PENDULUM | The Message Nigerians Must Deliver to Buhari Next Week – By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, please, permit me to make some quick clarifications in this season of general bickering and mutual distrust and spiteful hatred. One. I do not work for any campaign organisation. I’m supporting the PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, same way I voluntarily supported Major General Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. I do so because there is no viable or electable alternative among the fringe candidates. I believe it is within my fundamental right of association and freedom of speech to support whosoever I wish. Similarly, I respect the rights of others to support any candidate of their choice and see no reason why anyone should get angry and jittery over mine.
Two. I did not choose Atiku for pecuniary or any other gain. I have not been paid by him or anybody acting on his behalf. I would not sell myself where the future of my country, Nigeria, is concerned. As I write, I’m already on my way to Oxford University to resume and engage in academic ventures for the next six months. I’m gainfully employed and happy and content to manage my modest income, so I’m not desperate for government appointment or patronage, as the social media trolls try to suggest about opposition figures. But I cannot watch my country disintegrate or watch an incompetent government drown our dear beloved country in an ocean of bigotry, backwardness, bitterness and bestiality. I owe it to myself, and fellow compatriots, to stand for truth, and nothing but the truth, as one of those it has pleased God to give some visibility and voice globally. What shall it profit a man who keeps silent in the face of unbridled tyranny and abysmal cluelessness. If I wished, I could have supported PDP in the 2015 elections. Every comfort was assured and guaranteed. But I chose to support a supposed poor man we believed would be a Mandela figure that would rescue us from the scourge of PDP. Little did I imagine we were in the process of inviting a worse pestilence on our nation.
Three. I bear no grudge or personal animosity against Buhari. I love him the way I love mankind and respect the office he occupies which I once attempted to enter when I contested in 2011. I believe President Muhammadu Buhari has not reciprocated the massive goodwill bestowed on him in 2015 and that he has treated us with great contempt and disdain. He has also not properly utilised his professional, competent and capable Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Had he done so, maybe we would now be saying something else. This is not to cause any disaffection within their ranks, but every discerning Nigerian knows that this quintessential gentleman is the reason that there is any real noteworthy success for this administration. Otherwise, Buhari has embarrassed his supporters, endlessly, with his reckless, insensitive and uninformed decisions. What many of those supporting him in public today say behind him is unbelievable and unspeakable. I have friends who confess to private threats of business and physical annihilation and are thus forced to endorse a man they know can never take Nigeria to anywhere meaningful, even if given four terms.
Four. I have tried strenuously to be fair to Buhari and wrote copiously to advise him, from time to time, as I promised him when we met in his office, one on one, in 2015. I gave up hope, after some time, when I saw the direction he was headed and noticed the irredeemable obstinacy in his DNA. Four years ago, many of us were very excited about the hope this great General offered to our nation. Perhaps, we overrated his capabilities. It has become clear that we wittingly dressed him in borrowed robes and we were all hypnotised and brainwashed, somehow. Today, our eyes have cleared from that giddiness and I’m ready to add my voice to those of others who genuinely believe, Buhari must go. I do this with every sense of responsibility to God and to my country. I will give my reasons shortly.
I have had to apologise in the last couple of months to those who feel very aggrieved that a self-confessed democrat like me could ever support a blatant dictator like Buhari. You can never imagine the gale of verbal attacks I suffered and endured for what I considered my innocuous support. The last one that really hit me was in Ghana recently. I ran into the respected Legal luminary, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, at the lounge in Kotoka International Airport. There were two ladies seated with him, one of who I believe is his wife. I greeted them but the other lady snubbed me, and said, “Dele, I will never greet you.” I looked blank and wondered if we’ve ever met, and how I might have offended her. Madam soon threw a sucker punch. “Dele, you are one of those who brought that disaster called Buhari on us…” and she went into her tirade. I tried to explain that I’m indeed very sorry and it was not my fault that I fell for the charms and scam of APC. The woman was practically inconsolable.
I have encountered many people like her. A guy almost went physical with me on a flight to London, grumbling aloud about how some of Buhari’s ignorant decisions have messed up Nigeria, his business and family. All I could do was plead for understanding. Unfortunately, Buhari himself is totally oblivious to the way Nigerians feel or just couldn’t be bothered or is probably insulated from objective criticism by selfish advisers. The tragedy of it all is his Messianic complex. He and his cronies behave as if Nigerians owe them a load of gratitude for favours received. Such hocus-pocus and inanity.
I have no iota of doubt left in me that President Muhammadu Buhari has performed well below expectations and that he should be voted out, peacefully, on February 16, 2019. The message should be clear henceforth that there is no automatic second term for incompetence, irresponsibility, irreverence and impunity. It is a miracle that Nigeria has not exploded into a civil war with the manner Buhari has treated some parts as second-class citizens with no right to complain. Let me now give reasons why we cannot afford to donate a second term to Buhari when he has clearly not earned it.
