The Plague Called Buhari Is Finally Coming To An End

By Charles Ofoji

Finally, the plague called Muhammadu Buhari is finally coming to an end. And in these days of smashing and setting of records, if there was a barometer to measure the longest and loudest sigh of relief, the ones Nigerians would hiss on Monday, May 29, 2023, would easily catch the attention of those at the Guinness Book of Records.

If someone slipped into coma in 2015 and walked into a grocery store, after waking up today, certainly he would have some questions for the storekeeper. He would want to know what happened, why prices of goods have gone through the roof. Buhari happened to Nigeria, the storekeeper would surely reply.

After eight years of being a somnolent president and an indifferent leader, Buhari will in a few hours return to his cows at Daura or wherever, which are now better off than when their owner left them in 2015. Unfortunately, the case cannot be said of Nigerians, who have endured a tortuous eight years of misery, perhaps the worst in their lifetime. Buhari leaves behind a staggering N77trn or $42bn debt, 22 percent inflation, a dead Naira currency, 133 million multi-dimensionally poor and nearly 60 percent youth unemployment and another 40 percent under-employed. Under his watch 63,111 were killed by non-state actors. No matter the pass marks Buhari and his enablers give to him, the above represents his dismal legacy in an era that will be banished to the footnotes of Nigerian history as the darkest. Indeed, under him, Nigeria became the “poverty capital of the world”.

It is agonizingly tough to find the good things Buhari will be leaving behind, except an abysmal 1.4 per cent growth and if one elevates road building to an achievement. Or the billions of Naira wasted in giving us 19th century railway in the 21st century. When the amount spent would have given us the same standard obtainable in the West, if not better.

Mr. Buhari once gloated, recently, that he got everything he wanted from Nigeria. But did he give anything back? No! Not even love for the country that gave him all he had dreamed of. Because his heart is still in Niger Republic, said to be the place of birth of his mother that offered him nothing in life. If Buhari loved Nigeria and its people, at least, he would have tried to do something to push the country and its populace forward, his incompetence aside. The trouble many of us have with his presidency was that he came across like he did not even care about anything or anybody, except for himself and his immediate family, whose lives transformed dramatically for the best, while Nigerians he was supposed to serve gnashed their teeth in unprecedented hardship.

As Buhari exits office, he leaves behind a far less secure, stable, united and prosperous country. Simply put; it was eight wasted years; eight years taken out of the life of our dear country. It could be liked to a person going to prison, with its disastrous consequences.

But how did Buhari happen to Nigeria?

The irony is that nobody begged him to be president. It was the former general who desperately wanted to be a civilian commander-in-chief, running for the highest office three times, without success. On the third loss, he was seen on national television weeping like a child who lost his school fees. His crocodile tears were mistaken as propelled by patriotism. Commonplace Nigerians, who had for long yearned for change, misconstrued it as the sadness of a man who felt he had been denied by “election rigging” the opportunity to save his sinking country. Unknown to them, the man was only driven by a maniac ambition to be president – just for the sake of it. Buhari became president by deceit and while in power he elevated deception, lies to tools of statecraft.

What was it he badly wanted that he had not gotten before becoming president in 2015? He had been a military head of state, though his regime was short-lived as his fellow coup plotter shoved him away from power within 20 months. Then they alleged incompetence and cluelessness, but nobody paid attention. That notwithstanding, he still enjoyed the privileges of a former head of state, ex-chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), the highest national honour, GCFR, permanent membership of the Council of State and countless financial benefits. Therefore, Nigerians, who genuinely wanted to change their country’s trajectory, thought there was nothing else he wanted other than to serve and redeem his fatherland. They were also seduced by the myths built around the man from Daura; his incorruptibility and his promise to kill the cancer called corruption. Recall that his 2015 electioneering mantra was, “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”

That promise was broken, like all the others he made to Nigerians while seeking their votes. Under his watch, corruption in fact triumphed and became institutionalized as almost everyone around him seemed corrupt. Over-inflation of contracts became the norm, which interestingly was one of the reasons he gave for toppling the Government of Shehu Shagari in 1984. It was alleged that top Buhari administration functionaries were also notorious in using proxy companies to corner the juiciest of government contracts. His government borrowed billions of dollars just to make funds available for cronies to loot, it also seemed. In the 2022 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, Nigeria ranked 150 out of 180 countries; in 2021 it ranked 154.

