This year is not looking good for President Muhammadu Buhari. The incurious president has spent half of January confronting what he had ignored—the herdsmen extremism.
Allies of Buhari are increasingly confident that he would run again, but they don’t see why the president is too timid to declare his ambition. In fact, a group of seven governors mostly from rural states in the north who wants to be known as G7, simply defined by me as Ghetto7 are now in the lead acting like we are in the days of Sanni Abacha, when Daniel Kanu, led the infamous Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha march in support of Abacha’s continued stay in power.
In reality, Buhari, 75, cannot run. The president who ran his 2015 campaign with messianic zeal has become the antithesis of hope. The sorry story of thousands of Nigerians who left the country in search of better life, trekking through the Sahara desert, only to end up in shackles in Libya is one example.
The ring of truth is this: if you are a messiah, you must deliver on your promise. If not, you become the epicenter of jest.
In the minds of millions who voted for Buhari, there’s a conclusion. He’s simply not the man they thought him to be. Polls say so. That is the big story of the last two years.
So, before his allies go on overdrive with a re-election campaign, it will be sane to take a look at his dossier to see how time ran out on Mr. President.
Buhari has spent about two years and eight months in the office. When counted in days, including weekends, he has spent about 960 days as a sitting president.
He spent 150 days on medical leave turning deaf-ear to taxpayers’ request for what ailed him. He spent 180 days sitting around piles of handover notes from previous government without assigning ministers to the task. His first sets of ministers were assigned in November 2015—six months after he assumed duty at Aso Villa.
We’ve seen Aso Rock divided, but not in the region that we have seen under Buhari. His ministers are at war with one another, heads of agencies are in duel, governors are fighting one another, and his wife and children are not in political agreement with him.
As anger and disenchantment build over his inaction, last December, he made a surprise shift, announcing 1000 plus names for agencies of government after two years and five months since he became president. The breakdown is 885 days of dithering. But the time Buhari wasted in breathing life into those agencies is not only what is concerning, but the appearance of names from the graveyard on the list of his appointees is what is disheartening.
Of course, the president’s spokesmen rationalized it, shielding Buhari from criticism. They cleared him of poor judgment, passing the buck to those who compiled the list. You’ll expect a curious president to pay attention to details in order to find gaps in his briefs, but Buhari is incurious. In September 2016, he embarrassed Nigeria by reading from a speech that plagiarized former American president, Barack Obama, to launch a signature campaign—“change begins with me.” The campaign flipped. And with its back on the ground, nothing more is heard of it.
On many salient issues, where Buhari has been called out by citizens, his spokesmen have used intemperate words to respond, and Mr. President is enjoying the divisiveness.
Indeed, if Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, left the government with the sobriquet of a clueless president, what is fitting for Buhari is clumsy president.
Mr. Buhari’s ham-fisted attempt at fiscal policy plunged Nigeria into economic chaos for which its currency has never come out, despite the claim that recession is now in the past.
And because his medical leave betrayed his own words to stop medical tourism, Los Angeles Times in its February 20, 2017, edition made a mockery of him in a story headlined, “Nigerian president disdains his country’s best hospital for medical care in Britain. But what ails him?”
Purveyors of fake news made good business out of his sickness stating, “Buhari is dead,” because the president won’t tell taxpayers what sickness kept him away from office, yet Buhari remains incurious.
There are other missed opportunities to unite the country as well. Take for instance the issue of Fulani herdsmen. He danced around it until it boomeranged. And while the people of Benue State grieved, weeping over more than 70 people wantonly killed by herdsmen recently, the presidency came up with atrocious statement, comparing death of citizens under Goodluck Jonathan government to those killed by Fulani herdsmen under Buhari. Shameful! Let’s agree Buhari is trying hard to save himself from ridicule, but it is hard to sell a broken egg at original price.
In January 2017, Quartz, an American online news made a screaming headline out of the herdsmen uncontrolled killings declaring, “Nigeria now has a bigger internal security threat than Boko Haram.”
Quartz content came from a 2017 intelligence report on security situation in Nigeria by SB Morgen, which I also read. The SBM intel knocked the Buhari government for its incuriousness. “The reaction of the Nigerian state to the pastoral conflicts in particular, brings to the fore the question of what value the state places on citizens’ lives. We had, in 2016, multiple situations where some groups killed other Nigerians with impunity, justified their murders openly, and the government did little or nothing to punish the killers or put an end to the killings. The number one thing that legitimises a government is the ability to protect the life of its citizens. The Nigerian state appears more interested in revenue, than in human life,” says the report.
Of course, what you ignore, you empowered. That is why this January Buhari is facing the music for not acting on the herdsmen extremism.
Sadly, when many people were killed in southern Kaduna last year, Buhari’s man, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-rufai, responded with cash reward, doling out money to the herdsmen as some form of persuasion for them to sheath their swords. That strategy failed, because it is weak. It amounted to a waste of taxpayers’ money.
There are two sides to leadership, the skills at conveying messages clearly and powerfully, and the ability to receive messages and thoughtfully process it. Buhari is giving room to rumors about his skills. He’s an elusive or exclusive leader. In fact, his exclusionary leadership is wreaking havoc on the manifesto of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Naturally, this year is a year of stewardship for Buhari. It is a good year to show what he has done to deserve re-election, but he’s been busy unveiling railway initiated and executed by his predecessors.
I remember what Tony Blair said to him at the start of his presidency. He counseled Buhari to set forth at dawn, but Buhari ignored counsel. “You have more goodwill and authority now to do the most difficult things at the beginning than at the end,” Mr. Blair told Buhari. “Take advantage of that goodwill that comes with being elected to take difficult decisions that may inflict immediate pain, but in the long-term interest of the country and government.”
“If Nigeria must to transformed and evolve towards a politics of performance against politics of ethnicity, religion, patronism, cronyism, it is important that government demonstrated clearly that it is a government for the whole of the country and not part,” he said.
Like the words of the bible, for everything there’s a season, a time to search and a time to quit searching; a time to keep and a time to throw away. What APC will do with Buhari this year as it goes into primaries is left to the APC, but Nigerians can throw away clueless and clumsy leaders at the polls in February 2019.