Less than two years from now, President Muhammadu Buhari will no longer be the president of Nigeria. He will lose control of all the instruments of coercion and won’t be able to order military crackdowns on protests or agitations in Southern Nigeria. His hangers-on in the so-called Presidency will also vacate Aso Rock. Then, afterwards, Buhari and his acolytes will face the judgement of history. What would that verdict be: Kind or harsh?
Interestingly, President Buhari and his cohort are thinking about the verdict of history. Recently, Buhari urged historians and intellectuals to be fair to his administration. In a statement issued by Garba Shehu, his senior media assistant, President Buhari said: “Intellectuals and historians should be fair to us”.
Of course, intellectuals and historians will be fair to President Buhari. But they will not lie or distort the truth. For instance, will not say that Buhari governed Nigeria well when, in fact, his administration is the worst civilian government in the history of this country to date: consider the unprecedented levels of unemployment, poverty, debt, insecurity, abuse of power, etc! They won’t say that Buhari united Nigeria when, in fact, he is an unquestionably divisive leader who, as Colonel Abubakar Umar right said, has utterly mismanaged Nigeria’s diversity and deepened its traditional schisms.
Recently, the BBC listed five major threats to Nigeria’s security and unity. They are, in the same order: 1) jihadism; 2) herders-farmers clashes; 3) banditry and kidnapping; 4) separatist insurgency; and 5) oil militants. Of these five threats, the first four became prominent and hydra-headed under the Buhari administration.
Take jihadism. The Fulani have always had a jihadist tendency, but it’s under President Buhari that they became gung-ho and in-your-face with the Fulanisation agenda. Similarly, herders and farmers have always clashed, but, under Buhari’s government, AK-47-wielding Fulani herdsmen became so emboldened to terrorise the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria with great impunity.
For Buhari, jihadists, Fulani herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers, who account for thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, have not “crossed our national red lines”
What about bandits and kidnappers? Well, they have never been as brazen as they are under the Buhari government, shooting down military jets, killing army generals and kidnapping hundreds of schoolchildren. According to Global Rights, a US-based human rights organisation, Nigeria recorded more than 3,868 killings and 3,016 abductions in six months, between January and June this year. Yet, the bandits are untouchable, so much so that prominent Northerners openly act as their go-between and ransom negotiators!
The fourth major threat, according to BBC’s list, is separatist insurgency. But does anyone doubt that President Buhari fans the flames of secessionist agitations with his insensitivity to, and utter mishandling of, Nigeria’s diversity? Take his deliberate trampling on Igbo’s legitimate feelings of injustice and marginalisation. Think of his tacit support for Fulani herdsmen against their victims in the Middle Belt and the South-West. And consider his stubborn refusal to countenance a national dialogue about Nigeria’s future and his outright rejection of the call for restructuring this country.
Recently, President Buhari arrogantly described those calling for restructuring as “naïve and ignorant”. And why? Well, he said there are people from other ethnic groups in every state. He said: “We have different combination of ethnicity in many states. Even in Kano and Kaduna, Igbo have properties. The same goes with Yorubas. There are Fulani in Port Harcourt”.
But that argument betrays ignorance of the history of this country and the meaning of restructuring. When, before and after independence, Nigeria had three or four regions, was there not a mix of ethnicity in each region? Were there not Yoruba and Igbo in the North? Fulani and Igbo in the West? Fulani and Yoruba in the East? Of course, there was a combination of ethnicities, including the smaller ones, in the three or four regions.
So, why would Nigerians living outside of their core ethnic groups be worse off if Nigeria is restructured into six or eight regions, with power, responsibility and resources devolved to the regional governments to run their own affairs? Is restructuring the same thing as secession? Of course, it is not. Yet, truth is, the rejection of restructuring is a centrifugal force that can fuel tensions and separatist tendencies in Nigeria.
But President Buhari doesn’t care at all about such concerns. Instead, he is unleashing a reign of terror to silence agitations for self-determination. The kidnap of Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya and the fatal raid on Sunday Igboho’s residence and current attempts to extradite him from Benin Republic have created a climate of fear in the South-East and the South-West. Prominent leaders and traditional rulers in the two geo-political zones are talking in hushed tones out of fear. Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the Afenifere leader, told Arise TV recently: “We are weak; Buhari is powerful”. And one wonders: Is Nigeria under military rule?
Of course, with Buhari, Nigeria is under a de facto military regime. He believes Nigeria’s unity can only be secured by use of military force. And for him, there’s no greater threat to Nigeria’s unity than some people on the fringes calling for self-determination. In 2017, he ordered the military to “fight and destroy relentlessly” such agitations because they “crossed our national red lines”.
But, for Buhari, jihadists, Fulani herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers, who account for thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, have not “crossed our national red lines”, hence he treats their leaders with kid gloves.
That double standard, that duplicity and complicity, is why Buhari must fear the verdict of history. He will be remembered as someone who could have been the “father of the nation” but chose to intimidate and muzzle sections of the country; a leader who instead of being a unifier, decided to be a divider; a president not of the whole of Nigeria, but of Northern Nigeria!
But history will also be harsh on Buhari’s enablers. First, Yoruba leaders who facilitated his election after three failed attempts. In 2015, Bola Tinubu told the Yoruba that Buhari would be Nigeria’s General Dwight Eisenhower, 34th US President, or General Charles de Gaulle, former French president – retired generals who became presidents and saved their countries. But now that Buhari is more like Nicolae Ceaușescu of Romania, tormenting the Yoruba people, Tinubu is inordinately mute for fear that Buhari might abort his presidential ambitions. Like Donald Trump did to the Republican Party, Buhari has completely captured the APC!
The second category of enablers includes those currently egging Buhari on, who are sycophantically feeding his authoritarian impulse. Of these goons, Femi Adesina, Buhari’s senior media adviser, a self-declared Buharist, stands out.
Last week, Adesina defended Buhari’s regular medical trips abroad. But in 1985, as a military dictator, the same Buhari seized Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s passport and stopped him from receiving urgent medical treatment overseas. Yet, recently, Adesina stoutly defended everything Buhari did as a military dictator from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985!
In an article titled “Why Buharists love Buhari so much”, Adesina praised Buhari’s brutalities as military dictator, including giving “a red card to hard drug traffickers, who were executed by firing squad”. He described Buhari as being “of iron and steel, one ready and willing to knock sense into contumacious heads, whipping everyone into line”. Nigeria, he said, needs “iron and steel – an alchemy of GMB (General Muhammadu Buhari) and PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari)”. That sounds a bit like Joseph Goebbels defending the Nazi regime!
In 2008, Adesina wrote a damning article titled “The slap next time”, lambasting Professor Ibrahim Gambari for defending the despotism of General Sani Abacha. Today, the same Adesina is in cahoots with the same Gambari, now Buhari’s chief of staff, defending Major-General Buhari’s reign of terror.
Well, needless to say that history will deliver a harsh verdict on Buhari and his fawning bootlicking grovellers!