Thursday, November 10, 2016

Buhari And Remembrance Of Things Past

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
As the first half of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration lurches into the twilight, it is refreshing that he has given us an opportunity to interrogate his intervention in national politics from another perspective. Beyond the well-worn exploration of Buhari as a profile in persistence, having taken him over a decade to chase a return to power, we can now attend to the   relationship between personal tragedies and national glories.
It is now clear from Buhari’s disclosure in Benin during his commissioning of some projects of the outgoing Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole that his tragedy of incarceration after his overthrow in 1985 as military head of state remains a stimulant for his quest for regaining power.  Buhari said that he spent 40 months in a bungalow in Benin after he was overthrown by some corrupt army officers. In fact, he said that the coup was a preemptive strike against his crusade against some corrupt officers.
From that crucible of 1985, through the next 30 years, Buhari might have realised the essence of engendering an equitable society. But as he tells us, such a society is not attainable in so far as it remains a bastion for the proliferation of injustice as evident in the complicity of the judiciary in the denial of his electoral victories on three previous occasions. Of course, Buhari’s quest for an equitable society after suffering injustice is not an isolated case. Before him, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, among others appropriated a sense of injustice inflicted by warped state powers to develop their societies.
Even back at home, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was prised from prison to cobble together a dismembering nation. But in the case of Buhari, it is unfortunate that while his regaining of power after 30 years might have served a personal cathartic purpose, it is far from playing a significant role in his relationship with the need for the development of the country. For the danger that the nation faces today under the Buhari government is that at the end of his tenure, he would have succeeded in making millions of citizens to feel a sense of injustice and alienation from the society. This is the clear possibility that Buhari would engender through his policies and programmes.
If Buhari had truly learnt the lessons of suffering injustice, he would guard against fostering a sense of injustice. But does Buhari really have consideration for the need to ensure justice for others? Consider his  appointments  since he  became president. How have these ensured justice and the strengthening of the unity of the country?  In those appointments, Buhari brazenly favoured his northern part of the country. It is such nepotism that has thrown up a situation where from the National Assembly, the military, police, Department of State Services,  other security apparatuses, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to other major government agencies, the heads are northerners.

*Buhari and Babangida 
Buhari made these appointments against the warning of the citizens that they negated the federal character principle enshrined in the nation’s constitution to take cognisance of its ethnic diversity. Even the attempt by Buhari and his apologists to defend the appointments on the grounds that the president could appoint all his aides from his  town, Daura, as long as they are the best people does not help their case. This is because excellence is not an exclusive preserve of some people. So if Buhari was actually looking for the best citizens, he should have gone to other parts of the country to get them. It is the same incubus of favouritism that has prevented Buhari from prosecuting a holistic anti-corruption fight. Those who are his cronies are left while Buhari chases his perceived or real political enemies. If it is the laws of the land that are the phalanx of justice and equity, Buhari must strive to align his anti-corruption fight with them to prove his sincerity.
But in his remembrance of things past, to appropriate the title of a novel of Marcel Proust, Buhari must be told that his fight against corruption could not have been all that was responsible for his overthrow. For he must not gloss over the robust possibility that if he were committed to the right policies and programmes to improve the well being of the citizens, his rebellious officers would not have had their way. Buhari must be reminded that under him then, despite all his pretensions to fighting corruption, it was not only lawlessness that he instigated, the citizens were subjected to a similar hardship they are facing now. It is that kind of insensitivity and disdain for the citizens that Buhari has replicated in his second coming. In particular, Buhari now demonstrates this disdain for the life of the southern citizen. This is why he takes no action while southerners are being killed by his fellow northerners.
Rampaging herdsmen from the northern part of the country kill, rape and destroy the property of  citizens in the south. Instead of a thorough investigation that would lead to the arrest of the culpable herdsmen, Buhari and his supporters have declared that the herdsmen are not Nigerians. The southerners who are not being killed by herdsmen are being wasted by religious bigots from the north. This is why an Abuja female evangelist Eunice Elisha was killed without the culprits being arrested. In Kaduna, a young man, Emmanuel Francis was attacked for eating while Muslims were fasting. In Kano, Mrs. Bridget Agbahime was killed for alleged blasphemy. Even when the government took some suspects to court, its lack of seriousness in seeking justice for the dead was readily betrayed by  its  churlish prosecution that culminated in a  magistrate hastily exonerating them.
We are faced with the danger that in the next two years, Buhari would only stoke the fissiparous tendencies that tend to pull this nation apart. Buhari would just be giving the champions of agitations more reasons for them to feel alienated and continue their quest for separation from the country. Buhari would only send a strong message that his efforts to assure the militants in the Niger Delta that he means well for the region are only facetious. And the Niger Delta people who would now think that they would only be used and dumped would insist on controlling the resources from their region or getting a fair share of them or keep on  bombing them. Similarly, the people of the eastern part of the country would be given more reasons they should not trust Buhari. The agitators for independence from Nigeria under the aegis of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) would keep on their agitations. When the snowballing injustices in the society trigger the citizens’ animus against him, Buhari should not consider the source of his trouble as his fight against corruption. He should rather blame his wrong policies that have made each year of his second coming an annus horribilis to the citizens.
*Dr. Onomuakpokpo is on the Editorial Board of The Guardian

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