by Shaka Momodu
I always knew this day would come when those who, in their less than altruistic desires and pursuit of personal agendas, foisted Muhammadu Buhari on Nigeria as president would return to their senses after their sojourn away from reality. But I never in my wildest dreams knew the day would come so soon. The orchestra has since stopped; the fantasy of body language has given way to the cold, hard reality that you cannot give what you don’t have. The joyous songs of praise have given way to feverish anger and disappointment across the land. People like Adams Oshiomhole have however vowed to hold on to Buhari in “perpetuity” despite the fact that Nigeria is drifting into lawlessness and anarchy under him. We cannot begrudge Oshiomhole, he has made his pitch but let us hold him to account when all this madness is over.
Our country is now a massive killing field. As killer herdsmen unleash violence on everybody. Men of anarchy rule the land. Blood is flowing from all directions and in all directions. Mass burials have become all too familiar. We have seen unbelievable display of insensitivity and outright callousness towards the victims of brazen violence and murder. We have official rationalization of evil, and a total dereliction of duty by those charged with the responsibility of protecting and guaranteeing the security of lives and properties.
The change-mongers are receding and retracting from their original endorsements and praises in a fit of anxiety and are even warning Nigerians of an impending doom. Now compare their new alarm about the same man whose victory was met with rapturous cheers by a crowd blinded to the inconvenient fact that his credentials as a leader were fundamentally flawed. They told the gullible, the foolish and the naïve that he was the messiah ordained to save this country. A pathetic fellow even once told me Buhari was like his god and he could kill for him. Another told me there were wild celebrations in Boston by Nigerians in the aftermath of his victory. They mocked me with text messages and emails each time they read my articles, calling me names and wishing me death.
The shameless promoters of the Buhari-has-changed mantra got everyone fired up over a patently false narrative. Though it was obvious that in their heart of hearts, they knew the man was unsuited for the office of president of a diverse country like Nigeria with all its centrifugal forces, but they were apparently more interested in one who could win the presidential election rather than one with the capacity to govern. Some even argued that the records of history against his name were “contrived handicaps” to undermine his candidacy. Others deployed bleach in trying to erase Buhari’s past record of misdeeds, rebranded him in elegant prose and sold his candidacy as the messiah who would save Nigeria. Well, there is an adage in the land of my fathers that says, “Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.”
Not long after Buhari mounted the horse, former President Olusegun Obasanjo upped the ante of his trade when he told the whole world that Buhari was “building the Nigeria of our dreams”. Guys, wonders shall never cease! Professor Wole Soyinka followed suit with his outpouring of love by uncharacteristically singing Buhari’s praises as a born-again phenomenon. All these were at a time red flags about their hero had sprouted up, viz: the 97% vs. 5% statement, delay in constituting his cabinet, governmental inertia, etc.
Now they’re realising they overreached themselves and are running for the exits, revising history, recasting narratives, giving excuses and covering their keisters. They misled the nation to take a disastrous path, and now they fear the day of reckoning. Their lamentations lately are nothing but a fig leaf to cover the fact that they were responsible for the current tragedy we find ourselves.
Obasanjo admitted he knew Buhari was weak in the knowledge and understanding of the economy but he thought that he could make use of good Nigerians in that area that could help. He continued: “I know his weakness in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector and again, there are many Nigerians that could be used in that area as well.” It is striking that Obasanjo knew these weaknesses in Buhari and yet went full throttle to endorse and campaign for him.
The economy is a central component of national security. It was an extremely naïve expectation to think that Buhari would use people with knowledge to help him administer the country. Such an expectation or a presumption would have been valid somewhat if the man we are talking about was not Buhari but some other guy with a broad world view – cultural, social and religious. How can a man with a medieval world view pertaining to culture, religion and governance, and who has shown little interest in knowledge or self-improvement over the last 35 years be suddenly rebranded as “changed”? Again, you can’t give what you don’t have.
It is no slur against Obasanjo’s integrity to say, I am not fooled by his reason because he helped make Buhari a hero he was clearly not, and more so, I am not impressed by his volte-face. There is nothing new he just said that a few of us hadn’t said in the last three years and continue to say about Buhari, even at the risk of sounding like a broken record! And I don’t believe his reasons for endorsing him because Buhari’s antecedent and career path do not support Obasanjo’s “I thought” excuse and the wild expectations that followed his candidacy.
Rather it raised significant warning signals that were ignored in the mass hysteria of 2015. Imagine Obasanjo went as far as dismissing his own PTF probe report conducted in 1999-2000 that documented a series of abuses under Buhari’s watch, a report which, in some respects was the forerunner of how Buhari would run his government. It is instructive that nothing has changed from the way Buhari ran the PTF then and the way he is running Nigeria today. He brings in his close-knit ethnic stock to build a wall around himself and gives them a free hand and immunity to run things. Don’t ask me about the lopsidedness of the PTF projects, his actions, inactions and utterances in favour of the Muslim North as he is doing today, especially as regards the Fulani herdsmen.
In its summary, the probe committee had advised Obasanjo to “set up a high powered judicial panel to recover the huge public funds allocated to the PTF and to take necessary action against any officer, consultant or contractor whose negligence resulted in this colossal loss of public funds”.
According to the report, the sum of N25,758,532,448 was mismanaged by the Afri-Project Consortium (APC), a company contracted by the PTF as management and project consultants. Buhari as the PTF chairman was said to have also “delegated to them the power of engineers in all appropriate projects requiring such power – which made them assume absolute powers to initiate, approve and execute all projects by the PTF. The mismanagement that took place in the PTF under Buhari’s watch was said to have been carried out by APC (the company) in their capacity as management and project consultants.