Buhari, who promised to cut public expenditure and eliminate waste, later became renowned for profligacy. His reputation for asceticism and frugality with money was bandied around while he sought power, but, as president, became utterly prodigal, spending like he wanted to punish the tax payers. Not to mention his wasteful overseas trips, including his incessant medical pilgrimages to the United Kingdom. It was shocking that a man, who vowed to sell off some presidential jets, bought more and spent billions annually to maintain them. He said his wife belonged to the other room, and won’t be called First Lady, yet created the Office of First Lady and lavishly funded it. And in the twilight of his administration, he spent close to N3billion in revamping the Aso Villa Clinic he never visited once while in office. The same is also expected of his successor.

The mistake of 2015 was that we entrusted power to someone, whose competence was never scrutinized. The man Buhari wanted to emulate – metamorphosing from a military dictator to a democrat – was former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But unlike him, when General Obasanjo left office as military head of state in 1979, he developed himself intellectually; founded the Africa Leadership Forum, a policy think-tank, engaged in international diplomacy, read voraciously and wrote books, as well. Conversely, Buhari retired to rearing cows in Daura and did absolutely nothing to improve himself intellectually. In fact, the late Junaid Mohammed, one of those who were close to him, said, Buhari “never read a book in his adult life”.

Being intellectually lazy, Buhari had no ideology for the country he led for eight years. It was difficult to decipher where he wanted to see the country by the time his tenure was over.

Perhaps, his shortcoming could have been forgiven if he had showed little empathy for those he was leading. In moments of national catastrophe, killings by terrorists, herdsmen and others, there was hardly a word from the president, who normally should act as consoler-in-chief in such circumstances. It is on record that Buhari never visited victims of killings or flooding to console with them throughout the time he spent at Aso Rock. Neither did he provide financial support for their rehabilitation. Yet, his administration claimed it spent hundreds of billions in sharing money to unknown people, in the name of welfare to the poor.

Buhari showed a disdain for the rule of law and flagrantly snubbed court orders. Apart from holding political prisoners, as he misused state power to settle personal scores. As I write, Shiites’ Leader, El-Zakzaky and his wife are still behind bars, despite court orders for their release. Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB fame is also being held, in disobedience to an Appeal Court judgment which discharged and acquitted him of all treasonable charges preferred against him by the Federal Government. Did I forget Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), who was held for years, although he was later released.

The former general failed woefully in his bid to transform himself into a statesman, and world leaders and top diplomats had avoided Nigeria during his reign, preferring instead to go to Ghana and Senegal for official visits to West Africa.

As Buhari leaves office, Boko Haram had not been defeated, as he promised. Instead, they became more vicious, and more terror groups have emerged. The Chibok girls are still in captivity. Some areas in the Northwest and Northeast remain impassable because they are under the control of terrorists and bandits.

If he had kept his last promise to his countrymen and women to hold a free and credible election, maybe, that would have been penciled down by historians as one enduring legacy he left behind. But in that, he failed too, leaving the country mired in bitter post-election legal fights.

Former US First Lady, Michelle Obama once famously said, “The presidency (power) doesn’t change you, it only reveals who you are.” Buhari unmasked and demystified himself in historic self-subversion. And it was a good thing in a way that he finally realized his dream of becoming president. If not, Nigerians would forever have thought that all the problems of their country would have been solved if he got a chance to lead.

President Buhari notoriously craved praise-singing and indulged in dishonest self- adulatory, but to put it mildly, he is a historic failure, and as he bows out unsung, Nigerians will massively inhale and exhale, praying that never again will they be afflicted by something like him.

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