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Buhari @ 81: Whatever A Man Sows, He Shall Reap!

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Buhari @ 81: Whatever A Man Sows, He Shall Reap!

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

This week’s Sunday 17th of December, 2023, marked the occasion of the 81st birthday of our “beloved” former President Muhammadu Buhari. I am using this opportunity to wish him many more blissful years to come, in good health and abundance of the Almighty Allah. This is the first birthday he would celebrate after leaving office just over six months ago. The occasion was marked in low key in his home town of Daura, Katsina State, where he has retired to, from the hassles of the last eight years as the president of the most populous black country on earth.

The lack of flamboyance during that celebration was not abnormal, given the personality of the celebrant himself, being a discplined and frugal person, particularly outside office. Many of his former appointees, party chieftains, friends, associates and well wishers went to Daura to felecitate with him. That was a great thing by them. In some dailies, I read some greetings from same categories of people, starting from the incumbent President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as seen in the press release from the presidency.

A staunch loyalist of President Buhari said that they have proved cynics wrong, who said that once Buhari is out of power, he won’t be remembered and that all those usually flock around him will desert him. He gloated after many of those greetings flooded the media space. Of particular excitement to him were the two articles written by Mr. Femi Adesina and Mallam Garba Shehu, Buhari’s two Advisers on Media and Publicity, while in government. He even queried if there was ever any previous leader so loved like Buhari that their people wrote about them on their birthdays after they have left office, just to prove his point. That’s a true display of love and loyalty by the man.

It might quite surprise many of my readers that I am writing about Buhari after he has left office. This is because, many saw me as a critic of his administration. In most of my writings which centered on the country, it is natural that whatever observations I had, would concern the government of the day more. When I felt many things were done wrongly or could have been done better, calling the attention of government to them was perceived as criticism, understandably so, particularly by the people in government, the party members, Buhari’s lovers and admirers. However, that did not change the fact that whatever is wrong is wrong. And they must be spoken out about. Evil strives because good people keep quiet.

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This article is a fulfilment of personal promise to myself. I had told myself that I won’t simply forget Buhari after office, especially on his birthday, given that I have written few times in the past on similar occasions. I wrote on the occasion of his 80th, last year. In choosing this year’s title, I tried to be circumspect. I didn’t want to simply judge. In life, the natural law is that whatever everyone does, they will get their rewards, whether in this world or hereafter. Well, this is applicable to those who believe there is anything like hereafter.

Let me now dive into the meat of the article. There are many claims made by the admirers of former President Buhari about his personality which are true. But many Nigerians will disagree with other claims about his performance while at the helm of affairs in Nigeria. Pre-2015, Buhari was a ‘demigod’ with cult-following that could only be rivalled by those Nigerian leaders in the first generation, our founding fathers. The likes of late Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikwe, Aminu Kano and the rest.

His “personal” integrity ‘was’ his biggest asset. That was his selling point and what endeared him to multitudes, especially the masses known as “talakawa” in Hausa. They see him as one of them, despite his distinct social status from them by virtue of many positions he has held in Nigeria, including as a former head of state. In those years, he lived up to that status. An austere life for a former head of state, when compared to others who held similar positions or even far lower ones than him. We all see how most of them live lives of unjustifiable extreme opulence.

While most of them have their private palatial homes on hilltop or rocktop or expanse of land enough to build a community, among other properties and assets, Buhari had only two modest houses, one in his village, Daura and the other one in Kaduna. Those who have visited these two houses attested to them as far below expectation from some ordinary councillors in Nigeria, not to talk of a military General, former governor, former Petroleum Minister, and former head of state, all these positions Buhari held and many more, all through his career. Yet, his lifestyle did not reflect that. That was a unique personality in a Nigeria where public positions are seen as avenues for self-aggrandizement.

These were what his promoters in 2015 used to hoodwink many Nigerians who did not belong to his traditional base. After previous three attempts contesting for the presidency, he won on that fourth attempt, in an unprecedented manner, to have defeated the incumbent former President Jonathan. It was really “Against The Run Of Play”, like the title of the book written on that election by the erudite scholar and journalist, Mr. Segun Adeniyi. All that is history now. He did first term of four years and went ahead to win a second term, which ended on May 29, this year. What he did in those eight years became the new realities about the Buhari we now know, not the “mystified” one Nigerians were imagining previously.