One. At 76, and with a failing health, Buhari should go into permanent retirement at the expiration of his tenure on May 29, 2019. No man can cheat nature and Buhari isn’t an exception.
Two. Buhari has not been in charge or on top of government and governance since he assumed office on May 29, 2015. Some cronies, otherwise known and addressed as ‘the cabal’, have been ruling without being elected. This can only get worse if Buhari is awarded a second term through our collective stupidity.
Three. The human rights record of Buhari has never been anything to praise or applaud at any time. Nothing has changed since he was kicked out of power by President Ibrahim Babangida in 1985. He has refused to adhere to the rule of law and has continued to trample on the rights of Nigerian citizens despite several court orders. What makes matters worse is that he behaves like Constantin Demiris, a character in Sidney Sheldon’s Memories of Midnight, who never forgets a favour and never forgives an injury. He has kept his presumed enemies in prison, indefinitely and compensated a few of his benefactors with appointments. Buhari does not hold the Constitution of Nigeria dear to heart and as such behaves with maximum use of force. His goons have been harassing the Legislature and the Judiciary on the pretext that they are fighting corruption, but they deliberately target those they consider inimical to their hold on power. They have invaded homes of Judges in the middle of the night, breaking down doors, and swarmed on the National Assembly with thugs and later with hooded and gun-totting secret agents in broad daylight. He has suspended the Chief Justice of Nigeria when he has neither the authority nor the power to do so. Buhari and those who support this brigandage and total assault on recognised and reverent principles of law and established constitutional institutions choose to forget that the worst kind of corruption is the abuse of power itself. When it is for ulterior and base motives, as is now obviously the case, it becomes a menace that all well-meaning and true democrats must resist with all their might. There can be no excuse or justification. Otherwise we may as well embrace not just dictatorship, but anarchy.
Four. Buhari has been a divisive leader who appears not to believe in the unity of Nigeria. Under his government, Nigeria and Nigerians have been more divided. The lop-sidedness of his security appointments have been dangerously fixated on people of the same ethnic group and religious persuasion, and he does it with nonchalance and condescension. If you like, jump into the Atlantic Ocean, our President won’t blink an eye. He claims, with a straight face that he makes appointments on merit, but we’ve not seen the reflection and positive effects of this merit on the war against corruption, terrorists and insurgents.
Five. Buhari’s economic blueprint has been more involved in his stereotypical tightening up the noose on the economy, scaring investors away with ill-thought economic policies and reversal of contractual obligations without negotiations with parties involved, instead of opening up the economy. This has all happened because of his obsession with so-called corruption. Yet, under his watch, not much has been achieved because of his desperation to hold on to power. This has forced him to compromise, capitulate and led him to bring the biggest and possibly most corrupt chieftains of other parties closer to him. He turns the proverbial blind eye to the infamous activities of these nefarious characters because they are perceived as being able to achieve his unbridled ambition for a second term. He had lost elections on three previous occasions and only won when he got the so-called bad guys to help him attain power. Right now, he is heavily relying on them again to bail him out of imminent defeat next week. And this is the man who falsely claims to espouse anti-corruption credentials and touts himself as a man of integrity.
Six. Buhari has failed spectacularly on all his major campaign promises. Nigeria is far worse than he met it. I will be the first to congratulate the government on its achievements in the rail sector and also the success with the militant problem in the Niger Delta. Other than that, he could not even stabilise what he inherited talk less of improving on it. His government has been struggling to control the free-fall of the Naira against the Dollar. He has not been able to cancel and eliminate fuel subsidies which he once described as a big scam and on which the corruption fight has been largely hinged. In fact, payments have more than doubled and the NNPC now holds a monopoly on importation of petroleum products with attendant risk of corruption in high places. We are none the wiser about security spending by him. This was the second plank on which the anti-corruption war was predicated. Loans have ballooned astronomically, yet infrastructure development remains outlandishly backward. We only get to read about monumental achievements on paper.
Seven. The last but not the least in my view is the perpetual and puerile blame game. Four years after getting power from PDP, Buhari has not stopped blaming his predecessors, forgetting that this was precisely the reason PDP was sacked from power. Buhari won those elections not on his own accord, but because the general populace had become totally disenchanted with PDP, it’s profligacy, looting and mendacity. Sadly, It seems we have come full circle. Since Buhari has shown the inability to perform the magic he promised, it is time to send him back home, with the sure message that whosoever comes next will suffer the same fate. It is a democratic template we must put in place now and forever. Otherwise, we must accept whatever fate befalls our dear country.
The world is watching.
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