Both their management service fees and budgets for several projects carried out during the existence of the PTF were greatly overpriced. But despite those troubling revelations about how Buhari ran the PTF, in the politics of 2015, Obasanjo who had become “the navigator of the APC”, declared with fervour and presidential fiat: “There was nothing in that report”. It was a moment when emotional and personal animosity trumped wisdom, objectivity and reason. A savage blow to accountability, which at that time was one of the strong points of then Candidate Buhari.
In case he (Obasanjo) does not know, his endorsement of Buhari created a kind of reputational vortex that shielded Buhari’s past from the rigorous interrogation of the evidence and more than anything else, gave legitimacy to the false narrative about Buhari’s far-reaching capacity and past accomplishments. For instance, when asked about the PTF report, Buhari casually said: “What do you want me to say when the man who set it up has dismissed it.” And that was the end of the matter.
Now let’s look at our eminent Nobel laureate’s seismic shift of positions on Buhari. It defies explanation till date and even more so, the reason given. In 2007, Soyinka told Buhari bluntly that the Nigerian nation was against his ambition. He went on to cite the several sins of the general. He challenged those who said he had changed then to provide the evidence in public and not wishful speculation or behind-the-scenes assurances. In 2015, Soyinka fell miserably short of his own very prescribed standards when without providing the sheerest evidence that Buhari had changed, made a 360-degree turn and endorsed him based on behind-the-scenes assurances of Buhari’s transfiguration by Pastor Tunde Bakare and others. From the self-evident facts on the ground today, it is easy to see which appraisal was objective and which was swimming with the tide of politics of 2015.
I once posed our giant laureate a few questions: Did Buhari “demonstrably strive to be glaringly what he was not?” Was Buhari really “chastened by intervening experiences and a vastly transformed environment?” While Soyinka’s findings pointed North, the evidence before us then pointed South. Soyinka claimed to have studied Buhari from a distance and dissected his key utterances, past and present, after which he reached a convenient conclusion of plausible transformation. I have angonised over this since he made that seismic shift. Which key utterances did Soyinka dissect that gave him the comfort of plausible transformation?
Up till this moment of writing, he never told Nigerians those key utterances that swayed his conclusion. The truth is contrary to Soyinka’s findings, the history books document Buhari’s key utterances within the intervening period and reveal a highly polarised figure – a man “the nation cannot call to order”.
Was Soyinka not aware that Buhari declared with military fiat that Abacha did not steal Nigeria’s money at a time several hundreds of millions of dollars had been returned to the country, part of Abacha’s loot? Was our laureate not aware of Buhari’s threat that if the alleged rigging of 2011 elections was repeated, then “the dog and the baboon will be soaked in blood”? Again, was Soyinka not aware of Buhari’s statement in 2013 where he stated that while Niger Delta militants “were trained in some skills and were given employment, the ones in the North (Boko Haram), were being killed and their houses were being demolished?” Was he not aware Boko Haram had earlier, in 2012 to be precise, nominated Buhari as its negotiator? What could have motivated such a blood-thirsty sect to nominate Buhari from the bunch of ethno/religious champions in the North as its chief negotiator? I would hazard a guess that they trusted him more!
Sadly, despite Soyinka’s warning that it was “pointlessly, and dangerously provocative to present General Buhari as something that he provably was not,” he did just that in his findings of Buhari’s “plausible transformation”.
Make no mistake, Buhari started to tone down his divisive rhetoric when he started considering another run for the presidency on the platform of a broad coalition of so called “progressive” and conservative politicians. He started to make politically correct statements and froze his warm embrace of Boko Haram when he saw the opportunity of another run for the presidency. And if you recall, this divorce did not go down well with the sect, which it expressed in a bloody attack on Buhari’s convoy in Kaduna in 2014.
I have researched the books and newspaper articles to find out what Buhari’a key utterances were that had a positive impact on national unity, which may have escaped my attention but Soyinka probably referred to, and I found none. Can somebody out there help me find any?
Bakare, Buhari’s former running mate, has come out swinging against Buhari describing his silence on the killings in Benue by Fulani herdsmen as “sinful”.
Father Mbaka, Buhari’s spiritual guardian angel, has now practically written him off as a failure. Just as I was rounding up this piece, news broke that our evil genius, former military President Ibrahim Babangida has also distanced himself from Buhari, urging him not to contest 2019 election so Nigeria could get some healing from a new leader.
According to him, “the next election in 2019 presents Nigerians a unique opportunity to reinvent the will and provoke fresh leadership that would immediately begin the process of healing the wounds in the land and ensuring that the wishes and aspirations of the people are realized in building and sustaining national cohesion and consensus,” he said. Babangida stated further that he is “alarmed by the amount of blood-letting across the land. Nigeria is now being described as a land where blood flows like river, where tears have refused to dry up. Almost on a daily basis, we are both mourning and grieving, and often times left helpless by the sophistication of crimes.”
Who is not alarmed? Nearly every reasonable and patriotic Nigerian is. Except of course those rooting for a another term for Buhari. Remember this is the same Babangida who promised “to mobilise and lead retired generals to back Buhari” in 2015. Just three years ago, all these men sang his praises to high heaven. What has changed? Nothing really except that what they pretended not to see then is staring them in the face now.
All I do now is humour the vibes of the 2015 presidential election, as many who enthusiastically helped to create the myth around the Buhari persona and thus put us where we are today speak with regret and disappointment. Folks, reality is never as exciting as make-belief.
- This piece was written by Shaka Momodu/Thisday