Understandably, his appointees and supporters saw him as “the best thing to happen to Nigeria after Agege bread and èwà àgànìn”. This reflected in those articles written by the duo of Adesina and Shehu. Although, I very much doubt that Nigerians share similar verdicts about him on his time as the president. I am one of them. In fact, despite my personal acknowledgement and admiration of those unique attributes of Buhari that I enunciated above, I had my strong reservation about his capacity and competence to lead a multicultural, multireligous and multiethnic country like Nigeria in the 21st century.

I have consistently been of opinion that the retired General Buhari of then, did not have what it takes to lead Nigeria. You cannot give what you don’t have. So, I did not support him in those attempts to become president. At every forum where I was engaged as to why I held that position, I did highlight many reasons. It was hardest not to support him in 2015 because he was ‘hottest’ at that time, with the larger than life image that APC people carved for him. The alternate national anthem then was “Sai baba, Sai Buhari”.

In fact, in my household, from my mother to my wife, from uncle to siblings, friends to colleagues, all were sold on “Sai Buhari”. I was like a “political orphan.” But I stuck to my gun. I insisted that certain things would happen under him. Sincerely, it took less than six months before more than half of my reasons manifested under his government. Some of those who criticised me for not supporting him came back to apologise and asked if I got divination to have know all that. Well, it happened that I was just not carried away by the noise. I took my time to study him, his past and antecedents, and drew my conclusions.

If wishes are horses, beggars would ride. The strongest trait of Buhari was his good wishes for Nigeria. I want to believe he loves the country so much. And rightly so. This is the country that gave him everything, made him everything he ever became. That was what I wrote about in his 80th birthday article. Nigeria as a country, served Buhari, as much as or more than he served Nigeria. So, loving the country is well placed.

However, loving your country and wishing it well are not enough in leadership at any level of service to the country, not to talk of being the president. It demands much more. You need to be competent and have capacity to deliver. Understanding governance and ability to manage vast human and material resources are crucial. The clarity of vision, strength to carry out the mission, gut to push through and political dexterity to navigate the complex nature of democratic government are indispensable. How much of these do Buhari have?

As president of Nigeria, Buhari’s personality did not bear on his administration. There was a tripod on which the president campaigned and his government was based. They were Security, Anti-Corrupption and Economy. It is only fair that his performance evaluation be based on these. What state did he meet these three in 2015 and what state did he leave them in 2023? What progress or otherwise was made in each of them in his eight years?

As many Nigerians would acknowledge, not many were in doubt of General Buhari’s ability to tackle the lingering insecurities at the time, particularly the boko haram terrorists, who were becoming more powerful daily, wrecking havocs across the northern Nigeria, with high concentration in three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. Bombs were going off in different locations, including Abuja, the FCT. We believed one of the strength of Buhari was in tackling that being a retired General that he was. He also has record of dealing with such menace while in the military.

Not disappointing, he directed the relocation of Command and Control Centre to the theatre of war, Maiduguri, Borno state. In no time, tremendous improvements were observed in the fight. The insurgents were gradually pushed back until they were confined to the North East, and later, only in parts of Borno State. The success was so appreciable that Alhaji Lai Muhammed, the then Minister of Information, told the nation that boko haram had been “tehnically defeated.” So, in this fight, Buhari achieved reasonable success.

Sadly, this progress in fighting boko haram was gradually eroded with the evolution of another dimension to the insecurities. The historical herder-farmer clashes which were usually handled peacefully by the community leaders, escalated. Suddenly, many herders, who were previously known to be peaceful began to carry dangerous lethal weapons. They became more aggressive and violent. They began to act with impunity. Whenever their cattle destroyed other people’s farms, they refuse to compensate the farmers. Where they were challenged, they violently attacked such people, which led to maiming and deaths. They destroyed farmlands and razed down communities. All these continued without being checked.

Many Nigerians felt that President Buhari did not move against them decisively because they were ‘his people’, fellow Fulani, majorly. This kid-glove handling of their crimes emboldened them and they grew to become monstrous. One such deadly event in the early stage of the government was the cold-blooded massacre of 72 innocent Nigerians in their sleep on the crossover night of 2017 to 2018 in Benue State. It was a black new year for the country. What did the president do? Nothing. His response to that incident was most insensitive and irresponsible of any leader. From then on, the devil was birthed. They transmuted to was was later called bandits. And Nigeria and Nigerians have never had peace ever since.

