By Sufuyan Ojeifo
After so much ballyhoo about President Muhammadu Buhari’s proclivity at pampering his ethnic stock over and above the other ethnic nationalities, he finally attempted to defend himself against the charge of ethnic bias. His defence was contained in a homily at a dinner he hosted in honour of leaders of the All Progressive Congress (APC) at the Presidential Villa on Thursday, January 18.
I probably know the reason Buhari mustered the will to host his party leaders at this time, even when he has not been able to ensure a properly-convened meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of his party as the national leader in three years; or, cause the holding of the party’s national convention to, at least, ratify appointments into NEC positions; or, still, elect chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees.
The dinner was to serve as a precursor to other dress rehearsals that will culminate in his final decision on the 2019 presidency. The visit of the seven northern governors, led by Mallam Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state, amid the anguish of a grieving nation over the episodic genocides unleashed on hapless Christian population in some northern states to persuade Buhari to run, was the first in the series.
The media conference by his Special Adviser on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, wherein he propped up a thesis that sought to validate the fact that the president is healthy enough to re-contest in 2019 is another one. The president’s ill-health has presented as the strongest reason that could encumber him from throwing his hat in the ring once more. If his health is not good enough to carry him through, that could become his exit strategy.
The third in the series of the dress rehearsals prelude to 2019 was orchestrated by Buhari himself: the January 18 dinner. Although, he has not declared his intention to seek re-election, yet the ticket of his party is secured in his hands. Except he exercises the right of first refusal, no one within his party, will gleefully jump in front of a moving train. To do so against Buhari, who is a power monger, would amount to committing political hara-kiri within the APC. Former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who is interested in contesting in 2019, was wise to resign from the party.
Now, with the way Buhari tried to dismiss allegations of ethnic bias against him, it was clear that the season of verbal political exhortations and sweet talks is here again. And, without surprise, those who should speak truth to power in defence of the collective position of their people, especially the Igbo stock, have positioned themselves in the corridors of power to mollycoddle the powers-that-be in protection of their enlightened self-interests. Some so-called Igbo political leaders had, in recent times, gravitated from the PDP to the APC.
Interestingly, the president took the joke straight to them when, in a manner I consider simplistic, he tried to absolve himself of ethnic bias by the fact that he appointed four substantive ministers from the southeast zone. I shuddered at that rationalisation. It does not matter whether the ministers appointed from the southeast are substantive or junior ministers, Buhari did not make the appointment at his own pleasure. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria compelled him to do so.
Any other person, for that matter, in that office, would have been required by the constitution to appoint ministers from the thirty-six states of the federation, even if nobody voted for him or her in all the states in a zone. It is thus the constitutional right of the Southeast people to be so appointed and I am at a loss to read the president deploy that to mitigate the charge of ethnic bias, especially viewed against the backdrop of strategic appointments he made many of which were not constitutionally circumscribed.
For instance, how many southeasterners are accommodated in the commanding heights of the nation’s security architecture where appointments are egregiously lopsided in favour of Buhari’s ethnic stock? The social media are inundated with the narratives of the nepotistic outlook of the president in the strategic appointments made at his pleasure. The chiefs of army and air staff are from the north, although it is argued that appointments in the military are based on seniority and hierarchy.
The Inspector General of Police, whose promotion interestingly was made at the expense of twenty-one or thereabout senior officers who had to be compulsorily retired for him to be enthroned, is from the north. Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Comptroller General of the Nigerian Custom Service and Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, are northerners. The list is long.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s recent addition to the list of holders of PhD (in Christian Theology), in his trending evangelical treatise, spoke about Buhari’s “nepotistic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotistic court.” Obasanjo also indicted Buhari for his poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics, which has culminated in a much more divided nation afflicted by widened inequality under his leadership.
While I believe the Igbo leaders, who are not in support of Buhari for his anti-Igbo disposition arising largely from his claim that he got only 198,000 votes from them in 2015, would fight to the finish the nepotistic treatment the president has continued to mete out to the Southeast zone, I can imagine how ludicrous those who have moved to the APC, perhaps for “bread and butter” or for political survival to endorse Buhari, would feel now that the tides are against him.
The Buhari presidency has become encumbered. The president has squandered so much goodwill on which he rode to power in 2015. Apart from his achievements in substantially degrading the Boko Haram terrorists and half-heartedly or selectively fighting corruption, it is doubtful if Buhari has any other redeeming legacies to his credit. Impunity and mediocrity have become governance characters. The agents of the executive arm of government continue to brazenly disobey court orders.
Consider the impunity of the continued detention of former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) and the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky despite several court orders for their release. What of the impunity of Fulani herdsmen who continually maim and kill innocent farm/land owners in Benue, Plateau, Taraba and other places without any corresponding restraint by the federal government?
At the APC dinner, Buhari claimed that he was aware of the problems of the country and that he would always reflect on the historical antecedents before arriving at decisions. He said he would not hurriedly take decisions for the sake of clear conscience. If the president is aware of the problems, must he reflect ad-infinitum on them before taking decisions? It is sheer mediocrity on display in governance to so over-reflect, instead of acting expeditiously, while the nation burns or slides into extinction. That attitude is suggestive of lack of governance ideas.
It is mediocre decision by Buhari, who is not economy savvy, to appoint weak Nigerians, according to Obasanjo, who could not help him out, for instance, in the area of the economy, which is why there is worsening poverty in the land and Nigerians that have lost their jobs since 2015 have increased from 6 million to 16 million in number under his presidency. What can be more mediocre than a government that relishes only in bandying statistics of monetary accretion to the coffers without reflecting positively on the wellbeing of the people?
This is, sadly, the story of Buhari’s presidency, which many suffering Nigerians do not want to continue beyond 2019. A vast majority of Nigerians hope he will exhibit his much-vaunted integrity by honourably dismounting from the horse and going home to a deserved rest. The world waits for Buhari to make his historic decision on whether to run or not in 2019, a decision that will, either way, profoundly affect the presidential power calculations.
Mr. Ojeifo, editor-in-chief of The Congresswatch magazine, writes via email@example.com
Editor- in- Chief
The Congresswatch Magazine
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