solution.” It was going to end the menace of PDP rule and solve Nigeria’s problems.
Read the APC Manifesto in which it posed as the all-conquering anti-corruption champion that would turn things around.
That APC never came to town. The APC that took power was, and is, a liar. The liar has done things with power for eight years that never even occurred to the PDP. Three years ago, I called it a historic swindle.
It is why the naira has collapsed and foreign investors are fleeing; the youth are sacrificing themselves in the desert and on the Mediterranean trying to escape; federal institutions have collapsed; and public cynicism shares space with inflation on the roof. As leader of APC for eight years, but particularly if his party remains in charge, Abuja will always be part of Buhari.
The Number 1 reason: the Buhari Myth. His campaign slogan was: “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”
He got the job but conveniently forgot his Contract with Nigerians (or “Covenant With Nigerians”), his promise to declare his assets publicly, and his First 100 Days pledge.
Buhari forgot his advertising: to lead by example. If he led Nigeria, it was into distress and pain. He did not kill corruption, meaning that in his care, corruption killed Nigeria.
Yes, he can escape to Daura, but is there never enough space to hide from himself? None at all.
This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials.
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