Last week, I wrote about the lack of accountability in Nigerian politics. I submitted that most Nigerians are unquestioning about their leaders; that, gullible and credulous, they uncritically accept whatever they’re told. Nothing proves this better than the self-serving narrative that Bola Tinubu’s government pushes about what it inherited from the Muhammadu Buhari administration, and the sympathy some Nigerians profess for Tinubu.
Recently, Nuru Ribadu, the National Security Adviser, said that the Buhari government bankrupted Nigeria. “We have inherited a very difficult country, a bankrupt country,” he said. A few days later, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State said: “Tinubu inherited an administration that was almost comatose.” Tinubu himself set the tone earlier in a speech titled “After Darkness Comes the Glorious Dawn”. He said: “We are exiting the darkness to enter a new and glorious dawn.” Unmistakably, the Buhari administration he succeeds is “the darkness”.
But this is wrong from a democratic accountability perspective. Nigeria operates a party-based democracy under which only parties can hold political power. The 1999 Constitution states in section 131: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if – (c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party.” Put simply, Nigeria’s constitution accords primacy to political parties in the electoral system.
So, here’s the first point. If Buhari bankrupted Nigeria, it’s also his party, All Progressives Congress, APC, that bankrupted the country. Therefore, any attempt by Tinubu’s APC-led government to distance itself from the calamitous records of his party’s eight-year misrule under Buhari is tantamount to pulling the wool over the eyes of Nigerians, insulting their intelligence.
In the presidential elections of 2015, 2019 and 2023, APC’s campaign mantra was “PDP’s 16 years of destruction”. Although PDP had three presidents in its 16 years in power, APC treated those years as a continuum. Now, however, Tinubu wants Nigerians to develop collective amnesia and forget that his party, APC, ruled this country for eight years, from 2015 to 2023. If you knew nothing about Nigeria, you would think, hearing the false narrative, that Nigeria’s first-ever APC-led Federal Government is the one Tinubu runs. But in no serious democracy can a party or a government get away with drawing such a sharp divide.
Read also: How bankrupt is Nigeria?
Take the UK. The Conservative Party has been in power for 13 years, since 2010. In those 13 years, it has had five prime ministers. But no successive prime minister has been allowed by the British media and public to dissociate himself or herself from the party’s past records in government. Thus, when Britain goes to the polls next year, the Conservative Party will be judged on its 14 years in power, not the two years that Rishi Sunak, the current prime minister, would have spent in office. That’s how true party-based democracy works.
But not in Nigeria. For, let’s face it, if Nigeria is a genuine party-based democracy, APC would not have returned to power this year, considering Buhari’s appalling failure, which some of us wrote about for eight years. Yet, the fact that APC secured, by hook or by crook, another term in office doesn’t mean that Nigerians should lose the collective memory of its eight years in power. Nor should Nigerians forget that none of the APC leaders now condemning Buhari’s government raised a voice against it in those eight years.
Think about it. Tinubu never uttered a word in public about the Buhari policies – fuel subsidy, currency peg, forex ban on 43 items – he has now reversed, due to international pressure, and which he laughably claims should earn him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as a “reformer”. Indeed, when Buhari’s government was borrowing recklessly and spending like a drunken sailor, Tinubu defended it, saying: “If borrowing is a crime, the entire America should be in jail.” Such disingenuousness won’t go unnoticed in saner climes!
But you may argue that Buhari should be judged as an individual and held personally responsible. After all, the Constitution vests enormous executive powers in the president. True, but that raises the question: How did someone so utterly incompetent and asinine become Nigeria’s president? As a military ruler from 1984-85, Buhari destroyed Nigeria’s economy and polity. He tried to return to power as a civilian president but was rejected in three consecutive elections. So, what later happened?
Well, in 2015, Tinubu “resurrected” Buhari and presented him as the person to lead the newly formed APC on “a mission to rescue Nigeria”! Hear him: “When Americans faced a crisis, they turned to General Dwight Eisenhower; when the French faced challenges, they turned to General Charles De Gaulle. Today, Nigeria faces a crisis. So, we turn to General Muhammadu Buhari. He’s the right man for the job.” He ended with a stirring rhetoric: “General Buhari, we are calling you to come and rescue us in Nigeria.” He added: “General Buhari would revive Nigeria’s economy.”
In each of Buhari’s three previous presidential bids, he secured 12m-plus votes. Yet, he couldn’t win. It was only after Tinubu mobilised 2.4m votes for him from his South-West base that Buhari’s votes reached 15.4m in 2015, enabling him to defeat then President Goodluck Jonathan, who scored 12.8m. So, Tinubu was right when he said in Abeokuta in June last year: “I made Buhari president. If not for me, he wouldn’t have been president!”
Now, if you genuinely believe someone is up to a task and help him to get a job, you can hardly be blamed if he fails in the job: you acted in good faith. But Tinubu didn’t act in good faith, he didn’t act in the national interest. He knew Buhari was hopelessly inept and unfit but “made” him president, expecting reciprocity: Buhari and the North would, in return, make him president. Indeed, some Northerners were saying during this year’s presidential election: “The North is indebted to Tinubu for helping Buhari to be president; it’s payback time.” So, Tinubu didn’t care if Buhari destroyed Nigeria provided he succeeded him.
Of course, Buhari was a disaster as president. Even in his recent interview with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Buhari couldn’t say what he achieved for Nigeria. “I did my best,” he said, but added that he wasn’t sure if his best “achieved expected results.” He described Nigerians as “extremely difficult people to govern.” Yet, in truth, Nigerians, often docile, passive and uncensorious, are not difficult people to govern. Rather, Buhari was an extremely inept leader, who lacked the intellect, vision or wisdom to govern Nigeria.
But instead of apologising for foisting Buhari Nigeria, Tinubu refuses to take responsibility for putting his personal ambition above Nigeria’s best interests. Now that Tinubu has got what he wanted – the presidency – he calls Buhari’s administration “darkness”, and his loyalists say Buhari “bankrupted” Nigeria or left the country “comatose”. Shockingly, hardly anyone holds Tinubu accountable for his reckless self-seeking behaviour. Rather, some Nigerians say they “sympathise” with Tinubu because of what he “inherited from Buhari”. Really?
Even Professor Charles Soludo, former CBN governor and current Anambra State governor, joined the chorus. Last week, he said: “Tinubu’s government inherited a dead economy.” Yet, Soludo was a member of Buhari’s Presidential Economic Advisory Council. Throughout Buhari’s eight-year presidency, Soludo never said publicly what he’s now saying about the Buhari administration. Why now? To curry favour with Tinubu? But Nigeria can’t succeed when its experts lack integrity and ingratiate themselves with any government in power.
So, yes, Buhari bankrupted Nigeria, but someone self-servingly made him president, others fawningly enabled him in office! Yet, Nigerians ignore all that. What a country! What a people!