The topsy turvy that presently dominates the Buhari presidency carries with it many disconnections, disjunctions, dysfunctionalities, and strongly supported by incompetence and incapacity. In 2015, nobody saw this leadership calamity in the horizon, including yours sincerely, when drums were rolled out to pep up the aspiration of General Muhammadu Buhari. Some of us had thought that being a retired General, he would possess the essential leadership attributes to confront the problems bedevilling us, chief of which was the Boko Haram insurgency. He too, had showcased his uncommon exploits during the maitatsine crisis of early eighties, as part of the narratives to sell himself. The story was told of how General Buhari chased those miscreants into the Sahara desert, and had to be told to make a detour, having successfully eliminated substantial numbers. The maitatsine story took the shape of the Boko Haram insurgents, and Buhari had boasted that within six months, the insurgents would be history. Five years on, President Buhari, has been running from pillar to post, lost in the wilderness of thoughts, initiatives and creativity, to provide response to our common malaise, ably assisted by his fatigued Service Chiefs who are wearing the badge of professional inertia.
Nigeria’s problems are bigger than President Buhari’s presidency to handle. Our problems have assumed a frightening dimension and sophistication, that an unthinking leadership would find them very difficult to unravel. President Buhari’s present official age is not an enabler either, coupled with a health challenge that is yet shrouded in mystery. It is difficult to reconcile an ailing country with an ailing president, particularly at a time when more than energy, grit, capacity and synergy are required to dissect and provide solutions to the problems. Rather than enjoy the services and leadership capacities of a president, what we see are the comfortable emanations of a resident. President Buhari is a resident of Aso Villa, whose supposed presidential attributes are residential in the cocoon of his office, and yet to get to the nitty-gritty of the real issues that presently factorise our common sufferance. We are yet to see the positive impact of a president. Nigerians are suffering. Nigerians are looking more like a flock without a shepherd. The kidnappers, armed bandits, armed robbers, and Boko Haram insurgents have assumed a presidential status in the scheme of things. They are more dreaded, feared and “respected”. They operate at every nook and cranny of the country. They are the presidents of the highways, the presidents of the towns and villages where they operate, to the extent that constituted authorities travel far into their conclaves to negotiate with them.
When you have a president who does not reach out to his country men and women, who is more a monologue than interactive, he becomes a resident. Rather than preside, he resides. When you have a president who finds it easier to travel out of the country, the most recent, Mali, to hold talks of unity, while his country is presently fractured and dominated by mutual suspicion, ethnic bigotry, nepotism and cronyism, then you know he is cut off from circulation. President Buhari is very familiar with the architectural details inside Aso Villa, but appears unfamiliar with the architectural details of the Nigerian nation. In the last one year of his renewed mandate, how many states in Nigeria has he visited to share in their aspirations, feel the pulse of the people and interact with a cross section of the people? His leadership distribution and expressions wear the garb of a resident, who is permanently holed up in the inner sanctuary of his home, and depends largely on narratives from his subordinates and appointees who often times, discharge sweet nothings to please the ego of the president. Nigerian roads are presently in a state of rot, but wait to read the president’s speech, you are likely to see an eldorado in roads infrastructure, captured by “resident” speech writers, who like their master, hardly travel on road to see things for themselves.
I was ridiculously amused last week to hear (P)resident Buhari saying Nigerians knew he has tried his best in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents. I chuckled in utter disbelief. Where is the effort? Could it be that the president is not being properly briefed by his tired service chiefs about the unwholesome damages being wrought on residents in the North East region, or he was just trying to apply cruel kindness to describe a pitiably ugly situation? Boko Haram insurgency has not only become a sore thumb of this government, it has exposed the extent of our military incapacity in protecting the territorial integrity of the nation. It explains away the rationale for threatening to deploy hunters to confront the insurgents since it does appear our military has reached its wits end. That is the awry narrative of a state with declining confidence in its military, no thanks to the Buhari presidency that is bent on sustaining tired and fatigued Service Chiefs, who have surely overstayed their welcome. Soldiers are killed at will. Governor Zulum narrowly escaped Boko Haram attack on his way to Baga, about 190 kilometers outside Maiduguri. On Sallah day, multiple explosions in Maiduguri reportedly caused damage, while the Shehu of Bornu, cried out that they were no longer safe in their domain. A president that is truly proactive would create time to visit troubled spots, motivate the men on the firing line, give pep talk, and reassure them of his readiness to provide the necessary support and solidarity. Certainly, not (p)resident Buhari.
The fact that General Buhari circulates within the precinct of Aso Villa’s expansive environment makes the thought hurtful. Rather than circulate around the 36 states of the Federation, he finds the Aso Villa more alluring than the ruggedness of Nigerian roads, eaten up by potholes and craters, by which Nigerians in their millions travel, amid the fear of kidnappers, to eke a living. In his home state of Katsina, the Governor competes with armed bandits since negotiation has failed a couple of times. In Kaduna state, the mindless slaughtering of indigenes of Kafanchan and its neighbourhood, is a pointer to our porous security architecture especially as anyone is hardly arrested. The blood-letting has continued unabated and without equivocation. Bandits often found it convenient to raid villages, kill wantonly, loot foods, as they visit mayhem on the people. It is this disturbing level of frustration that made Governor Zulum to threaten that he would deploy hunters in place of the military. Once security has gotten to the level of comparing hunters with the military, be rest assured that we have come to the end of the road.
What is the take away from a Buhari presidency that is riddled with large-scale corruption and tactlessness? What can we hold firmly for President Buhari aside the usual rhetoric of “we are trying our best”. What exactly has been his cutting edge achievements in an era where the corrupt presides over corruption like we see in the NDDC orchestra? As we speak, pounds sterling to naira has climbed the roof top at N570. Dollar to Naira is now N470. In an era of pandemic, the situation is going to get worse due to declining revenue. When a nation eats up its today, encumbered by debilitating borrowings that threaten our sovereignty, its future will remain bleak and frustrated. A future that is not guaranteed cannot assuage our feelings or inspire any hope. The moment hopelessness creeps into the people’s sensibilities, the more they are insulated away from buying into government’s policies and programmes. Once that becomes the trajectory, it kills motivation and sense of patriotism. That is why corruption reigns supreme and sits atop elegantly within the caucuses of government agencies. From Aso Villa through the Ministries, to the parastatals, corruption is decorated like a piece of birthday cake pleasantly served by celebrants to their guests.
Nigeria under Buhari as president is being torn apart like erupting volcano. You wake up everyday to a new sing-song. Because there are too many power caucuses, every appointee of government is a Lord unto himself. Once delegated responsibility is the driving force of a government, owning up to responsibility of mistakes and foibles, is neither here nor there. The thought that we will continue to strot on this journey till 2023 further compounds the problem. Nigeria, at present is being run by small Villa boys with no cognate experience or leadership skills to understand our peculiarities, boys who were yesterday selling recharge cards on the streets are now those being vested with the responsibility to chart our future. That is what you get when you convert leadership and power to some piece of retirement benefit for a man that is detained by his self righteous indignation. The country suffers, the man enjoys.