To assume that the 2019 presidential election will serve president Muhammadu Buhari the number one job in the land the way an obedient and thoroughbred housewife serves the husband’s meal will amount to living in a fool’s paradise. The reason is simple. There have been significant changes in our polity between the last election and now, even though his 2015 victory has continued to provoke debate among political watchers as a result of the massive underage voting and uncountable manual voting recorded in the perceived strongholds of the president. Let’s reserve this discourse for next day and face the business of the day.
To say that the much mouthed and unmerited messianism of President Buhari, as the one who has been anointed from the foundation of the world to take away the problems of Nigeria was dwarfed by his underbelly incompetence, unpreparedness and charlatanry is to put it mildly.
Nigeria under this government has recorded a historic mindless killing of our people in their thousands as if we live in a banana Republic where there is no rule or sacrosanctness of life not observed. Blood of the innocents crying for justice in all parts of the country, from Benue to Taraba, to Adamawa, Zamfara and Borno. Our lands which ought to produce food for Nigeria and her people has been converted to mass grave of compatriots. In Zamfara, the president’s several visits and charges to troops to crush with rutherlessness the arm bandits who have held the nation by the jugular and caused our people to live in panic and fear has not yielded any fruit. Security, which many Nigerians thought would be a shining point for this government has routinely exposed the inefficiency rattling the retired General and his men.
According to a report released by Sunday Vanguard on December 2, 2018 it described Nigeria as a “killing field”. Reason? In 2018 alone, no fewer than 6,562 Nigerians were slaughtered through the boko haram, insurgency, herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, cult clashes, sectarian and communal clashes, kidnapping, ritual killings, and armed robbery among others. The report which described this figure as conservative because it is based on but not even limited to reported incidents and deaths also added thus; “The North Central, North East and North West zones were the apex theaters of the killings with states like Borno, Benue, Plateau, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Taraba being the epicentre of the killings”. Does this tell you anything?
In less than one year in office, president Buhari who had always maintained that subsidy payment on PMS was a conduit through which Jonathan and PDP milked the nation dry announced a partial removal of the subsidy he never admitted existed. Don’t also forget that he had promised to make a litre of petrol N10 upon election. After this so called “partial removal” of subsidy in May 11, 2016 the pump price of petrol skyrocketed from N87 to N145, representing a 66.67% increment. The promise of reviving existing refineries and building new ones has remained a pipe dream. Instead, billions of Naira are expended on turnaround maintenance of waste and manifest unproductivity.
I can recollect with nostalgia how senior journalists such as the erudite and ebullient Dele Momodu, Jaafar Jaafar, Farooq Kperogi and so many others dominated the media space with an imaginary message of hope of the Buhari presidency. At a time, brother Momodu engaged in series of tour to the presidential villa after penning avalanche of Desperate Memos to the president.
Hear him in one of such tours. “I told him why I wrote the Desperate Memo to him; Nigerians were getting restless and impatient; they expect an instant miracle; the momentum he gained during the election was nose-diving and affecting his super brand; the opposition was already creeping in and trying to take advantage… and so on. The President said he was aware of people’s expectations but they should exercise some patience as they would realise his vision and mission as events he was directing begin to untold”.
One would have imagined that a president who before his electoral breakthrough had contested three barren times would just come on board, hit the ground running and attack our myriad of problems with a holy aggression, the way a hungry lion would devour its prey. That never happened. It took the president six months before forming his cabinet, which of course led to his major economic milestone in 2016 when Nigeria slipped into recession, giving rise liquidation of investments, closure of businesses, massive job loss and ravaging hunger.
In flagrant renege of a promise of ending medical tourism in a lecture at Chatham House in February 26, 2015 in which the president said “What is the difference between me and those who elected us to represent them, absolutely nothing. Why should Nigerian President not fly with other Nigerian public? Why do I need to go for foreign medical trip if we cannot make our hospital functional? Why do we need to send our children to school abroad if we cannot develop our university to compete with the foreign ones?” in 2017 alone, the president spent 152 days in London at two different occasions treating an undisclosed ailment.
In March 2018 while inaugurating Cedarcrest Hospital Abuja where the son of the president Yusuf was treated after a power bike accident in Gwarimpa area of Abuja, the president’s wife Aisha Buhari said, “I believe in making Nigeria a better place to be. I don’t believe in spending our resources abroad. We have all it takes to have a hospital like this, from manpower to personnel”. One can only imagine where the wife of the president was when her husband spent humongous sums of the taxpayers’ money treating himself and later, their son Yusuf in foreign hospitals.