They overtook boko haram in their criminalities and violence. Deaths, ruins and sorrow were left in their wake. They took over major roads, communities, and farmlands. They kidnapped enmass; school children at all levels, travellers on the roads, people in their communities, and demanded ransoms in hundreds of million of naira, something previously alien to Nigeria. We have never recovered from it. They spread across the country through the forests, to the South. It became a national menace, unlike boko haram, which was only peculiar to the North East. In aggregate, can anyone claim we became safer at the time Buhari was leaving office than when he got to power? Never! That’s the worst legacy he left for us in Nigeria.

I did not want to repeat a story of how the federal government workers felt before Buhari’s swearing in and after just few months in office. One worker told me that that was not the Buhari they envisaged. This was in the sense of discipline and anti-corruption. We all remember War Against Indiscipline (WAI) of his military regime of 1983 to 1985. It was that Buhari that many Nigerians, innocently, supported and voted to become the president but were disappointed at the one they got.

To be fair, it wasn’t that Buhari became corrupt personally. I still believe he would never “knowingly” connive with anyone to steal public funds. However, he condoned corruption beyond many peoples’ expectations. Realising he wasn’t that tough no-nonsense Buhari, the civil servants, public servants, and appointees, all continue their ways in business as usual. Everyone was doing as they wished with public funds. Humongous sleaze were reportedly being carried out under Buhari’s nose. His people were stealing government money like it was going out of fashion or as if Nigeria was about to end.

The report of the Special Investigator was submitted two days ago. What we read from the snippets was shocking. It revealed how the CBN under Emefiele became cesspool of corruption. How trillions were misappropriated through Ways and Means that totalled N22.7 trillion. Various intervention programmes that were used as conduit pipes for stealing public funds. Fraudulent Naira redesign project, etc. That’s just one institution. We have hundreds of other Government Business Enterprises (GBE). NNPCL is yet to be touched. Likewise other MDAs. Corruption took over all sectors, from Finance to Petroleum, Aviation to Agriculture. From Power to Transportation. And so on. Even EFCC, the watch dog and Justice Ministry were not spared. It was calamitous.

It is often said that Economy was not former President Buhari’s strength. However, I believe that a leader doesn’t have to be an expert, can’t even be an expert, at everything. That’s why he appoints others to complement him where he is weak. The most important function of a president is to be the guiding light, provides leadership and direction to the entire country. So, his appointees and civil service will only work based on his direction and vision. But, who were running or advising President Buhari?

Few economic indices got terribly worse. We became the country with largest number of poor people in the world. The debt profile of the country skyrocketed. From N12 trillion in May 2015 to N87 trillion in May 2023. Subsidy on petrol went from N316.7 billion per annum in 2015 to N6 trillion per year in 2023. Unemployment from 10.4% in 2015 to 42% in 2023. Inflation from 9.6% in 2015 to 22.4% in 2023. And so on.

Many hard decisions he was expected to take were left to fester till he left. Petrol subsidy removal was one of them. Tinubu came and did that, and has been bearing the brunt of its unintended consequences. Forex arbitrtage became mammoth criminal industry with CBN giving out our hard-earned billions of dollars at ridiculously low rates to cronies for round-tripping. Our foreign reserve was depleted. Our Excess Crude Account was depleted. Yet, government kept borrowing, and we could not point to proportional developments for which the money was used.

Yes, Buhari’s administration put efforts in infrastructural developments. Trains across some states began to work. Let’s not ask at what cost. Second Niger bridge was completed and commissioned. Hundreds of kilometres of roads were repaired, reconstructed and expanded, except the all important Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Hundreds of bridges across the country were done. These are great achievements of Buhari’s administration.

One thing that is saving him from being exposed and publicly ridiculed for all I have highlighted is because his party won the election and retain the presidency. The incumbent President Tinubu was also instrumental to Buhari’s winning in 2015. The majority of the culprits in all corruption allegations are their party members and Buhari’s allies. So, Tinubu must have been careful in handling the heists that took place under Buhari in order not to bring down their party. He made it “iso inu eku, amumora ni.” He accepted the assets and liabilities he inherited.

In all, as a person, Buhari is not that bad. But in government, he unravelled and was demystified. He set Nigeria back in decades. Those who love him might never see him do wrong, but “ipako onipako laari, eni eleni ni ri teni.” “Nemo judex in causa sua” (no one should be a judge in their own cause). With daily unpalatable revelations of what transpired while he presided, he will have time to reflect on what many he trusted did, what he himself did or didn’t do or should have done. Unfortunately, he can never turn back the hand of time. His chance has gone.

Once again, congratulations to former President Muhammadu Buhari. May you be rewarded according to all you did!

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: [email protected]
Whatsapp: +2348036034685

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December 23, 2023.

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