The president who ordinarily should be the number one brand marketer of his country and people has engaged in a morbid and demeaning attacks against virtually every demographic group in our society including the youths and women. During a panel appearance with world leaders at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London April this year, the president was quoted to have said, “More than 60 percent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they’re claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare, education free”. This was after he said some Nigerians in the UK, mostly youth are disposed to criminality in 2016 during an interview with UK Telegraph and urged the government not to grant Nigerians asylum there. Which father will do this to his children and expect a red carpet welcome?
In a piece titled President Buhari and The Youth Ambassador We Don’t Have, I described the president’s action as an attempt to boost his CV of international gaffe and a witting demarketing of whatever our youths stand for. It will be suicidal to assume that all these factors will not affect the voting pattern in the 2019 presidential election. With the youths wielding the largest voting population according to INEC, how it pans out at the end of the day will only be a matter of time. Our productive, creative and most intelligent women will also choose between a chauvinistic irredentist who believes they are only designed as objects of the other room and a man who will give them equal opportunity with their male counterparts and launch them to global limelight.
The president has not only adamantly refused to address the stockpiling catalogue of sectionalism which his administration has become notorious for, he has continued to act as if this country belongs only to his own side of the country. In a multi ethnic and religious society like ours, and sensitively so for that matter, the president’s security architecture, starting from the service chiefs to heads of the Para-military agencies is slanted to favour his region and religion to a disturbing 90%, leaving the South West with a paltry 10% while the South East and South South are treated like orphans. This is not surprising to many. President Buhari had earlier warned those who gave him 3% vote in the 2015 general election not to expect the same treatment with the regions that gave him 97% vote.
That the president deployed troops to a largely peaceful South East region and hurriedly launched a military action code named Operation Python Dance to deal with a minor defiance like IPOB leaves much to be desired. Of course this was never without multiple extra judicial killing of Igbo in the name of fighting an imaginary terrorist group that never killed a single soul. One cannot but ask, what is the duty of the Nigerian Police? Were they at any point overpowered by IPOB agitators? To the main terrorists, the Fulani herdsmen who have committed so many atrocious acts against our people, killed them, raped our women and maimed our children, the president maintained a defeaning silence. He must not make the mistake of assuming that our memory is that short.
The massive defection of members of the National Assembly from the ruling party to the main opposition party, including principal officers of the Green and Red Chambers will play a significant role in deciding if the president will get a second shot at the Aso Villa as the number one man. No matter what the popularity of the president is, the defection of the Sokoto, Benue and Kwara state governors has weakened his strength in those states. It won’t be an easy ride for him.
With the continued delay in sending the minimum wage bill to the National Assembly for passage into law, after reaching a deal with organised labour to suspend its strike in November, the confidence and trust of the organised labour is gradually waning. With the new deadline of the end of this year to send the bill to the National Assembly, there is an imminent showdown between the federal government and labour.
The ASUU, SSANU, ASUP and other academic unions have been on a lingered strike as a result of the inability of the government to fulfill an agreement reached consensually, not on coercion or duress. INEC has also raised concern on the negative impact this lingering strike may have on the 2019 polls. These factors would be brought to fore as the election approaches.
My primary Constituency, the media has also had its fair share in the reign of impunity for which this government has carved a niche for itself. The intolerance of President Buhari to plurality of opinion has had a number of journalists harassed, detained illegally and charged on trumped up charges. Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times, Jones Abiri, Audu Maikori, Luka Binniyat, Midat Joseph, Ahmed Salkida, Olalekan Adetayo and so many others are sad reminders of how much the freedom of the press has shrinked under Buhari presidency.
Human right community has not been left out either. As I’m writing, Deji Adeyanju is being held in a Kano prison over an offence for which he has been tried, discharged and acquitted in 2009. Nigerians have never had a debasing living standard like experienced under this government. The change mantra of this government has acquired a negative meaning; chain, bondage. Their standard of living has dwindled in an unassuming proportion in Buhari four years in office, people find it extremely difficult to pay their children’s school fees and house rents.
I don’t know who will be the president’s main challenger. S/he should constantly remind the people few of these monumental failures that has punctured the messianic status of the president. His highfalutin and fictitious sainthood of integrity that allows him sorround himself with highly corrupt individuals while demonizing the rest of the citizens has been seen for what it is; a specious tissue of deceit.
Nigerians are wiser and not ready to recruit political hawks come 2019.
Enemanna is an Abuja based journalist